Thermoformed vs. FG

Anyone been banging around in a thermoformed boat lately? How durable are they compared to fiberglass?

I am considering an Eddyline Nighthawk, but I am a bit concerned about the strength of the material.


a good read

Did I miss something?
I don’t see where the link discusses thermoformed boats.

A “thermoformed” boat is a “plastic” boat. Am I missing something?

Most all boats are plastic …

– Last Updated: Sep-03-06 1:26 PM EST –

Composite boats are either a glass or plastic fiber cloth held together with a plastic resin (polyester, vinylester, or epoxy). Many use the generic term GRP - glass reinforced plastic to describe fiberglass boats.

Rotomolded plastic are one of a variety of polyethylene plastics. Plastic granuals are heated (melted) and flowed into a mold which is rotated and then cooled to form the boat.

Thermoformed boats are a hard ABS type plastic. The boats are formed by heating large plastic sheets of material over a form.

Prijon and other boats are yet another type - HTP blow molded, most similar to polyethylene rotomolded.


thermoform vs. FG
Thermoform and poly are both plastics, but very different. Thermoform is more rigid and lighter. It’ like the plastic they make hottubs out of.

Thermoformed and rotomold
have very different attributes. The stuff on that link appears to be all about heavy rotomolds.

thermoform vs. FG
I am just a little concerned about impact. I won’t be doing whitewater, but the occasional hidden log or rock has come my way.

Any experience with thermoformed boats?


– Last Updated: Sep-03-06 1:37 PM EST –

My boats are rotomold (heavy, virtually indestructible, but does flex and oil can more the older it gets) and a stitch and glue plywood glass boat (superlight, very strong, easy to build, much cheaper than glass and composite, but I've only been paddling it for a few months so I can't give a long term review.)

I was interested in you post because I've been sorta interested in getting a thermoformed boat for my wife down the road. Search the archives and you'll find some old threads about it, but I think the jury is still out.

My impression is that occassional log or rock isn't going to hurt your thermoformed. I think there have been some stress issues with attachment points of seats, etc.

Its Tough Enough

– Last Updated: Sep-03-06 1:49 PM EST –

I have a NightHawk and have banged it around in rock gardens and other adventures. It is more flexible that a FG boat, but it does not scratch easily and seems to take a beating well. There have been times when I was sure I put a big gash in it only to find afterwards there was only a small scratch. The other thing is if you do put a heavy duty gash in one, it is very easy to touch up compared to gelcoat.

toughness of thermoformed hulls
Some fiberglass boats are much tougher than others, so the frame of reference here is a bit ambiguous.

Overall I’d say that a well made thermoformed hull is plenty durable for the uses you are anticipating. Thermoformed plastic does flex more than fiberglass and probably can endure certain kinds of impact – like being dropped from your roof rack – better than most fiberglass boats (I haven’t tried this one yet). On the other hand, I’m guessing thermoformed are less able to endure certain kinds of impact with sharp objects – and may puncture more easily than fiberglass. I’ve paddled a thermoformed Hurricane Tracer on Class II whitewater (I’m a dealer so I get to do this kind of thing!)with fairly good results. The boat did get one deep lengthwise scratch from scraping over a large sharp rock that seems to have weakened the hull a bit. So I wouldn’t recommend the boat for whitewater, but for regular ocean, lake, and river use, a thermoformed boat should be fine.

I am a thermoform junky
Love the stuff. All of the advantages of glass in plastic:

• light (easy to lift)

• strong (won’t droop in the heat on your car)

• scratches “innies” instead of “outties” (burs = drag)

• easy to fix (can even be fixed with fiberglass)

Personally, I even prefer it to glass, which wears far faster than ABS. But watch out: all thermoforms (which go by various proprietary names) are not created equally; I’ve heard lots of complaints about Duralite (crap). Eddyline (Carbonlite 2000) does it the best.

Which thermoform boats do you have?

I’ve had a Merlin & a Nighthawk

more on the Nighthawk
I appreaciate your input on carbonlite and the Nighthawk. The reason for all the questions is that I have a 2.5+ hour drive each way for a test paddle.

I am 6’'1" 190 lbs. I am hoping the Nighthawk 16 cockpit is a good fit. Any Nighthawk owners in my height and weight range?

we have three thermo-formed Hurricanes
They have simply been superb. Very durable and we’ve done everything we ever did with our roto-molded molded kayaks and then some. The Trylon Hurricane uses seems to be better than the Airlite models. Lighter for sure and my brother and sister in law have Hurricane’s too and have paddled them almost every weekend in the summer for two years. My husband sold his fiberglass kayak once he got his Tracer since he felt the Tracer was lighter-paddled just as good and shrugged off scratches. But our local kayak dealer says all thermo-formed boats are not as tough as the Hurricanes.

Nighthawk and Tracer
I’ve heard good things about Hurricane, but I’ve never actually seen one. It’s frustrating that we have so few retailers in the Northern Virginia area.

nighthawk 16
I have a Nighthawk 16. carbonlite. I am 5’8" and 154 lbs. It is a perfect fit for me. The carbonlite is very tough and the kayaks construction is great.I have dropped it before and I could not find any damage.I like the material. It’s a great boat to paddle. I do not have any experience with other kayaks in similar material. I have two other poly boats (roto) and they are not as stiff or as durable as far as scratches go. Try before you buy. good luck.

Thermoform plastic is tough.
I have a Nighthawk and have abused it in ways only a novice could. While I haven’t dropped it yet I have put in above the rapid instead of below (can’t miss all the rocks), and have had my boat surf a rocky shore without me. The submerged logs and rocks will scrape it a bit but it has some flex to it so if you run aground it bends and doesn’t break. I think it holds up to more abuse than fiberglass, but there is a weight penalty. If you want something that will take loads of abuse go with a rotomolded boat or even tougher one of the blow molded Prijon. The thicker and tougher the hide is the longer the protage will seem.


Nighthawk on the rocks
Sounds like you’ve put it through the paces. Thanks for the input.