Canoe Construction – Some Common Materials Used

The most widely used canoe construction materials at the present time are polyethylene, aluminum, Kevlar and fiberglass. Polyethylene is becoming increasingly popular for new canoe construction because it is bendable, lightweight and cheaper than aluminum.

Aluminum Canoe Construction

Aluminum was, until recently, the usual preference for material to use for canoe construction but it has recently been overtaken by polyethylene. Even though aluminum is very tough and hard-wearing, and is one of the lighter metals, it is much heavier than polyethylene. It can stand up to being dragged on the bottom and will not be damaged by exposure to the UV rays from the sun as polyethylene can be. Aluminum canoes do need to be fitted with buoyancy chambers and they can be difficult to operate especially for unskilled paddlers. Additionally they may be heavy to carry and dent when knocked with plenty of force. Mending holes is also easier said than done and cannot be completely covered up.

Where Could You Use an Aluminum Canoe?

For flat water and for recreational use an aluminum canoe may be perfect, particularly if you don’t need to move it very far on your own. For people who lack storage space inside, an aluminium canoe is obviously be a more suitable option than polyethylene because it will not suffer damage from the sun’s rays or deteriorate from the weather.

Places Not to Use your Aluminum Canoe

Aluminum canoes aren’t good for white water paddling or for rivers with many sharp rocks and should not be used when you may be on an extended trip and will need to carry the canoe.

Aluminum Alloy Canoes

Canoes made of aluminum alloy are lighter and tougher than all aluminum and some may be even lighter than polyethylene. However, make sure that you are aware of the actual weight of any aluminum canoes as they may vary a great deal.

Polyethylene Canoe Construction

Polyethylene is light and flexible, is robust and is one of the most widely used canoe construction material. It’s comparatively easy to repair and inexpensive although it is vulnerable to damage from jagged edges like rocks, branches etc. However, it’s elasticity does present a problem so measures need to be taken in order to construct a more rigid canoe. One method is to use aluminum which provides a stiff framework and this is the type of construction seen in canoes made by Coleman and marketed under the name Ram-X.

An alternative way to provide some rigidity is by using a thick layer of polyethylene foam between two layers of material. This is how Old Town canoes are made and is called CrossLink 3. The polythene foam ensures natural buoyancy and this construction method can better endure damage from abrasion than pure polyethylene.

Some disadvantages occur when polyethylene is used unfortunately. It isn’t buoyant so most polyethylene canoes require buoyancy chambers. This material is extremely vulnerable to damage by abrasion and this is the most frequent cause for a canoe being irreparably damaged. Canoes that are made from polyethylene are normally low priced and you can save some money by picking a self-assembly model.

Locations to Use a Polyethylene Canoe

For calm rivers and lakes and water with no jagged rocks, a polyethylene canoe made with a rigid support as in the Coleman canoes is probably an excellent option. For more extreme conditions a Crosslink 3 construction is recommended as it will have increased durability and strength and can stand up to abrasion damage and jagged edges better.