Royalex versus Kevlar

Still, so many choices. What would the advantage of Kevlar be over Royalex? I know the weight is lighter in Kevlar. But does it affect performace any? I’m getting closer in choosing either the Spirit II or Penobscot 17. Yes, I’m now way over my original budget.


with four people in the canoe

– Last Updated: Dec-05-05 2:55 PM EST –

... some may doubt you'd notice enough difference to get your money's worth out of a composite.

You won't have to worry about the Royalex oil canning.

Royalex vs. Kevlar
Royalex is going to be softer and more compliant. It would provide more durability for running smooth rock gardens. The material is thick and it is not possible for it to be formed such that the nose of the canoe is sharp like can be done for composites such as Kevlar or fiberglass. An analogy would be that a Kevlar boat is like a sharp knife cutting through the water, whereas a Royalex boat would be a quite dull knife by comparison. The advantage is better glide, and faster for the Kevlar, which would be especially noticeable in still water.

Kevlar hulls are quite stiff, whereas the Royalex hulls are more flexible - when the bottom of the boat flexes it is called-oil canning, this makes the boat slower. In practical terms the Royalex boat is generally stronger/more durable, because most manufacturers of Kevlar canoes use the superior strength of the fabric to make their boats as light weight as possible. It would be possible to make a heavy, very strong Kevlar boat, it just is not usually done.

Agree, however the Penobscott
probably has the sharpest entry line of any Royalex boat on the market; so less a factor on this model.

I like the Royalex for worry-free rock gliding/bashing. I do use kevlar composites for the enjoyment get from clean and quick paddling; the light carrying weight pays off more and more each day as these bones age!

I have one of each
If you will be doing white water get royalex. it is tougher

The kevlar is lighter. If you won’t be banging off a lot of rocks the kevlar is a good choice because of it’s lightness.

Each has its own advantages.



Royalex plays well - Kevlar’s a better dancer

I got an kevlar Champlain
since I mostly use it for tripping and wanted to save the weight on a portage. I was concerned of how it could handle abuse but am happy that it can take quite a bit of abuse without much damage. I definately wouldn’t take it on any rocky river with the water levels low. When I do encounter such situations, I am much more careful than with my Royalex. For banging around a river, you can’t beat a Royalex, but my kevlar Champlain weights less than my 15 ft Explorer.

I have one of each, too,
and the reason being I prefer the royalex canoe for going down rivers, and the kevlar for paddling in flat water. It’s not that you can’t do both in either, because you can, but there are some distinct advantages to the usage categorization. I can paddle the kevlar upriver(class 1) a couple of miles with a 250 pound load, and then cruise down the river. The kevlar can be used often in whitewater, if you don’t mind scratches and bruises. The royalex can also be used in flatwater, although you will exert more effort paddling it to get somewhere. The efficiency of kevlar is much more fun. Where budget is a concern, as it usually is, the royalex can come first. But try paddling a streamlined kevlar before going with the royalex, for the best decision. Happy paddling, MickJetBlue

lakes or rapids?
Rx vs Kevlar? I would first ask myself the question, What type of paddling will I be doing? If you are a river runner (tripper) most likely your portages will be short, meaning weight will be less of an issue. You will probably encounter occasional submerged rocks or logs, so theoretically either type of hull can be used. If the rivers you are planning to run have rapids, then choice is easy, use Rx. On the other hand, if you are a quiet water runner with mostly lakes or deep rivers and the trips include many or long portages, then Kevlar is your answer.

Kevlar boats have sharper entry lines and will most likely be faster. One does not ram the shore with a Kevlar hull; you preferably step in the water prior to hitting the shore. Also you do not load the canoe and then drag it in the gravel to the water. You need to be significantly more careful, unless you do not really care how long you will keep the canoe. With an Rx hull it does not matter so much, it will take lots of abuse. Both types of materials can be repaired, but I believe a Kevlar repair will look much better than a Rx repair. Both canoes should be stored inside out of the sun.

Personally, I am a river runner. Most of the rivers I run have rapids, so Rx was my choice. If I will add another canoe to my collection it will be a Kevlar Wenonah Champlain or Minnesota II for lake use only (Boundary waters).


It is actually not true that Kevlar
hulls are “quite stiff.” Some are, some aren’t. Kevlar used alone does not make for a stiff hull unless more layers are used. When stiffness is desired, the outer two layers should be S-glass or carbon.

It is also not really correct to characterize ABS as flexible. Certainly the bow or stem of an ABS boat does not resist damage by being flexible. It does so because the ABS layers are tough and stiff.

It is easy to design a composite boat which avoids damage by being flexible. I have an old Noah kayak made of Kevlar and CAP (no glass) where the laminate is so tough and flexible that scraps can be folded to the point of creasing and still retain considerable resistance to cracking or tearing. But such a boat needs internal support from walls and bulkheads to avoid losing performance to excessive flex.

ABS canoe owners should be aware that while the material is strong, hidden damage occurs when the boat is dragged over sharp rocks. The outer layer of the ABS sandwich takes most of the damage.