Plastic vs Composite?

it’s pretty much a function of money. If you are on a budget then there are a lot of good polyethelene boats out there,if you can spend more then there are a lot of good composite boats out there,if you are rough on boats then plastic or composite will show wear,if you want something other than what’s on the show room floor there are niche builders selling direct from the factory. Next question?

Both composite and plastic each has…
a place.

Plastic is cheaper, and you can beat the crap out of it without doing much damage. If your friends are going to do a bunch of surfing up onto rock strewn beaches, then they should get plastic. On the flip side, it is much heavier, which makes it much slower.

Composite is much lighter, much more expensive, much faster much more responsive, and you have to more careful of it.

I am lucky and have both, and use both.

Cheers, and stay happy,


L Hot Topic???
Not really, if you want HOT ask something about rudders and skegs… :wink:

you come on pretty strong with your opinion and attitude then blow us off. What gives?

There is quite a difference in the two materials, each having advantages.

Most ‘serious’ paddlers will eventually end up with a composite boat. They last longer (so cost per use is lower), go faster, scratch less, hold their shape better, are lighter, are more repairable, and look better.

Your RM boat you store outside is getting a serious case of UV degragation, unless covered, whilst a composite boat would suffer only a little gel-coat fading. Composite boats are generally always less than twice the price of RM. Rocks and shorelines not a problemo with RM??? Have you ever dragged a RM over an oyster bed or barnacle encrusted shoreline? Do the same with composite and guess which one would wear thru fastest? Guess which one could easily be re gel-coated and look like new? (opps I gave the answer away!)

what I tell people is 1. look at your overall budget. you got alot of stuff and education to spend $$$ on. 2. If you can afford all the stuff, an EDU, and composite and you know what you want, go for it. 3. If you don’t have enough go ‘used’ composite or RM.

RM is a good value but so is composite.


Hasnt happened but might be

– Last Updated: Aug-07-04 9:43 AM EST –

happening. You could be seeing the tsunami forming right now.

Major Edit:

Another item is that the airalite stuff does not resist shock as well as composite or polyethelene.

This is an issue for some applications.

As Bob Marley used to say, “Doone worry, be hoppy.”

A designer comes up with a design
which can be more accurately realized in composite that in rotomolded form. Rotomolding introduces limitation in both design and accuracy of production. That is another reason that composite boats give superior performance in many dimensions.

Then there is the issue of stiffness. Stiffness will give higher efficiency.

Then there is what everybody else here has written.

I’d like to own a rotomolded boat for rock bashing but till hten my brit boat will just get more character.

Sorry dude!

Still, your post is not as funny as the one fron a guide and mariner who wrote to us that 6 knots per hour is over 10 MPH. (Square grouper?)

I am just starting out but here is
my .02:

If they just paddle together it is strictly a matter of preference. Poly boats are less $ so less to be concerned about while traveling. MAny of the other differences have already been mentioned.

If they paddle with friends that are mostly using glass boats they will not be happy. At least this is my feeling in paddling with a group of almost all FG boats. I feel like I am always paddling harder than everyone else. Even first timers that are in FG boats seem to move along with less effort. Its not a big deal once in a while. But if its more often they will be wanting Glass is my feeling.

BTW, I know P&H has made some experimental ABS boats so I would guess that means most boat builders will offer ABS boats in the next few years. Cheers!

knots per hour…
that’s redundant. small point, I know. you simply need to say knots.

doubt it
it’ll take the thermoplastic dropping in cost for it to be competitive with polyethelene. It’s not significantly lighter for a comparable volume kayak,pick up a poly Eclipse then pick up a thermoplastic Eclipse,then look at the execution of the hatches or coaming. They’ve still got a ways to go in design while pushing a particular price point.

I’d still look to Eddyline as they’ve been working the material and deck/hull seam technology longer. I’ve seen a Perception Sonoma 13 with a blown hull/deck seam, maybe it was handling,either way it’s something to consider. I’d be curious how a big thermoplastic Perception kayak holds up with a big load in rough landings. We all know what plastic does,what it doesn’t do is have seams fail. For the $400 premium,approx. $100/lb, I don’t want to discover how well the hull/deck seam holds up. This isn’t the time to discover what works for the customer like the earlier thick seatbacks Perception had for years and years,and said were no problem dislodging and complicating rescues.

It’s a good material and I like the Sonoma 13 as well as the look of the Current Designs Kestral 120,but it’s just another material bridging price ranges.

I’m not sure it’s such a HOT topic
Unlike skeg vs. rudder, where each has a particular pros and cons, and compromise compromise to be debate over, the plastic vs. fiberglass discussion seems to be rather one-sided, at least on this board.

Just about everyone who has own fiberglass kayak tend to prefer it over plastic. They see little advantage for plastic except in limited use such as surf/rock. (even there, there’re some who believe a heavier layup of fiberglass is the way to go) The lower initial purchase price of plastic is then offset by by the longer useful life of fiberglass.

Granted, there’s no denying the psychological advantage of cheaper plastic boat for beginner who hasn’t quite decided IF they’ll stay with the sport, never mind getting so serious that they CARE about the advantage of fiberglass! More over, for beginner who hasn’t acquired the skill to differentiate the performance of different hull shape, the better choice of hull shape available in fiberglass boats is still rather a mute point.

So, instead of a HOT debate, it’s usually a simple repeat of some well-agreed upon list for the education of the ignorant. That is, until someone can come up with some well researched points FOR the plastic side, we may THEN have a true “debate”.

If you want something that lasts even longer than composite boats, try folding kayaks like the ones from Feathercraft. They are built to last 30 years ! Try to beat that with your composite ! You’ll say PERFORMANCE again, well just talk to the people at Feathercraft or people who bought these boats…

When you buy a kayak you do not necessarily want to race. I like to observe nature, take pictures, fish, and just relax. When you take a longer plastic boat like my 17’ BorealDesign Inukshuk, you get fantastic comfort, great stability and good speed. You’re also not afraid to bump rocks once in awhile. Plastic won’t chip like fiberglass. Of course it will scratch too but it’s not the same thing. It won’t hurt the same to drag it on the ground (if you must do that). You should start by showing respect for those who like plastic boats instead of looking down on them. And last, they are not all beginners that will eventually buy composite boats.

You contradict yourself
"You’re also not afraid to bump rocks once in awhile. Plastic won’t chip like fiberglass. "

"You should start by showing respect for those who like plastic boats instead of looking down on them. "

Unless you’re paddling with people who own fiberglass kayaks just for show, the ones I paddle with are NOT “afraid to bump rocks” at all, not just “once in a while” either. It is YOU who should start showing respect for those who like fiberglass boats WITHOUT knocking platic boat owner by calling it a “waste of money”!

I was in a trip when the storm surge took a boat from the beach while we slept, and it got thrown around the rocks for some time. It got a hole that you can put a fist through. Well, the owner just pull out his fiberglass patch kit… and a few hours later, the boat is back on water and amoungst the rock again. Talk about “afraid to bump rocks once in awhile”!

"Of course it will scratch too but it’s not the same thing. It won’t hurt the same to drag it on the ground (if you must do that). "

Right, it’s not the same. Fiberglass scratches can be easily repaired. “It’s not the same” with plastic boats.

I just returned
from a trip where I was the only tupperware boat in the group, T-165. I never felt the lesser for having an RM kayak nor was I at a disadvantage at any time. Perhaps I had to paddle a bit stronger to maintain the pace than my counterparts but I certainly didn’t notice it.

If a paddler feels like he/she is on a lower evolutionary rung due to their boat’s composition, then perhaps they are paddling with the wrong folks or have a problem with personal esteem.

I paddle what I prefer to live with and my compadres paddle their preference. Where’s the problem?


you think
a Feathercraft is durable? Portable, yes. durable, no.

and you talk expensive. While a nice vessel, the feathgercraft is a specialty boat for a very small percentage of folks. Believe me, I sold them for years.

I have tons of respect for plastic boat owners, in fact I are one. and I make a chunk of change selling them.

Me thinks you don’t really know what the heck you are talking about when it comes to scratches and bumps in boats. A composite boat will take abrasion way better than a plastic boat.


You guys are really touchy… mmman !
I’ve never seen a bunch of people so touchy and not willing to respect other people’s opinions.

On this forum, I only gave my own opinion not trying to insult anyone. I’m not saying composite boats are no good. I said “I” don’t want one for my use. AND YES, PLASTIC BOATS RESIST TO SHOCKS A LOT BETTER, OK ! I have consulted many other forums. Every boat store where I have shopped had the same thing to say too. You have to be a lot more careful with a composite boat and there is a lot more maintenance to do. AND THAT’S FINAL !

Someone implied I said “composite kayaks are a waste of money”. WHAT ? I never said that. Don’t try to put words in my mouth. A guy asked our opinion, and I gave it to him.

it is like the difference between paper/plastic plates and fine porcelain china dinner ware…you nearly always get what you pay for so keep paddling around in those tupperware tubs. Who needs performance, elegance and style on the water anyway? right?

I take it back
"Someone implied I said “composite kayaks are a waste of money”. WHAT ? I never said that. Don’t try to put words in my mouth."

Sorry, I mis-understood you. You only said:

“there are plastic boats that perform almost like composite boats so the difference is between the ears ! :))”

I shouldn’t have put words into your mouth. My apology.

Yes, for some the difference is between the ears because they lack experience to see the real difference. Face it, a composite boat looks great. Normal for people to want one before a plastic boat, with that look. Personaly, I couldn’t care less.

I have a plastic boat
and I like it, I love it…BUT…after briefly paddling a glass boat a few weeks ago, I personally could really feel a difference–the glass boat was slippery in the water, it was like, I put my paddle in and whoa, zero to 60 in like a nanosecond. The bulkheads on my plastic boat tend to require attention due to the plastic’s reactions to heat and cold (we store them in our garage, away from the sun, but of course the sun shines out on the water too!) I have the glass boat fever and sure I will succumb in time. I guess whatever floats your boat, right! Happy paddling everyone!