Earning one of the top scores out of all the paddles we have tested so far, the Hala Travel Lock and Load is our top recommendation for anyone who wants a 3-piece travel paddle and doesn't want to sacrifice paddling performance in favor of portability. This carbon paddle is easy to adjust and the locking mechanism securely holds without any wobbling. It is also extremely lightweight and comfortable to hold, earning it an Editors' Choice award.
Hala Travel Lock & Load Review
Cons: Slight paddle flutter
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Grafik Carbon Travel Lock and Load distinguishes itself from many of the other 3-piece paddles currently available with its lower locking mechanism. This binds the paddle together in a way that minimizes water intrusion and stops any twisting between the upper and lower sections of the paddle, all while keeping the weight down.
The first — and most obvious — thing that we looked at for each of these paddles is their paddling performance, which is responsible for 30% of the total score for each product. To test this, we tried out each paddle side-by-side in different wind and water conditions, looking at how much power we got per paddle stroke, how easily each one caught the water, and how smoothly it exits. Additionally, we also compared how well each paddle recovered or got ready for the next stroke. The Travel Lock and Load is one of our top performers in this metric, earning a score right at the top of the group. It's an all-around awesome paddle for short jaunts or marathon paddles and it wouldn't be unheard of to use this paddle for amateur races.
The Travel Lock and Load is a particularly stiff paddle that offers a ton of power per paddle stroke. It slices into the water seamlessly without unnecessary splashing and has a solid catch with its slightly dihedral angle and mild scoop. You can apply solid amounts of power when pulling the Travel Lock and Load through the water without creating any instability or paddle effortlessly at a mellower pace. However, there can be a tiny bit of flutter when you are pulling the paddle through the water at peak power. It doesn't happen all the time but we did notice it a handful of times.
The blade exits smoothly from the water and this paddle's lightweight and excellent balance make for a quick and easy recovery. The Travel Lock and Load has a bit more of a teardrop shape than some of the other top paddles, which we usually found indicative of reduced paddling performance, but this paddle held its own against others with a longer and slimmer shape. It isn't overly fatiguing to use for marathon paddling trips and efficient to use the Travel Lock and Load to back-paddle if you have to maneuver your board in a confined area.
Next, we compared the weight of each SUP paddle, which accounts for 20% of the total score. Heavier paddles are more tiring to use, so they received consequently lower scores. The Hala Lock and Load is one of the lightest adjustable SUP paddles we have tested — surprising, given its 3-piece nature — earning it top marks in this metric.
This paddle tips the scales at 1.125 pounds, which is less than half of what some of the heaviest paddles weigh.
Ease of Adjustment
While all of the paddles in this review are adjustable, not all of them are created equally in that regard. We split our assessment of the adjustability of each paddle into two parts: the overall ease of adjusting the length and the mechanism that locks the paddle to your preferred height. Each of these aspects accounts for 20% of the Hala's total score. When it came to ease of adjustment, the Lock and Load again came out at the front of the group, earning top marks
The Travel Lock and Load can be adjusted in length from 70" to 86". It has a smooth sliding action that can easily be set to match your paddle length preference.
It even makes it a hassle-free experience to change the length while on the water if you want to try out different lengths or adjust it based on the current conditions.
While the length adjustment is very easy to slide on the Lock and Load, it wouldn't be anything without a locking mechanism to securely hold it at the correct height. We absolutely loved the mechanism on this paddle and gave it top marks.
The handle has a LeverLock system, which we think of as the gold standard when it comes to adjustable SUP paddles. The lever folds out of the handle and is easy to engage or disengage, all while clamping the paddle securely at your desired length. This mechanism is fully adjustable, so you can get the Hala to be exactly the length you prefer if it is within range — you aren't locked into one or two-inch increments like other paddles.
A similar mechanism holds the middle and lower portion of the paddle together. It is also very easy to operate, even on the water — though we wouldn't really see the case where you would need to do that. When disassembled, the longest section of the Travel Lock and Load measures just a bit longer than 40", making it one of the most compactable and easy to transport paddles we have tested.
For our final set of tests, we ranked and compared how each paddle looked. For this highly subjective test, we had a panel of judges compare and score the looks of each paddle. The Hala Travel Lock and Load isn't the most stylish paddle of the bunch but overall scored well, placing close to the top of the group.
Our judges agreed that the Lock and Load has some stylish graphics but the overall look doesn't quite match the paddles that have a wood grain on the blade. It is available with a black or blue blade, with the printed graphics in the contrasting color. It also has a matte finish, compared to the futuristic gloss finish of some of the other carbon paddles.
Unfortunately, the Hala Travel Lock and Load isn't the best bargain option available, as this top-notch adjustable SUP paddle usually retails at a premium price. However, it isn't the most expensive paddle we have tested and does cost quite a bit less than some of the other top-tier models. It is far from our first recommendation for anyone shopping on a budget, but it can save you some cash if you are set on getting a high-end paddle.
Overall, the Grafik Carbon Travel Lock and Load from Hala is one of the best you can get. It could have earned its place as one of the top paddles we have tested to date solely on its paddling performance and ease of adjustment alone. It is made even better by the fact that it breaks down into three pieces for easy transport — even comfortable fitting in most checked suitcases if you ever need to travel with your paddle by plane!
— Marissa Fox