While your kayak is the key piece of gear for aquatic adventures, a paddle of the correct length and high-quality materials will make your outings more comfortable, safe, and fun. The “best” paddle will differ for everyone, but there are some materials that stand up to heavy use over time, making your money go further.
When looking for the perfect paddle, comparing the following materials while considering length, weight, and fit is essential. Use this guide to help you choose the best paddle material, and feel free to refer back when it comes time to purchase your next one!
Plastic paddles are very inexpensive and are often sold as part of a beginner’s kayaking package with the boat. For people just starting out, on a tight budget, or those planning to kayak infrequently for short distances, they are adequate.
However, they easily degrade in the sun compared to other materials, so proper storage is key. Also, they aren’t designed with optimum comfort and heavy use in mind, which can lead to poor paddling form and injuries through prolonged use or longer sessions.
Aluminum paddles are more durable than plastic ones. They can withstand dings and light damage better as well. Like plastic paddles, they are another relatively inexpensive choice.
The main negative to aluminum paddles, though, is that they’re quite heavy. Paddling is already demanding on your joints and muscles, so why make it more difficult with a heavy paddle? If you plan on kayaking regularly or in whitewater, you want a lighter choice.
Wood paddles can be an somewhat inexpensive, lightweight, and durable choice. Keep in mind that some types of wood are heavier than others. Their aesthetic is highly sought-after and they withstand lots of abuse.
They are not the most lightweight option out there, however, so opt for a fiberglass or carbon fiber paddle if you know you’ll be subjecting your paddle to heavy use in whitewater, touring or kayak camping, or frequent outings.
Fiberglass is one of the most popular materials for good reason. These paddles are extremely lightweight and still affordable. They are very durable when it comes to damage from rocks, travel, or UV rays (although you should still store your gear away from the sun as often as possible).
Carbon fiber paddles are increasingly in demand because of their agility, ergonomics, and ease of use. This material is currently the most lightweight option available. If you plan on putting your paddle to the test with frequent use, whitewater, or multi-day trips, those paddle strokes really add up; just a few ounces of weight can make a difference for your strength and stamina.
The beauty of this material is that while it can be quite expensive to buy a 100% carbon fiber paddle, it can be combined with another substance, like fiberglass, to create a hybrid paddle that is just as durable, very lightweight, and more affordable. Our BEST Marine & Outdoors Kayak Paddle has a carbon fiber shaft with fiberglass blades, weighs only 34oz, and costs less than $100. If you're looking for a high quality, lightweight paddle at an affordable price, this is the perfect paddle for you!
Now that you’re more familiar with kayak paddle materials, you’re one step closer to a more enjoyable kayaking experience!
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When it comes to being outdoors and enjoying life, the mid-Atlantic region has it all! Centered between the more tropical southeastern states and the cooler, more varied seasons of the north, this area offers dozens of excellent paddling sites for all skill levels.
OK, so you’ve got your kayak, your sleeping bag, a tent and some bug spray. And you’re looking to go camping along a river for a couple of days. The key? Pack light and take only what you truly need. Remember that every ounce you pack is weight you’ll be moving as you paddle. Plan to conserve energy where and how you can.