Durable 'Royalex' canoes soon to be a thing of the past

Some say the unique material has spawned a revolution in back-country canoeing in the North, but 'Royalex' will soon be history when the product is discontinued next month.

Whitehorse outfitting store stocking up before material is discontinued in April

Raw material "perfect" for paddling in Northern waters to be discontinued

9 years ago
Duration 2:29
The CBC's Paul Tukker reports from Whitehorse

Some say a unique material has spawned a revolution in back-country canoeing in the North.

It's called "Royalex" and is used to make tough, reliable whitewater boats.

Dozens of new canoes made of Royalex just arrived at Up North Adventures, a Whitehorse outfitting store — and more are on the way.

Manager Kalin Pallett says the unique material is perfect for northern waters.

"It has that elasticity, or that resiliency," he says. 

That durability, which is essentially a sandwich of vinyl, plastic and foam, is key for many river paddlers. The material means it's buoyant, lightweight and relatively affordable.

But it's also a niche product, and its lone U.S. manufacturer is discontinuing the material.

Kalin Pallett, manager of an outfitting store in Whitehorse, says Royalex, a combination of vinyl, plastic and foam material, is perfect for Northern waters. (Paul Tukker/CBC)
"It's all happening very quickly, there wasn't a whole lot of warning," Pallet says. "I know a lot of manufacturers are testing other materials, but right now, to the best of my knowledge, no one has found a material that offers all the different characteristics of Royalex."

But not all paddlers will agree about gear — especially canoes. 

"I don't think it's the end-all, be-all of canoes," says Trevor Braun, a paddling instructor at Whitehorse's Yukan Canoe. "And I think the companies are working on another solution for it, they just haven't let people know what that solution is going to be at this point in time."

Still, it could take years for any new canoe material to get to market, and even longer to win the confidence of serious paddlers.

"Some of the rivers that we take clients to  the Wind River, the Snake River up in the Peel Watershed  it's a pretty remote place, so that's the last place you want to be when your boat fails," Pallet says.

There are still many new and old Royalex canoes available to buy, many with years of life left in them, but the last sheets of that raw Royalex material roll out next month.