Wenonah Kevlar ultralite

How durable are Wenonah’s Kev-Ultralite canoes? Obviously, they’re not built for white water. Just wondering how much abuse they can take within the bounds of general quiet water use, mostly lakes, rivers, and streams. I see that many outfitters use them and that says something for their quality. Yet, I also note that most of the outfitters sell all their Kevlar boats after just one season. As much as I’d love to do that, I need a boat that will last a long time.

Anyone with some experience with these boats? What are the major issues, if any? How well do they hold up?

Specifically, I’m interested in an Ultralite Spirit 2. However, all of Wenonah’s Kev-Ultralite boats are built the same way. So any experience with any of their composite boats would be helpful. Thanks.

Ultra light
Classically, when you want something very light, it will be very expensive or very fragile.

rental fleets
they aren’t sold because they don’t last longer than a year. If you want a light kevlar canoe get one. How you use it will make a bigger difference than what it’s made of.


– Last Updated: Mar-24-07 7:33 AM EST –

I have 2 Wenonah ultralights with the oldest going on 10 years. I don't baby my light weight boats; they are paddled hard and they reward you with speed and distance. My paddling is in Canadian Shield lakes with the typical bedrock shoreline and occasional rock shoal hazards, and there usually are portages involved. You won't find me in anything but a light weight for this kind of paddling. You also won't find me paddling without duct tape. For tripping, I carry a small fiberglass repair kit, just in case. I haven't sliced open a hull yet, but suspect it could happen when traveling at speeds above 4mph in a loaded canoe. If you store ultralights out of the sun; ease up to landings sideways rather than charging shore and running the bow aground; make sure the hull is in the water before you load the boat; and at least try to avoid hitting rocks while traveling at high speed; ultralights will serve you well for many years. My oldest ultralight is a used outfitter canoe and I expect to get another 10 or more years from it. My advice: Get the ultralight, use it, don't baby it, but just be prepared. If it helps relieve your concern, get a used outfitter ultralight complete with scratches and you won't feel so bad about using it hard...

20 years plus and still intact
Twenty five years ago the local Wenonah dealer took a photo of three adults standing on the bottom of a 36# actual weight 16’6" Sundowner/Echo. Total weight 550#. The canoe was resting on the stem and one gunwale. There was no deflection in the hull bottom. I know the details quite well since i was one of the three standing on the canoe.

That same canoe is still in service, it has lots of scratches on the bottom and nicks in the stems, but nothing worse than some exposed kevlar where the skin coat has been worn thru. It gets periodic resin recoating over the worn spots, but there is no cracking or delamination anywhere on the hull.

My own original Spirit, not a II, is over 25 years in service and going strong. It has done a half dozen BSA 50 milers, been dragged loaded over beaver dams, used for countless river trips from Quebec to Virginia, raced in 6 Adirondack 90 milers, and taken on trips by many other Scout leaders. Its never been babied, and has lots of scratches and dings, has maybe a pint of resin on the bottom on many abrasion repairs.

Don’t think that the Ultra-light layup needs to be babied, just don’t abuse it. It will handle all the normal run-ins with rocks, stumps, shoreline, and racks. By the time it needs repair, it will have saved you from countless back aches, and put many a smile on your face. A livery weight Grumman or an Old Town Tripper may tack more abuse, but the Spirit II in Kevlar Ultra-light will make your paddling time much more fun.


I have two
wenonah kev ultralite spirit II’s one just with skin coat and one with a gel coat. I don’t treat them any different than my grumman. I don’t baby my stuff and i don’t abuse my stuff either.I would say i use mine like duluth moose uses his. Other than scraches no problems. Go kevlar ultralite and enjoy.


ultra light glass
a rental place in northern ca called catch a canoe had light glass foam core wenonas, gel coat. They were tied at the dock, rose and fell with the tide ON THE ROCK BEACH and held up fine. It looked like a rough way to care for the canoes and the gel coat was scratched to hell but I’m pretty sure they were in rentals for more than a year.

Rental places sell 'em to make money.
Face it, they rent 'em all summer for at least a hundred a week, then sell 'em at the end of the season for around/close to what they paid for 'em a lot of times. So… they make a bunch of $$$ renting all summer and recover their original investment, or close to it. By selling 'em off they start the new season with new boats and the cycle starts over again.

I’ve used a kev/ultralite core Wenonah Odyssey for over 15 years and well over 1,500 miles in Ontario tripping. It looks fantastic and has taken some seriously hard hits. The entry and exit are somewhat scuffed and peach fuzzy (barely!) and I’m guessing I’ll pass this boat on when my time comes. Same goes for my kev/core Advantage, over 15 years old and looks new, albiet somewhat darker (like a fine chocolate). Sorry Charlie, I don’t think this stuff is any where near as fragile as you imply. And the simple fact that this lay-up is well used in rental fleets in the Canadian and Minnessota shield areas, says volumes as to it’s durability.

Thanks for the replies
Thanks to all for replying. You’ve increased my comfort level and now it’s time to find a boat. Ultralite it is. That loud yelling you hear in the background is my back screaming thankyou!

Sorry if anyone took my rental company comment the wrong way. It wasn’t intended as a knock on the quality of the boats. Quite the opposite. That these outfitters use Wenonah Canoes speaks to their quality. However, that the boats only spend a season in the renatal fleet before being carted off to the used canoe lot, raises a question, why? My best guess is economics. Rent the boat for a season and then sell it for cost. Rotate the inventory, retail 101. However, there could be a door number two, increased maintenance cost of an aging boat. Which is why I asked the question. And from the answers I got it looks like the boats are as well built and durable as the are good looking. No worries.

Time to search out the best deal. Speaking of which, just got back from paddlesport. They had a new Kev Ultra Spirit 2 on sale for $2074. Ok, but not the deal of the century and not enough to get me to move. Well see. Now the fun part starts.