Plastic Or Composite: What Material Should Your Kayak Be Made Of?


To answer this question, you need to think about how much you are willing to spend, where you will be using the kayak, and what you will be using it for. There are different types of kayaks for different types of activities and a manufacturer will select the right material based on the activity they will be marketing the boat for.

Most modern kayaks are made either from composite (fiberglass) or from plastic and while both materials serve the purpose they are intended for, each comes with a different price tag. So before you make your purchase, make sure to compare fiberglass vs plastic kayaks to understand what each does as well as how and where you can use it.

Exactly What Material Should Your Kayak Be Made Of?

If you are planning to go for whitewater kayaking or recreational kayaking, then your kayak should be made of a plastic material. Plastic kayaks have a longer lifespan and are way cheaper than composite kayaks.

Touring kayaks and sea kayaks, on the other hand, will mostly be made of fiberglass, Kevlar, carbon fiber, or wood. Well, kayaks made from these materials will be faster and lighter but more delicate, expensive, and less durable than their plastic counterparts.

So, if you are looking for a lightweight kayak, then your best bet will be anything made of fiberglass. For something longer-lasting and more pocket friendly, however, consider plastic.

Where Will You Be Kayaking?

Apart from weight and durability, another factor to consider when deciding what material you need for your kayak is where you will be paddling. If your kayak adventure is in rocky beaches or waters with elements that can bang your boat around, then composite may not be a good option. A composite hull will almost certainly chip, scratch, or chip any time it comes into contact with a sharp object.

Plastic is much stronger and can withstand the roughest elements. A whitewater kayak or recreational kayak can spend the entire day bouncing off rough rocks and objects with barely a scar.

Whichever material you choose, however, make sure to invest in a good kayak roof rack and carrier to protect your boat and transport it to the launching spot easily.


The amount of money you are willing to spend will also determine the choice you make between a plastic vs composite kayak. Plastic kayaks are cheaper and will be a go-to option for many paddlers. Even though they are not as lightweight as fiberglass boats, with proper maintenance, they can last longer and give you a way better service than their fiberglass cousins.

If the hull of your composite boat hits a rock hard enough to actually break, fixing this will be quite expensive. So why on earth would anyone want to risk finding themselves in such a situation when a plastic kayak offers fair performance at a lower price?

Well, actually there is a good reason. For starters, fiberglass kayaks are not as weak as we might have made them appear. Only the Gelcoat (the layer that protects the fiberglass and gives it a smooth, shiny finish) is brittle.

However, apart from the scratches and cracks causing friction in the water and degrading your boat’s performance, composite kayaks are still worth the hassle. Yes, they require more maintenance and thus will cost you more to keep them in good shape, but gelcoat is easy to repair.

As for the hull damage, if you are a skilled kayaker, it is extremely unlikely that you are going to crack through fiberglass unless you are blindfolded, not paying attention, or drunk. Let not our earlier praises of plastic kayaks mislead you; fiberglass kayaks are tough.

Unless you are crashing rocks on the floor of the ocean, it is unlikely to cause noticeable structural damage to a fiberglass kayak. If you actually get to crack your composite kayak, chances are the same impact will put a hole through your plastic kayak as well.

Therefore, when using price as a factor to compare fiberglass vs plastic kayaks, look at the bigger picture. Know exactly what you intend to do with your kayak and the benefits you are looking for. Only then you will be able to determine how much you are willing to spend.

Which One Is Appropriate For You?


Choosing between plastic vs composite kayaks requires careful consideration about where and how you plan on using your boat as well as how much you can afford. If you are just starting to learn how to kayak or love paddling through debris, go plastic, as these can handle any challenge thrown their way.

If you love taking long-distance marine tours and don’t mind spending more time and money on kayak maintenance, then go composite. At the end of the day, what construction you choose for your kayak is completely up to you and in most cases, it may not have a major impact on your paddling enjoyment.

Globo Surf Overview

We hope that this post helps you comprehend how the construct of your kayak can benefit you as well as how a major role it plays when purchasing a kayak. Plastic has its good and bad side and so does composite. Think carefully about the kind of use and punishment you expect your boat to handle. This will help you determine what construction material will best perform in those marine conditions.

More Kayak Reviews:


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Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!