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Fiberglass construction vs kevlar/ carbon fiber

John E Davies

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Does anyone know how much the bare "hulls" of an Elite II weigh after the openings have been cut? Oliver uses hand laid fiberglass cloth and mat (instead of a typical chopper gun which shoots a mix of loose fibers and resin), which is an excellent feature. However FG construction is very heavy compared to newer composites like kevlar.


Hand laid


Many of the high end canoe and kayak companies have completely abandoned construction using 100% fiberglass because it is just so darned heavy. Wenonah hasn't made a pure fiberglass hull in decades.... It does have advantages in lower material cost, easy repair and much better impact resistance, but kevlar and carbon fiber offer PHENOMINAL weight savings. Labor costs are very similar.


A canoe that weighs 75 pounds in fiberglass might weigh less than 40 pounds in kevlar. That is a very substantial reduction.


I wonder if we might see more use of newer fibers in Ollies in the future. The outer hull halves would need to have fiberglass in their outer layers to provide good protection from impact damage, and to make repairs easy, but the inside hull and cabinets could be made almost entirely of CF. I imagine the weight could be reduced by 500 or more pounds easily. If we knew the hull weight, we could predict the weight savings fairly accurately.




Offer a  "Carbon Appearance Package" and use a bare CF layer for all the interior surfaces. How cool looking and light weight would that be? I would check a box for carbon fiber countertops in a heartbeat, instead of faux granite...


Costs are coming down:  http://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/2014/03/carbon-fiber-car-part-costs-drop-dramatically.html


The hull cost would obviously be significantly higher (but not outrageously so) but the benefits would be extremely  substantial. More and more people are looking for super light trailers. For those of us towing with full sized turbo diesels it would not be an attractive option.... This type of construction would really anchor Oliver's position as a top tier RV manufacturer.


Comments? Buzzy, you are intimately associated with kayaks, can you chime in here?


John Davies


Spokane WA

SOLD 07/23 "Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 32” LT tires, airbags, Safari snorkel, Maggiolina Grand Tour 360 Carbon RTT.

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I was an early convert to kevlar canoes. I have a large tripper manufactured by Clipper in Canada. I purchased it in the early 90's, I think. This canoe, the Tripper, is still made. It is 70 lbs. in fiberglass and 60 lbs. in the standard kevlar layup. I think the reason for the heavier weight in the kevlar layup is that it still has a full gel-coat. When I bought it, it was only available in these two versions. The ultralight kevlar version today weighs 54 lbs. It's a big canoe--17.5 feet. Very durable. I've dragged it over a lot of rocks in the Boundary Waters. My other canoe is a Blackhawk Zephyr, a small solo boat. Blackhawk closed in 1994. I've had this canoe for over 25 years. It too has a full gel-coat on the outside. It's still pretty light, but it isn't nearly as light as the current solo models like the Northstar (built by the guy that built Bell Canoes) Northwind solo that weighs in at 31 lbs. in the "Kevlight" layup without a gel-coat. It's a foot longer than my Blackhawk which I believe weighs about 35 lbs. The Blackhawk has also survived a lot of rocky paddles including a solo trip to the Boundary Waters. I'm a believer in kevlar. It would be interesting to know what the weight savings would be with your idea, John.



2020 Kimberley Kruiser T3



2019 Ram 2500 Diesel



States I visited with my Ollie (Sold October, 2019)



States Visited Map


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For enough money, I'm sure Oliver could make a trailer that's light enough to pull behind your McLaren.


It's not just the material, but the trailer-sized autoclave needed to set the resin, the hours needed to cure and the energy needed to do so.  Then you have to train the staff, reengineer the tubs, make new forms, etc.


Maybe one day.  BTW, the Ollie is chopped fiberglass with reinforcing mats - it isn't entirely laid up with cloth.





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