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If you’re thinking about purchasing a canoe, then you may have stumbled across the fact that they come in an aluminum or fiberglass construction. And like many people before you, you’re now probably wondering which type is better and which one is worth your investment.
In this article, we’re going to highlight the advantages and disadvantages of both an aluminum and a fiberglass canoe so you can make an informed decision on which variety would best suit you and your paddling needs.
Both aluminum and fiberglass canoes have their advantages, and although aluminum canoes are lighter than wooden canoes, they are, in fact, slightly heavier than fiberglass varieties. And although aluminum canoes are designed for slow-moving waters, they do offer the paddler increased durability and stability.
When it comes to durability, aluminum canoes come out on top as they’re able to withstand bumps and knocks both in and out of the water. This durability makes them perfect for paddlers who are paddling off rocks or dragging their canoe along reefs or unsmooth surfaces.
With that being said, however, the aluminum canoe material will dent, but if the damage isn’t too severe, you should be able to pound and smooth the hull back into shape.
One of the biggest benefits of an aluminum canoe is that aluminum is resistant to corrosion. I think it goes without saying that no one wants to spend a small fortune on a canoe, to then have to replace it in a few years. When it comes to rust resistance, however, your canoe will begin to rust if it isn’t properly galvanized so it is essential you take preventative steps to avoid irreversible damage to your canoe.
Although an aluminum canoe’s slow speed may seem like a disadvantage to some, it is actually a huge benefit for beginner paddlers. If your canoe is traveling too fast, it can be extremely difficult to paddle and maneuver. This is why the slower speed of an aluminum canoe allows paddlers to perfect their paddling technique.
The aluminum canoe’s increased durability also means that bumping into rocks or hitting other objects in the water isn’t too much of a concern. And don’t worry, if this does happen to you, just know that it happens to all new paddlers from time to time.
When it comes to cost, aluminum canoes are cheaper than fiberglass canoes, so if you’re shopping on a budget, an aluminum canoe is a way to go.
Aluminum boats are extremely easy to maintain, and unlike fiberglass canoes that require waxing and buffing with a special gel coat, an aluminum canoe simply needs a rinse with clean water after each use.
Aluminum canoes also come with their disadvantages that you should consider and keep in mind when purchasing.
Aluminum canoes may be lighter than traditional wooden canoes, but they’re still heavier than fiberglass crafts, making them harder to transport and carry to the water. The weight of a canoe is an important factor as to whether or not you should purchase that canoe because if the canoe is too heavy, you’ll struggle immensely when it comes to transportation.
If you want to make any adaptations to your aluminum canoe, then you’ll find it extremely difficult to do so as aluminum isn’t malleable like fiberglass. This doesn’t mean it is impossible, however, you’ll just find it slightly more challenging.
Although aluminum canoes are made from durable materials, aluminum can be incredibly noisy in the water, and it is also a conductor of heat. This means that come summertime when the sun is blaring, the surface of the canoe will be extremely hot. And during winter, the opposite will happen, with the canoe being too cold to even touch.
Now that we’ve covered aluminum canoes let’s take a look at the advantages of a fiberglass canoe.
Fiberglass material canoes are some of the lightest canoes on the market, making them easier to transport and carry from A to B. If you think you’ll struggle to load your canoe or carry it down to the water, then a fiberglass composite canoe will be a better option for you as they’re lighter than aluminum canoes.
Fiberglass canoes are extremely durable, and you’ll also find that other watercraft are made from the same fiberglass cloth material that makes up the canoe construction. The fiberglass canoe materials, resin, and fiberglass fibers are molded together and left to harden before being coated in a smooth gel. The gel coating is what makes fiberglass canoes durable and resistant to scrapes, scratches, and dents.
For the highest quality fiberglass canoe, ensure that the company has used expensive fiberglass cloth as opposed to chopped pieces of fiberglass as chopped fiberglass lessens the boat’s quality and durability.
Even though fiberglass canoes occasionally need waxing and buffing, their gel coat means they require very little maintenance. If you do need to repair your canoe for any reason, then more often than not, you can do it yourself with a patch repair kit.
Fiberglass composites can be molded into a variety of shapes, making them suitable for different types of paddling. For example, extra layers of resin and fiberglass sheets can be added to the canoes to turn them into whitewater canoes. Or fiberglass canoes can be longer and narrower to make them suitable for long-distance paddling.
Looks aren’t everything, but if you’re after a more aesthetically pleasing canoe, then fiberglass canoes really come out on top. Fiberglass composite canoes can come in a range of different colors, shapes, and sizes, meaning they’re completely customizable to suit your needs and preferences.
Of course, just like aluminum canoes, fiberglass canoes also have their disadvantages which we’ll get into next.
Fiberglass canoes can’t handle impacts as well as aluminum canoes, and after repeated stress, the gel coating can crack. Once the gel coating cracks, the canoe will be very difficult and expensive to repair.
The quality of fiberglass canoes varies as some are made from high-quality, more expensive fiberglass cloth, and others are made from chopped pieces of fiberglass which result in a poor quality canoe.
If you’ve finally decided to purchase a canoe, then there are a few other things apart from materials that you’ll need to consider.
The length and the width of your canoe are going to determine how stable your canoe will be. Wider and shorter canoes will be more stable than longer and narrower canoes, so if you plan on paddling in rough waters, opt for a shorter and wider canoe and if you want to prioritize speed, purchase a longer and narrower canoe.
Canoes come with a range of seat configurations, and ideally, you want all paddlers to have a seat to sit on. Young children can get away with perching on the floor in the center of the canoe, but adults who aren’t as flexible and compact will find this slightly uncomfortable. Take into consideration how many paddlers will be in the boat at any one time and base your decision on this figure.
All watercraft has a maximum weight capacity, and this is no exception to canoes. It is important that you never overload your canoe as it will cause the hull to sink into the water, which will ultimately make it difficult to paddle, handle, and maneuver.
Calculate your weight, the weight of any passengers, and all of the gear you’ll be transporting with you. Once you have your total weight, compare it to the weight capacities of the canoes in question, and ideally, you want to be under the limit by 10%. This leeway will allow you to upgrade any gear or swap out any passengers in the future.
The weight of a canoe will affect how easy it is to transport and carry. It goes without saying that heavy canoes are going to be far more difficult to load, unload, and transfer to the water. So, if you and your paddling partner are fairly small in size, you’d be better off opting for the smallest canoe possible, that way, you shouldn’t have too much trouble lifting it.
Whether an aluminum or a fiberglass canoe is better will come down to personal preference. As with all things, both materials have their pros and cons which we will summarise for you so you can make your own decision.
Both fiberglass and aluminum canoes have their pros and cons, and the answer to this question will all come down to what you prioritize. For example, fiberglass canoes perform far better on water, but aluminum canoes, on the other hand, have a higher weight capacity meaning you can carry more gear.
Before you come to a decision, it’s important that you weigh up all the pros and cons of both a fiberglass and aluminum canoe.
Aluminum crafts are more stable than fiberglass canoes, and because of their increased stability, they are ideal for new paddlers who are just learning paddling techniques and gaining their balance.
Both an aluminum craft and a fiberglass craft are durable, but as you can smooth out any dents or dumps on an aluminum canoe with a rubber mallet, we would have to say they come out on top. Fiberglass canoes are prone to cracking and can’t be left out in the sun or snow in the same way a tough aluminum canoe can.
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