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Choosing a Kayak – Part 1 – Plastic, Fiberglass, or Kevlar

One of the most frequent questions that I get asked is “I’m lookinChoosing a Kayakg to buy a kayak, but i don’t know which one should i get?” This is one of those questions that doesn’t always have a simple answer.

So, here are some tips to get you started, and to help narrow your search.

  • 1) Plastic, Fiberglass, and Kevlar 

  • 2) Decide what type of paddling you are most likely to do

  • 3) Price range and buying tips 

Part 1: Plastic, Fiberglass, or Kevlar:

This is one of the more simple decisions to make when looking at kayaks. Here is the general idea.

Plastic kayaks cost less, and are more durable. You can drop your plastic kayak off of the car roofrack or drag it up a rocky beach without too much concern.

The downside is that they don’t preform as well in the water. They seem to be slower, they don’t hold their momentum as well. And, in my mind, they don’t look as nice as a fiberglass boat.

Fiberglass kayaks cost more then the same design done in plastic. For a new Expedition kayak your looking at a difference of about $500 -1000.

The benefits are that fiberglass is lighter then plastic, so it’s easier if you are going to transport your kayak on your own. They preform much better in the water then a plastic boat will.

Another benefit is that you can always repair them. Once you learn how to work with fiberglass you can fix scratches and patch holes, where as once a plastic kayak gets a hole it’s more difficult to make a permanent repair.

The downsides are: They scratch and dent easier, and take more time and effort to maintain. If you actually manage make a dent or hole in it, it has to be patched, and nobody likes working w/ fiberglass.

Kevlar kayaks are very similar to the characteristics of a Fiberglass kayak, but weigh much less. They preform equally well, scratch just as easily, and look just as nice. They have the same downsides, in that they will scratch and need more TLC to keep them maintained.

The major benefit is that they are lighter. For an expedition kayak, a design will be 10-20 lbs. Lights then the fiberglass equivalent.

The major downside is that an expedition kayak will coast about $1000 more then the same design in Fiberglass. What it comes down to is when and how you will use your kayak.

For me, as I usually do long trips with lots of gear with large groups of friends, when you have 100 pounds of gear and another 160 pounds of me, what difference 10-20 pounds of kayak make. But the other side is that if you kayak on your own and have to load you kayak on and off of your car/truck every time, then the difference in weight might be well worth the extra cost.

The one other type of kayaks are Folding Kayaks. There are a few good, Canadian Made Folding Kayaks like: Feathercraft Folding Kayaks, or Track Kayaks. Folding kayaks are good if you have limited storage space, or like to travel to exotic places with you kayak. The downside is that if you use it regularly, it takes about 30 minutes to put it together and take it apart each time you use it.

The best advice I can give, is to get out on the water and try as many different types of kayak as you can before you buy.

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