Best Kayak Paddles

The 5 Best Kayak Paddles for Any Adventure

By November 17, 2022

Whether you are shopping for your first kayak paddle ever or you are thinking about upgrading from what you are using now, you may be wondering, “Do better paddles make a difference when kayaking?”

The answer is, “Absolutely.” In this buying guide, we will introduce you to some of the best kayak paddles currently on the market. But first, we are going to go over a few things you should know before you shop for a kayak paddle.

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A Paddle Buying Guide

Kayak Paddles Guide

Let’s go over the different types of kayak paddles, sizing information, what you can expect with respect to weight, and a little bit about pricing.

Type: What are the Different Types of Paddles for Kayaking?

Kayak paddles can be differentiated according to their materials or the designs of their blades or shafts. Here are some examples of some of the types of kayak paddles you may encounter:

  • Material: Plastic, aluminum, fiberglass, or carbon fiber kayak paddles.
  • Blade design: Symmetrical or asymmetrical blade kayak paddles, spooned or flat blade kayak paddles, feathered or unfeathered blade kayak paddles, Greenland blade kayak paddles, Euro blade kayak paddles, low-angle or high-angle blade kayak paddles.
  • Shaft design: Regular shaft kayak paddles, small diameter shaft kayak paddles.

Scroll down past the overviews to learn a little more about these considerations.

Size: What Size Paddle Should You Get?

What size kayak paddle you require depends on the width of your kayak as well as your own height. The University of North Dakota offers this handy table (1):

Weight: What is a Good Weight for a Paddle?

A typical weight range for kayak paddles is between 1.5 and 4 pounds. Anything up to 2 pounds is “lightweight.”

Every ounce matters with kayak paddle weight! Aqua-Bound explains, “The rule of thumb: every ounce of weight saved equals 100 fewer pounds carried in an hour. So if your paddle is four ounces lighter and you paddle for five hours, you just saved yourself 2,000 pounds of paddle in a day.” (2).

Price: How Much Should a Paddle Cost?

When you are looking for the best kayak paddles for the money, there is a whole range of costs. Kayak paddles start as low as $20-$30, and range up above $300.

Materials have a major impact on pricing, as do other design features that improve power, efficiency, and ease-of-use.

That said, even at the lower end of the price range, you can find some excellent products. If you want to keep weight and fatigue to an absolute minimum, however, you will likely need to pay a premium.

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A Review of Top Kayak Paddles in 2022

We will tell you some more things to consider when shopping for kayak paddles toward the end of this guide. Now, let’s have a look at some of the best kayak paddles available.

Best Overall Kayak Paddle

1. SeaSense Xtreme 2 Kayak Paddle

1. SeaSense Xtreme 2 Kayak Paddle

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What we like

  • Comfortable grip.
  • Materials and design are sturdy.

What we don’t like

  • Other options are lighter.

Our pick for the best overall kayak paddle is a mid-range product called the SeaSense Xtreme 2 Kayak Paddle. This paddle offers a great balance of durability and lightweight design in an affordable package.

Key Specifications

  • Fiberglass-filled nylon feathered blades
  • Adjustable drip rings
  • Asymmetrical
  • 3 locking positions
  • 2-piece design

What We Like

  • The design of the blades is suitable for a wide range of scenarios, particularly shallow water.
  • Since it is reasonably lightweight, this paddle helps to reduce fatigue. The comfortable grip also goes a long way in this department. Incidentally, if you lose the paddle at any point, it will float, making it easy to grab again.
  • The materials and design of the shaft and blades are sturdy, and should be able to hold up to plenty of heavy use.

What We Don’t Like

  • While this paddle is relatively lightweight, there are certainly other options on the market that are lighter.
  • The foam collars incorporated into the design might last through frequent paddling.

Most Durable Kayak Paddle

2. Carlisle Magic Plus Kayak Paddle with Polypropylene Blades and Wrapped Fiberglass Shaft

2. Carlisle Magic Plus Kayak Paddle with Polypropylene Blades and Wrapped Fiberglass Shaft

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What we like

  • Materials are strong, but they are not too heavy.
  • The feathered blades are easy to adjust.
  • Variety of attractive color.

What we don’t like

  • The paddles can drip a bit more than you might want.
  • Some paddles have an issue affecting the connection between parts.

If durability is your top concern when shopping for a kayak paddle, look into getting the Carlisle Magic Plus Kayak Paddle. This paddle features sturdy materials like glass-filled polypropylene and wrapped fiberglass for a lasting build that can provide you with years of excellent performance.

Key Specifications

  • Asymmetrical, curved, feathered blades
  • Blades are glass-filled polypropylene
  • Shaft is wrapped fiberglass
  • Two-piece design

What We Like

  • The materials used for both the blades and the shaft ensure that the paddle can handle a lot of action without degradation or damage.  
  • Even though the materials are strong, they are not too heavy.
  • It is fast and easy to adjust the feathered blades with the no-fail push button.
  • The responsiveness of this paddle is top-notch.
  • Comfortable grip, lightweight, and high-power design keep fatigue to a minimum for long sessions.
  • Choose from a variety of attractive color options for the blades.  

What We Don’t Like

  • These paddles can drip a bit more than you might want. Thankfully, this is easy to fix if you just get some more drip rings.
  • Some of these paddles have an issue affecting the connection between the two parts. They might be a bit wobbly after you join them together.

Best Lightweight Kayak Paddle

3. Wilderness Systems Pungo Kayak Paddle

3. Wilderness Systems Pungo Kayak Paddle

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What we like

  • You can adjust both the length and the offset.
  • Steering is a breeze.
  • Incredibly lightweight paddle.

What we don’t like

  • It can be a bit stiff.
  • This is a premium paddle, so is expensive.

Do you regularly take long trips out in your kayak? If you have some extra money to spend on a premium paddle, consider investing in the Wilderness Systems Pungo Kayak Paddle. This is one of the most lightweight kayak paddles on the market, made with a carbon shaft and carbon fiber blade.

While the cost is high compared to other products on this list, you won’t regret it when you see what a difference it makes in reducing your fatigue and increasing your fun.

Key Specifications

  • Carbon fiber blade (also available with a fiberglass blade)
  • A carbon shaft
  • Size is adjustable
  • Two-piece design

What We Like

  • This is an incredibly lightweight paddle that goes a long way toward keeping fatigue levels down.
  • You can get a lot of power out of your strokes, propelling your kayak quickly and easily.
  • Steering is a breeze, making this product a great choice for maneuverability.
  • You can adjust both the length and the offset. There are even markings on the paddle so you do not forget the adjustments you like.

What We Don’t Like

  • Sometimes you might feel that the blade could use a little more “give” while paddling. It can be a bit stiff.
  • This is a premium paddle, and not in everyone’s budget. But this is par the course with carbon fiber kayak paddles.

Best Carbon Fiber Kayak Paddle

4. Aqua Bound Manta Ray Carbon Kayak Paddle

4. Aqua Bound Manta Ray Carbon Kayak Paddle

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What we like

  • Durable carbon construction.
  • The grip is comfortable.
  • The manufacturer is based in the USA.

What we don’t like

  • Would be nice if it were more adjustable.

If you want a carbon fiber kayak paddle, but you cannot swing the cost for the Wilderness Systems Pungo Kayak Paddle above, the Aqua Bound Manta Ray Carbon Kayak Paddle is an alternative worth thinking about. This is not a cheap paddle, but the price range is a little more affordable.

Key Specifications

  • Carbon abX resin blades
  • Two-piece design
  • Comes with drip rings

What We Like

  • This paddle gives you the lightweight, durable carbon construction you want at a reasonable price.
  • The grip is comfortable, further reducing fatigue.
  • You’ll enjoy great power and efficiency with this paddle.
  • The manufacturer is based in the USA, and receives high marks for providing responsive customer support.

What We Don’t Like

  • While there is not much to complain about with this product, it would be nice if it were more adjustable.

Best Entry Level Kayak Paddle

5. OCEANBROAD Kayak Paddle

5. OCEANBROAD Kayak Paddle

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What we like

  • The paddle length suits most of the time.
  • Affordable price.
  • Includes some extras: the bungee and drip rings.

What we don’t like

  • This product can cause blisters.

If you are looking for a basic entry-level kayak paddle that is well-made and will offer you a solid starting experience, the OCEANBROAD Kayak Paddle may work out for you. This paddle should be within any novice’s budget, yet still deliver suitable performance for the money.

Key Specifications

  • Aluminum alloy shaft
  • Fiberglass-reinforced polypropylene blade
  • Shrinking PE tube cover
  • 230 cm
  • 3 locking positions
  • Drip rings included
  • Bungee paddle leash included
  • Two-piece design

What We Like

  • For the price, these paddles are acceptably durable and lightweight.
  • There is a shrinking PE tube cover on the shaft that helps keep it comfortable to grip.
  • Although this product does not feature multiple length adjustments, the paddle’s length should suit most.
  • It is hard to beat the affordable price, and quite nice that even at that low price point, your purchase includes some extras (the bungee and drip rings). Combined, all of these benefits easily make it the best kayak paddle for beginners.

What We Don’t Like

  • Some users report that even with the tube cover, this product can cause blisters if you are using it for a long period of time.

What to Look for in Kayak Paddles for Best Performance

Kayak Paddles Performance

Let’s expand a little more on features and considerations when you are shopping for the best kayak paddles. 

  • Length and weight: We’ve already gone in depth into size recommendations as well as the weight range available for kayak paddles. If you are still struggling with what size kayak paddle to get, we will mention that there are many products with adjustable lengths that might work for you. 
  • Grip: You can choose between T grips, pear grips, and hybrid grips for your kayak paddles. University of Alaska Fairbanks says which is best really is down to personal comfort (3).
  • Materials: The cheapest materials for kayak paddles are plastic and aluminum. Fiberglass is mid-range, and carbon fiber is high-end. Just as you might guess, the more expensive materials are lighter and stronger. See the FAQ below for full details.
  • Blade: What shape of kayak paddle is best? There are so many different types of kayak paddle blades. An in-depth discussion of paddle blades is far beyond the scope of this article. But here are a few helpful things to know:
  • Symmetrical blades can be held and used in any direction, but asymmetrical blades offer more power.
  • Spooned blades reduce flutter, but if you are worried about tipping over in your kayak, you might want a flat blade to help you more easily roll.
  • Feathering on kayak paddle blades refers to differing orientations to decrease air resistance while boosting power. Feathering is often adjustable.
  • Shaft: Shafts are usually straight for kayak paddles, but some have a bent design. The purpose of that design is to increase comfort (see below).
  • Comfort: Pay close attention to the grip on a paddle. If the grip is comfortable, you will have a more pleasant experience, and your hands and arms will fatigue less during long outings. If, however, the grip is not comfortable, you will tire more quickly, and you might get blisters. Your hands might also get uncomfortably cold while paddling in some climates.
  • Storage: When a kayak paddle is a single long piece, it can be hard to find a spot to store it when it is not in use. Most kayak paddles break down into two pieces, giving you more storage options.

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