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Bending Branches Whisper Review

This is an affordable entry level paddle that you can rely on.
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $65 List | $51.96 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Affordable, durable blade construction
Cons:  Heavy aluminum shaft, play in locking mechanism
Manufacturer:   Bending Branches
By Sara James ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 23, 2018
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45
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 9
  • 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 Award the Bending Branches Whisper paddle is popular with kayak rental shops for good reasons. It is not a top scorer for 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. This paddle is perfect for the introductory touring kayaker on a tight budget. Families will be happy buying a couple of these so that you can get everyone out enjoying the water.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award   
Price $51.96 at Backcountry
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$246.23 at Amazon
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$415.00 at REI
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$159.96 at Backcountry
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$135.00 at REI
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Pros Affordable, durable blade constructionReliable, lightweight, easy to adjust and extend.Featherweight, sleek blade design, enhanced paddling styleVery sturdy and durable locking mechanism, smooth blade performance, easy to adjust, lightweightSecure locking mechanism, light weight carbon blend shaft
Cons Heavy aluminum shaft, play in locking mechanismQuestionable graphicsExpensive, not for the careless userIn the more expensive rangeHeavier than some models available, locking system can become stiff to adjust
Bottom Line This is an affordable entry level paddle that you can rely on.A versatile, lightweight and reliable paddle that delivered a strong performance across all metrics.A featherweight full carbon paddle engineered to provide you with an exceptionally smooth but powerful performance.This paddle consistently was a top performer across all metrics and it was not hard to select this paddle as a winner.Don’t be fooled by the bland rental paddle look, the Skagit FG has premium quality features and is able to perform.
Rating Categories Bending Branches Whisper Pungo Glass Werner Kalliste Aqua-Bound Sting Ray Carbon Werner Skagit FG
Performance (40%)
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9
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10
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8
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5
Ease Of Adjustment (20%)
10
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5
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7
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10
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8
Locking Mechanism Security (15%)
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6
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9
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9
Weight (15%)
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6
Durability (10%)
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9
Specs Bending Branches... Pungo Glass Werner Kalliste Aqua-Bound Sting... Werner Skagit FG
Measured Weight 1050g 970g 816g 850g 1000g
Shaft Material / Construction Aluminum 50% carbon/50% fiberglass Carbon fiber Carbon Carbon blend
Blade Shape Dihedral, asymmetrical Asymmetrical Asymmetrical Dihedral, asymmetrical Dihedral, asymmetrical
Shaft Shape Straight, oval Straight Straight Straight Straight
Style Low-Angle Low-Angle Low-Angle Low-Angle Low-Angle
Offset L45 0 R 45 None 0, 15, 30, 45, 60 0, 15, 30, 45, 60 L and R 0, 15, 30, 45, 60 L and R
Weight (230cm) advertised 1049g 850.5g 652g 865g 953g
Breaks Down To 2 piece 2 piece 2 piece 2 piece 2 piece
Blade Material/Construction Polypropylene fiberglass composite Carbon fiber/foam core abX Carbon Reinforced Nylon Fiberglass reinforced nylon
Length Options 220, 230, 240 cm 220 - 240 cm 220, 230, 240 cm 210, 220, 230, 240, 250 cm 205 to 260 cm in 5 cm increments
Adjustment style Push button w/ basic ferrule Rock-solid Leverlock® ferrule system Push button Posi-Lok® ferrule system Smart View Adjustable
Other Options N/A Also available with higher blade construction ( Pungo Carbon) N/A Available with smaller diameter shaft Also available with higher blade construction

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Whisper won the Best Budget Buy award as testers felt it was incredibly affordable and still delivered an acceptable performance. This no-frills paddle is an affordable way to get out kayaking.

Performance Comparison


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

Performance


The Bending Branches paddle blades lived up to their name. Constructed from polypropylene, they were noted to be quiet bendy, delivering a slight flutter when kayaking at 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 to reinforce their polypropylene blades, resulting in a more rigid blade that delivered a higher performance stroke.

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


A kayaker looking for a slighter better-performing paddle may consider a model with fiberglass or carbon in the blade construction, ensuring the there is less flex in the blade and a higher transfer of power. Kayakers looking for lighter weight and high-performance paddles will have to invest at least an extra $125 to get a product that uses higher quality materials that suits their needs.

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

Ease of Adjustment


Due to its simplicity, even first-time paddlers were able to use 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 challenging to use, and you will likely need to get a friend to lend a hand if you want to dismantle or adjust the paddle. 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 snap button system is simple to use but may require two sets of hands.
The snap button system is simple to use but may require two sets of hands.

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 the Wilderness System., Werner, and Aqua-Bound paddles, as it enabled them to further adjust the angle of the paddle to suit their kayaking style and weather conditions.

The internal portion of the paddle shaft is grooved which helps to provide more security than the typical basic snap button system alone.
The internal portion of the paddle shaft is grooved which helps to provide more security than the typical basic snap button system alone.

Locking Mechanism Security


The ferrule locking system used in the Whisper's adjustment point made the paddle more secure than similar systems that justed rely 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.


The Wilderness System River Lock, Werner Smart-view adjustment system and the Aqua-Bound Posi Lok 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 enough to put testers off using this paddle.
The slight flutter delivered by the polypropylene blades was not enough to put testers off using this paddle.

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 paddles. Many paddlers observed that the Whisper feels heavier than the Carlisle Plus although it actually weighs less. This contradiction can be attributed to the distribution of weight within the paddle design, which can affect the feel of the paddle in the water. Kayakers looking to cover long distances quickly would be better suited to purchase a lighter paddle.

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.
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.

Durability


The Whisper paddle is designed to be able to withstand being thrown in the back of your truck or U-Haul. Although the plastic blades make the Whisper quite durable in terms of breakage, the flexibility is likely to bring additional wear to the blades. Testers noted the paddles tended to develop a permanent curve to the blades after extended use. 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. However, aside 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 paddle will enable frugal kayakers to get on the water. It is a paddle that the whole family can enjoy. It would be difficult to find a cheaper paddle that also performs to this standard. Those looking for a substantially lighter paddle will also have to pay substantially more to beat the weight/price value of this product.

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.
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.

Conclusion


This entry-level paddle delivers solid performance at a very affordable price. It is an easy choice for those looking to take their first plunge into the world of recreational kayaking. Fisherman 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.


Sara James