The Holy Cow brand of canoes are light weight composite crafts made from Ultra-Glass, Kevlar® or Carbon Kevlar®. Fiberglass material has been around for many years, and is a well proven material in terms of durability and strength. The only main drawback to this is that it tends to be a little on the heavy side. Like most things there have been many advances with composite materials and engineering and as a result we no longer manufacture the standard fiberglass based boats. Instead we have replaced the standard fiberglass material with what we call “Ultra-glass”. Ultra-glass is still in essence a fiberglass material, however a much better grade which is denser, tighter, and stronger than the older fiberglass canoes from before. The dynamics of the Ultra-glass material are similar to that of Kevlar, remaining flexible in areas throughout the hull which is critical in allowing the material to provide the flexibility needed to absorb most impacts. This difference in flexibility from the thick, heavy stiffness of the older fiberglass canoes, to the flexible nature of Ultra-glass requires the use of the same flexible resin and coating systems, core materials, as well as processes, used in the construction of our Kevlar® canoes. This ensures the materials compliment and work with each other and the result is a very tough, durable canoe that is strong, as well as significantly lighter than regular fiberglass. While no Kevlar® is typically added to Ultra-glass, the use of the same supporting materials and resin systems makes Kevlar® and Ultra-glass compatible. This is not the case with Kevlar® that is added to a standard fiberglass canoe. The stiffness of standard fiberglass & flexible nature of Kevlar® offer no structural benefit when combined into the construction of a canoe hull. Regardless of how strong or advanced a material, if the operating principals of the supporting materials used to hold it together works on a different premises, then it will not stand up, and eventually fall apart. All the materials used in the construction of our canoes are specifically engineered and tested to ensure they work with one another in order to produce a strong durable craft capable of taking most impacts. We have been building Ultra-glass Canoes for the more than 15 years, and to date we have never heard of any Ultra-glass canoe suffering damage from regular use. Kevlar® brand fiber is an innovative technology from DuPont® that combines high strength with light weight to help dramatically improve the performance of a variety of consumer and industrial products. Groundbreaking research by DuPont® Scientists in the field of liquid crystalline polymer solutions formed the basis for the commercial preparation of Kevlar® aramid fiber. Lightweight and flexible, Kevlar® has evolved to do everything from helping save thousands of lives around the world to helping make safer homes and vehicles to helping land spacecraft on Mars. Kevlar® is very well known as the main protective material inside bullet proof vests that are used by various Police departments and military organizations throughout the world and is capable of offering a strength to weight ratio at 5 times that of steel. Due to the strength, as well as a number of other factors, Kevlar® is considered to be one of the best materials available for a for recreational canoe. As Kevlar® is only available through one supplier, DuPont Corp., it is very unlikely you will find any difference in the base material from one builder to the next. Where you will however, find a major difference is, in the supporting materials, structural architecture, combination & placement of the additional re-enforcement materials. Kevlar® is a very unique material both in strength and function, when used in the construction of a canoe. It is designed to offer flexibility which enables the canoe to deflect and/or absorb most incidental impacts without compromising the hull. The flexibility of this material is an integral component in its strength, however also represents the highest number of challenges in the construction of a canoe.
While the flexibility of Kevlar® provides an advantage for certain areas of the hull, there are also areas where the flexibility will create disadvantages and can cause issues with performance, safety, and strength. Proper architecture and material support in these areas of the hull is critical to ensure the canoe provides the right amount of rigidity and the hull maintains its shape when loaded in the water. On the opposite end of the spectrum adding to much rigidity will restrict the ability of the Kevlar material from moving, and decrease the strength potential on impacts. (in short, the material will not be able to do the job it was designed to do and you end up relying on the supporting materials to provide strength if impacted) Add to this the issue of overall weight. All things being equal, simple physics dictates that the lighter the weight, the less the amount of material in the hull and in-turn lower the potential strength of the hull. While adding additional material will certainly add to the overall potential strength, it will also take away from the main benefit of using a light weight material such as Kevlar® in the first place. When it comes to light weight composite canoes, most of the differences are typically not overly apparent from the exterior. The overall structural design, architecture, core materials, and engineering play a far more critical role and like most things, the details make the biggest difference in the end. We do good work here, and you will find all of our Holy Cow Canoes or other brands are strong, durable, and very well built.