BWCA Kevlar (or carbon) canoe owners, was/is it worth the $ Boundary Waters Gear Forum
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member (25)member
09/12/2009 02:55PM   (Thread Older Than 3 Years)
I've dreamed of owning a Kevlar tripping boat for a while, but have always wondered how durable they are, especially for how much they cost. (is it just me or did the price really go up in the last 5 years or so?)
For those that forked over the dough for a Kevlar or carbon canoe, any regrets?
I know I sure would have appreciated one on my last trip (mile portage in and out).
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09/12/2009 05:07PM  
No regrets what so ever. I bought my first Kevlar 7 years ago, a Swift, Kipawa model. It has been perfect for us on trips up to three or four nights. It is fast and nimble but lacks the stability many like for fishing. We added the Souris River Quetico 18.5, 5 years ago for week long trips and it is a very stable fishing platform which we both like. It is a joy to load and easy to trim. While I am completely pleased with both different purchases/canoes I do wet foot more and don't go with reckless abandon as with my aluminum model. I don't baby them, but I don't abuse them either, I expect many more years from both.

I would recommend to anyone to look for a used model, this can cut the price in half and if it needs attention or work there are many helpful sites, Red Rock, Rutabaga to name a couple. It is a great way to purchase and enjoy the attributes of kevlar w/o paying full price.
09/12/2009 05:22PM  
I bought a Souris River Quetico 17 a couple seasons ago and have not regretted it for one second. The Souris Rivers are tougher that most other kevlar canoes do in part to the design (flexible ribs) and the use of epoxy resin which does not become more brittle over time. If you are concerned about durability (I was) this is your canoe. I'm not saying other makers canoes aren't tough enough, they are all good.

It is the most stable canoe I've ever been in. It is a little slower than some of the others but not bad. I'll take roomy and stable over fast.

It will be kevlar (or carbon or whatever's next) for me for wilderness canoes from here on out.

You do want to be a little more gentle with these than you might with an old aluminum canoe or a royalex model. But just common sense stuff, be careful putting it down or into the water so you don't smash it on a rock. Don't drag it onto shore, especially loaded. Don't stand in it when its not floating (i.e. on a rock).

Personally I wet foot and would advise anyone going kevlar to do the same. Trying to dry foot land typically means abusing your canoe. Now wet foot doesn't have to mean wet. You could go with mukluks or those snake boots that mr barley and WhiteH20 like.
distinguished member(697)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
09/12/2009 05:35PM  
i have two souris kevlar boats, q18.5 and q16. i have been very impressed with the durability of the hulls. the q18.5 is my tripper and has been many places it was not designed to go. it has come back in one piece despite nearly being lost in fast water a number of times. the q16 is my solo boat, also an excellent performer. i wouldn't go any other way, although i have some trips in mind that may force me back to a rx hull for those.

buying used is fine, either private or outfitter. know the used market and what you're buying. inspect every inch.

joe over at redrock is a great resource for advice or questions if you are interested in souris river.
member (13)member
09/12/2009 07:14PM  
I guess it matters what kind of shape you are in. I would take aluminum over kevlar any day. Tougher and cheaper. I am 32 and in good shape and don't mind carring the extra weight at all. I usually carry2 packs and an aluminum canoe. If you are not in the best of shape or not 6'3, 250, like myself, I could see a benefit to kevlar.
member (25)member
09/12/2009 07:22PM  
I can see that point of view...
However, have you taken a kevlar canoe on a trip to be able to say it's totally not worth it?
Of course "worth it" is only a relative term, that differs from person to person.
On one of the trips I did in the past, my Buddy Ben (who worked at Bending Branches then) borrowed his boss's kevlar racing, that thing was rocket powered compared to the aluminum boat me and my partner were paddling...the whole trip was a struggle to keep up with him and that damn boat!
I'm thinking eventually I'll spring for one, but I'll probably try a rental on a short trip just to make sure I know just how much better it can be...
09/12/2009 07:33PM  
Is kevlar worth it? I say absolutely! Is it worth spending $2500? Well, that's another story. That's a chunk of change for almost anyone.

I own a Mad River Lamoille for which I managed to find an outstanding deal several years ago and I haven't looked back. It's great on the portages and has great glide as we paddle.

It's been a gradual upgrade of all our gear over the years for our regular group of Quetico paddlers and we've enjoyed every upgrade. Do what you can, when you can, and you won't regret it.

distinguished member (174)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
09/12/2009 07:56PM  
I own a MN II for my tripper. It is definitely worth the money. Light, fast, and plenty tough.
distinguished member(1396)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
09/12/2009 08:00PM  
Ditto to everything Merganser shared. Souris River canoes are more durable than other kevlars, making them more worth the cost, in my opinion.
member (13)member
09/12/2009 08:22PM  
I would take kevlar over aluminum, just not for the money difference. I could use the saved money to take an extra week off work an extra trip with my aluminum and be more happy because I got an extra trip in my life, not because I own a kevlar canoe.
09/12/2009 08:27PM  
edit that. :)

fruedian slip?
member (13)member
09/12/2009 08:30PM  
distinguished member(4441)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
09/12/2009 09:34PM  
Kevlar was well worth it to this older guy.i lifted my 57 pound Pathfinder, Royalex, the other day to take the dogs out and it really felt heavy.i said i could solo the BW with it still but it would be a grunt-
distinguished member(7230)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
09/12/2009 11:03PM  
I've had a MN II with out skid plates for 14 years. It's been on a ton of trips. It's a bit fray in the bow and will be seeing skid plates soon, but it's been a really durable canoe for me. I also have a kevlar solo (wenonah advantage) that's been on a couple trips now. Kevlar canoes weren't so out of line when I bought my MN II (1500 new) and at 2400 bucks new now I'd be more inclined to buy a livery boat from an outfitter.
distinguished member(5331)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
09/12/2009 11:09PM  
The Silver Phoenix, an aluminum canoe we bought for $50 after it was wrapped around a rock and repaired, is on top of our truck ready for a day paddle tomorrow. But if it calls for portaging - and our BWCA trips feature a lot of portaging - then its kevlar all the way. We bought a Souris River Quetico 17 for future trips after using one this year. Used did make it a lot more affordable. After all I used to be 32 (quite a while ago), will never get over 6' tall, and if I ever get to 250 I'll be 100 lbs overweight.
09/13/2009 07:09AM  
Kevlar will extend your tripping range 20% and your tripping life by 10+ years. I totally made those numbers up :) :) but the point is, yes it's worth it. I purchased a used kevlar boat a couple years ago and it has certainly been worth it to me. Four trips on it so far, and portaging is ALMOST a pleasure now :) I'm not a wet-footer and haven't babied it at all. I will probably never purchase a brand new kevlar canoe. There are plenty of good used ones out there. I'll let someone with deeper pockets take the depreciation hit.
Guest Paddler
09/13/2009 03:03PM  
It is on the portage trail when those fewer pounds really help you out especially if you have a bad back like myself. I am a solo paddler and have to double-portage. I bought a NovaCraft Bob Special weighing 40# with a good yoke 2 years ago for less than half price. Take your time looking for a good deal in the off season. It's well worth it.
09/13/2009 04:19PM  
Here's my thinking- I own a 17' royalex Old Town and an old Lowe aluminum. I use the Old Town for BWCA trips that are short and/or don't require much portaging and the Lowe for "overflow" outfitting of others when river tripping close to home. If going on a longer BWCA trip, we rent a Kevlar. I figure that I can rent for approximately 100 tripping days for the price of a new Kevlar (@ $50/day divided by two people), or around 17 trips of six days each. I don't have to register or insure the canoes that I rent and there's no depreciation. I have made a point of trying different canoes on each trip that we rent in order to see which I would ever consider buying if I found a hot deal on a used one and convinced myself that buying makes more sense.
Old Scout
Guest Paddler
09/13/2009 04:35PM  
One thing people forget is the secondary market for used kevlar canoes.

Over the years I have purchased a few used (outfitter canoes), you usually can find these for about 50% of new retail in the 2 to 3 year old range. I have had a number that I have used for 8 to 10 years and if I sell I'm sure I can get $500-$600 for them without any trouble.

Here's the math. Average kevlar canoe new $2,400.00, good used outfitter canoe $1,200.00, use for 8 years at $75.00 per year and sell for $600.00.
09/13/2009 05:15PM  
Hey OS... did you have to take off your shoes and socks to do all those calculations or are you related to MNGreene? ;-)

Also, maybe it's time to quit being a guest, eh? Make it official and register one of these days.
Old Scout
Guest Paddler
09/13/2009 06:11PM  
Between the internet and work I have so many passwords I'm lucky to remember my name. I was registered once but can't seem get back on as a user, but I will continue to post if you let me.
09/13/2009 09:30PM  
It ain't up to me to let you post, my friend, but I'm glad you are.

I'll bet a quick email to Adam will help you with your password problem.
09/14/2009 07:01AM  
>Souris River canoes are more durable than other kevlars, making >them more worth the cost, in my opinion.

With dignity and respect: horse-hockey! In My Opinion.

distinguished member (338)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
09/14/2009 11:53AM  
Totally worth it in my opinion too. Light portage weight is great but even if that is not a factor, the improved paddling performance of a well designed composite can not be matched by an aluminum or plastic canoe.

I also agree with Winemaker on SR. I've owned 2 Wenonahs, a Bell, and a SR Q17 and they have all held up fine. SR probably are a little more durable but it is nothing I noticed in real world use.

The other thing to consider is that good composite canoes hold their value fairly well. As the prices of new ones go up, the prices of used seem to be following.
09/14/2009 12:32PM  
Are you defining worth with your wallet, or your body?? If it's a money deal, find a used outfitter boat or an online deal and fix it up. At $40-$50/day for a kevlar pays off if you do a couple BW trips a year. If you're a basecamper, a kevlar may not be a big deal. But, if you like to cover some country and get "back in there", then your spine will think it's worth it. I like to cover some country AND I bought a cheap used boat and fixed it up. They hold up better than most think. It's been worth every penny plus it has been fun learning some new things about canoes. Just do it.
member (25)member
09/14/2009 12:47PM  
"Are you defining worth with your wallet, or your body??"

In the years when I didn't do any BWCA trips (approx 03' to 09')
I had a few years of really bad lower back pain...all has been good the last couple of years (knock on wood) but I would just as soon never have to go through that again...makes a person feel kinda helpless, when it just tieing your shoes makes you grimace in pain...
Yeah, I'm definatly considering going with a used one when the time comes...lots of things I could do with an extra grand laying around lol.
09/14/2009 12:55PM  
Yes, definitely. We borrowed a MNII from a relative, and I was kind of paranoid about it but my husband wasn't, and a sometimes he was far rougher than I would have thought we should be. Nothing bad happened. Definitely not for whitewater, but I think they are plenty tough for the BW, even with my husband making it his personal challenge to let me get out of the boat without getting my feet wet. ;-)
09/14/2009 06:43PM  
No regrets, but then my Bell Magic was only $500 and it came with a CCS spray skirt and a double bent wooden-shaft, carbon-blade paddle with a fleece cover. I'm still waiting for it to split in half while I'm in the middle of the Pamlico Sound.
09/14/2009 08:10PM  
Brian....there are deals out there if you know where to snoop. These are my 3 canoes...."obtained" over the last 8 years (some others have come and gone). I had to do some work on all, a major overhaul. I added up what I paid and put into them. It came to about $1985 for all 3. Thats not bad for 3 good tripping, Kevlar canoes and they have many years left in them with proper care.
Patches the Canoe
distinguished member (288)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
09/14/2009 09:07PM  
I paid $1700 for my MN2 "new" 12 years ago. I love how quiet they are and of course how light they are... However, I've learned they are not indestructible, take good care of it, don't bang it on the rocks, and you can make it last a long time. However, catch a cross wind and slide it down the gunflint trail and you too can learn the fine art of "patching".

If you happen to see a classic MN2 (without Gelcoat)that looks like granny got to it say hi!

member (5)member
09/15/2009 04:24PM  
My husband and I bought a Souris River 17.6 kevlar when he retired five years ago, and it has been worth every cent. We spend 30 days a year in places like Quetico, and another 30 or 40 paddling around northern Alberta and Saskatchewan. We couldn't even consider some of the trips we take if we had to portage a heavier canoe. We stopped by Souris River Canoes on our last trip through Atikokan, and were given a tour. My husband, who has a made anumber of fibre-glass canoes, was impressed with the quality materials and craftsmanship that goes into their creation, especially the work on their rib design.
Kevlar canoes do have to be treated with care; we paddle in rubber boots, and are able to take care with landing and loading.
09/20/2009 08:17AM  
We canoers are a cheap bunch. We worry and discuss about whether it is worth spending $1000 to $3000 on a good boat. While power boaters discuss spending $10000 to $30000 or more!
09/20/2009 09:53PM  
Captn T- you're absolutely right! Thanks for adjusting my perspective. Thinking of spending $3000 for a canoe as being crazy pales when real crazy is considered.
09/20/2009 10:20PM  
to the original question.....YES!
distinguished member (160)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
09/21/2009 09:19PM  
I think it is absolutely worth the $ if you are making a lot of portages. I don't care how good of shape you are in, less weight means that you can go further with the same effort, or do the same with less effort.
10/21/2009 02:21PM  
I've often thought about "upgrading" my fiberglass Mohawk Blazer to a nice new kevlar boat. Mine weighs 67 lbs and gets a bit heavy. But it is a fine boat. Not as fast as some, but really, I'm not in a hurry while I'm up there. I've had her in some pretty rough water and she has always pulled me through.

I think I paid $700 for mine back in the mid 1990's. I'd probably get about $300 for it now I'd guess. So let me do a bit of math. Say the new boat I want is a Souris River Quetico 17. It lists on the manufacturer's website for $2595 plus $200 shipping (to Ohio). So let's just say $2800. It weights 44 lbs. So I sell my boat and now we are down to $2500. There is about 23 lbs different between the two boats so . . . it will cost be about $108 per pound that I would save. Maybe it is just me, but I could find a much better use for that kind of scratch then a lighter boat.

And if you really want a thing of beauty build yourself a cedar stripper. My Merlin weights 45 lbs and is just beautiful. And probably cost me (in 2003 when I built it) about $650.

Now with all that said, I would certainly consider renting one in the future when I become too feeble to pick up the Mohawk.
10/21/2009 02:58PM  
No question. Like others have said, it'll get you farther and deeper into canoe country with less strain on the body. I own two Bells, a Magic and a Northwoods. I bought both used and paid $2200 for the pair.
10/21/2009 03:56PM  
Refer back to Old Scout's math. His math makes a lot more sense and the average cost per year is much less than renting over a lengthy period of ownership.

Special considerations that apply to me are:
If you live 2,000 miles from all those portages, thereby limiting the number of trips you might make, it might be wiser to rent kevlar than to buy it.
If you are already in your twilight years, kevlar may be the only thing you can carry but it might be wiser to rent it. You might have fewer years left to get you money's worth.

If I lived in Wisconsin or Minnesota, and I was in my forties (with an eye to the future), I would not hesitate to buy a used kevlar canoe (or two).
10/21/2009 07:09PM  
10/21/2009 07:19PM  
I have an aluminum, a Royalex Penobscot, a Kevlar MNII and a Kevlar Bell Magic. Love them all, each for a different purpose. I bought the MNII a year old rental from Piragis. The kevlars are quieter, faster and lighter. The aluminum is HEAVY, noisy, slow and bulletproof. The Penob is kinda in between.

I know guys that have spent more on a set of golf clubs than I gave spent on canoes. I bought my golf clubs at a yard sale for 15 bucks. I've spent quite a bit on some fly rods, and I don't fish a whole lot better than I golf. It just depends on your priorities.
10/21/2009 08:10PM  

Actually I think my math is sound.

I am in my 40's.

I am 5' 11" and in shape, sort of I guess. I can bench much more than I weigh. So the weight of the canoe isn't a big deal to me.

So, I am still young enough to carry a bit more weight than some folk. I don't think I am quite needing to rent yet, perhaps in another 20 years or so.

So for now, I don't have to spend squat until I can't carry my canoe. I can't see the advantage of upgrading. Perhaps you are different. That is what makes life interesting, we are all different.

If you have the money then why not buy a kevlar boat. But . . .if you have a serviceable boat and you are still fit enough to carry it then I would at least pause and consider the decision.

And if you are at least a little bit handy, then I would advise you to build your own canoe. You can change anything you want, you can make it with more rocker or less, give it tumblehome, perhaps you want it to be 14" deep instead of 13", whatever.

You may just get a better boat than you can buy, and I will guarantee that you will have more pride in your boat if you have built it. Plus nothing, absolutely nothing, is better than paddling a wooden boat.
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