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Bending Branches Whisper Review

This is an affordable entry-level paddle that can get you and your family out on the water
Bending Branches Whisper
Photo: REI Co-op
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $65 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Affordable, durable blade construction
Cons:  Heavy aluminum shaft, play in locking mechanism
Manufacturer:   Bending Branches
By Sara James ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 20, 2021
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45
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 11
  • Performance - 40% 3
  • Ease of adjustment - 20% 5
  • Locking Mechanism Security - 15% 6
  • Weight - 15% 5
  • Durability - 10% 6

Our Verdict

The Best Budget Buy Bending Branches Whisper paddle is a common sight at kayak rental shops and lakeside cabins for a good reason. It is not a top scorer for high-end performance, but it has the alternative benefit of being very affordable and durable. Although the plastic blades are slightly more flexible than higher quality paddles, their durable polypropylene construction means that the paddle is not easily damaged, even by the heavy-handed user. This paddle is perfect for the introductory touring kayaker on a tight budget. Families will be happy buying a couple of these so that everyone can get out and enjoy the water.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Best Buy Award  Best Buy Award   
Price Check Price at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
Check Price at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$104.00 at Amazon$50 List$40 List
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Pros Affordable, durable blade constructionVery sturdy and durable locking mechanism, smooth blade performance, easy to adjust, lightweightExceptional value, quality blade design, fiberglass reinforced nylon bladesEasy on the wallet, functional, indexed shaftVery economical, durable blade construction
Cons Heavy aluminum shaft, play in locking mechanismIn the more expensive rangeHeavier than some models, locking mechanism prone to wobbleAluminum shaft transfers heat/cold, flexible blades, wobble in connection pointHeavy, locking mechanism wobbly, foam grips prone to slipping
Bottom Line This is an affordable entry-level paddle that can get you and your family out on the waterThis paddle consistently was a top performer across all metrics and it was not hard to select this paddle as a winnerThis well-designed paddle delivers outstanding value without sacrificing on performance or durabilityAffordable, functional and suitable for the casual kayaker who is not looking for a high-performance paddleA budget paddle for those who want to get on the water but are not concerned about performance
Rating Categories Bending Branches Wh... Aqua-Bound Sting Ra... Werner Baja Pelican Poseidon SeaSense X-Treme II
Performance (40%)
3.0
8.0
6.0
3.0
2.0
Ease Of Adjustment (20%)
5.0
9.0
6.0
5.0
5.0
Locking Mechanism Security (15%)
6.0
10.0
5.0
4.0
4.0
Weight (15%)
5.0
8.0
5.0
5.0
4.0
Durability (10%)
6.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
5.0
Specs Bending Branches Wh... Aqua-Bound Sting Ra... Werner Baja Pelican Poseidon SeaSense X-Treme II
Measured Weight 1050 g 850 g 1070 g 1110 g 1190 g
Shaft Material Aluminum Carbon Fiberglass Aluminum Aluminum
Shaft Shape Round, Oval Round Round Round, Oval Round
Blade Material Polypropylene abX Carbon reinforced nylon Fiberglass reinforced nylon Plastic/fiberglass Fiberglass filled nylon blade
Blade Shape Dihedral, asymmetrical Dihedral, asymmetrical Dihedral, asymmetrical Asymetrical Asymetrical
Adjustment Style Push button w/ basic ferrule Posi-LokĀ® ferrule system Push Button Push Button Push button
Blade Offset Settings L45 0 R 45 0, 15, 30, 45, 60 L and R L45 0 R 45 L60 0 R 60 L45 0 R 45
Length Options 220, 230, 240 cm 210, 220, 230, 240, 250 cm 220 cm, 230 cm, 240 cm 230 cm 243 cm
Style Low-Angle Low-Angle Low-Angle Low-Angle Low-Angle

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Bending Branches Whisper wins one of our Best Buy awards as testers noted it was incredibly affordable and still delivered an acceptable performance. This no-frills paddle is an economical way to get out on the water in your kayak. It is far from the top performer, but it also won't disappoint the casual kayaker.

Performance Comparison


Fisherman and bird watchers looking to expand their hobby further by...
Fisherman and bird watchers looking to expand their hobby further by venturing out in a kayak may be especially attracted to this paddle.
Photo: Sara James

Performance


The Bending Branches paddle performed adequately and will definitely get your kayak from point A to point B. The paddle's blades are constructed from polypropylene and were noted to be quite bendy, delivering a slight flutter when kayaking at higher speeds. This issue was also evident when trying to use the paddle to launch from the shore. In the gravel bank push-off test, testers visibly observed the paddle flexing under pressure. Comparable entry-level paddles utilize fiberglass and/or carbon to reinforce their polypropylene blades, resulting in a more rigid blade that delivers a higher performance stroke.


In contrast to the paddle blades, the aluminum shaft is very rigid, actually to the detriment of the overall feel of the paddle. Experienced users preferred paddles that use a fiberglass or carbon blend for the shaft, providing a lighter and more responsive feel.

Despite these drawbacks, the Whisper was able to perform sufficiently in the time trials, indicating that it is certainly functional. A novice paddler is unlikely to notice the difference when they first get familiar with maneuvering their kayak. If you are not focused on covering long distances (i.e., you want to paddle out to a nearby fishing spot or have a casual evening float with friends), the performance of the Bending Branches*may be entirely suitable for your needs.

The snap button mechanism is coupled with a grooved internal shaft...
The snap button mechanism is coupled with a grooved internal shaft to make a fairly secure system.
Photo: Sara James

A kayaker looking for a slightly better-performing paddle may consider a model with fiberglass or carbon in the blade construction, ensuring there is less flex in the blade and a more effective transfer of power. Kayakers looking for lighter weight and higher performance paddles will have to invest quite a bit more money to get a product that uses the higher quality materials to suit their needs. Higher quality paddles do feel better balanced than this option; however, the performance difference shouldn't prevent you from enjoying your excursion.

Ease of Adjustment


Due to its simplicity of use, even first-time paddlers were able to figure out the snap button system on the Whisper without guidance. However, testers noted that as you get cold hands or as grit builds up in the system over time, it becomes more challenging to use. In such situations, you may need to get a friend to lend a hand if you want to adjust the paddle or dismantle it for transport. Regularly rinsing the paddle's snap-button ferrule, especially after kayaking in salty or sandy conditions, will help maintain ease of adjustment in this paddle.


The paddle offers three different blade angle options — a 0-degree offset, a left bias 45-degree angle, and a right bias 45-degree angle. All testers agreed that this is perfectly adequate. Some did prefer the multitude of options provided by other manufacturers as it enabled them to further adjust the angle of the paddle to suit their kayaking style and weather conditions.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Locking Mechanism Security


The ferrule locking system used in the Whisper's adjustment point made the paddle more secure than similar systems that just relied on the basic snap button alone. However, testers still felt a slight give in the locking mechanism when it was torqued under pressure. This affected the overall performance of the paddle.


Some of the other paddles tested for this review delivered a significantly more secure connection point due to the advanced ferrule locking components utilized by these designs.

The slight flutter delivered by the polypropylene blades was not...
The slight flutter delivered by the polypropylene blades was not enough to put testers off using this paddle.
Photo: Sara James

Weight


Weighing in at 1,050 grams, the Whisper can be considered a heavy paddle in comparison to our top performers. However, when compared to other paddles of a similar cost, the Whisper came out a winner in terms of weight.


The Whisper utilizes an aluminum shaft, which is considerably heavier than the fiberglass and carbon shafts of some other higher-end paddles. Many paddlers observed that the Whisper feels heavier than the Carlisle Plus, although it actually weighs less. This apparent contradiction can be attributed to the distribution of weight within the paddle design, which can affect the swing weight of the paddle in the water. A well-balanced paddle will feel lighter than this option, even if it technically weighs the same.

Using effective forward strokes can make a huge difference to your...
Using effective forward strokes can make a huge difference to your kayaking. The fastest strokes do not make the fastest kayaker. Couple good technique with good blade design and you are in for a great paddling experience.
Photo: Sara James

Durability


The Whisper paddle is designed to be able to withstand being thrown in the back of your truck or U-Haul without the owner having to worry. Although the plastic blades make the Whisper quite durable in terms of breakage, the flexibility is likely to bring additional wear to the blades. Researchers noted the paddles tend to develop a permanent curve to the blades after heavy extended use (i.e., when used regularly as part of a rental fleet). Most of the other paddles tested were not observed to have this problem.


The black grips on the aluminum shaft started to peel off after multiple hours spent traveling in a roof box with other equipment. This seems to be a common outcome after frequent use. However, apart from reducing the transfer of cold from the paddle, testers didn't find that these grips actually provided much grip to the paddle and were not concerned about losing them.

Value


This price point of this paddle will enable frugal kayakers to get out on the water without too much of a sting. It would be difficult to find a more affordable paddle that also performs to this standard. Those looking for a significantly lighter paddle will also have to pay substantially more to beat this product's weight/price value. Families that are buying multiple paddles at the same time often choose this option.

If you are going to be using your kayak a handful of times a season...
If you are going to be using your kayak a handful of times a season, or you are more interested in lazy floats than journeying with your kayak, the Whisper would be a great choice for you.
Photo: Sara James

Conclusion


This entry-level paddle delivers solid performance at a very affordable price. It is an easy choice for budget adventure enthusiasts looking to take their first plunge into the world of recreational kayaking. Rental companies will often offer this paddle with their kayak fleet as it is an affordable but reliable option that can be trusted in anyone's hands. Fishermen and bird watchers looking to expand their hobby further by venturing out in a kayak may be especially attracted to this paddle due to its no-frills but functional nature. If you end up spending more time on the water, you may decide you want an upgrade, but this paddle will make a dependable spare that you can take on longer journeys or happily lend to a friend.

Sara James