The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Aqua-Bound Challenge 85 Review

The Aqua-Bound Challenge has a a high-performance paddle for serious paddlers.
Aqua-Bound Challenge 85
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $190 List | $151.96 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Easy and sturdy adjustment, lightweight, high performance
Cons:  Smaller adjustment range
Manufacturer:   Aqua-Bound
By Shey Kiester ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 3, 2017
  • Share this article:
84
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 10
  • Performance - 30% 9
  • Weight - 20% 9
  • Ease of adjustment - 20% 8
  • Locking Mechanism - 20% 8
  • Aesthetics - 10% 7

Our Verdict

There are no two ways about it: The Aqua-Bound Challenge 85 is a high-performance paddle. With a shaft constructed from carbon and a blade made of polymer-reinforced carbon, this model is both light and durable. A long, rectangular blade allows this product to maneuver quickly and nimbly. Plus, the Performance adjust system makes the paddle quick, intuitive, and simple to change lengths. Unlike other locking mechanisms in our test fleet, this model's does not get in the way of the user's hand during paddling or while changing hands.

The excellent Werner Vibe performs similarly at a slightly lower price point.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award  
Price $151.96 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$364.00 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$170.00 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$189.95 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$129.00 at REI
Overall Score Sort Icon
100
0
84
100
0
92
100
0
85
100
0
84
100
0
77
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Easy and sturdy adjustment, lightweight, high performanceLightweight, easy to adjust, high performanceCuts cleanly through water, durable bladeLightweight, strong, easy on the body to useHigh performance, relatively inexpensive
Cons Smaller adjustment rangePricey, blade can flutterHeavy, looks like a toyThe handle allows excellent grip but can become uncomfortableHeavy, not adjustable
Bottom Line The Aqua-Bound Challenge has a a high-performance paddle for serious paddlers.The Trance is a breath of fresh air, with good performance and an unbelievably lightweight construction.The Vibe is a great all-around paddle that moves water well and is easy to manage.This is a high-performance paddle that is easy to pull through the water.The high-performer Makai was a favorite among some of our testers, while others felt it was too heavy.
Rating Categories Aqua-Bound Challenge 85 Werner Trance 95 Performance Werner Vibe KIALOA Insanity KIALOA Makai
Performance (30%)
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
Weight (20%)
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
6
10
0
6
10
0
4
Ease Of Adjustment (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
9
Locking Mechanism (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
10
Aesthetics (10%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
8
10
0
7
Specs Aqua-Bound... Werner Trance 95... Werner Vibe KIALOA Insanity KIALOA Makai
Weight 1.3 lbs 1.2 lbs 1.7 lbs 1.56 lbs 2 lbs
Blade Design Dihedral Dihedral Dihedral Dihedral Dihedral
Blade Shape Rectangular Rectangular Rectangular Teardrop Teardrop
Offset 10 degrees 10 degrees 10 degrees 10 degrees 8 degrees
Blade Material epX engineered polymer reinforced with carbon Carbon Injection molded fiberglass Fiberglass fibrlite Nylon reinforced fiberglass
Blade Dimensions 85 sq in 95 sq in 100 sq in 83 sq in 85 sq in
Shaft Material Carbon Carbon Fiberglass Durable fiberglass Textured fiberglass
Adjustablility (inches) 10.5" 8" 16" 16" 16"
Length Range (inches) 70" - 80" 70" - 78" | 74" - 82" | 80" - 88" 68" - 84" 70"-86" 70" - 86"
Number of Pieces 2-piece 1-piece (available in 1, 2, or 3) 3-piece (available in 1, 2, or 3) 1-piece (avaliable in 1 or 3) 1-piece
Compact Size 66" NA 34.5" NA NA
Warranty 2 years 12 months 1 year 12 months 1 year
Comes with cover No No No No No
Locking Mechanism "Performance" Snap Button Handle LeverLock Handle LeverLock Handle LeverLock Handle LeverLock

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Aqua-Bound Challenge was among the top contenders regarding performance, with a lightweight construction and a well-designed blade. This paddle is best for serious users who appreciate a paddle that can help them push their limits, even if it means paying a bit more for it up front.

Performance Comparison


The Challenge is a high-performing paddle that's lightweight and easy to adjust.
The Challenge is a high-performing paddle that's lightweight and easy to adjust.

Performance


This paddle is lightweight and nimble, and users felt that it was easy to manipulate their crafts when paddling, and quick motions were not a problem. Because of the paddle's 10-degree offset, backstrokes are also easy. Unlike other light models like the iGK Pure Carbon, which features a light construction but heavy locking mechanism, this model's balance was not thrown off by its locking mechanism.

The Aqua-Bound's blade.
The Aqua-Bound's blade.

Weight


While not the lightest product in the test, this model weighed in at just 1.3 pounds, which is much lighter than the heavier and less nimble models in the test.

Ease of Adjustment


This paddle features a Performance adjustment system, which makes it one of the easiest-to-adjust paddles in our review. The paddle has six adjustment holes and a small steel button that you compress to lengthen or shorten the paddle. It's simple to do and allows a group to share one paddle easily. This model has an adjustment range of 10.5 inches, which was not the highest in our test. If you plan on sharing your paddle between multiple users, consider an easier-to-adjust model, like the Werner Trance or Vibe.

Locking Mechanism


The Aqua-Bound featured our testers' second-favorite locking mechanism. The Performance adjustment features six holes along the handle of the paddle. Just press a metal button and extend or contract the paddle. After it's adjusted there is very little play in the handle.

Here are two "performance" adjustment systems. The Aqua-Bound paddle is at the top  the older version of the Trance is on the bottom.
Here are two "performance" adjustment systems. The Aqua-Bound paddle is at the top, the older version of the Trance is on the bottom.

Compactability


With a compact size of 66 inches, the Aqua-Bound was not the most compact paddle in our test fleet. However, our testers found that the paddle compacted enough to fit in SUVs and trucks easily. If you have a small car or are planning on traveling with your SUP setup, consider a three-piece model, which is represented by the IGK in our test fleet. The Werner Vibe and Trance also offer 3-piece versions.

Best Applications


This model is perfect for intermediate users who know that they are serious about the sport and don't mind investing in it.

Value


This model packs a lot of performance in a relatively affordable package. While it is slightly less high-performance than our Editors' Choice winning Werner Trance, it is also a lot easier on your pocketbook.

Conclusion


The Aqua-Bound is a high-performance model with an easy locking mechanism and lightweight construction, making it a good paddle for serious users who want performance for their dollar.


Shey Kiester