What Are Canoes Made of

Do you know that a canoe is the oldest type of boat ever unearthed by archeologists? With that said, the materials used to construct watercraft have evolved with the clock’s rotation.

So what are canoes made of? And what is the best canoe material for your needs?

To be precise, traditional canoe materials include wood, bark, and animal skins. That’s getting a bit weird, but a few boatbuilders still use these items. However, in modern-day, specialized plastics, fiberglass, Royalex, carbon fiber, kevlar, and PVC have emerged as popular canoe materials due to their added benefits and features.

Amongst all, the best choice will depend on its intended usage and the individual’s budget.

Let’s explore more about what are canoes made up of, along with some additional information you would love to know about these interesting watercraft.

What Are Canoes Made of – All Canoe Materials Listed

Here’s a chart indicating all the canoe materials considering a variety of factors:

Canoe MaterialWeightMaintenanceCostDurabilityFlexibilityUV ResistanceNoise
Plastic CanoesMediumLowLowMediumLowMediumHigh
Royalex® CanoesMediumMediumHighHighMediumHighMedium
Fiberglass Composite (Chop Fiberglass)MediumMediumMediumHighMediumHighLow
Fiberglass Composite (Standard Fiberglass)MediumMediumHighHighMediumHighLow
Fiberglass Composite (Premium Fiberglass)LightMediumHighHighMediumHighLow
Aluminum CanoesHeavyLowLowHighLowLowHigh
Kevlar® CanoesLightLowHighHighMediumHighLow
Old Town Canoe Materials (Canvas)MediumHighHighLowHighLowHigh
Canoes Made of WoodHeavyHighHighMediumLowLowLow
Inflatable Canoe Materials (PVC)LightLowLowLowHighHighMedium
TuffStuff CanoesLightLowHighHighHighHighLow

1. Plastic Canoes

Plastic canoes made through thermoforming are commonly used for recreational paddling, fishing, and general water exploration. Canoe keel is mostly found in plastic canoes, however, it also comes for other materials as well.


  • Lightweight for easy handling and portability
  • Low maintenance requirements
  • Affordable compared to advanced materials
  • Good durability and resistance to impacts
  • Flexibility in design and customization
  • Excellent resistance to UV radiation


  • Not as fast as advanced material canoes
  • Less rigid compared to composite canoes
  • Potential for noise when in contact with water
  • Limited color options compared to other materials

Price Range:

Thermoformed plastic canoes generally offer a cost-effective option for paddlers, falling into the mid-range price category.

Can canoes go in the ocean? Yes, most of the canoes can go in the ocean if you be careful and avoid extreme water currents. However, plastic canoes are often not recommended for ocean rides by many experts.

2. Rotomolded/Polyethylene

Rotomolded or polyethylene canoes are best used for recreational paddling, fishing, and rugged outdoor adventures.


  • Durable and resistant to impacts
  • Affordable compared to other materials
  • Low maintenance requirements
  • Good stability and buoyancy
  • Wide range of color options available


  • Not as fast as canoes made of more lightweight materials
  • Limited rigidity and responsiveness
  • Potential for noise when in contact with water

Price Range:

Rotomolded/polyethylene canoes are known for their affordability, falling into the lower to mid-range price category.

3. Royalex® Canoes

Royalex canoes, although discontinued, were best used for whitewater paddling, expedition trips, and rugged river conditions.


  • Excellent durability and impact resistance
  • Suitable for navigating rocky rivers and challenging terrains
  • Good buoyancy and stability
  • Low maintenance requirements


  • Discontinued production, making new canoes harder to find
  • Heavier compared to some modern materials
  • Less responsive and maneuverable than composite canoes

Price Range:

The price range for Royalex® canoes varied depending on the specific model, size, and retailer. However, due to their discontinued status, availability and pricing may be limited.

If you want to know how many people can fit in a canoe, regardless of its material, then there’s this simple formula: : (Length x Width)/15. By putting your accurate measurements, you can calculate approximate seating capacity.

4. Fiberglass Composite Material

Fiberglass composite canoes, including chop fiberglass, standard fiberglass, and premium fiberglass, have a variety of uses depending on their specific construction and design.

They are commonly used for recreational paddling, flatwater touring, and some moderate whitewater conditions. If you want to make your boat surface look fresh and durable then painting your fiberglass canoe is a good option.


  • Good balance of strength, weight, and affordability
  • Provides decent durability and resistance to impacts
  • Offers reasonable speed and maneuverability
  • Relatively low maintenance requirements
  • Available in a range of designs and customization options


  • Can be heavier compared to higher-end materials like carbon fiber or Kevlar
  • May produce some noise when in contact with water
  • Not as rigid or lightweight as advanced composite materials

Price Range:

Chop fiberglass canoes are typically more affordable, while premium fiberglass canoes with advanced construction techniques and additional features tend to be more expensive. Standard fiberglass canoes fall in the mid-range price category.

5. Aluminum Canoes

Aluminum canoes are best used for recreational paddling, fishing, and rugged outdoor adventures. An average aluminum canoe weight ranges between 60-75 pounds. While if you’re looking to buy one, then Used Aluminum Canoe Worth ranges from $200 to $1,800 depending upon the condition. On the other hand, a new canoe is available for $600 to $2500 as of 2023.


  • Excellent durability and resistance to impacts
  • High load capacity, suitable for carrying gear or multiple passengers
  • Low maintenance requirements
  • Can handle rough conditions and rocky environments
  • Relatively affordable compared to other materials
  • Good stability and buoyancy


  • Prone to denting and scratching
  • May become hot in direct sunlight
  • Can create noise when in contact with water

Price Range:

Aluminum canoes are known for their affordability, falling into the mid-range price category.

6. Kevlar Canoes

Kevlar canoes are best used for recreational paddling, flatwater touring, and wilderness tripping.


  • Exceptional strength-to-weight ratio, making them lightweight and easy to handle
  • Excellent durability and resistance to impacts
  • Offers great speed and maneuverability
  • Low maintenance requirements
  • Can be more rigid compared to other materials


  • Higher cost compared to other materials
  • Can be prone to damage from sharp impacts
  • Limited color options compared to other materials

Price Range:

Kevlar canoes typically fall into the higher price range due to the advanced material and construction techniques involved.

7. Old Town Canoe Materials (Canvas)

Old Town Canoe offers different materials for their canoes, including canvas, CrossLink3™, etc.

Canvas Canoes:

Canvas canoes are best suited for enthusiasts of traditional craftsmanship and historical reenactments.


  • Classic and nostalgic aesthetic appeal
  • Traditional craftsmanship and authenticity
  • Can be repaired easily with basic skills and tools
  • Relatively lightweight


  • Require regular maintenance, including re-canvassing and sealing
  • Can be susceptible to mold or mildew if not properly maintained
  • More labor-intensive to repair compared to other materials

Price Range:

They generally fall into the mid to higher price range due to the craftsmanship involved.

CrossLink3™ Canoes:

CrossLink3™ canoes are suitable for recreational paddling, fishing, and general water exploration.


  • Excellent durability and impact resistance
  • Good stability and buoyancy
  • UV resistant and colorfast
  • Can handle various water conditions, including calm water and mild whitewater


  • Heavier compared to some lightweight materials
  • Limited color options compared to other materials

Price Range:

CrossLink3™ canoes fall into the mid-range price category, offering a balance between durability and affordability.

8. Canoes Made of Wood

Canoes made of wood are best used for recreational paddling, traditional craftsmanship enthusiasts, and aesthetic appreciation of classic boat designs.


  • Classic and timeless aesthetic appeal
  • Excellent craftsmanship and attention to detail
  • Natural material with a unique look and feel


  • Require regular maintenance, refinishing, and sealing
  • More susceptible to damage from impacts and exposure to moisture

Price Range:

They generally fall into the higher price range, depending on construction quality and customization options.

9. Inflatable Canoe Materials (PVC)

Inflatable canoes made of PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) are commonly used for recreational paddling, calm water exploration, and occasional use in mild whitewater conditions.


  • Portability and easy transportation
  • The quick and simple setup process
  • Lightweight for easy handling


  • Prone to punctures and damage from sharp objects
  • Limited performance compared to rigid canoes

Price Range:

PVC inflatable canoes are generally affordable, with prices ranging from budget-friendly options to higher-end models with additional features.

10. TuffStuff Canoes

TuffStuff canoes are known for their versatility and durability, making them suitable for a variety of paddling activities. These include recreational paddling, day trips, flatwater touring, and light whitewater.


  • Lightweight and easy to maneuver
  • Durable with good impact resistance
  • Resistant to UV degradation
  • Offers a balance of stability and speed
  • Low maintenance requirements


  • Relatively higher cost compared to entry-level materials
  • Repair may require specialized expertise

Price Range:

You can find TuffStuff canoes in mid-range pricing.

Best Canoe Material Out of All Available Options

Canoeing is one of the safest water activities that you can enjoy. However, the amount of fun and safety depends upon its construction material.

The best material for a canoe depends on the specific needs and preferences of the paddler. However, if you are looking for a versatile material that offers a balance of performance, durability, and affordability, fiberglass composite canoes would be a strong choice.

Additionally, fiberglass composite canoes are often more affordable compared to advanced materials like carbon fiber or Kevlar, making them accessible to a wider range of paddlers.

Other materials may excel in specific areas, such as Royalex or TuffStuff for whitewater paddling, carbon fiber or Kevlar® for wilderness trips, wood for aesthetics, or plastic for light recreational use.

However, fiberglass composite canoes offer a well-rounded choice that can meet the needs of many paddlers across different activities.

Best Material for Different Use Cases

Use CaseBest Canoe Material
Wilderness TrippingKevlar® Canoes
TouringFiberglass Composite (Premium Fiberglass)
RacingFiberglass Composite (Standard Fiberglass)
WhitewaterRoyalex® Canoes
River TrippingRoyalex® Canoes
Square SternAluminum Canoes
Family CanoesTuffStuff Canoes

How Does the Choice of Canoe Material Affect the Performance and Durability of the Canoe?

The choice of canoe material significantly affects both the performance and durability of the canoe. Here’s a breakdown of how different materials can impact these aspects:

1. Performance:

Weight: How Much Does A Canoe Weigh? Well, the material used in a canoe influences its weight, which directly affects its performance in the water. Lighter canoes are generally easier to paddle, accelerate faster, and require less effort to maneuver.

This can lead to increased canoe speed and improved agility, making the canoe more responsive to paddling strokes.

Stiffness: The stiffness of a canoe material affects its rigidity and responsiveness. Stiffer materials, such as carbon fiber or Kevlar, transmit paddle strokes more efficiently, translating into improved acceleration and speed.

2. Durability:

Impact Resistance: Different materials have varying levels of impact resistance. Some materials, like Royalex (although discontinued) and fiberglass offer excellent resistance against impacts and abrasions, making them more suitable for rugged environments or whitewater paddling.

On the other hand, materials like carbon fiber, while lightweight, may be more prone to damage from hard impacts.

Wear and Tear: Canoe materials also vary in their resistance to wear and tear. Materials like polyethylene or plastic are known for their durability and ability to withstand scratches, scrapes, and UV exposure without significant damage.

However, materials like fiberglass or carbon fiber may require more careful handling and maintenance to prevent scratches, cracks, or UV degradation.

Most Durable Canoe Material

One of the most durable canoe materials available is Royalex.

Royalex was a composite material that was widely regarded for its exceptional durability and impact resistance. It consisted of a foam core sandwiched between layers of rigid ABS plastic, creating a strong and resilient canoe construction.

However, it’s important to note that Royalex production was discontinued in 2013, and finding new canoes made from this material may be challenging. Today, other materials, such as polyethylene and fiberglass constructions, are commonly used to achieve similar levels of durability and impact resistance.

What are the Lightest Canoes Materials?

One of the lightest canoe materials available is carbon fiber.

Carbon fiber canoes are renowned for their exceptional strength-to-weight ratio, making them incredibly lightweight compared to other materials. The use of carbon fiber in the construction of canoes allows for the creation of vessels that are both strong and incredibly light. But,

The lightweight nature of carbon fiber canoes provides numerous advantages for paddlers. Firstly, it makes the canoe transport easier, load, and unload, particularly for solo paddlers or those with limited physical strength. The reduced weight also translates into improved maneuverability and responsiveness on the water, allowing for swift and efficient canoe paddling.

Cheapest Canoe Material

The cheapest canoe material commonly available is polyethylene, also known as plastic or “poly” canoes.

Polyethylene canoes are affordable and widely accessible, making them a popular choice for budget-conscious paddlers. These canoes are made from a durable and impact-resistant plastic material that can withstand regular use on calm lakes and slow-moving rivers.

While polyethylene canoes may not offer the same level of performance as more expensive materials, they still provide a stable and reliable platform for recreational paddling and basic water exploration.

They are relatively lightweight and easy to maneuver, making them suitable for casual outings and family adventures.

Best Canoe Material for Fast Speed

The best canoe material for fast speed is carbon fiber.

Carbon fiber canoes are renowned for their exceptional performance on the water. They possess an unbeatable combination of lightweight construction, high strength, and stiffness, allowing for swift and efficient paddling.

The inherent properties of carbon fiber make it the ideal choice for paddlers seeking maximum speed and maneuverability.

With its reduced weight, a carbon fiber canoe glides effortlessly through the water, requiring less effort to propel forward. This enables paddlers to cover long distances quickly, making it an excellent choice for racing or fast-paced recreational paddling.

Do you know How Long Does It Take To Canoe 10 Miles? Well, it depend son certain factors, including paddler experience/skill, canoe dimensions and its material. Carbon fiber canoes are considered as the fastest while Kevlar canoes tend be slower because of their sturdy material and design.

FAQs – What Are Canoes Made of

Are there any eco-friendly canoe materials available?

Yes, eco-friendly options such as plant-based resins, recycled plastics, and natural fibers such as flax or hemp are used for the construction of canoes.

What are the most common materials used to make canoes?

The most common canoe materials include aluminum, fiberglass, wood, and various composites like Royalex (now discontinued) or newer options like polyethylene or Kevlar.

Are Royalex canoes still available in the market?

No, Royalex canoes are no longer manufactured since the closure of the sole supplier in 2013. However, you can find used Royalex canoes for sale.

What are Old Town canoes made of?

Old Town canoes are typically made of wood or polyethylene. These materials are known for their resistance to impacts and abrasion.

How long do plastic canoes last?

Plastic canoes, such as those made from polyethylene, can last for several decades with proper care. However, their lifespan can vary based on usage, maintenance, and environmental conditions.

What is the most durable canoe?

Kevlar canoes are considered highly durable due to their excellent strength-to-weight ratio. They provide good impact resistance while being significantly lighter than other materials.

Are there any disadvantages associated with certain canoe materials in specific environmental conditions?

Yes, some materials may have limitations in extreme conditions. For example, wood can be prone to rot in wet environments, while certain plastics may become brittle in extreme cold or sun exposure.

How does the construction process differ between Chop Fiberglass, Standard Fiberglass, and Premium Fiberglass canoes?

The construction process differs in the type and number of fiberglass layers used. Premium Fiberglass canoes typically have additional reinforcement layers for increased strength and durability.

How do Kevlar canoes compare to other materials in terms of weight and durability?

Kevlar canoes are lighter than most materials, including fiberglass or aluminum, while still offering good durability. They are known for their excellent strength-to-weight ratio and resistance to impacts.

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