What material is my kayak made of

3 Types of Materials Used To Make Kayaks, Their Pros & Cons

Kayaks can be made from either polyethylene (plastic), wood or composite materials.

Generally, the type of material used to make a kayak greatly determines the purpose it will serve.

Nevertheless, each one has its own pros and cons.

Kayak Material Varieties To Choose From

In most cases nowadays, kayaks are built from a combination of different elements for enhanced durability and performance.

To be more specific, the types of materials used to make kayaks can be divided into these three major categories;

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With this type of kayak, the hull and deck are both made of wood. They are then covered with resin, fiberglass, and coated with varnish to protect the wood from general wear or tear caused by changes in weather.

In most cases, wooden kayaks are made using the strip-built method which is commonly used for making boats. The method is also known as cold-molding.

It involves binding strips of wood together. This is typically done around temporary formers.

Kayak building DIY picture

Inspired by: Instructables

One advantage of wooden yaks is that they are quite flexible in design. Besides that, they are reputed for being highly durable.

And obviously, their vintage looks make them well worth investing in especially if good looks are matter to you.

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  • Fiberglass and varnish finish enhance the durability of the kayak material
  • Offered at a lower price
  • More lighter and easy to carry
  • The stitch and glue kits and videos make building easier
  • Doesn’t work well in strong currents or rocky waterways


Plastic Kayak

Image Courtesy: CDkayak

Commonly known as plastic, polyethylene is heated to very high temperatures and molded into a tough well-textured material. This material is more flexible and resistant to impact than wood.

As such, it is highly recommended for use in rocky terrains or areas with high water currents.

But even then, plastic boats still need to be reinforced with protective finishes to guard against extreme exposure to UV rays.

Apart from making the hull of boats, polyethylene kayak material is used to make floatation devices, bulkheads, seats of boats and paddles.

  • Requires little maintenance once molded
  • Lightweight thus easy to carry
  • Possesses great rebound strength
  • Floats well on the water
  • Durable
  • Improper storage can distort the shape of the boat
  • Poor quality polyethylene can really frustrate you


Composite kayaks are typically built from multiple layers of Aramid/Kevlar, fiberglass or carbon/Graphite fiber and sometimes a combination of all three.

Hulls of boats made from composite substances are strong and stiffer than those molded from polyethylene.

Here are extra details about each one of these composite laminates.

Fiberglass composites

Fiber Glass kayak material

Image Courtesy: Paddling.com

Fiberglass is majorly used to make commercial and touring vessels. To build the vessels; polymer glass strands are strengthened with epoxy resin and then hardened with a catalyst.

This is a tough material and is commonly found in high-end yaks.

Aramid (Kevlar) composites

Don’t get confused, Kevlar is the trademark name of Aramid, so they are just the same.

Being the strongest of all the three composites, Aramid is the most popular choice in constructing high-end kayaks.

This composite is used in its mat form together with a binding agent just like the carbon and glass fibers. Aramid is light, strong and is not affected by prolonged exposure to sunlight.

Kayaks made from Aramid are expensive and require more skill to make than those made from wood or polyethylene.

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Kayak Material: Graphite/Carbon composites

Although named differently, graphite works in the same manner as carbon since it has a high percentage of carbon.

Just like the Kevlar and fiberglass composites, carbon or graphite unfastened fibers and mats are reinforced with a hardening catalyst for increased durability.

Carbon makes lightweight and strong kayaks with good resistance to heat. To add on that, the kayaks made using this material have a large carrying capacity and are good for the seas or oceans.

Pros of composite kayaks
  • Incorporation of Aramid and carbon makes the kayaks lighter
  • Fast and more responsive on any water body
  • Great resistance to heat and abrasion wear
  • Can be enhanced to look more shiner and beautiful than wood or plastic
  • Boosts of high strength to weight ratio than the polyethylene ones
  • Expensive in comparison to kayaks made from polyethylene or wood
  • Stiff composite materials have a reduced impact-resistance

Despite being costly, composite and polyethylene kayaks are mostly preferred by many a kayak lovers. This is because they are lightweight and more responsive to different water surfaces.

But if you’re on a tight budget or simply looking for a beginner-friendly kayak material, the polyethylene material should be just enough to get the job done.

Erick Thompson

Hi, I'm a fishing & kayaking enthusiast who enjoys sharing tips and tidbits with newbies, intermediates, and experienced anglers alike.

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