Same boat, one poly - one glass. What will I notice about the performance and durability between the two? For example a WS Tempest or a Zephyr.
are a bit different designs poly vs composite, so that’s the first difference.
Poly can take more getting bumped, knocked, dragged. Composite is more delicate, but the trade off is that it can be repaired and lasts almost forever (with maintenance) whereas poly will degrade with age, might warp, and major damage can’t be repaired.
Composite is stiffer, and some say that translates to being faster, more efficient and better handling. It’s also generally lighter, so will take less effort to accelerate.
Bear in mind there’s a wide range of quality among both composite and poly kayaks, so it’s advised to research the brand a bit before purchasing.
Glass is Fast
Poly boats are great for banging rocks.
But glass (composite) boats in general feel more responsive. I believe that has to do with the stiffness inherent in a glass hull.
For what it’s worth I include Royalex with the poly grouping, good for banging rocks, but less responsive.
FYI I paddle poly C1’s, as well as Royalex and composite canoes.
specific to tempest & zephyr…
…I own, or have owned and/or paddled both in plastic and FG. They are significantly differsnt boats, though they do overlap somewhat. Currently I own a dagger alcheny 14S & zephyr 155 in plastic and a FG tempest 165. IMO & IME, one needs to be honest with how the boat will be used. The current wilderness FG boats out of china will not hold up well to lots of rough handling/bigger surf/log & rock bumping; I know this first hand. They are both great handling boats. The tempest,(FG or plastic), has a noticable ease of speed and tracking advantage while the zephyr is more resistant to pearling on wave faces, quicker turning, better back surfing. Obviously FG would be a poor choice if rock gardening is on the menu. Both boats can do it all, just be honest with yourself about the use they will see and choose the model/construction accordingly.
All the best, t.george
Thanks for the responses.
I was hoping I would get a response from someone who has owned these boats in both materials.
Have you owned the Zephyr in both poly and glass? Could you compare and contrast the handling characteristics (not durability) between a poly Zephyr and a glass Zephyr?
Same for tempest?
In your opinion are the handling differences between poly and glass versions of the SAME BOAT substantial?
I’ve paddled the 165 and 170 tempest in poly and glass at least half a dozen days in each boat. I don’t notice any substantial handling difference between the different materials, aside from a bit of flex with the plastic boats.
To me, the biggest disadvantage to some poly boats is shape changes. I’ve seen many poly boats that have developed big ripples in the bottom, or have a very different rocker profile than they were originally built with. If you buy glass, the boat will stay just the shape it was designed to be. (Some plastic constructions are much better in this regard, but Wilderness Systems is not.)
And regarding durability, I really disagree with the general perception that glass boats are delicate, or harmed more by dragging.
If you drag boats up a sharp-stone beach, the plastic boat will lose far more material than the glass boat, and what is lost can never be restored. Bashing around in the rocks is a good reason to choose a plastic boat, but glass boats take a lot of abuse without damage, including coming down on rocks from time to time. Mostly, I think people fear damage to glass boats more because they paid twice as much for that boat.
This is what I have been thinking also
I come from an open canoe background and I have never been a fan of poly canoes, (royalex yes). From my little experience with Kayaks (I own a plastic Zephyr) it appears to me that with some care regarding storage they do seem to hold their shape better than the poly canoes. I have owned a few composite canoes (never a glass kayak) and I was very impressed with the durability - both from impacts and from abrasions. I used to run them loaded with gear through Class 3 stuff all the time - even a few 4s - and I never did any significant damage. Maybe just lucky - or careful. But, I have to admit that if you are doing a lot of dragging they can get torn up. But as you say it is all easily repaired. There is also the weight thing. Every year it gets more difficult for me to put these boats up on top of the car or truck. So I find myself thinking about a composite kayak down the road. We'll see. It would be fun to shop for a new boat - or maybe a second boat. Might keep my eye out for something used. I've been spending a lot of time drooling over beautiful, and expensive, day boats. Like Serling for example - and others. No way I am good enough at this yet to need such a boat. But, life is short. I feel the drum beat of the years slipping away.
question for Nate…
“To me, the biggest disadvantage to some poly boats is shape changes. I’ve seen many poly boats that have developed big ripples in the bottom, or have a very different rocker profile than they were originally built with. If you buy glass, the boat will stay just the shape it was designed to be. (Some plastic constructions are much better in this regard, but Wilderness Systems is not.)”
Which companies specifically would you say have good constructions for their rotomold boats?
I think Valley would probably make the list, but who else?