Okay, let’s say that you’re not such an experienced fellow when it comes to differentiating between various types of material. Also, let’s say that you’ve bought yourself a canoe. However, the previous owner didn’t find it practical or whatever to inform you about the material it’s made out of. Therefore, you can’t help but wonder: is my canoe fiberglass or Kevlar? Here’s our take on the subject!
We’re pretty sure that’s not the best intro we could’ve come up with, but you get the point. Today we’ll talk about how you can tell the difference between fiberglass and Kevlar (wondering what’s Kevlar? you’ll find out soon!). Therefore, once you’re finished reading this text – you’ll be able to find out what’s your canoe made of. As always, stick around for some useful info!
Check the plate inside your canoe with the ID number. Once you’ve got it written, call the manufacturer (if they’re still operating) and ask whether your canoe is made from Kevlar or fiberglass. Oh, and here’s an unfortunate way to find out the same: Kevlar will “fuzz up” like Felt, while fiberglass will break off and grind smooth.
We suggest you don’t try to cut any corners by simply reading the preview. That being said, read the whole thing!
Table of Contents
Kevlar vs. fiberglass
Before we venture forward into the zone where the answer to our main question lies (sounds like a cheap adventure novel), we might want to consider the two types of material we’ll mention a lot today. Here at Go Extreme Sports, we like to be thorough and go into detail. So, yeah, first of all, let’s define Kevlar and fiberglass.
What is Kevlar?
The first thing on our list is to define Kevlar. Let’s take a closer look:
- Okay, so Kevlar represents a heat-resistant, strong, and durable synthetic material. It was developed back in 1965 by Stephanie Kwolek, an American chemist, only to see its first commercial use a couple of years later, during the early 70s. Back then, it was used as a replacement for steel in racing tires. Usually, Kevlar is spun into ropes or fabric sheets you’re able to use as such. Additionally, folks are able to use Kevlar as a constituent in composite material components.
What’s Kevlar used for?
Now that we’ve defined Kevlar, let’s consider some of its applications. As one can assume, today, Kevlar has plenty of applications. It’s used in the production of bicycle tires, racing sails, and bulletproof vests (remember Kevlar from Counter), to name a few examples. Why’s Kevlar praised? Well, its fame comes from the fact it has a high tensile strength-to-weight ratio that makes it, believe it or not, five times stronger than steel.
And here’s some additional trivia for you: Kevlar’s also used in the production of modern marching drumheads, mooring lines, and other underwater applications.
What is fiberglass?
Also going by codenames/aliases such as glass-fiber reinforced plastic (GFRP) and glass-reinforced plastic (GRP), fiberglass is a common type of fiber-reinforced plastic. The fibers we’re talking about here might be:
- randomly arranged.
- flattened into a sheet (a so-called chopped mat).
- woven into glass cloth.
Also, keep in mind that fiberglass is:
- cheaper and more flexible than carbon.
- stronger than many metals by weight.
- transparent to electromagnetic radiation.
- able to be molded into difficult, complex shapes.
- chemically inert under various circumstances.
And what about its applications?
What’s fiberglass used for?
When we’re talking about fiberglass applications in our modern world/society/industry/whatever-you-wanna-call-it, there’s no way we can avoid mentioning bathtubs, boats & airplanes, canoes (obviously), swimming pools, septic tanks (quite nice), surfboards (here’s an article about whether you use epoxy on a fiberglass surfboard), etc.
Kevlar vs. fiberglass canoe – what’s better?
Now let’s see which type of canoe is better: Kevlar or fiberglass. Instead of giving you an answer in form of “X is better than Y because of Z”, we’ll give you some basic info concerning both types of canoes.
Fiberglass canoes are quite famous for their stiffness. Also, they’re known for their pretty sharp entry/exit lines. Needless to say, these babies offer fantastic efficiency once you’re in the water. How are fiberglass canoes made? Well, the layers of woven material are connected with polyester resin, a low viscosity resin that’s a result of a chemical reaction between diacid and alcohol. Lastly, the outer Gelcoat is usually applied to fiberglass canoes in order to increase their abrasion resistance.
On the other hand, Kevlar canoes are stronger than their fiberglass counterparts. Also, they’re about 25% lighter and can make a BIG difference on longer trips and portages. However, there’s one not-so-small downside: they’re among the costliest you’ll find on the market. They’re constructed in the same manner as fiberglass canoes: woven Kevlar fabric layers are pieced together by using a special resin.
Basically, it all depends on how much you’re willing to spend and the nature of your canoe adventures. If you’ve planned to go on a longer canoeing adventure, and you’ve got a deeper-than-average pocket, you might want to opt for a Kevlar canoe.
Without further ado, let’s consider the main question: is your canoe fiberglass or Kevlar?
Is my canoe fiberglass or Kevlar?
First of all, don’t worry. We won’t suggest you should shoot a bullet at your trusty canoe in order to tell if it’s made out of Kevlar or fiberglass. There are other ways you can find out what material your favorite vessel is made of. Let’s consider some of them we were able to come across!
#1 Call the manufacturer
This one’s probably the most obvious choice. If you’re from the US, know that most canoes possess a metal plate inside ’em that has an ID number on it. Much like the VIN number in a car. Therefore, you’ll simply want to contact the manufacturer, if they’re still in the business game, of course, and kindly ask what the canoe’s made from.
#2 Consider the color
If your canoe didn’t “suffer” a paint job or there’s no Gelcoat put on top, you might be able to differentiate the two via color. Keep in mind that Kevlar is golden yellow. Also, it can be somewhat brown or golden if it’s been in the sun for quite some time.
#3 Also, consider the weight
For instance, if you’re dealing with a 16′ canoe that weighs a total of 55 pounds, there’s a good chance that you’re dealing with a Kevlar canoe or a canoe that has some Kevlar inside it. As we’ve already noted, Kevlar canoes tend to be lighter.
#4 The most unfortunate way to find out
Nope, we’re still not talking about shooting a gun in the direction of your canoe. However, it’s nonetheless an unfortunate way to find out. Anyway, if there’s some harm done to the Kevlar canoe it will “fuzz up” and look like Felt material, while fiberglass, will, of course, break off and grind smooth.
Now that we’ve gone through the main section of the article, let’s consider other canoe-related issues you’re most likely interested in. Oh, and here’s where you’ll find a good selection of canoes for sale.
What are the other types of material canoes are made from?
Okay, so canoes aren’t only made from either fiberglass or Kevlar, there are other types of material we’ll need to pay attention to. Let’s see ’em!
Well, of course, most of us imagine a wooden canoe when someone mentions the vessel in question. You’ll want to know that wooden canoes are traditional, a little bit costly since they’re difficult to build and most likely – handcrafted. Also, keep in mind that they don’t really hold up to abuse the way some other, less-expensive and composite canoes can.
Aside from being the most visually appealing type, wooden canoes are pretty darn versatile. You’re able to ride ’em on both rivers and lakes without any issues. Also, wooden canoes perfectly fit any type of outdoor adventure that includes riding a stream. Since we’re on the subject of cool outdoor adventures that involve getting wet, here’s whether canyoning is cold (and how to deal with it).
If you’re on the lookout for a budget canoe, opt for a polyethylene one. They’re simple, mass-produced, and not so visually appealing. However, they’re quite durable, and you’re able to be a bit on the carefree side while you’re handling them. Although you should keep in mind that some polyethylene canoes are able to warp slightly each time you use them because of their low rigidity.
Oh, and speaking of high-quality plastic, here’s an article about fixing a thermoformed plastic kayak.
You’ll want to know that aluminum canoes are tough, they don’t rust, and they’re able to withstand plenty of abuse. However, the list of their downsides ain’t a small one. That’s because they don’t possess that kind of hull that will guarantee you a solid performance in the water, and many folks use them in a recreational manner. Also, once they get damaged, the repair process will require some welding which will, afterward, leave some not-so-appealing scars.
These babies are fantastic for whitewater and shallow water paddling. Buying this type of canoe will prove to be the right choice if you’re looking for a vessel that can withstand extreme conditions. They’re easy to handle and fun to paddle in almost any type of water you’ll stumble upon.
However, as always, there’s a downside: temperature changes cause the Royalex to expand and contract, and repairing a Roylax canoe is a tricky process that will require the hand of a professional.
All this talk about canoes made us hungry for some fantastic outdoor adventures. Also, if you’re wondering whether you need to know how to swim when going canyoning, follow this link.
Final thoughts on the fiberglass vs. Kevlar canoe debate
Alright, folks, that’s about it! Now you’re well aware of the methods you utilize in order to find out whether you’re sporting a canoe made out of fiberglass or Kevlar. We sincerely hope you’ve had a fun read, and that you’ve learned some new canoe-related facts. For more tips and info on various extreme sports and activities, please click right here.