Yes or no to skid plates?

I just bought my first canoe and was thinking about adding skid plates. Do people usually put them on to prevent damage or just for a fix down the road? Do they affect the canoes performance? My canoe is royalex if it makes any difference.

There is a small effect on performance,
Someone who is running mostly whitewater would never notice the difference. The real effect is on your wallet. Many people never wear the bow and stern of a canoe enough that Kevlar felt skid plates would have made a difference.

I owned an Old Town Tripper that had been battered by the previous owner. I applied several concentric layers of fiberglass, using epoxy resin, and ended up with skid plates that were strong, smooth, and that blended into the hull very well.

Skid plates prevent wear to the ends of the canoe, but they do not increase impact resistance very much. This is because felt is inferior to cloth as a material for making a composite hull, and because Kevlar is mediocre in resisting the compressive forces caused by running into rocks. E-glass or S-glass are much better, but you can’t make a felt out of fiberglass that is compatible with epoxy or urethane resins. Glass felt tends to fall apart. The great virtue of Kevlar felt is you can wet it with resin, and it will hold together as you slap it on the boat and push it into position.

My advice is, save your money for now, and see what kind of wear your boat experiences. If it becomes clear that you need to do something, there are several options besides Kevlar felt.

No, don’t put them on until they are
needed, and hopefully they never will be.

I have a Penobscot made out of roylax, which has been in a lot of mild WW, and I’ll never install them until there is wear that warrants them.

jack L

No No No
Don’t do it. You won’t be happy with them and there is about a 90% chance you’ll never need them. Don’t install them until you can see the white layer under the colored layer. That may take more than 15 years!

If you buy a sport jacket, do you sew
suede leather patches on the elbows right away?

Or do you wait until the cloth starts to wear through?

I suspect that Kevlar felt skid plates have become fashionable, and that when folks get a new boat, they feel kind of naked without skid plates.

Another example. Buying a vinyl fabric “bra” for the front of a sporty car. Although in that case, one might argue that the bra avoids stone chips in the paint which might reduce resale. But who resells? Not me.


Thanks for the advice.
It looks like I will pass on the skid plates. Like most people, I have a tendency to go a little overboard when I find a new hobby. Last year it was chickens. I don’t think my 8 chicks enjoy the $2,000 coop(condo) I spent a few weeks building as much as I thought they would. Oh well, I sure enjoyed the time spent building it with my son.


– Last Updated: Aug-18-10 10:51 AM EST –

I agree with the "I'll pass" idea, but make that "I'll pass for now... until I find out where paddling takes me". I've seen it before... "I only want to paddle in the little bay at the local lake and look at turtles" and in two years the person is a white water fanatic or is paddling every river that will float the canoe.

You can definately wait until skid plates are needed before installing, but don't wait too long. If you see obvious wear, or see any color coming through that indicates you have worn to the second layer of the royalex (usually is a lighter green/tan), consider the skid plates. Waiting too long will soften that middle layer.

I guess what I am saying in part is don't limit your paddling to deep quiet areas just to protect your boat; you'd be missing half the fun. I love to paddle small creeks and rocky rivers, and often it is in shallow water. These conditions can be tough on boats and without skid plates, the boats I own would be in sad if not unusable shape. For me, I would not even consider a royalex boat without them. It comes down to what paddling you will do and right now you may not know.

Royalex canoes are unbeleivably tough. DO take care of your boat regardless; but also just go out and paddle !! What will help is always entering and exiting the boat when it is parrallell to the shore and whenever possible in water deep enough to float all passengers and gear. Do not to run the hull up on shore bow first, or enter and push off through gravel unecessarily. Carry it, don't drag it on land. If you come to shallows in a river, get out and walk until you reach deeper water. Stuff like that will extend the life of the boat considerably.

Have fun and go explore.