What is the consensus on 3 layer plastic

I’ve looked through a couple of different forums for posts on three layer plastic used in kayaks like the P&H and Valley RM lines. Lots of interesting information, speculation, etc., but not a whole lot of first hand accounts on long term durability of the material. I know it is relatively new to the market (5 years?), so perhaps that is to be expected.

I am considering a Valley RM boat as my next long distance tourer, so I’m curious to know what people’s experiences have been. My own specific concerns, based on things I’ve seen locally, are:

  1. Oil canning: I have seen one Valley boat that had a tremendous wow in the hull caused by improper storage. The dealer was not able to get it to pop out and was selling it at a discount. I’m wondering if the foam core impedes the plastic’s memory of its original shape.

  2. Cracking: I know of 2 cracked P&H boats (both Delphins) – and by “cracked” I mean hull failure.

  3. I have heard that the outer layer is somewhat soft, leading me to wonder if abrasion is an issue. A Valley rep told me that for rock gardening, single layer is probably a better bet.

    So, if you own a 3 layer RM boat and have put it through its proper paces for more than say, a year, I like to hear how the material is holding up. Thanks in advance.

    (For perspective, I have owned fiberglass and plastic boats. Of my single layer plastic boats, Prijon plastic was the best – extremely durable, any dents would pop out quickly, etc.)

I have a P+H and it’s been 3 yrs. now
It’s heavy, that’s my only complaint really. All has held up very well though, Actually it’s very tough! I drag it on rough boat launches and rocky shorelines of the river , but it goes to the coast and does great too. No real battle scars to speak of. You can sit and stand on it and it doesn’t give much at all. It’s great to have a boat that you don’t have to be to careful with.

I’ve seen a number of plastic boats with holes worn right through the stern from people dragging them on ramps and pavement.

Plastic is forgiving, in that it can take a hit, etc. But it’s also very soft (compared to composite), so it is easily worn away by abrasion.

On the subject of 3-layer plastic, I’ve had a Delphin for a few months. No problems. Definitely stiffer than single-dump plastic, but still flexes noticeably when you pick it up by the ends.

One warning
If you puncture the outer layer the foam core will absorb water and become heavy. I don’t think there’s any way to get the water out. If you repair the hole the water is sealed in.

Three Level Plastic
I had a Valley Aquanaut RM for 2 years and paddled primarily on rivers. During that time I put around 800 to 1000 miles on it while getting ready and participating in the Colorado River (Tx) annual 100 mile challenge. I never had any problem with the plastic and the boat tracked and handled very well. A friend used a 3 layer plastic Prijon kayak and has paddled it in 3 of the CR100 races and never had any sort of problems either.

Nordkapp RM
Our club has had a 3 layer Nordkapp RM for 2 years. It’s well-used and stored outdoors in the sun.

No hint of oil canning yet. Noticeably stiffer and stronger than our other poly boats.

waterbird, that foam layer is closed
cell and won’t absorb much water. Same thing with Royalex. The nature of the foam process is such that closed cell foam is the result.

Old Town made “Polylink”, maybe they
still do, for many years and we have at least 5 of them in our fleet of 12 kayaks and the multi layers have held up very, very well.

Sure they’re heavier than single thickness boat but boy have they held up. No oil canning at all. They’re used on creeks and rivers with sandy to rocky bottoms.

do a search on "Corelite"
P&H version of the 3-layer plastic, you’ll find some real-world feedback.

in my experience my RM Capella is stiffer than my WS boats, it’s a really tough hull. the only weird thing is the surface is textured and you have to make sure to wash it well after being in silty water to avoid staining it.

Sadly . . .
I’m speaking from personal experience. I don’t know if the foam absorbs the water or the water just seeps in between the layers.

I had and Old town Disco canoe
It was three layer polyethylene and really really tough. I did a lot of white water and heavy rowing in rocky places and stored it out side. It was fine after 15 years of abuse when the boy scouts got it.

It was heavier than rolalex but also tougher. I would not hesitate to get a boat out of the same material.

If you think about it, having a foam
layer where air, gas, or water could communicate throughout the hull just could not work. Local weight or pressure on any part of the hull would crush the inner and outer layers together. No such boat would ever be marketed.

Talking about damage to exterior layer
I’m saying that if the outer plastic layer is DAMAGED—a hole, a crack—water will get in there. That was my experience, in any case, after my kayak, while on top of my car, was damaged by an auto repair shop. It noticeably gained weight after that.

3 Layer…
is great. It is not much more expensive than single layer, a lot stiffer and not much heavier.


I’ve had my Delphin since February. It does have some slight cracking on the inside in front of the seat but not bad yet. Another friend with a Delphin had a harder hit on a rock and got a very deep and long crack on the inside.

I don’t think you can generalize about different three layer plastics. Seeing and feeling some Valley plastic boats I think they are pretty strong and stiff. The P&H Delphin probably needs either a thicker inside layer to avoid cracking or a stiffer outer layer to avoid the flex that causes the inside layer to crack.

Delphin vs Scorpio cracking
I’ve heard many reports of Delphin’s cracking, none of Scorpio’s cracking.

Does P&H use different plastic for the two boats? Or are people just being more aggressive in the Delphin?

I didn’t mean to imply that i am
dragging my kayak all over the place, i just mean up onto rocks, just enough to get it out of the water. Same with a cement boat ramp, just enough to get into the water. a foot maybe at best. God, hope nobody thought i was dragging my kayak across a parking lot or any such crazy thing.

I suspect that the Delphin is being used
Harder than the Scorpio,but a quick call to P+H will give you some answers…they are a great bunch of people. Very helpful.

P&H Achilles Heel
is the Skeg. I have had a couple of P&H Corelite kayaks. A Scorpio & now a Scorpio LV. The material will take a beating. But the Skeg issues will keep me from buying a P&H again. The skegs are a major headache. P&H needs to redesign the slider.

Take any 3 layer Old Town canoe,
put a hole in the outer layer, and very little water will enter, because all the bubbles in the foam are closed. And you should realise that they MUST be closed, or the entire hull would have little more rigidity than if it were a single layer.

I have no way of knowing whether your boat gained weight, or how much weight it gained. But 3 layer poly boats, and Royalex boats, do not soak up water like a sponge when the outer hard skin is breached.