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Wilderness Systems Pungo Glass Review

A versatile, lightweight and reliable paddle that delivered a strong performance across all metrics.
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $270 List | $269.95 at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Reliable, lightweight, easy to adjust and extend.
Cons:  Questionable graphics
Manufacturer:   Wilderness Systems
By Sara James ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 14, 2020
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91
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 9
  • Performance - 40% 9
  • Ease of adjustment - 20% 10
  • Locking Mechanism Security - 15% 10
  • Weight - 15% 8
  • Durability - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The Wilderness System Pungo Glass is the winner of our Editors' Choice award as it consistently placed on the podium across all our testing metrics. This composite fiberglass paddle excels at performance while maintaining durability and affordability. One of the game-changing features of the Pungo Glass paddle is the lever-lock ferrule joining the two pieces. This unique system is sturdy, yet simple enough for cold and clumsy hands to use. Also, it allows users to extend the length of the paddle, without compromising on the performance it delivers. The Pungo Glass will meet the needs of a variety of paddlers and crafts.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

The Pungo Glass scored highly across the metrics, particularly excelling in performance and durability. The fiberglass blades deliver a smooth and effective stroke, giving the feel of a well-balanced paddle. Lightweight and versatile, this paddle is exceptionally easy to adjust or dismantle thanks to the foolproof lever lock system. We particularly appreciated this innovative feature when our hands were cold and clumsy. Despite being suitable for beginner kayakers, the performance of this paddle is not compromised and would suit expert paddlers as well. The only aspect of the paddle that slightly disappointed the testers was the graphic adornments. Reminiscent of fish scales, or an over branded fake Gucci handbag, we felt the choice of print gave the paddle a cheap look and did not do justice to the paddle's high-quality design.

Performance Comparison


Testers noted that the performance of this paddle is far superior to its look.
Testers noted that the performance of this paddle is far superior to its look.

Performance


The Pungo glass delivers a top-end performance at a price that will appeal to more than just expert kayakers. The considered construction of the fiberglass blades, in particular, their lightweight and gentle curvature, helps the kayaker to produce smooth, flutter free strokes. Even when pushing off gravel banks, the blades did not flex and delivered a predictable transfer of power. The length of your paddle is important to maximize your paddling efficiency. The adjustability of this paddle means that kayakers are more likely to select the correct length for their build and craft, in turn ensuring high-quality performance.

Before using this paddle, we were concerned that its performance might be compromised when the paddle is extended to its full length. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the paddle continues to deliver a trustworthy and reliable performance regardless of what length you set it at.

Paddlers were pleased to note that this paddle's adjustability does not come at the expense of its performance.

Some testers noted that when the paddle is extended, the lever on the shaft can get in the way of the paddler's hands, as it is not as low profile as we would have liked. Although we did not feel that it impacted performance, it did impact some tester's comfort levels during extending touring journeys.

Hand positioning If you think the lever is in the way of your hands, take a moment to review your hand positioning and ensure that your hands are roughly shoulder-width apart ( or a bit more) and equidistant from the center of the shaft. Usually, a slight adjustment will help to make sure you are holding the paddle comfortably and effectively.

With the flip of a lever lock paddlers can adjust the feather and the length of this versatile paddle.
With the flip of a lever lock paddlers can adjust the feather and the length of this versatile paddle.

Ease of adjustment


The lever ferrule system was an instant hit with our team and maintained its ease of use throughout our rigorous testing period. By flipping a simple lever on the center of the shaft, the two pieces of the paddle become adjustable, enabling the paddler to alter the length and feather of this paddle easily.
Wilderness Systems offers the Pungo in a Glass or Carbon construction  both are versatile and lightweight paddle.
Wilderness Systems offers the Pungo in a Glass or Carbon construction, both are versatile and lightweight paddle.

This intuitive mechanism is simple to use, even in cold conditions, when fingers are not working their best. Paddlers with limited dexterity would prefer this accommodating feature over the standard push-button option typically found on two-piece paddles. You no longer have to rely on having a second set of hands around if you want to adjust or dismantle your kayak paddle.

Locking Mechanism Security


The lever ferule system provided an infallible joint, and we did not feel any wiggle room in the shaft even when the paddle was put under stress. Also, when the paddle shaft was extended to its full length, the paddle still felt reliably secure and strong. During blind testing, kayakers were unable to tell the Pungo apart from a standard one-piece as it just feels solid.

Your kayak and paddle can take you to all sorts of incredible places.
Your kayak and paddle can take you to all sorts of incredible places.

Weight


The blades of the Pungo Glass are fiberglass, and the shaft is 50% carbon, 50% fiberglass, giving it an overall lightweight feel. It doesn't quite make it into the ultralight category, unlike the full Carbon version that is also available from Wilderness Systems. Although slightly lighter, full-carbon models are also significantly more expensive.

The careful design and weight distribution of this paddle mean that it feels light in the water. We enjoy using this paddle on extended tours as it does not cause our arms to tire, unlike some of the heavier models tested.

Although the wrapped finish of the blades is prone to show wear and tear over time  their actual construction is robust and will stand regular heavy use.
Although the wrapped finish of the blades is prone to show wear and tear over time, their actual construction is robust and will stand regular heavy use.

Durability


The graphics on the wrapped blades are prone to scratching, and with time, the edges look worn as the laminate peels back. However, most importantly, the blades themselves do not appear to wear down with extended use, and despite its aging appearance, the paddle's actual performance did not falter.

After extensive use ( and no regular maintenance ), the screw that attached the lever to the shaft of the paddle showed signs of rust. As always, we recommend a regular rinse after spending time in salty water.

Value


This paddle performed on par with paddles costing quite a bit more. Investing in the Pungo Glass will give you a versatile and reliable paddle that will be a solid performer for seasons to come. There are cheaper paddles available, but the Pungo Glass offers quality performance and durability with the bonus of adjustability. This fact that you can alter the length of this paddle adds value to the paddle, as some families will find they can purchase one Pungo paddle rather than having multiple paddles for different size family members.

This paddle will be suitable for a wide variety of paddlers due to its adjustable and versatile design.
This paddle will be suitable for a wide variety of paddlers due to its adjustable and versatile design.

Conclusion


The Wilderness System Pungo Glass is the winner of our Editors' Choice award as we felt it would be suitable for almost any recreational or touring kayaker regardless of their craft and size. The versatility does not require a sacrifice in performance as this lightweight paddle is constructed to feel as secure as your usual one-piece paddle. Our only real complaint was the bizarre choice of graphics used on this paddle. Fortunately, this doesn't impact its actual performance, and it's nothing a few stickers couldn't improve! The Wilderness System Pungo Glass is a reliable performer suitable for all levels and sizes.

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Sara James