Sun-stored Royalex used boat buying ques

In 2010 I lost everything including my sweet Kevlar Explorers due to health crises. I’m back to life now and jonesin’ bad for a solid NON-aluminum river boat. But I’m broke, so cheap stuff is all I can hunt for now.

I’m well aware of the effects of the sun on canoe hulls. (Seasoned paddler who has always carefully stored Kevlar and fiberglass boats in a garage.) I came across a great Royalex boat but the owner stored it outdoors, hull UP in direct sunlight for years. It was indoors for maybe 5 years then out in sun for about the same.

So – other than the obvious expected sun-fading and a good overall general close inspection for cracks – is there any way to assess the Royalex integrity before buying? I just can’t afford to buy a boat then hit the first rock on a river and have the hull shatter. Plus, I really want the boat for week-long Class 2 max river tripping.

If longtime Royalex owners can shed some light here, I’d be grateful. Thanks, amigos…

My feeling
If the outer vinyl coating of the Royalex is intact at least in theory the ABS core should not be subject to photo-degradation although the color of the vinyl will fade.

I have heard of folks who had Royalex boats become brittle after many years (regardless of storage) but I haven’t had that experience and I have quite a few old Royalex boats. I do know people who have kept Royalex boats outdoors for prolonged periods who have not had failures due to photodegradation.

I don’t know of any specific way to test the Royalex for brittleness.

I’ve seen brittleness on cold days with
20+ year old Royalex and high velocity tree pitoning, but I don’t think you’ll have any trouble with the one you’re describing. It isn’t that old, and the vinyl should have protected it from UV.

Nice to know info…
Might help to know:

What model & make is the canoe?

Does it have wood trim, vinyl, or aluminum trim?

If it has wood trim; has the weather affected, or damaged the wood?

What is the seller’s asking price?

Those answers don’t directly relate to brittleness of the hull, but may assist responders in assessing whether or not the seller’s asking price is realistic.

A Royalex boat stored outdoors for many years in direct sunlight, is not equal in value to one that was always stored indoors, in “my” opinion.

I’d be sure to make note of those issues if I decided to make an offer on the boat.


One data point
I have a Dimension from 1989 that probably spent its entire life stored outside - the red vinyl is now sort of a dirty reddish pink from sun fading. I haven’t crashed hard in it, but it’s seen plenty of normal (ab)use eddy hopping on class 3 and the only effect so far is patches of brighter red where the faded/chalky vinyl got scraped away.

The university I work for has a whole fleet of Royalex WW boats, many from the days when Dagger still was a canoe company - a veritable museum of WW canoeing on trailers. Many of those boats are 25+ years old and have never been stored indoors. Beginners regularly slam them into boulders, and they are holding up fine. The only ones that have cracked are the ones where the vinyl got scraped all the way off and then not painted/covered.

As long as the vinyl is intact, I don’t really care whether a Royalex boat has been stored indoors or not. I store all of mine outside, except for one that has wood gunwales.

thank you
You guys are great - thanks so much. That’s precisely what I wanted to know.

no worries imo

– Last Updated: Apr-18-14 7:21 PM EST –

the only time my boats are out of the sun is when they're buried in snow. Newest of the 4 Royalex boats is 12, been banging the 14 year old into rocks lately poling, and she's still solid.
One poling boat shattered a gunwale a few years back, but pretty sure that's when she got away from me and blindly stumbled through a few rock gardens half swamped, before finally launching herself like Saturn V skyward. Pretty impressive move for a 16.4', 39" beam high volume boat. G-flex and glass....and back to the races...



thanks, man

The end of my Royalex MR Synergy
that sticks out of the carport and into the sun has gotten dull because of UV damage to the vinyl, even though vinyl is one of the most UV resistant plastics. (Think of garden hoses and wading pools.)

The vinyl layer is there to intercept the sun, and to provide an ablation layer for scrape and bang events. But the vinyl provides almost ZERO structural strength to the hull. It barely adheres to the underlying ABS well enough that one can attach outfitting to it. I remove the vinyl with a low angle chisel before any repair or serious outfitting.

It’s the ABS that gets brittle with time, but it takes a long time, so as long as there’s vinyl to protect the ABS, I wouldn’t worry about brittleness with any boat less than 20 years old, or more.

Any preference?
For the same amount of money, and same model of canoe.

Would you choose the canoe that sat outside in the sun & winter weather for 15 years, over one that had always been stored inside?


How about the same amount of

I have wondered if old Royalex could be re-annealed to restore toughness. But could any amount of sun, even in Phoenix with an air temperature of 115 at times, do the job?

Would hot attic storage be better than a basement?

What about cosmic rays?

How about…
A tactical nuke about a mile away?


That would leave a Royalex boat with
handling characteristics similar to the legendary Piece of Plywood.

UV light
In a world of good used boats why take a chance? I had a Sawyer Charger once that literally fell apart after 30 years.