From the recreational boats to the slim and fast kayaks that impress in competitions, the options for the materials used on kayaks are plenty which makes the selection process even trickier. The more you know about each of the most common materials, the easier is going to be for you to decide when buying. After all, you don’t want to come back home with a lemon or, worse, empty handed.
The wooden kayaks- are you ready for them?
The wooden kayaks are mostly about “do-it-yourself” and plenty of stitching and gluing. They’re also known as the strip-built boats and the design options are so many. if you’re planning to build your very own wooden kayak, you shouldn’t worry about not being the best wood-worker out there. You may find many kits for the stitch/glue models or have someone else doing it for you.
The wooden deck/hulled boats may be covered in resin, fiberglass for protecting the wood. This is also going to expand their durability, helping them compete with the synthetic composite models ( if you don’t want to spend more than $700, check out the following selection https://truthreels.com/best-fishing-kayak-reviews/under-700/) in terms of build and weight.
Let’s have a look at the benefits when using wood for kayak:
- They sure impress with their amazing looks. They come in a nice variety of designs so it’s impossible not to find one that you fancy
- The fiberglass and varnish finish increases their strength, without sacrificing on the price or the weight. Some wooden kayaks have a similar strength to Kevlar/Graphite composites
The biggest downside? Wood and rapid/rock gardens don’t make the best combination, therefore you may have to paddle your wooden kayak only on waterways and “softer” rivers.
Would you try composite/glass construction kayaks?
Also known as the “fiberglass”, the composite kayaks are in fact made of aramid fabric (Kevlar is one example) and graphite fibers- which are all varieties of synthetic fabric construction. The fabrics are layers upon themselves or blended together. They’re going to be applied to a mold later on.
A fiberglass kayak contains an outer layer of colored gel-coating that is going to create the surface layer of the completed kayak.
The deck and the hull may be reinforced with foam panels and/or gauze. The whole series of layers in the mold are bagged (with vacuum); they’re going to cure for creating a deck/hull section separately. The two parts are going to be joined together later on for completing the kayak.
Here are the good parts about the composite/glass kayaks:
- As the hull is stiff, these kayaks are some of the fastest out there.
- The hulls take the use for quite some time. as they come in different combinations of layers, you can actually get to choose between different strength/weight models.
- They are lighter than rotomolds with graphite being the lightest among the three.
- They’re easy to fix in the field
The cons aren’t major:
- They may not take impact against sharp and some scratches may happen (without damaging the hull, though)
- Graphite is the most expensive material so prepare your wallet.
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What about the rotomolded kayaks?
In the case of rotomolded kayaks, plastic (polyethylene) powder is going to be poured into a mold, heated and rotated so that it can create one-piece kayak.
This type of kayaks is made out of a linear-based molecular structure, but you can also find models made from cross-linked poly molecules.
There are many good things related to the roto molded kayaks:
- They’re the most affordable type of kayaks. The quality of the plastic used in their build is going to affect both the price and the weight.
- Their performance isn’t bad, considering the price you’re paying.
- They take the intense use and make a great choice for the rocky waterways. The scratches leave minute fuzzies
the negatives may throw some off, but you should still get the whole picture:
- The kayaks are heavier than other models, which makes them difficult to control through the water
- They may not be as fine-lined as other options
- The UVs are going to affect them so you need to use protective coatings for the deck and the hull
Are the thermoform kayaks a better choice?
In the case of this type of kayaks, a sheet of ABS (it’s sort of a plastic alloy with styrene) is going to be heated, together with a top layer of acrylic. It’s going to be drawn down onto a mold later on (and not forming inside the mold as in the case of pellet plastics), creating the deck and the hull in different operations. They’re going to be joined together later in the process.
Here’s what makes the thermoform kayaks stand out from other types of kayaks:
- They’re lightweight and long lasting. Despite this, they’re affordable and dependable. The deck/hull present a shiny finish and come in a nice variety of colors.
- They’re really popular and come with UV protection in the outer layer.
We’re not overly concerned with the minor problems:
- They’re going to lose some of their performances in time, but most of them are recyclable, which is always a good thing.
Have you ever considered an inflatable/folding kayak?
Made of strong poly-based fabric that give shape and rigidity throughout the kayak, the inflatable models come with a drop-stitch build which ensures higher inflation pressure. This is going to give the strength integrity for the hull and deck.
The inflatable kayaks come with canvas/nylon skins that are stretched over the aluminum or wood frames. Newer technologies help the designers use some fold patterns and interlocking panels, resulting into stronger foldable kayaks.
Here are some good things to keep in mind when it comes to the inflatable models:
- They’re a popular option for the paddler that fancies carrying the boat when he/she travels. If you’re struggling with the storage space and don’t have enough room for a full size/length kayak, the foldable kayaks make the perfect choice.
- The nylon decks and hypalon hulls, and the aluminum-framed foldable models are as tough as the hard-shell models.
- Most models come with the very own repair kit, so you’re all covered when something goes South.
- Some folding kayaks come with lightweight travelling/storing possibilities, which eases the use.
- Modern models have a sleek profile, without sacrificing on the rigidity of the hard shell
- They come in an impressive range of designs and complexity. Some are simply cheap tubes held together into the shape of your kayak, whereas others include air bladders and fused chambers for better shape and strength once inflated.
Even if the downsides aren’t deal breakers, it’s only fair that we list them too so that you can make the best choice when buying:
- They’re a bit more expensive than the rigid fiberglass models.
- The risk for puncturing should be considered. Most models are only going to take the use in narrower applications.
- Due to the framework elements, they may need a bit more maintenance.
- The room for gear storage isn’t very generous.
There are some questions to think about when leaning into an inflatable model:
- How often are you going to paddle?
- How often are you going to travel with your kayak?
- Are you going to leave the kayak assembled for weekly use?
- Do you plan on taking it apart after every paddling session?
One fair conclusion
The material and the design used for a kayak are going to play a big part in the way you’re able to handle and to paddle your boat.
The moment you know for sure how you’re going to use your kayak, it’s going to be a lot easier for you to settle on the material for your boat. Are you going to paddle on calm waters or it’s the sea that is calling you? You also need to think about where you’re going to store your boat.
The more you know about where, when, how you’re going to use your boat, the easier is going to be when buying. Even so, the diversity of models and specs may become easily overwhelming so try to stay focused when selecting.
If you’re planning to use your kayak for extended experiences, the easiest way to figure out the model you need is to think about the difficulty/easiness of field fixes on the kayak. This becomes essential especially when it’s some breaches in the deck or the hull that ruin your trip. It goes without saying that some duct tape bandages may seal a hole on the aforementioned materials, whereas a safe, long time lasting repair is going to involve some plastic welding or a combination of paints and adhesives that stick to the surface right away.
When the size of your wallet isn’t as generous as you’d want, you should also ask yourself: how much do you like kayaking anyway? If you’re only into recreational paddling any now and then, around the city pound, you should stick with a cheaper recreational model.
By contrary, if you’re determined to take your kayaking skills to the next level and become a competent paddle, you should pay the extra buck upfront. Weigh in the durability, the performance, the overall value of the boat, without eliminating the level of your skills. One thing is sure: knowing the pros/cons on the material options and the features of your boat are going to help you take the leap of faith or not.