First, the opacity of gel coat renders the quality of the lamination invisible. In other words, gel coat allows builders room to make mistakes. If there’s a crease in the exterior layer of aramid, you won’t see it through a colored gel coat. In contrast, our resin is clear and flaws are always visible. Second, gel coat allows for touch up work after a canoe has been built, allowing inexperienced builders a chance to correct errors.

Now for the downsides. A resin coat is thinner than a gel coat. Thinness means we build lighter canoes. Our old gel coated tandem canoes weighed six to eight pounds more than our new resin coated ones. Amateur builders find touch up work easy with gel coat, because its thickness allows mistakes to be sanded and filled.

Also, gel coat is less flexible than the vinylester resin we build canoes with. Gel coat covers a canoe like an eggshell. When there’s a hard impact gel coat chips and cracks because it is brittle. Now that we’re exclusively building canoes with vinylester resin, there’s nothing that can fracture like gel coat always does. This means less need for repairs. Ask any large outfitter – they always avoid gel coated canoes.

Gel coat does have two advantages over resin coats. First, gel coat can be made in any color, allowing endless options. Though, we think you’ll find the natural colors of our materials more aesthetically pleasing, whether it is the moiré pattern of StarLite, the richness of BlackLite, or the unique gray waves of IXP. Second, intact gel coat provides greater abrasion resistance than a resin coat does. Intact is the operative word. If the gel coat has chipped off due to an impact, then a resin coat offers better abrasion protection, and it will never chip off.

Let’s do a final comparison of the benefits of gel coat and resin coat. Gel coat has three very questionable benefits: color choice, abrasion resistance, and invisible build quality. In favor of resin coat: lower weight, less maintenance and better impact resistance.

The choice is clear to us.