Poly vs. Royalex

I am planning on purchasing a Mad River Explorer 16’ but am having trouble deciding between the TT model & the Royalex. For the additional 7 lbs, I’m leaning towards the TT solely based on the price difference. Any feedback on why I should or shouldn’t go the Poly route would be greatly appreaciated.


Poly is harder to repair
It is also very hard to add skid plates or a mast step to a poly boat, because no glue or adhesive sticks to poly.

I think poly boats are actually a little stronger.

Usually they are much heavier than 7 pounds difference for the same boat. You could take a scale to a dealer to get the true weight difference, or you could do what I do. Carry the boats out and around the store a bit to see if you can really lift them.

I had the 14TT
Don’t do it! I loved the handling of the boat but the poly was the reason I got rid of it 8 months after I bought it. It is more rigid than royalex NOT STRONGER. Mine developed a vertical crack in the floor. MR has also had some serious qc issues. In its 8 month tenure my boat had to have both seats replaced and I had to rerivet the deckplates due to poor installation. If you decide to go with that boat go royalex. I replaced mine with a Wenonah Prospector RX and I haven’t been happier. God Bless. Dwayne

I forgot, you can’t reliably put d-rings in that boat. So if you’re tying in gear it will be to a thwart or a seat.

nova craft
take a look at nova craft’s poly prospector - just helped a livery with their intial start up and this is the boat they decided on. Same general use as the explorer. I have heard some not too great things about mad river poly lately - but some really good things when they first started to make the St. Croix and the Teton (I think) before they were the 14 and 16tt.

I also remember a pending lawsuit a year or so ago from Johnson Outdoors (maker of Old Town) against Mad River (Confluence Watersports) about how they were making the same type of canoes (3 layer poly). Not sure if that makes a difference or not in the way the are making them now?

Back to the original question. IMHO - the royalex explorer is going to be more durable intially and in the long run over just about any poly boat - the explorer is heavy for a royalex boat because it uses more material to thicken the hull (another thick/cheaper$ royalex canoe that comes to mind is made by Buffalo Canoe out of Arkansas, again same general purpose as the explorer). Don’t get me wrong, I like poly boats and some folks have had them in service for years and years. But I really don’t like the fact that you can’t repair them that easily - disposable comes to mind.

Go for the Royalex
I’ve got a 3 year old MR Explorer 16 in poly that I use 50/50 for paddling/sailing. I’ve been pretty pleased with the design overall but I can’t recommend the poly version due to the distortion I’ve seen in my hull. It’s developed a permanent oil-canning in one half of the bottom. I can’t say that I’ve really noticed any specific effect on paddling but it sure looks lop-sided when on the roof rack. After talking to a couple of canoe dealers I found out that hull warping is not all that unusual in poly hulls and it doesn’t seem to be predictable.

That 80 lbs. weight that they specify was more like 82 when I put it on the scale. Your back will definitely appreciate the lighter version.


Thanks for the feedback so far. Looks like I’ll be heading down the royalex path.

More on Poly
I would not recommend a new poly hall. For the many of the reasons already stated, cannot glue D ring without major difficulties, distortions (oil canning), weight, poor resale value (if bought new) and lack of stiffness. I used to have two OT poly boats, after six months I sold them both. I would only consider poly for occasional uses or as a cheap guest boat. In any case I would buy used and I would consider spending no more than $425. You can find a good Rx for around $600.

Something else to consider, If you are planning to run a significant amount of WW I would reconsider buying an Explorer. The V hall design is good and proven but it is subject to wear since it is the deepest part of the canoe. Several of my friends had to glue a Kevlar strip from the front to the back. This type of wear is more distributed on other designs but if you are predominately a lake paddler it won’t really matter. Good luck in you decision.