What happens if I drop a kevlar canoe?

-- Last Updated: Mar-12-10 11:43 PM EST --

Not that I intend to, but let's just say if I did buy a kevlar canoe... a Wenonah is what I have my eye on. I've never owned a fiberglass or kevlar kayak or canoe and I'm just curious. A non-paddler friend tells me kevlar is very tough and is only prone to damage by gouging, and that dropping it wouldn't hurt it a bit. That may be true, but I definitely don't want to test the theory. Personally, I think he may be an idiot.

Please tell me I'm wrong. I want to believe my friend's not an idiot and that my (potential) kevlar canoe is fairly bulletproof, but... ???

It all depends on the amount of drop…

– Last Updated: Mar-13-10 12:14 AM EST –

... and what it hits, I suppose. My "kevLight" Merlin II was standing nearly vertical against the roof of my garage, drying off after I washed off a bunch of mud. I went inside for a while, and when I came back out it was laying on the ground. It must have hit fairly hard, but the ground was grass-covered and no damage was done. Oh, at the boat show where I bought it, I was letting a friend see how light it was and she took it from my hands but grabbed it a few feet off-center so that one stem came down hard, sideways, on the concrete floor. I figured at that moment that if I hadn't already bought it I'd be buying it now. I "think" there might have been a slight popping-loose of the clear coat at the point of impact, but I couldn't ever be sure. If if that's what happened, from a practical standpoint, that impact did no damage either.

On the other hand, the average Kevlar boat is less able to withstand an impact with something solid than other common materials, depending where the boat gets hit. It's not so much the nature of the material as the fact that most Kevlar boats are very lightly built to save weight. Can you drop a Kruger Sea Wind (who's hull is made from something like 13 layers of Kevlar) onto a parking lot? You bet. Can you do the same with a lightweight Wenonah? You might get away with it, but then again you might not. The good news is that you can always fix it up again so it's as good as new, and there are a few folks here who can give you good advice on doing that.

Depends What You Drop It On

– Last Updated: Mar-13-10 11:16 AM EST –

Kevlar is tough stuff for sure, and it can take a lot of punishment without failing. The wrong sort of impact - being dropped on hard, sharp objects, like protruding nails or the corner of concrete steps, is likely to cause some visible damage.

The most likely way to puncture it would be step into the canoe while it is ashore; if there's a small rock under the hull, the localized pressure can do the job.

Also, there's more than the kevlar to consider. A friend's kevlar canoe spent a night wrapped around a rock in a river with the current pouring into the open hull; the hull bent so much the bottom was pushing the carrying yoke up out of the boat. When it was freed the next morning, the hull sprung back into shape, and amazingly, did not leak. But you shoulda seen the gelcoat - hand-sized chunks just gone, others flapping off, cracks all over. One gunwale had failed. Boat pretty well looked trashed, but he repaired the gunwale, redid the gelcoat, and despite looking like it's thru the wars on the losing side, that boat has covered thousands of miles since.

According to the amount of times my
ultralight Wenonah Jensen has been dropped; nothing.

If it has gel coat, then I imagine a good drop would chip the gelcoat.

I wouldn’t want to think about dropping it on rocks when it is fully loaded!



Good stuff
Don’t agonize over it. I bent mine in half after A Minor

misjudgment and communication problem with my bow paddler. ( I was thinking he needed to throw a cross bow Rudder, but i guess I wasn’t thinking load enough.) Got the Jensen out and kicked it straight enough to walk out to the road. New gunwales and she is ready to race. Have run the 7 miler in it since that wrap. Wenonah makes good boats and I suspect so do Bell, Colden, placid et al.

it will fall down
but other than that it’s good to go. Usually

my guess…
…Bumbles Bounce ! …

From what I understand, it’s lighter than it is tough. Great material for sure, and tough enough to hold up normal use (drops, etc…gentle bumps) but it’s not impossible to crack with a hard impact. I wouldn’t use the term “bullet proof” when talking about kevlar hulls. Kevlar vests are, because they’re built to flex and absorb the impact of a bullet (all the fibers absorb the impact energy). A boat hull is designed to be rigid…while keeping it’s shape. Any hard impact focused on a small area will likely bust through the kevlar weave… a sharp stick, and of course a bullet. Broaden out the impact site, like a large log…the ground surface during a drop, and it’ll bounce back fine. So, if you’re expecting the normal accidental drops that will always happen, or bumps I wouldn’t worry about Kevlar weave holding up. If you see a lot of slams and bashing in the future, go with Royalex. Royalex isn’t as rigid as Kevlar, so it’s not as efficient (it flexes and absorbs your paddling energy, but this flexing is what helps it resist impacts).

drops are no problem
My 1983 Wenonah Spirit is Kevlar Cross-rib. It has been thru the wars. It blew from atop my 1979 Chevy wagon onto a concrete parking lot, skidded across the lot and smacked against the frame of a boat trailer. Lots of scratches added to the bottom of the hull, a nice big gouge thru the gelcoat where it hit the trailer, and some spider cracks in the gelcoat where the side of the hull flexed when it hit the concrete.

Paddling with a full tripping load at full speed to beat a thunderstorm we smacked into an underwater rock crib that used to support a logging bridge. Threw both of us off the seats; dead stop on the rock. Damage was limited to a three inch strip of gelcoat ground off the kevlar cloth on the bow. Repaired it with hardware store epoxy putty and covered the grey epoxy with green gelcoat when we got home.

The boys in my Scout Troop hauled it fully loaded over multiple beaver dams and logs. The bottom flexed, as it was designed to, and other than spider cracks in the gelcoat, no damage.

I could go on for pages about what this one hull has survived. People who think you need royalex if there is one rock in the river are nuts. None of my canoes are virgin, they all have battle scars. But they all have endured and every accident was repairable; even the solo that got wrapped around a deer crossing sign in a very tragic trailering mishap.

I canno speak for the durability of every manufacturers kevlar layups, some may less durable. But the Wenonahs I have owned, and those of my associates in the Plaid Paddler Society, have proven to be very tough and durable.


Mr. Flores---- when possible, Kevlar
layups are designed to allow flexing. I have glass-over-Kevlar boats that flex as much from the same blows as Royalex.

Planning the layup, according to intended use, is more important for damage resistance than use of any particular material. But in composite boats, there are materials that excel. S-glass for outside layers, Kevlar for inside.

According to a well respected…
long time member, and a very proficient paddler on this board whom I’m not sure cares to be named. Verlen Kruger (never can remember the proper spelling of that last name) used to purposely drop his canoes from the top of his vehicle onto the ground, and sometimes onto the pavement in front of other paddlers at certain paddler gatherings just to prove how tough his canoes are. While almost no canoes/kayaks are built to near Verlens strict specifications today, I feel confident in saying that any boat that is built to any decent standard of quality should suffer little, to nothing in damage from a short drop to the ground. That being said, any protrusion of a sharp rock, etc… will do some damage no matter how thick the hull. Maybe only a scratch, maybe it could bust it. That ofcourse would depend on to many factors to be covered here.

Common sense might dictate that if this is that much of a concern, or fear, there are always many other materials out there that are nearly indestructible in such an incident. I am occassionally forced to run my thermoplast kayaks onto rocky (sometimes jagged) beaches in relatively strong surf conditions. I have no fear of damage as I’ve been doing this for many years, and have yet to see anything more than a small scratch.

For nearly every task there is a proper tool.

Paddle on~ Splash

My first kevlar boat fell off the rack…
…the other day for the first time. It made a heck of a racket and scared me. I gently picked it up and inspected it, and couldn’t see any sign of damage from the drop. But it made a lot of noise!


This may be stating the obvious
but Kevlar is the cloth that is impregnated with epoxy or a similar plastic material. It is then covered with gel coat.

Ever tried to break cloth? As others noted , you can damage the plastic material and abraid the cloth,but chances of breaking a Kevlar,polyester,or fiberglass boat are slim.

I did a test today
while cleaning my garage. I picked up my canoe, to put it on a set of sawhorses, and it fell off the sawhorses onto the concrete floor. It had no damage other than scratching.

Amen, and I echo the same
for our kevlar canoes.

We have dents, bumps, and scratches which do nothing but give the boat character.



string, I wish the chances were THAT
slim. My Millbrook is almost 2 years old, has some relatively trivial superficial compression breaks in the S-glass outer layer, but one leaking break through the S-glass and Kevlar.

For me, the biggest boat breaker for my composite boats has been going over a 2 foot ledge and having the water thump the stern deep onto the rocks. Nothing else I do in whitewater is so likely to cause damage.

I had a friend who bumped into a floating stick while in his kevlar canoe…the bow on his canoe cracked in 7 places and the boat’s midsection cracked completely. The stern raised vertically and then sank below the surface. It took lifeboats 4 hours to get there,…100 souls were lost that night. They say Royalex would have prevented the tragedy but I dont know, I dot claim to be an expert.

Floating stick was dynamite?

pretty certain your friend is correct
… dropping it should not be a problem ever .

It’s that sudden stop and how it makes contact that might cause damage .

I did drop a FG solo boat about 8 feet
off the trail and onto a rock when portaging in the dark. (A long story…) The gelcoat was star-cracked, but so far as I could tell, there was no damage to the laminate. As long as the laminate can flex with the blow, damage is usually trivial or minor.