Plastic or Composite: What Should Your Kayak Be Made Of?

Kayaks in Outdoor World
Kayaks in Outdoor World. © by George E. Sayour

Kayaks can range in price from a few hundred dollars to thousands. This leaves beginners wondering what the difference could be and how to choose a kayak. Well, there are two main things that go into the price of a kayak. Of course, there are the accessories that are added to the boat. But, the most important factor driving the price of a kayak is what materials go into making the particular kayak. Therefore, the beginner wants to know what the difference is between a plastic kayak and a fiberglass kayak. And they want to know if this difference will even affect them. Below are some answers to those questions.

Different Materials for Different Types of Kayaking

When whitewater kayaking, recreational kayaking, and most other forms of kayaking other than sea kayaking or kayak touring, the answer with regard to kayak materials is simply plastic. Plastic kayaks are more durable and less expensive than their composite counterparts. In many of these genres, the only option to buy is a plastic boat.

However, if you will be sea kayaking or kayak touring there are different options at your disposal such as fiberglass, carbon fiber, Kevlar, and even wood kayaks. All of these will be more expensive, more delicate, lighter, faster, and less durable than a plastic kayak of the same size. Kayaks made of these materials will also feel lighter and more graceful.

Other Factors Regarding Durability and Kayak Material

Besides durability and weight, another consideration that comes into play with regard to the discussion of materials is where you will be kayaking. If you must get in and launch your kayak from often rocky beaches or will be paddling where the kayak will get banged around fiberglass might not be the way to go. Also, if you can’t roof rack cross bars. In other words, you’ll need a good kayak carrier and roof rack in order to protect your composite kayak.

The Purchase Price of Kayaks

One of the biggest factors in choosing a material for boaters is cost. It is this one factor that ends up driving what material a kayaker chooses for their kayak. A plastic kayak can cost a fraction of the price of a fiberglass boat. As plastic kayaks are frequently chosen for their other benefits, they needn't be looked down upon just because they cost less.

Buying a Kayak Recommendation

Unless you’ve been paddling a whole lot and have a kayaking club that you regularly paddle with, start with plastic. That is because until you are more experienced, you don’t really know what you want. It’s always a shame to see beginners buy brand new sea kayaks that cost thousands of dollars only to see them sell it shortly after because it doesn’t suit the type of paddling they end up doing or because of some damage they caused it. However, the exception to this is if you are the type of person who thoroughly does your research and have demoed that dream composite boat of yours.

Buying a used kayak rather than new for your first kayak might be a good idea. Most kayakers will own multiple boats over the course of their lives. For this reason, you should consider buying used. Used kayaks keep their value as their depreciation occurs as the kayak goes from new to used. So, buying a used kayak will let you know what you want in a kayak and when you’re ready to buy your next kayak, you can usually resell the used one for the same price or even more than you paid for it. That’s not too bad of a deal when you think about it.