The most common canoe construction materials today are polyethylene, aluminum, Kevlar and fiberglass. Polyethylene is becoming more and more popular for new canoe construction because it is bendable, light and cheaper than other materials.

Aluminum Canoe Construction

Aluminum was, until recently, the most common preference for material to use in canoe construction but it has recently been overtaken by polyethylene. Although aluminum is extremely strong and long-lasting, and is one of the lighter metals, it is a good deal heavier than polyethylene. It can stand up to dragging on rough bottoms and is not affected by exposure to the UV rays from the sun as polyethylene is. Aluminum canoes always need chambers for buoyancy and they are often hard to control particularly for new canoeists. In addition they can be heavy to portage and dent when impacted with plenty of force. The repair holes is also difficult and spoils the look of the canoe.

Where Could You Use an Aluminum Canoe?

For level rivers and lakes and infrequent use an aluminum canoe could be ideal, especially if you do not need to transport it any distance yourself. For those without room for storage inside, this type of canoe is clearly be a much better choice than polyethylene as it will not suffer damage from the rays of the sun or be adversely affected by the weather.

Unsuitable Places to Use an Aluminum Canoe

Aluminum canoes are not really suitable for white water paddling or for rivers where there are a lot of rocks and should not be used if you may be on a long trip and need to carry your canoe.

Aluminum Alloy Canoes

Canoes constructed of aluminum alloy are often lighter weight and more durable than only aluminum and a number are lighter even than polyethylene. However, make sure that you ascertain the actual weight of any canoe you are considering purchasing as they often differ considerably.

Polyethylene Canoe Construction

Polyethylene is light and flexible, is resilient and is one of the most common materials used in canoe construction. It's comparatively easy to mend and cheap although it is susceptible to damage from sharp edges such as rocks, branches etc. However, it's elasticity does present a problem so measures need to be used to make the canoe more rigid. One approach is the use of aluminum to provide an inflexible skeleton and this is the type of construction seen in canoes manufactured by Coleman and trademarked as Ram-X.

A further method of providing a firm frame is by means of a substantial layer of foam between 2 layers of material. This is how Old Town make their canoes and is trade marked as CrossLink 3. The core of foam provides natural buoyancy and this type of construction can stand more abrasion damage than pure polyethylene.

Polyethylene does have some disadvantages however. It is not very buoyant so most of the canoes manufactured from polyethylene must be fitted with buoyancy chambers. This construction material is also extremely susceptible to damage by abrasion and this is the most frequent for a canoe to be abandoned. Polyethylene canoes are normally not too expensive and you might pay less by buying a model you can assemble yourself.

Where Could You Use a Polyethylene Canoe?

For calm rivers and water with no jagged rocks, a polyethylene canoe made with a rigid aluminum framework as in Coleman canoes will probably be an ideal choice. For rougher water a Crosslink 3 construction is more suitable as it will be more durable and can survive abrasion and jagged edges much better.

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