Let’s step back for a moment and make sure everyone is clear about what makes a lamination. When we build a canoe we laminate layers of cloth together with resin – we create a composite. Currently, we use four types of woven cloth: aramid, carbon fiber, Innegra, and polyester; each one has specific performance characteristics. To bond the cloths together we blend a proprietary, high elongation, UV resistant vinylester resin specifically tailored to the lamination we’re creating.

When we design a lamination we decide which grail or grails we’re seeking. Then, we choose the cloth or cloths with the performance characteristics we want. The exterior, or first layer, is a full blanket of cloth. After that layer we use smaller pieces of cloth, or partials, to reinforce areas that receive high impacts or abrasion. We strategically size and place the partials to maximize strength and minimize weight. Naturally, there are many layers of cloth in the stems and bottom, and less layers right below the gunwales. We also utilize foam cores and ribs to create a superstructure to reduce weight. The last layer, the interior, is always aramid, regardless of the lamination. In short, our lamination schedules are extremely complex, developed with decades of experience.

Now we’ll discuss our laminations. Three of them are designed for portaging; they are: StarLite, BlackLite, and Stealth. Flat water outfitters from the BWCA to Temagami choose StarLite. Anyone can portage a StarLite and its strong enough for beginners to paddle. If you’re paddling full speed and run into a rock in the middle of the lake you’ll be fine in a StarLite, though it may take a few minutes for your heartrate to return to normal after the impact. If you’re paddling in lake country, you can’t go wrong with StarLite.

BlackLite has more cloth than StarLite, so it’s a little heavier. Most builders use carbon fiber exclusively to save weight. We’re different. We use carbon to create a stronger lamination by backing it with aramid. In short, the combination of carbon and aramid creates a more durable lamination than the same amount of either material could by itself. The addition of carbon also creates a stiffer canoe, increasing performance. BlackLite facilitates the greatest transfer of power from your paddle stroke. If you like to skip portages, either by running rapids or dragging over beaver dams, choose BlackLite.

Stealth is only available in the models with E6 gunwales. It comes with E6 parts to further reduce weight. To minimize your burden we co-weave carbon and Innegra to blend impact resistance and stiffness. We back that with aramid. There’s not a lot of material in a Stealth lamination, but what’s there is the most sophisticated lamination we build. Stealth is lighter than StarLite and has lower impact resistance. If your goal is to save weight and you’re committed to wet footed portaging Stealth will be your choice.

IXP is our answer to Royalex. It’s primarily built with Innegra, then a final layer of aramid. Innegra absorbs impacts better than anything we’ve ever worked with and has great abrasion resistance too. If you want to paddle whitewater or abuse your canoe, this is the best option. We’ve tested our IXP lamination on whitewater rivers across the continent, from the Green and San Juan in Utah to Manitoba’s Bloodvein and Hayes. Like all composites, it’s stiffer than any plastic. If you’ve ever watched the bottom of a plastic canoe oil can, you know there’s a lot of energy and performance lost. Also, composites allow much more complex hull designs than plastics, further improving performance. And unlike Royalex or other plastics, it’s easy to recoat any resin coated composite canoe. We offer a Canoe Recoat Kit on our website, which can extend the life of a composite canoe to the next generation of paddlers.

WhiteGold is only offered in our ADKs. It’s a lamination that sacrifices weight in favor of cost, and it works well on our smallest canoes. We use a colored polyester exterior layer, either ruby or emerald. The interior partials are Innegra, and the interior, like all our canoes is aramid. WhiteGold canoes are a bit beefier than StarLite, but less durable than BlackLite.

As you’re considering which lamination to choose, there’s one more relevant piece of information we can share to help your decision making process. The vast majority of significant damage sustained by canoes does not occur while they’re being paddled. We’ve had paddlers ask us how to repair canoes that have been poorly tied to vehicles, blown across the yard, had trees fall on them, etc. Almost never does a canoeist ask us how to fix structural damage caused by actual canoeing. What does that mean? At a minimum it means you don’t need to choose IXP for lake travel.