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Kevlar Kayaks - Lightweight Performers

Updated on December 22, 2010

Kevlar kayaks are some of the best performing and lightest on the market today, but the casual outdoorsman has likely never heard of them. In recent decades Kevlar kayaks have begun to offer real competition to heavier and cheaper kayaks made from plastic or fiberglass. This has been no mean feat in part due to the fact that when many people think of Kevlar they think of bulletproof vests or body armor, but it has so many other uses.

Kevlar is a synthetic spun fiber developed by Dupont in the 1960s and is used for many sporting applications including bicycle tires, racing sails, safety clothing, and, of course, kayaks and canoes. Because Kevlar comes in sheet form as well as fiber or rope it is easy to work with and very light in weight and incredibly strong. Dupont proudly boasts that pound for pound Kevlar is tougher than steel! The long and flexible sheets mean it is great as a hull material. Boat builders quickly found it could be used on its own or with other materials with minimal seaming and great variety.

Kevlar kayaks care constructed layer by layer and normally feature at least one interior layer of fiberglass on the inside as well as a final layer of fiberglass on the outermost side to protect the Kevlar. A kayak constructed from these Kevlar layers can be up to 20% lighter than the more traditional fiberglass models. This weight reduction is a super feature for recreational paddlers who often load and unload by themselves and frequently carry their boat long distances to the water.

Composite kayaks can be constructed from carbon/Kevlar and enthusiasts can benefit from this marriage of materials, too. Carbon is extremely rigid and allows for increased speed, but it is very brittle. Kevlar is more impact resistant and is a great material to use with carbon. This hybrid kayak is fast and still very lightweight. Because it is not an entirely made from Kevlar it is more affordable, too. Cost is one of the biggest factors when considering which kayak to purchase.

Kevlar kayaks are responsive and lightweight, but are substantially more expensive than molded plastic or fiberglass models. Because of the way that Kevlar does not bond well with the resin substrate it can absorb water over time and become heavier. It is also prone to the sun's rays and ultraviolet light will weaken the material with constant exposure. It is also difficult to repair. The responsiveness and ability to move them easily are still very attractive features. Each individual will have to decide how important weight and responsiveness in the water is and judge the value for themselves. If possible, a potential buyer should test the boat beforehand or talk with other owners to see how satisfied they are with their Kevlar kayak.


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