5 Best Kayak Paddles of 2018 | Reviews & Buying Guide

Choosing the best kayak paddle for your kayaking is a much tougher choice than what it appears. There are a number of factors that you should consider.

With my kayak paddle buyer's guide, I hope to clear up some of the confusion, and help you to buy the right kayak paddle.

After all, you spent a good deal of your hard earned money on a good kayak, now you need a solid paddle to pair it with.​

If you’re curious (or in a hurry):

✅ This specific Kayak Paddle is the most popular with our readers.

It is an excellent lightweight kayak paddle with polypropylene blade and fibreglass shaft which makes for smooth and powerful strokes.

With a nice balance between stiffness and flex, this paddle is a steal if you can find it below $90! That is one crazy deal on a paddle that will deliver the goods (see color choices, check current price & read reviews here).

Which kayak paddle is best?​

When it comes to the kayak paddles with the best reviews, these are the 5 top-rated models. All of these are solid products and offer good value for money (compare these 5 kayak paddles here).​

Kayak Paddles Best Choices​

1. ​Carlisle Expedition Fiberglass Touring

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2. Carlisle Magic Plus with Polypro Blades/Fiberglass Shaft

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3. Solstice 4 piece Quick Release​

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4. Aqua-Bound Sting Ray 2-Piece Carbon​

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5. ​Shoreline Marine Kayak Paddle Rounded 96"

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If you want to compare paddles head to head, you can use our handy kayak paddle comparison table to determine which paddle is best for your use.

But feel free to scroll down to see the factors that you should consider before buying a paddle.​

Kayak Paddle Comparison Table​

PicturePaddleRatingBest used forLength &
Shoreline Marine with Rounded Blade4.5- Recreational use- 96 inches
- 2.2 lbs
Carlisle Expedition Fiberglass Touring5- Day touring
- Long distance paddling
- 86.6-94.5 inches
- 33 oz
Aqua-Bound Sting Ray 2-Piece Carbon with Straight Shaft5- All-round performer
- Excellent for day trips and touring
- 82.6-94.5 inches
- 29 oz
Carbon Fibre
Carlisle Magic Plus with Polypro Blades/Fiberglass Shaft5- Best whitewater paddle on the market
- Perfect for slalom and creekers
- 75.2 inches
- 40 oz
Solstice 4 piece Quick Release4.4- Excellent 4 piece paddle to use as backup paddle- 90.5 inches
- 2.8 lbs

How to choose a kayak paddle

The internet has made it incredibly easy to search for 'best kayak paddle 2017' and find a whole bunch of recommendations. But you have to keep in mind that the right option for me, might not be right for you. You have to consider your length, your paddling style, what you will be using the paddle for, and a bunch of other critical factors.

best for whitewater

With this kayak paddle buying guide, I hope to give you a clear understanding of the factors you should consider. I want to make sure you buy not just a good kayak paddle, but the perfect model for you!

Before we get stuck in, keep an open mind. The factors I mention below are not a hard and fast rule, but offers guidelines on picking a top-rated kayak paddle. If you find these factors completely overwhelming, rest assured that I have done the home work for you.

What is the best kayak paddle...​

For The Money

This is a difficult one, as you and I might feel different about how we want to spend our hard-earned cash. In my opinion, the best kayak paddle brand is Werner. Their products are top notch, and last for a very long time if taken care of.

From their line of paddles, I am a really big fan of the stiff and light Camano​ (check colour and size options, as well as any available discounts here). With a mid-sized blade, this is a versatile option for those who can't afford to own a different paddle for each discipline of kayaking.

If you can find it under $250, it is an absolute steal!​

For Fishing

If you like to fish from your kayak, you need a solid performing paddle that will take you where the fish is biting quickly and relatively quietly. In my opinion, there is no better fishing kayak paddle than the Werner Camano Premium Fiberglass.

This 2 piece straight paddle has a very nice swing weight, and bites really nice into the water. Once you have tried a premium paddle like the Camano, you won't go back to cheaper options.​

If the Camano isn't in your budget, a more affordable option is the Carlisle Expedition Angler. While the Expedition is a ruggedly built paddle, it does weigh a good few ounces more than the Werner. I am a big fan of lighter paddles, as this will lessen the risk of injuries and also helps reduce fatigue at the end of a long day's fishing.​

Trust me, after you have spent 4 hours fishing from your yak and you need to paddle back to the opposite shore, you will appreciate the Werner so much more!​

For Recreational Use​

If you kayak infrequently, it might not be worthwhile to go through the whole process of calculating the exact length of paddle you require. In my opinion, the best kayak paddle for recreation is the Shoreline Marine with Rounded Blade.​

For Speed

If you have the need for speed on the water, you will be making aggressive strokes at a higher angle. This means that you must look at smaller blades and a shorter shaft. A paddle that is too long will leave you playing catch-up.

I like this fast paddle from ​Werner, it is built for whitewater racing, so you know speed and manueverability won't be an issue. Werner is well-known for durable products that last, so while the price might look a bit on the high side, keep in mind that you are buying the best of the best.

For Whitewater​

If you are one those who like to get the blood racing with whitewater kayaking, you will be glad to hear that I have found the absolute best kayak paddle for whitewater is the Carlisle Magic Plus.​

For Touring​

If you prefer longer trips, you will find that the best kayak paddle for touring is the Carlisle Expedition Fiberglass Touring

For Beginners and for Multi-Purpose Use​

If you do both day kayaking, as well as longer trips, the best paddle for multi-purpose use is the: Aqua-Bound Sting Ray 2-Piece Carbon Straight Shaft.​ This is also a good option for those just starting out with kayaking, as it is a good all-rounder. Having one paddle that suits different styles of kayaking, means you can spend a bit more on your yak.

5 Critical factors to consider when purchasing a kayak paddle

1. Type of use​

Are you a recreational kayaker? Or do you prefer touring, taking weekend or week-long trips down the river? Your paddle choice largely depends on how you will be using it.

There is a huge difference between touring, recreational and performance kayak paddles.

Make sure you know which category you belong to.​

If you will be using your paddle only every second weekend, it will also influence your budget consideration. If you are a frequent kayaker, you might want to get a better quality paddle.​

You have to consider not only your own heigth, but also the width of your kayak, as well as the type of paddling style you practice most often.​

2. Length​

The length of your paddle is, in my opinion, the most important factor to consider. The right paddle length plays a huge role in how you enjoy your time on the water. The general rule is that the taller you are, the longer your paddle should be.​

In reality, it is much more complicated than that.​

Paddling styles​

  • Low angle paddling is a relaxed, slower style of paddling typically used by most recreational kayakers. This is the style of paddling most suited to longer trips, as it is more efficient in conserving energy.
  • High angle paddling is a more intense, aggressive style of paddling used primarily in moving water. It is great for acceleration, and maneuverability. Great choice if you want to kayak for fitness.

high angle paddling vs low angle paddling

With low angle paddling, the angle of the kayak entering the water is usually much flatter (more horizontal) than with high angle paddling.

Because of this, low angle paddles feature slimmer blades, and tend to be a little longer than high angle paddles.​

The width of your boat also plays a big role in deciding the correct length of paddle. The guideline is that the wider the boat, the longer the paddle required. This is simply because a wider boat means a shallowerflatter angle between paddle and water, which requires a little more length.​

As an example, a kayaker that is 6 feet 2 inches, with a kayak that is 26 inches wide, will probably be best matched to a 230cm paddle. If a different kayaker, 5 feet tall, were to use the same kayak, he would be best served by a 220cm paddle.​

paddles sizing chart and length guide

If you do most of your kayaking in a inflatable kayak, you will need a slightly longer shaft when compared to a sit-on-top kayak which typically sits lower on the water.

3. Blade material​

When it comes to choosing the right material for your paddle, you should again consider what the paddle will be used for. Picking the right material means finding the right balance between strength and weight for your specific use.​

If you plan on doing some touring (weekend, or week-long trips), a lighter paddle will be best. On the other hand, if you are kayaking every other weekend just for fun, you don't necessarily have to pay a premium for a super light paddle.​

The materials mostly used in the construction of kayak paddles are:

  • Fibreglass paddles are the most versatile. They are reasonably light weight, and are exceptionally durable. These can work great for recreational use, as well as touring.
  • Carbon Fibre paddles are what the pros use. These offer incredible performance, and are very light weight. These do come at a higher price tag, but if you are on a week long kayaking trip you will really appreciate the reduced weight.
  • Paddles made from NylonAluminiumPlastic are the most affordable choice, and will be sufficient for those who kayak infrequently. Even at their affordable price, these paddles offer some durability, and are require pretty much no maintenance. They tend to be on the heavy side, which is not ideal for longer trips.

4. Blade design

To feather or not to feather.That is the question! #kayaklife #kayakpaddle

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Feathering refers to the angle between the blades on each end of the paddle. If the two blades are in line, the paddle is said to be non-feathered. If there is an angle between the two blades, the paddle is feathered.

Why feathering?

Few people know the real mechanics behind feathering. The primary benefit is that it reduces wrist fatigue, and wind resistance. When one blade is stroking the water, the other blade is set at such an angle to slice through the wind. The angle between the blades are usually in the range of 30°-45°.​

Unfeathered paddle

Unfeathered paddle

Feathered paddle

Feathered paddle

The smaller the angle, the less strain on the wrists, while a larger angle is more efficient at paddling.

The feathering of a blade is done in such a manner that one hand is the control hand. This control hand is in charge of rotating the shaft so that the blades enter the water at the right angles.​

Feathering and different types of shafts:

  • Whitewater paddles are mostly controlled by the right hand.
  • Touring paddles can be taken apart so a paddler can change which hand is the control hand.

Being left-handed or right-handed plays no role in deciding your control hand. It is purely a matter of preference. Experiment with both hands when you are out on the water, and you will soon figure out which is your control hand.

Shape of the blade​

In older days, blades were symmetrical. But in modern times blades tend to be asymmetrical dihedral. That sounds very scientific, and it is. Rest assured that this shape of blade has been proven to work best.

Most important thing to remember, is to avoid flat blades if possible.​

5. Shafts​

The majority of paddles have straight shafts, but there are also some paddles that have some curve. The curve ensures that your hands are placed at a much more comfortable angle during the stroke, which should reduce both fatigue and discomfort. If you have some shoulder or joint injuries, these bent-shaft paddles can be of great benefit.​

Some more considerations regarding shafts:

  • Two piece shafts are great for storage.
  • Four-piece shafts break down even smaller, and are great when using inflatables. They are also a great choice for a backup paddle, as it takes up so little space.
  • Small diameter shafts are a good choice for women rowers, or for kayakers with smaller hands. These will reduce fatigue.

Oval shaped shafts offer more comfort than round shafts. Some shafts on the market are round, with oval pieces where the hand grips the paddle. These are called oval indexing shafts.

Different types of paddles​

There are 4 main types of paddles, and these can be classified as:

  • Whitewater paddles: Offering great durability, and featuring maneurability and efficiency, these are built for the tough conditions thrown at you during your whitewater adventures.
  • Touring paddles: These paddles offer durability, and comfort. Even after a couple of days out on the water.
  • Recreational paddles: A great choice for a fun day on the water with friends and family. Works great for exploring shorelines and fishing.
  • Performance paddles: These are the technologically advanced paddles for those serious paddlers, and those who want the latest and greatest.

My most important tip when it comes to kayak paddles

Have a spare! You really do no want to be caught up a creek without a paddle ;-)​

Get yourself a spare 2-piece, or a 4-piece paddle that stores easily. Losing your only paddle when out in the water can be disastrous, whether you are on a day excursion, or even worse, a week long kayak trip.​

Kayak Paddles Deals and Discounts

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