I got the canoe tripping bug this summer. Had a great trip with my son on the Moose River in ME and am going back in a few weeks to canoe maybe the St. Croix and next year the Machias and others. I’m looking to purchase a canoe and have pretty much decided on 17’ (maybe Nova Craft Prospector) but not sure what material to get ie: carbon fiber/kevlar, kevlar/fiberglass, fiberglass, Tuffstuff etc. Souris River touts their epoxy resin, gel coats scratch and add weight. I expect to do some portaging plus I’m sure over time the canoe would get dragged over rocks etc. Would hopefully experience some rapids but probably not over a class II. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
Not to sound rude, but this topic has been addressed before. The easiest way to search these forums it to go to a proper search engine (google, bing, etc.), type in your search term (e.g., “canoe construction materials”, “Canoe layup”, etc.) along with the search term “paddling.net”. This should turn up plenty of results, including these:
The best material sometimes comes down to how much you are willing to carry and how much you are able to spend.
A 17’ boat can be pretty heavy, especially if constructed of fiberglass alone. Materials like aramid (e.g, Kevlar) and carbon fiber have a higher strength to weight ratio for tensile loads than does fiberglass. But when these materials are used for canoe construction they are typically used to reduce weight, not to build a stronger boat. So a boat built using aramid and/or carbon fiber might weigh significantly less than an all fiberglass boat, but have no greater practical strength. Aramid is considerably more expensive than fiberglass and carbon fiber is more expensive still, so you will pay more for that lighter boat.
The combination of aramid and fiberglass for canoe construction is well-established and results in a strong boat with a good strength to weight ratio, especially when aramid is used for the interior layers and S fiberglass for the exterior layers. The substitution of carbon fiber for aramid or fiberglass results in a stiffer hull. But carbon can be rather brittle and when it fails it tends to do so catastrophically with little prior deformation.
This webpage discusses some of the characteristics of the most common materials used for canoe construction:
Note that it is not just the fiber tensile strength that is important. It is also important how well the fiber bonds to the resin matrix. Aramid, for example, despite its excellent tensile strength does not bond to resins as well as fiberglass, and is not as resistant to compressive strains.
The Innegra composite fibers are relatively new to canoe construction. Innegra S is a polypropylene fiber. The hybrid Innegra H fabrics combine this with basalt, carbon, or glass. Tuffstuff uses the Innegra H basalt fabric. Nova Craft claims that substituting Innegra H/Basalt for aramid reduces the tendency for catastrophic failure, but the jury is out regarding long term durability.
As for resins, I wouldn’t worry about it as long as you are buying a boat from a reputable builder.
Virtually all will use either a vinyl-ester resin or epoxy. All makers seem to claim that their particular resin is the very best. In the past, epoxy was significantly stronger than vinyl-ester resins, but I was recently told by a reliable source that some of the newer vinyl-esters are as strong or stronger than epoxy.
Omitting gel coat is certainly an option for reducing weight as it adds little or no strength. It does provide some abrasion protection, however, and most people like the way it looks. Some makers will omit gel coat and possibly substitute a pigmented resin skin coat at your request.
I would tend to avoid a canoe with a foam core bottom and ribs if you plan to paddle any whitewater. That type of construction can certainly be used in whitewater, but cracked cores or ribs complicate repairs.
If I were looking for a composite 17’ tandem for the use you describe I would probably go with an all-cloth construction with an aramid interior and an S glass exterior with or without gel coat. Second choice would probably be Tuffstuff if you are going with Nova Craft.
wow, thank you so much. I’m understanding a fiberglass/aramid canoe would be more flexible/durable than a aramid/carbon canoe so subsequently would that make the fiberglass compsite handle rapids better?
There are other factors to consider besides the stiffness of the material itself. “Elastic Modulus” is the degree of difficulty in bending a certain MATERIAL. This is not the same as stiffness. “Stiffness” is the degree of difficulty in bending a certain OBJECT. Two objects can be made from the same material, but have different degrees of stiffness depending on construction. This is true for canoes.
Overall shape of the canoe should be considered, with regard to several parameters (length, beam, depth, profile, etc.). I’ll leave further comment on this to those that are more experienced. These factors have been addressed in other threads, however, and can be found easily.
In the second address that I posted in the first thread, the issue of mass is addressed. More mass = more inertia.
Some good used royalex
Canoes are available on craigslist. If it was still being made, it would be highly reconnended. The old town Penobscot 17 seems to show up pretty commonly for instance.
I have a royalex Penobscot 16 and a Wenonah Jensen 17 ultralight Kevlar. and I much prefer the lightness of the Kevlar boat over the Penobscot.
If I was doing class II I would use the Penobscot, but for class I I’ll take the Jensen.
If I scratch it I just touch it up with epoxy. At 39 pounds, it is a delight to portage.
A broken foam rib is also an easy fix, (been there done that!)
Good luck on your choice
The most popular mid level priced canoe used for your intended canoeing.
Or what are you spending..on the total rig, what can you afford to replace. If you have the funds to replace a light weight hull then light weight gains points.
Going thru the available internet material is essential to knowing what the adventure is about. Many of us have done this background research.
In the commercial area:
Wenonah sells a broad array of hulls thus offering a broad array of advice:
Wenonah 'tuffweave' earns review points in the used market
Piragis posts canoe reviews:
there are centered forums
Visiting the ‘local’ boat shops is primary…see what the boat sizes are in person for your physical size comfort.
Thank you all!
while we’re on the topic of materials, Clipper offers “Kevlar” and “Kevlar with Duraflex”. The duraflex doesn’t have the cross ribs that the kevlar does. Think the kev w/ dura is worth it?
Clipper Kevlar Duraflex
I have a Clipper Kevlar Duraflex solo whitewater canoe. It is an extremely tough all cloth layup. I have come off of a few 5-6 foot drops down onto rocks with it a couple of times without any damage more substantial than gel coat scratches.
Marlin Bayes, owner of Clipper, will customize the layup for you if you want to achieve a particular weight.
Thanks for all the input. I’m zeroing in, look like either the Nova Craft 17 Prospector either Tuff Stuff or blue steel or Clipper 17 Prospector ultra light of duraflex.
I paddled the nova craft 17 prospector in royalex on a lengthy northern trip once and I love the canoe. I am generally an Old Town Tipper guy but that Nova Craft is a great boat. I wish you could get it in royalex. I will never feel as secure with a composite boat when I am hundreds of miles from the nearest human being. But - I have been paddling wood canvas lately and so you can make the adjustments. You just need to respect the fragility of the craft and be more careful which is not necessarily a bad thing. One thing I believe though is that you cannot abuse a composite or wood canvas boat by dragging them. You need to carry them.
I’ve considered the royalex and trying to find a used one but my concerns are the weight when portaging, I’m new to the sport and have very little experience portaging. The one portage we did was with a Old Town Discovery 16’9" and it was a bear, 91lbs, although the canoe was bomb proof.
Old Town listed their Royalex Penobscot 17 at 65 lbs and that was the lightest Royalex 17 footer I know off. OT canoes often came in around 5 lbs over catalog weight as well.
If you can handle a 65-70 lb boat and could find a Penobscot 17 Rx in decent shape, it would certainly be a worthy choice.
what is Clipper using for resin ?
I found I could tear anything up
if I tried hard enough. ABS, aluminum casualities to Maine, even a glass kayak met with some mishap- if you want to get a bit more creative with your trip planning than go with abs- extend your paddling down the moose and include the rapids below what folks call the demo road now (Scott road) paddle east outlet out of moosehead into Indian, drag down Penobscot Brook and do south branch, North Branch from Snake Pit, West Branch with roll dam section, caucomagic’s horserace, east branch and webster brook/Telos cut, Sebois, Aroostook all better suited to abs- plenty of good ww to boat in tripping mode in Maine-
you line to shorten the portages, as your skill increases you start running more and carrying less and you expect to deal with the occasional crash and learn to eat the soggy food first.
How much risk you take
is influenced by how far you are from the nearest human being and whether you have grandchildren to worry about. You won’t die if the food gets trashed as long as you stay near the water and you have a boat that still floats. But, four guys and gear coming out with one canoe is a tough slog. Trust me.
Which Clipper canoe do you have?
I’ve realized I have to either get a single or tandem canoe, one does not do both and I knew that going into this thread but I still tried. It’s actually easy to figure out, whichever I’m going to do more of and get that canoe and rent the other times or get two canoes. Thanks, for the trip tip, sounds great, how long is that meandering trip you mentioned? Thanks!