Poly or Composites

Looking for a new canoe and can’t figure out what to get. I have a fair amount of experience in aluminums with rivers lakes. I now live where there is some nice rivers but can get very shallow in summer. I would like something along the lines of a prospector 16’ but not sure what to get.

It will be used to do day trips for fishing with my young son, 4 or 5 day lake and portage runs, and some river work where I expect it will take a few knocks. (not crazy white water)

Price isn’t the end all be all, I just want a good boat that will last and can take a bit of punishment if the bangs happen.

Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

I’d avoid polyethlene
- tends to be heavy and not the greatest designs. If you do need to go that way then a Old town Discovery (Disco) isn’t too bad. Don’t worry about a composite hull - unless you go for ultra-light. A decent composite hull will take a lot of bumps and scrapes and can be repaired pretty easily. There are three fiberglass canoes around here with build dates of 1989, 1991, and 1992. all have been used, and in some cases, abused, and still paddle well. If you keep your eye on Craigslist and p-net classifieds you also might run across a used Roylex hull like a Mad river Explorer for a reasonable price.

You need to weigh cost and performance

– Last Updated: Mar-27-16 10:50 PM EST –

Poly boats have nothing in their favor except low price. If you are a remotely discerning paddler, you won't like a poly canoe. If you are like the vast majority of people out there who put a canoe on the water a few times per year, the cost comparison may win you over.

Poly boats are exceptionally heavy, they are only available in basic shapes, and they rarely hold their shape very well but instead develop all sorts of warps. Most people who use these boats are not bothered by this at all.

There are plenty of composite boats that are quite tough, but they cost much more than poly. Enthusiastic paddlers love these materials and ordinary folks who get their boat wet now and then can't understand why anyone would pay that much.

Many basic composite boats will take harder hits than a lot of people realize, but at the top end of the toughness scale are some hull materials that are exceptionally rugged, yet relatively light and available in very refined shapes that could never be offered in poly. As two examples, consider "Tuff Stuff" by Novacraft, and "Kevlar Duraflex" by Clipper. Do some searching and you'll probably find videos of a canoe made from Kevlar Duraflex being beat with a large hammer, and one made from Tuff Stuff being dropped off about a three-story building.

My thoughts:
Poly is cheaper, but weighs more then Composites

If you are just talking about the possibility of a few scrapes here and there, I would get composite.

If you will be constantly banging and scraping rocks get a poly

If you are handy a composite boat is easy to repair and touch up the scrapes.

I am not advocating getting an ultralight, but I have one that I race in shallow rocky rivers. It is twenty years old and I have only recoated the bottom once, (it was a simple job)

Jack L


– Last Updated: Mar-28-16 8:32 AM EST –

Composite boats are twice the price, so that can certainly be a factor. They are also not as rugged as plastic - which can be dropped in the parking lot onto the asphalt or dragged over rocks and logs in low water with little ill effect other than superficial scratches.

If you have to carry the boat any significant distance, or don't have such great upper body strength for loading/unloading what can be a 80lb+ boat from a car roof, then I think you should start looking at composites. Added benefits for composites are that they look nicer and they tend to perform better in the water, being both lighter and stiffer. As someone else noted, there are a lot of different composite layups, some more rugged than others.

Composites are not always fragile
Several whitewater boats are composites. The schedule of laminations means as much as the material.

To blanket all composites as fragile is like calling handmade bread Wonder Bread

Wonder bread tickled my funny bone. Good analogy.

So it sounds like composites are the way to go for sure. I don’t mind a bit more cost for a quality boat. I have even found Souris River has a white water boat call the Skeena. Anybody ever paddled one? From what I have found, should be right on the mark of what I’m looking for.

Also check out Millbrook.
I think it’s millbrookboats.com

hey guess what

– Last Updated: Mar-30-16 4:29 PM EST –

I've dropped my composite boat from the roof of the car onto pavement, and backed it into the garage fascia enough to split the fascia. The pavement put a 1" chip in the gelcoat. That's it.

Here is the result of a collision between a poly boat and a composite boat, for anecdotal use only. But the poly boat lost:


Had the roles been reversed, the composite boat would have been easier to repair.