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

How We Tested Kayak Paddles

By Sara James ⋅ Review Editor
Wednesday November 21, 2018
We tested these paddles extensively  putting in a ton of miles for your benefit.
We tested these paddles extensively, putting in a ton of miles for your benefit.

Performance


We analyzed each blade's catch and the power it delivered when pulling through the water. We took note of any flutter that we experienced during paddle strokes, purposefully putting the paddle under pressure, including paddling in powerful waves, which these paddles are NOT designed for. We took the responsiveness of the shaft into account, including how it felt to grip in our hands and whether the shaft felt too flexy or too rigid.

To review the power of each blade, we conducted repeated timed sprint tests. We also had kayakers with a range of experience levels complete these tests to help us find out if less experienced paddlers would notice performance differences.

Adjusting a two-piece paddle can be much more challenging than it sounds.
Adjusting a two-piece paddle can be much more challenging than it sounds.

Ease of Adjustment


We tested how easy each paddle is to adjust by timing ourselves adjusting the feather of the paddle multiple times. We did this immediately after we first unwrapped each paddle and again after we had used the paddle extensively over the course of a few months.

We also timed how long it took to dismantle each paddle, mimicking what it would be like if we wanted to regularly transport the paddle in two pieces. We noted how easy each paddle is to adjust and dismantle with cold hands, and how easy it is to identify which setting we the blades are adjusted to.

Foward paddle.
Foward paddle.

Locking Mechanism Security


We blindfolded paddlers and asked them to identify which paddles were one solid piece, and which were too. We let our testers shake the paddle and take a few strokes but did not let them feel the center of the shaft.

After this we allowed testers to paddle around extensively with each paddle. (Not blindfolded!) We took note of their experiences, encouraging them to experiment with horizontal and rotational pull on the shaft, to see how secure each paddle locking mechanism felt. During our extensive testing, we observed how prone the locking mechanism is to sticking, noting down how many hours of use passed before problems started to arise.

The Skagit held up in rough conditions.
The Skagit held up in rough conditions.

Weight


We measured each paddle using calibrated scales. We also asked our blindfolded testers to try to order the paddle by weight. We allowed them to take strokes with each paddle, analyzing how it felt.

It's nice if you don't have to stress out every time your paddle blade scrapes across a gravel bar.
It's nice if you don't have to stress out every time your paddle blade scrapes across a gravel bar.

Durability


We evaluated the durability of the paddles using a series of tests designed to expose each paddle to various stresses. We took notes of any wear and tear that we observed on the kayak paddles. We purposefully selected testers who we know can be very tough on gear, and we did not encourage them to be careful with the paddles. We repeatedly dismantled and adjusted each paddle, often in very sandy conditions, analyzing how the components stood up to the abuse

We also conducted a series of tests pushing of gravel banks, observing whether this caused any wear and tear to the kayak paddle.

After all this fun and challenging fieldwork, we assigned scores to paddle and explained them all in our main review text. We hope our hard work makes your kayaking experience the best it can be!