Different types of kayak materials

9 Types Of Kayak Materials Pros Cons (2023 Buyer’s Guide)

There are many different types of kayaks available on the market today. Whether you’re looking for a fishing kayak or an adventure kayak. Which one should you buy? What kind of kayak would work best for you? These are the questions you may be asking yourself. No problem, We’ve got you covered with our research and expert tips to help you decide the best kayak for beginners in 2023. Read more about each type!

The most common materials used for making kayaks are wood, fiberglass, plastic, and carbon fiber. Each material has its own pros and cons. Wood is very durable and strong, but it’s heavy and expensive. Fiberglass is lightweight and inexpensive, but it doesn’t last long. Plastic is cheap and lightweight, but it’s not as durable as wood or fiberglass. Carbon fiber is the strongest material available, but it’s also the heaviest. This article will help you with the 9 different types of kayak materials pros and cons whether you decide to purchase or construct your own. Now, let’s begin.

9 Different Types Of Kayak Materials 101

Video by Headwaters Kayak

1. Polyethylene Rotomolded

Polyethylene Rotomolded
Photo by Kalen Emsley

Rotomolding, also known as rotational molding, Plastic bags, kitchen utensils, or other packaging are all made mostly of polyethylene, which is also used in most other plastic items. The procedure is placing these plastic pellets within a metal boat mold.

These kayaks are frequently produced at a low cost, which is one of its best attributes.

Despite their low cost, they are extremely durable, and they can be used in shallow waters, dragged on beaches, and subjected to a variety of harsh treatments.

The majority of plastic kayaks are built from polyethylene. In comparison to other materials, it is readily accessible and very affordable. There have been boats made of rotomolded polyethylene for so many years.

After being placed into a mold, plastic pellets are heated, turned, and cooled. Then a kayak that is nearly done emerges. After that, the kayak should undergo some last preparations before it is ready to launch.

The durability of polyethylene kayaks is good. The kayaks will keep up well even if you drag them over pebbles as you go to the lake and move them on a roof rack and trailer.

2. Wood

Wood Kayaks
Photo by Pixabay

Cheap and simple to build, wooden kayaks are a great option. Even if you don’t have a lot of woodworking experience, several tools include everything you need to construct a wooden kayak.

Wooden kayaks are generally handcrafted using stitch and glue or strip construction. Cutting plywood, using wire to stitch the pieces together, and finally bonding the entire thing together are all steps in the stitch and glue method.

Building stitch-and-glue kayaks don’t require being a skilled woodworker. Even better, have someone else construct it for you. However, what fun is that?

A strip-built kayak has a shape and thin wood strips, which is a very high level. The strips are bent before being adhered to the molds. While allowing for more design freedom, a strip-built kayak is more difficult to construct. A boat made from scraps enables you to express your creativity.

After that, fiberglass, glue, and varnish are used to protect wooden kayaks. They are more durable thanks to the coating.

3. Kayaks Made of Thermoform

In comparison to rotomolded kayaks, thermoformed kayaks are more flexible and made of high-quality plastic. Thermoformed kayaks employ heated sheets that are draped over kayak molds rather than using heat to make a single-piece kayak.

For instance, the hull & deck of the kayak are produced separately and then fused. They are thus more expensive than rotomolded boats. Additionally, compared to rotomolded kayaks, you may generate finer edges, lines, & finishes, as well as more detailed patterns.

They are also more streamlined, lighter, and glossier than rotomolded kayaks, albeit not nearly as well as composite kayaks. They are the ideal compromise for someone searching for something nicer than a rotomolded kayak but who can’t afford a composite one since they are less expensive than composite kayaks due to their ease of manufacture.

4. Composite Kayaks

The term “composite” refers to a combination of components bound together by epoxy or resin. Several more recent materials, such as fiberglass, Kevlar, carbon fiber, Innegra, and basalt, are included under the umbrella word “composite” in modern usage.

The composite material is applied in sheets over a gel-coated mold to create these kayaks. A bonding glue is then applied to the sheets. Strength, stiffness, and tear resistance are improved by the addition of more layers. On an external mold, a highly smooth, glossy surface is created by the final gel-coat layer. A lightweight & extremely durable boat hull is the end product.

Compared to a kayak made of the same volume of polyethylene, fiberglass kayaks are around 20% lighter; carbon and Kevlar are significantly lighter. These boats are the most costly due to their construction materials and process. When damaged, even severely, they may be restored with no weight penalty.

5. Polycarbonate Kayaks

Polycarbonate Kayaks
Photo by Mark Bosky

Transparent kayaks, television displays, auto headlights, and other items are all made of polycarbonate. It belongs to the thermoplastic family. The kayak’s form was developed using heat. The kayaks made of polycarbonate are tougher and more resilient than those that are just thermoformed.

They could feature an aluminum frame to make them robust. They are resistant to stress and incredibly light.

The plastic paddles and metal rim help keep the price down, even if they’re not often that inexpensive. However, the selection of designs is somewhat limited. Transparent kayaks typically only come in open-topped designs and can hold one or two people.

There are, of course, certain drawbacks. Your translucent kayak should not be exposed to direct sunlight and should not come in contact with any oils or suntan lotion. Scratching is another concern. Clear vision through the kayak may be compromised by scratching.

6. Hypalon

Chlorinated & sulfonated polyethylene is one form that includes Hypalon (also known as CSM). Although numerous producers currently make it, DuPont first invented it. As a PVC substitute, it’s frequently used for watercraft, including kayaks.

It gives far higher UV protection than PVC and is considerably more resilient and tear-proof. Hypalon will outlast PVC in hot, arid environments. Hypalon is generally better than PVC, yet it might be challenging to locate a Hypalon kayak. The price is significantly more than PVC boats, that is the only drawback.

7. Nytralon

Nytralon is a further substitute for vinyl. Nytralon is less costly than Hypalon and provides greater protection & durability than PVC. Despite being thick and hefty, it has excellent puncture resistance.

Nytralon is used for many boats as the bottom deck, body panels, and tubes since utilizing too much of it would make your kayak overweight. Nytralon is popular because it is far more environmentally friendly than vinyl, however, this isn’t the only one.

8. Vinyl

Vinyl is a popular material for inflatable kayaks. It’s extremely simple to operate, reasonably priced, & wonderfully handy to have an inflatable kayak. Inflatable kayaks are boats that can inflate & deflate.

PVC, short for polyvinyl chloride, is another name for vinyl that is frequently used.

It is among the most popular forms of plastic in the world since it is exceedingly affordable and simple to create. One of the key benefits of buying PVC kayaks is how unbelievably economical they are. It’s frequently utilized in items for house building.

Many individuals want a lightweight inflatable kayak, and vinyl certainly fits that bill. In particular, when it is combined with other materials, such as nylon, to reinforce it, it is remarkably tear-resistant and long-lasting given the price. On the other hand, because it provides inadequate UV protection, many manufacturers cover their products with a special coating to shield them from the sun.

9. Polyurethane

Another environmentally friendly PVC substitute is polyurethane. It starts with a wide array of materials and produces several varied purposes, including kayaks. In addition to being far more resistant to mildew, scratches, and UV deterioration than PVC kayaks, they are also a lot more durable. Incredibly amazing strength-to-weight ratios may be found in polyurethane kayaks.

Materials for the Various Kayak Components

Kayak Deck Materials Include

Hard-shell kayak decks can either be created separately and then joined to the hull as a single piece, or they can be built separately and then molded into the same piece as the hull. Polyethylene, thermoformed ABS-acrylic, fiberglass, & aramid are common kayak deck materials (Kevlar).

Materials for Kayak Hatch Gaskets

The dryness, convenience of use, and longevity of a kayak’s hatch gaskets are all crucial factors to consider before purchasing. When it comes to the ideal kayak hatch material, different manufacturers offer various options. Sea kayakers frequently choose natural, all-rubber hatches as a reliable alternative, particularly for European, British, and Greenland-style kayaks. Hatches made of thermoformed plastic feature built-in rubber gaskets that seal the opening completely. A fiberglass hatch cover that is fastened on top of a water-resistant neoprene gasket is a characteristic of some composite touring kayaks.

Kayak Skin Composition

For the deck & hull of folding kayaks, a range of kayak skin substances is used. The deck is frequently made of polyurethane, nylon, or waterproof canvas. Hypalon or a tough polyurethane might be used as the hull’s skin material (synthetic rubber).

Materials for a Kayak Hull

Kayak hulls are often made of thermoformed ABS-acrylic,  polyethylene,  fiberglass, and Aramid (Kevlar).

Kayak Bulkhead Construction

The same material that is comparable to that used to make the hull and deck of the kayak is often used to make thermoformed and composite bulkheads. Fiberglass or thermoformed plastic, as examples. Depending on the manufacturer, the material used to create rotomolded kayak bulkheads can be either closed-cell foam or polyethylene. Frequently, a polyurethane sealer is used to adhere these bulkheads to the hull’s interior and the deck.

Kayak Components with Skin on the Frame

In the oldest Inuit designs, stitched seal skins were stretched over a frame made of driftwood and whale bones. Such kayaks have been in existence for decades and are still in service today. Modern skin-on-frame kayaks reproduce those classic designs in water-resistant canvas over a hardwood frame, preserving their elegant elegance and functionality.

How Should You Choose a Kayak?

Which kayak material is therefore ideal for you? Let’s go over a few particular situations and the type of kayak component you should search for in each.

Construct Your Kayak

Kayaking in a craft that you put a lot of effort into is a unique experience. Build a wooden boat if you want to construct your boat & take pleasure in the results of your effort. It’s difficult & frequently requires tools that you won’t have availability to you as a customer to build other sorts of kayaks.

In opposition to this, making wooden kayaks is much simpler. Consider kayak-building kits, which provide you with pre-cut wood pieces & step by step instructions concerning how to assemble a kayak, if you lack strong carpentry abilities.

You’re New to Kayaking

If you’re a novice kayaker with limited expertise, I recommend a rotomolded kayak. Since they are affordable, you may practice swimming without going into debt. A composite kayak will give better speed and agility if you’re an experienced kayaker, so you might want to consider that.

Your Budget Is in the Middle:

I would advise choosing a composite boat if your financial situation is moderate. Despite being reasonably priced and lightweight, they are not too costly. Purchasing a thermoformed kayak is an additional choice. The price is more than rotomolded kayaks, but they’re also less costly.

Kayaking on Rocky Waters Requires:

The composite kayaks are not suitable for paddling in rough & shallow seas since they are more likely to rupture.

However, a rotomolded boat is a wise choice. An inflatable kayak is also. Kayaks that are inflatable work well in rough seas. Purchase an inflatable kayak with numerous air chambers, but only if you can. As a result, even if one of the air chambers is punctured, you will not sink. Inflatable kayaks frequently feature 3 or 4 air chambers to keep you floating.


Q1. Which material is ideal for a kayak?

The most reliable composite substance is fiberglass. The most common material for high-end sea kayaking is fiberglass because of its great strength-to-weight ratio and reasonable budget.

Q2. What components are needed to construct a kayak?

A covered wooden frame or a fiberglass or plastic shell are the two main construction materials used nowadays to make kayaks. The old Eskimo rib & cross structure is most similar to the design of wooden kayaks. They may be quickly constructed from scratch or put together from kits and are regarded as the standard design.

Q3. What plastic material is used to construct a boat?

Paddles for “Plastic” kayaks are often made of polyethylene. This choice of material is based on a few factors. One of the polymers with the greatest global use is polyethylene. In comparison to other materials, it is reasonably priced and in plentiful availability.

Q4. How durable are kayaks made of polyethylene?

The typical lifespan of an inflatable kayak is only two to three years. When stored and maintained properly.

Q5. What materials are used to make hard shell kayaks?

Hardshell kayaks, frequently known as rigid kayaks, are made of composite materials like Kevlar as well as wood, plastic, fiberglass, or other materials. Hardshell kayaks typically weigh roughly 55 lbs, which is a lot of weight.

Q6. What substance is used to construct whitewater kayaks?

Nowadays, polyethylene plastic is mostly used in the production of recreational whitewater kayaks. Racing kayaks are still composed of fiberglass even though polyethylene has dominated the leisure kayak industry.

Q7. What materials are used to construct kayaks hull?

The most popular materials used to make kayak hulls are polyethylene, thermoformed  ABS-acrylic, fiberglass, & Aramid (Kevlar)


The final handling/functioning abilities of the kayak are impacted by each boat’s material and the following designs that are put into it. The optimum time to choose the material for your boat is when you have a clear idea of how you intend to utilize it.

We sincerely hope that you liked our guide and now have a good understanding of what kind of kayak material is ideal for you. Sharing is caring! Show some love <3

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