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Essential paddling gear doesn’t always have to be expensive, it just has to get the job done…properly. Although you may deserve creative props for borrowing your grandpa’s custom whittled canoe paddle from that summer camp he worked at in 1974, you’re only getting half of the paddling power you need. Fortunately for you, we’ve rounded up the 5 best budget kayak paddles to get you paddling proficiently, without breaking the bank!

Our selection is focused on delivering quality materials at a reasonable price. As a beginner new to the sport of kayaking, it’s not always necessary (or smart) to go for that sleek, expensive, carbon fiber paddle. Instead, focus on perfecting your strokes to create your own paddling efficiency. When it’s time to upgrade, you’ll be glad you didn’t damage that fancy paddle in your learning phase.

For more of our top kayaking gear recommendations, check out the Best Kayak Paddles.

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Kayaking Gift Guide

 

Quick Answer - The Best Budget Kayak Paddles

  1. Werner Skagit FG
  2. Perception Hi-Life
  3. Aqua-Bound Sting Ray
  4. Bending Branches Whisper
  5. Werner Rio FG

 

Comparison Table - Best Budget Kayak Paddle

PictureNameShaft MaterialShaft TypePaddle StyleBlade ShapeFeather AngleWeightPriceRating
Werner Skagit FGCarbon and Fiberglass Blend2-pieceLow-AngleAsymmetrical0° / 15° / 30° / 45° / 60° degrees2 lbs. 2 oz.$$5.0
Perception Hi-LifeAluminum2-pieceLow-Angle-None3 lbs.$4.75
Aqua-Bound Sting RayAluminum4-pieceLow-AngleAsymmetrical0° or 60° degrees2 lbs. 4.5 oz.$$4.6
Bending Branches WhisperAluminum2-pieceLow-AngleAsymmetrical0° or 60° degrees2 lbs. 5 oz.$4.3
Werner Rio FGFiberglass2-pieceHigh-AngleAsymmetrical30° degrees2 lbs. 9.5 oz.$$$4.1
PictureNameShaft MaterialShaft TypePaddle StyleBlade ShapeFeather AngleWeightPriceRating
Want to learn more about a technical term? Check out our Features Explained section below.

Need buying advice? Take a look at these Things to Consider.

Reviews - The Best Kayak Paddle on a Budget

Werner Skagit FG

Specs
  • Shaft Material: Carbon and Fiberglass Blend
  • Weight: 2 lbs. 2 oz.
  • Shaft Type: 2-piece
  • Paddle Style: Low-Angle
  • Blade Shape: Asymmetrical
  • Feather Angle: 0° / 15° / 30° / 45° / 60° degrees
Features
  • Smaller Blade Surface Area Reduces Fatigue Over Long Distances
  • Carbon/Fiberglass Blended Shaft Is Lighter And Stronger Than Aluminum
  • Fiberglass-Reinforced Nylon Blades Are Lighter Than Traditional Plastic Blades

BEST FOR: ENTRY LEVEL TOURING

When making your foray into the likes of full-day kayaking trips and extended touring over multiple days, it helps to have a paddle designed specifically for the job. 

Legendary paddle crafter Werner has outdone themselves with this entry-level, budget-conscious touring paddle. Most striking is the Skagit FG’s ability to be feathered (the offset between the right and left blades) in increments of 0°, 15°, 30°, 45°, and 60° degrees in order to reduce wrist fatigue. 

This level of customization is usually only seen on pricey, higher-end models, but Werner shows their devotion to quality at an affordable price by including it here.

Perception Hi-Life

Specs
  • Shaft Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 3 lbs.
  • Shaft Type: 2-piece
  • Blade Type: Symmetrical
  • Paddle Style: Low-Angle
  • Feather Angle: None
Features
  • Can Be Used For Kayaking Or Stand Up Paddleboarding
  • Adjustable Range Let’s Each Paddler Dial In The Perfect Length
  • Push Button System Allows For Quick Adjustments On The Water

BEST FOR: VERSATILITY

Truly a unique paddle, the Hi-Life by storied kayak maker Perception offers supreme versatility at entry-level pricing. Designed to be two paddles in one, this tech-savvy piece includes an optional T-grip that can be swapped in when you’d rather stand up paddleboard (SUP) than kayak. 

No doubt this design takes your savings even further by eliminating the need for yet another paddle! The blades are made symmetrically, meaning they look the same if turned upside down. Not only does this give each blade more surface area for aggressive paddling, but it also means that it will perform properly when refashioned for SUP use. 

As both a kayak paddle and a SUP paddle, the Hi-Life has an adjustable range that allows each paddler to dial in the perfect length. Now that’s what I call living the Hi-Life.

Aqua-Bound Sting Ray

Specs
  • Shaft Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 2 lbs. 4.5 oz.
  • Shaft Type: 4-piece
  • Paddle Style: Low-Angle
  • Blade Shape: Asymmetrical
  • Feather Angle: 0° or 60° degrees
Features
  • Designed To Feel Balanced Through All Strokes
  • Shaft Is Constructed Of Lightweight And Durable Aluminum
  • Can Be Combined With Inflatable Kayak For Minimal Paddling

BEST FOR: SMALL PACKDOWN

There are so many ways to utilize this superb paddle that it’s hard to figure out where to begin! The 4-piece construction makes Aqua-Bound’s Sting Ray paddle a minimalist’s dream, allowing you to separate the blades from the shaft for a small packed size.

The ability to pack this paddle down into small spaces cannot be understated: it can be stashed away while hiking (if you have a lightweight inflatable kayak) or it can easily be stowed away in a storage hatch in your kayak as a back-up paddle on weekend expeditions. 

Finally, the Sting Ray has a wide range of kayaking applications, able to be used for casual recreational paddling all the way to day trips and weekend touring.

Bending Branches Whisper

Specs
  • Shaft Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 2 lbs. 5 oz.
  • Shaft Type: 2-piece
  • Paddle Style: Low-Angle
  • Blade Shape: Asymmetrical
  • Feather Angle: 0° or 60° degrees
Features
  • Designed To Feel Balanced Through All Strokes
  • Can Be Adjusted For Right Or Left Handed Control
  • Thin, Low-Profile Blades Reduce Wind Resistance

BEST FOR: BALLIN’ ON A BUDGET! 

You’ve got your kayak: Check. Personal Flotation Device? Already wearing it! Now you just need a paddle…without scouring second-hand stores. 

Enter the Whisper paddle by Bending Branches. This is quite possibly the best entry-level paddle for the price as it boldly sports options found on pricier models. Starting with a strong yet lightweight aluminum shaft, this paddle sports durable blades that quietly enter and exit the water. The Whisper also breaks down into 2-pieces, lending itself to easy transportation and storage. Lastly, it even has drip rings that help to prevent water from dripping down your paddle and into your lap.

Werner Rio FG

Specs
  • Shaft Material: Fiberglass
  • Weight: 2 lbs. 9.5 oz.
  • Shaft Type: 2-piece
  • Paddle Style: High-Angle
  • Blade Shape: Asymmetrical
  • Feather Angle: 30° degrees
Features
  • Top-Of-The-Line Quality At Entry-Level Pricing
  • Designed To Feel Balanced Through All Strokes
  • Fiberglass Shaft Is Easier To Hold In Cold Water Than Aluminum

BEST FOR: RIVER RUNNING / WHITEWATER

Aggressive kayaking calls for an aggressive paddle, and Werner’s Rio FG obeys the call of duty. Designed specifically for whitewater use, the Rio relies on larger, wider blades to pull more water with each catch of the blade for a more powerful stroke. 

With blades feathered (the offset between the right and left blades) at 30° degrees, you’ll have maximum mobility as you rotate into your next stroke. This advantage will give you the extra leverage needed to punch through larger rapids with ease. 

As a 2-piece paddle, the Rio also breaks down for easy storage and transportation without compromising strength. Its “Bomber” shaft is made from fiberglass for supreme durability through extreme use.

 

 

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING KAYAK PADDLES

COST

As you learn the fundamentals of kayaking, it’s more important to focus on perfecting your skills than dropping stacks on premium paddles. Save your dollars with a little sense and grab yourself a budget-friendly paddle. The paddles we’ve chosen focus on good quality at a reasonable price. You won’t find us recommending cheap-o products anywhere.

 

LENGTH

Generally speaking, the length of your paddle will be determined by how tall you are and the width of your kayak (at its widest point). Paddle length is only measured in centimeters. Use the table below for quick reference.

 

Paddler’s Height

Kayak Width

Under 23”

24” – 28”

29” – 33”

34”+

Under 5’ 5”

210 cm

220 cm

230 cm

240 cm

5’ 5” – 5’ 11”

220 cm

230 cm

240 cm

250 cm

Over 6’

220 cm

230 cm

250 cm

260 cm

 

SHAFT CONSTRUCTION

There are three materials that are most commonly used in the construction of kayak paddles: Aluminum, Fiberglass, and Carbon Fiber. Check out the descriptions below to determine which is best for you.

Aluminum

This is the most basic material used in most budget-friendly kayak paddles. As the least expensive option, it provides a lot of strength but tends to be heavy over long distances. For this reason, aluminum shafts are great for recreational paddling but not so much for touring or weekend trips.

If you paddle in cold water regularly, we suggest looking for materials other than aluminum as gripping a cold, metal shaft (even if it is covered in plastic) will be quite uncomfortable.

Fiberglass

Known for its lightness and strength, Fiberglass is used in mid-grade paddles for those stepping up in quality. These are great paddles for touring and whitewater due to their efficiency and durability, respectively.

Carbon Fiber

As the most expensive material, Carbon Fiber is also the lightest and strongest. Typically reserved for long distance touring and extreme whitewater, paddle shafts made from this material tend to be pricey.

Some shafts, however, are now blended with both Fiberglass and Carbon to reinforce and strengthen the shaft without the hefty price tag of pure Carbon Fiber.

 

SHAFT TYPE

Kayak paddles can come in 3 different types and each has its own pros and cons. Intended use also plays a factor.

1-Piece

Typically reserved for the harsher conditions of whitewater kayaking, 1-piece paddles are solid and typically more durable than 2 or 4-piece paddles. They are limited, however, in their customization. If the blades are feathered (the offset between the right and left blades), the degree is fixed and cannot be changed.

2-Piece

By far the most common type of kayak paddle, 2-piece shafts can provide greater personalization depending on a shaft’s ferrule. The ferrule is simply the mechanism that joins and locks the pieces of a paddle together. Some ferrules allow the paddle to be feathered (the offset between the right and left blades) 0° / 15° / 30° / 45° / 60° degrees in order to maximize mobility as you transfer across your body into the next stroke.

4-Piece

Less common than their 2-piece counterparts, 4-piece paddles offer the ultimate ability to pack down into small spaces. The blades separate from the shaft while the shaft breaks down into two separate pieces.

This option is great for those with inflatable kayaks as the paddle can be stashed away in the inflatable’s hiking pack. 4-piece paddles also make a great back-up paddle on weekend trips since they can be easily stowed in hatches or lashed down to the deck.

 

PADDLE STYLE

Paddling style is a reference to the blade shape and overall length of a kayak paddle. Each of the two styles are designed for a specific type of kayaking.

Low-Angle

The most common type of paddling, Low-Angle paddles are ideal for fishing, touring, and recreational kayaking. It is a more casual style in which the blades rarely come higher than the participant’s shoulders when paddling. Low-Angle kayak paddles have a long shaft and longer, narrower blades than High-Angle paddles.

High-Angle

Used most often in whitewater kayaking and for racing, High-Angle paddles create a more powerful and aggressive stroke. The blades almost always rise higher than the participant’s shoulders when paddling. High-Angle kayak paddles typically have short, wide blades and a shorter shaft than Low-Angle paddles.

 

BLADE SHAPE

The blades of a paddle come in two different styles and each has its benefits. When visualizing the symmetry of a kayak blade, imagine the shaft is the “dotted-line” that divides the two planes.

Symmetrical

Blades that mirror each other along the imaginary dotted-line are symmetrical. It doesn’t matter which way they are held because of their perfect symmetry. Most commonly found on canoe and SUP paddles, some kayak paddles still use this design. It’s a good choice for beginners who may have a tendency to hold a paddle upside-down.

Asymmetrical

Asymmetrical blades are by far the most common type of blade shape manufactured and their popularity is due to smart design. Asymmetrical blades are able to generate more power and push deeper into the water since kayak strokes strike the water at a shallow angle.

 

FEATHERING

When setting up your kayak paddle, some offer the ability to feather the blades. Feathering is the offset between the two blades and is typically found in increments of 15°. A paddle that does not offer feathering or has its adjustable feather set to 0° is known as being matched. If you were to put the paddle on the ground, it would lay perfectly flat.

Feathering is designed to give your wrists more mobility as you transfer into your next stroke. We suggest playing around with different degrees of feathering and finding what suits you best.

Mythbuster: Many articles will assert that feathering is designed to reduce the wind resistance against the blade in the air, allowing it to slice through the wind rather than become like a sail. This is unsubstantiated and doesn’t account for the constantly changing nature of wind, including crosswinds that blow this myth away.

 

WEIGHT

The weight of a paddle goes back to the materials used in the construction of the shaft. The lighter the material used, the more efficient you will be able to paddle. Think of how a lightweight backpacker counts ounces: a few ounces multiplied over a number of miles adds up to several pounds at the end of the day.

 

FEATURES EXPLAINED

SHAFT

The long, cylindrical handle of the kayak paddle.

BLADES

The wide, flat ends of a paddle.

FERRULE

The mechanism that joins and locks the pieces of a paddle together.

T-GRIP

On a canoe or SUP paddle, it is the end (or top) of the shaft that looks like a “T”.

READ MORE

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