Same canoe - Kevlar or Roaylex?

I am new to canoeing, would appreciate advice on buying a canoe. I test paddled a Wenonah Solo Plus Royalex canoe (weight ~60 lb). It felt stable to me, I am completely satisfied with how it handles. However, I’d like to buy a lighter canoe. I found the same canoe, also Wenonah Solo Plus, but the Kevlar Ultra Light model (weight 40lbs). I must make a decision whether to buy the kevlar model without trying it out. Is there any difference in how the kevlar canoe would feel on the water compared to the one I tried? Would it be less stable because of lighter weight, or can I expect the same paddling experience?

20 lbs difference
will make it float higher by perhaps .05 inch

Compared to a 150 lb you its infinitesimal difference.

Material depends on your intended use; you didn’t say where you want to paddle.

Royalex versus composite
In general, composite versions of canoes paddle a bit better than the Royalex versions. Royalex boats have quite a bit of flex and some of the power from paddle strokes goes into flexing the boat. Composite boats are nearly always significantly stiffer, although very light layups may have more flex than heavier ones.

In addition, composite boats can have much sharper lines than Royalex boats. Thermoformed plastic boats like Royalex ones simply can’t be shaped into sharp angles without weakening the material too much. So composite boats tend to have sharper stems that part the water more efficiently.

A 20lb weight difference should have very little effect on stability but I would expect that it would result in the composite boat accelerating somewhat more quickly from a dead stop.

Light weight comes at some price. Royalex is a pretty durable material. A Wenonah ultra-light boat should be fine for flat water use or for paddling unobstructed rivers. It might not be the best for paddling shallow or rocky streams, however.


– Last Updated: Oct-21-16 10:36 AM EST –

Agreed with everything pblanc said.

The main determining factor should be how many things you'll hit with it, and how carefully you want to treat it.

You could drag a royalex boat over rocks to the water (although I dont recommend it) and run into rocks and logs on a river with minimal effect. With a kevlar UL boat, you'll need to be significantly more careful. I have 2 kevlar UL boats and they're still pretty durable, but I nowhere near as durable as royalex. That said, carrying a 42lb boat is sweet. Much nicer than mid 60 lbs.

So: Paddling rocky/shallow rivers or dont care to baby the boat, go Royalex.
Paddling deep water and willing to baby the boat a little, enjoy the lightness of Kevlar.

where you are paddling and when …

are you prepared to repair the Kevlar ?

and replace it if nece$$ary ?

low water white water isnot kind to Kevlar

nor is Kevlar more suitable for canyon paddling where a serious crack is serious.

I was about to take off for Talley to La Linda at low runnable when Mike the Mgr suggested I rent a hull from Texas Sports n not ding muh new Solo Royalex.

He offered some wuhwuhwuh hehehhheh snort snort thoughts on Kevlar at low water reporting several paddlers suffering thru the trip after holeing the hull.

Unless your skills are very good bashing the Kevlar on low water rocks is inevitable’

the rubber hull isn’t that heavy

There is the flex core option at 51lbs
"Flex-core construction creates a more rugged canoe than our Ultra-light core, and is meant for general paddling on all but extreme waters. In our Flex-core constructions a structural-foam core is laminated into the hull, orienting the composite fibers carefully to distribute loads. We add an extra fabric layer to the whole hull. This adds a bit of weight but makes for a stronger, more rigid canoe. Side ribs are not needed because this layup distributes more material throughout the hull. The result is a tough canoe that is still fairly light weight. Using Kevlar® in our Flex-core layup adds a little weight, but saves some money. The extra layers of fabric and gel-coat finish makes these boats slightly more resistant to damage than our Ultra-Light canoes as well."

if you have a line on a royalex canoe, don’t wait too to long decide since since royalex boats are no longer being made, and someone else may buy that boat before you do - just so you know

a royalex hull will be the slowest layup as others have said, but the heaviest and generally cheapest version of a boat - maybe up to a half mile an hour speed difference - a local dealer did some testing, and I think the result was 4 or 5 tenths of a mile an hour difference

Thanks for great info!
Thanks everyone, I appreciate all the info, it will help me decide. I am planning to paddle flat water: small lakes, rivers which are not too shallow. I am also planning on paddling when it’s not too windy out. I am a beginner, need to work on my skills first before paddling rocky rivers or doing anything else which might damage the canoe. I know that Roaylex has been discontinued, and I know that Roaylex is sturdier and cheaper than Kevlar, but heavier. To me, the tradeoff of paying more for less weight is worth it.

If you are a beginner
and unless you have plans to become expert in a hurry and start hammering around, you will never notice a performance difference between the two boats…not to the extent that it will stand out to you. From what you describe as your intended use you are more likely to dilly dally around and enjoy learning paddle strokes etc…the royalex boat will be just fine for that.

The other major benefit is that the roylex hull does not require you to be anally meticulous in how you load, store, launch, carry, land the boat. If you scratch up royalex it’s no big deal. If you start digging into your gell coat on kevlar it’s not a good thing.

And, if (once you get more experienced) you want to take the boat into a bit more gnarly situation you can learn in the royalex boat. As a beginner in Kevlar you might pucker up enough not to try it…I see that quite often…folks have such nice boats that they are afraid to use them.

Finally, would you be inclined to let someone borrow your kevlar boat? Would you let the local scout troop borrow it for a weekend…probably not…royalex, sure, why not…you can drop it from a roof (or as with one of mine, get it jammed into a turbine in a dam (someone stole it)…it’s still being used.

In my opinion, if I was going to buy only one canoe (as a beginner) I would buy one that is indestructible…learn how to use it and then later on with some skills and experience to draw from start buying other boats.

I have a fleet of canoes…too many in reality. I am drawn to fussy wood and wood and canvas boats but I also own kevlar and royalex hulls. If I had to go down to just one boat, it would be royalex…

Buy it before someone else does.

true indeed…the ultra owner needs decide if he is a clod or not a clod.

or a poor clod or a well off clod.

I hit everything. The garage door jamb, Roebling’s original bridge abutments, the only rock in the middle of the Delaware…yawl know that one ? I spun on it with help…

Loading the Solo requires balancing the load not great strength. However, out of condition n a back injury is more probable.

With the Rendezvous, many expressed a delight in the Kevlar model over Royalex …given that hitting rocks was impossible given the R’s maneuverability.

The Solo is as capable in a Class 3 or lower river. More capable with Kevlar fersure.

be honest now, are you a clod ?

rx vs. Kevlar
Buy both and enjoy them.

I’ll be the contrarian
Royalex isn’t as durable as some let on. It does not hold up well to scraping on rocks or dragging on pavement. If buying the heavier royalex boat will mean you have to drag, rather than carry, you may be better off with kevlar.

Scuff marks on gel-coat look really bad, but they aren’t structural damage. The soft vinyl skin on royalex gouges easier than gel-coat, and that exposes the abs layer that is susceptible to UV degradation and can become brittle.

Royalex is repairable, but so is kevlar. Where the advantage really lies with royalex is in the event of a catastrophic wrap when pinned by current on a rock. Where the kevlar boat may be crushed beyond recovery, the royalex boat may often be stomped back into passably good shape.

I don’t worry much about boney rivers with my kev canoes, but whitewater conditions with possible pins and excessive rock bashing call for the royalex boat. Even a royalex boat deserves some care about loading, climbing in and out (wet footing), and scraping on rocks.

What the heck
I’ll toss in my .02 worth…

It depends on your primary usage. If you think you’ll be mostly be paddling rivers, especially rocky ones, go royalex. If you think you’ll mostly be paddling lakes and might be portaging a lot, go kevlar. The differences in paddling won’t be great but the differences in ease of portaging are more considerable.

Either can be used for either. If you’re young and in good shape and if you don’t plan to do long portages the weight advantage of kevlar might not even be that important. Royalex can be portaged…

Either will last if cared for properly.

It used to be that the royalex would have had a price advantage, but with the end of the era of royalex production the cost difference is much less.

So how do you plan to mostly use this canoe?

Go for lighter weight if you can . . .
. . . afford it.

A 20 pound weight difference is substantial, and it will become more and more substantial as you age.

The Kevlar boat will paddle slightly better.

As others have said, just stay away from shallow, rocky rivers and streams. Don’t ever go into a rapid you are not totally familiar with. Don’t bash your canoe onto shore when you are landing. Get in and out of the canoe when it is floating in about six inches of water. When you have more skill as a paddler you can finesse you way closer to a rocky shore or a concrete boat ramp.

Other things being equal, lighter is better for canoes, kayaks, paddles, paddlers . . . but not wallets.

It’s not always the same canoe
I’ve looked closely at the Wenonah Vagabond in both Royalex and fiberglass (same shape as Kevlar), and they are totally different boats. The Royalex model is at least half a foot shorter and has no Rocker (the composite versions have enough rocker to be easily visible). I’ve heard that similar differences can occur between Royalex and composite versions of various other canoes. I have a Royalex Supernova by Nova Craft, and one time when I test paddled a composite version, it felt completely different to me (it seemed much more lively and eager to go where I wanted it to), though one person who used to be a frequent poster here once said that the differences between Royalex and composite versions of the Supernova were unusually small, as such comparisons go.

Good Points
Funny, I couldn’t stay in a composite Supernova, to me it felt TOO “Lively.” Royalex, it felt comfortable to me. Noticed similar changes with other boats between the composite and royalex versions.

@e_arkady said:
I am new to canoeing, would appreciate advice on buying a canoe. I test paddled a Wenonah Solo Plus Royalex canoe (weight ~60 lb). It felt stable to me, I am completely satisfied with how it handles. However, I’d like to buy a lighter canoe. I found the same canoe, also Wenonah Solo Plus, but the Kevlar Ultra Light model (weight 40lbs). I must make a decision whether to buy the kevlar model without trying it out. Is there any difference in how the kevlar canoe would feel on the water compared to the one I tried? Would it be less stable because of lighter weight, or can I expect the same paddling experience?
The only real reason to buy Royalex is because it was cheap and could take a lot of abuse. The same model in composite will be lighter, have improved hull shape and will be superior in all respects except perhaps for bouncing off rocks. If you do bounce off rocks regularly, there are also heavy duty versions of composite models with (for instance) more layers of Kevlar. Kevlar is more durable for the weight than fiberglass and also more durable than carbon, although carbon boats are stiffer for any given weight. Generally speaking your paddling experience in a composite canoe will be far far superior to Royalex.