Bending Branches Whisper Review
Cons: Heavy aluminum shaft, play in locking mechanism
Manufacturer: Bending Branches
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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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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