Kayak paddles may look similar from the outside, but they have many features that set them apart from each other. Here are our top choices for kayak paddles that sell for under $100, as well as some additional information about products in this range.
Best Overall: Bending Branches Angler Scout
At five cents under our price limit on Amazon, this great kayak paddle more than deserves its place on the top of our list. Available in orange and green variants, this fishing-oriented paddle has several features that help it stand out in a crowded field.
The blade itself is made from a mixture of epX engineered polymer with fiberglass reinforcement. This helps make it stronger and lighter than regular fiberglass blades. The durability is quite lovely, too, with a strong aluminum shaft that’s slightly ovalized for comfort.
The shaft also includes a built-in ruler for measuring fish and other items, which is a rare feature on paddles. The color choices are smart, too. Orange makes the paddles visible, while green hides them from fish. That’s an essential consideration if you’re going fishing.
Finally, one of the blades has a small hook retrieval system. This doesn’t noticeably affect paddling performance, but it does make it easier to get some things back out of the water. Little details like these add up to make this kayak paddle our top choice in this price range.
- Lighter than most of its competitors
- Smart coloring choices to meet fishing kayak needs
- Excellent blade design helps retrieve lures and similar items
- The slightly oval shaft design is more comfortable
- The green version is easier to lose
- The tape measure may occasionally be a little off
Best Budget Choice: Oceanbroad Kayak Paddle
While not our top choice overall, Oceanbroad’s paddle for kayaking is a great budget choice with a few features that make it worth considering. This two-piece paddle comes in bright red, orange, and yellow coloring options and features a rubber shaft cover for use in colder weather.
The shaft itself is a 1.1mm aluminum alloy, both durable and lightweight, while the blades are a fiberglass-reinforced material.
Outside of these standard features, Oceanbroad’s paddle comes with three locking positions for different kayaking preferences. This lets you adjust the paddle’s blade angle to almost anything you want, including the low-angle style, and it’s a nice touch.
It also comes with drip rings and a free leash in case you end up dropping it, both of which are essential to a good paddle.
Overall, this paddle isn’t quite as good as our top choice, or it would have that position. However, it uses aluminum alloy instead of a fiberglass shaft to make it one of the best lower-priced paddles and therefore, our top recommendation for budget-conscious buyers.
- Great for most kayakers thanks to its feathering and multiple blade positions
- It has a weather-resistant rubber grip, so you can use it when it’s cold out
- Available in several bright colors
- It comes with a free leash
- Not quite as durable as the other options on our list
- No extra features like lure retrieval or rulers
Best Carbon Fiber Paddle: Best Marine Kayak Paddle
Don’t let the generic name fool you. This durable paddle features a strong carbon fiber shaft with reinforced fiber blades that make it outstanding when you’re out with a recreational kayak.
Carbon fiber is noticeably lighter than some other materials without sacrificing strength, so this paddle is handy if you want to go out on longer trips. They’re also one of the few carbon fiber paddles in this price range.
Notable features include a leash, drip rings, and a tight fit to prevent wiggles and corrosion. Like most paddles, it separates into two pieces for easy storage. The paddle length is 234cm (or about 92 inches), which is slightly longer than most competitors.
While this is a great carbon fiber paddle, especially at its price point, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, its black coloring makes it harder to spot if you lose it. Using the leash mitigates most of the risk, but it’s not quite as good as a more-visible paddle.
Second, this is mainly a touring paddle. It doesn’t have a high-angle setting, but as a longer paddle, it does help you get the most efficiency from each stroke with its straight shaft.
- One of the few paddles with a carbon shaft in this price range
- More durable than most paddles in this range
- Slim blade shape maintains performance while helping reduce weight
- It does not include rubber or foam grips
- Hard to see if you drop it
Best Aluminum Paddle: Poseidon Paddle
Aluminum is a little heavier than carbon, so this paddle isn’t quite as light as our previous option. However, it does feature impact-resistant polypropylene blades and a snap-button ferrule that makes it easier to select the right paddle angle for your current situation.
The fiberglass-reinforced blades are significantly better than the plastic blades that are more common in this price range, while the metal paddle shaft can withstand heavier impacts like pushing your kayak away from rocks.
The ovalization is an interesting choice, too. This paddle goes from round to oval in one place to guide your right hand to the correct position, which is extremely useful for beginners.
Overall, these features make this a reasonably heavy-duty, high-quality paddle. Sadly, it’s slightly shorter than some competitors and not available in different sizes, but that’s not a major concern.
- Available in four color options
- More durable than most competitors in its price range
- It has feathering angles for different situations
- The slight ovalization provides a more comfortable grip
- The reinforced plastic blades aren’t as good as options like nylon blades
- No special features beyond basic new paddle capabilities
Paddles may look similar at first glance, but whether you’re buying something like the Carlisle Magic Plus kayak paddle or the Bending Branches Whisper, the smaller details can have a huge impact on performance. Here’s what you should know before you go shopping.
Companies use many different materials for kayak paddle shafts, each of which has its own distinct characteristics.
Wood is a rare choice among most manufacturers, and none of them made our list above. However, it does have a few characteristics that set it apart from other paddles.
Wood is generally lightweight, and the solid shafts provide a lot of durability for pushing yourself away from objects. Most types of wood also float well, which makes it easier to keep this paddle above water.
Wooden paddles can provide a better tactile experience, too, although that’s mainly a matter of personal preference.
Aluminum is an affordable shaft material, which makes it a good choice if you’re shopping on a budget. Most manufacturers anodize the aluminum to give it a more durable, corrosion-resistant surface. Aluminum works particularly well with the anodizing process.
Aluminum is also quite durable, which helps if you expect to be going through rougher waters. It takes a lot of force to bend these paddles, much less break them. However, like most metals, aluminum can get dangerously cold in some environments. That makes shaft covers far more important.
Fiberglass is the mid-range choice for kayak shafts. It’s noticeably lighter than aluminum, and since it’s not metal, it doesn’t get anywhere near as cold. Fiberglass isn’t quite as durable as metal options, but the shafts rarely break.
Fiberglass is heavier than water, so these paddles may not float forever. However, most of them can float for at least a little while.
Carbon fiber shafts are the premium choice for kayak paddles, though you won’t find many selling for less than $100. Carbon shafts easily have the highest strength-to-weight ratio, which makes them fundamentally more durable than any other option.
Most carbon fiber paddles float extremely well, especially if manufacturers add flotation foam to them. Weight matters for performance, especially on long trips, so consider getting a carbon fiber paddle if you’re looking to get the best choice for the money.
Kayak paddles have two common designs. The standard design is a straight shaft, which is either circular or slightly oval. Some straight paddles have both circular and oval sections.
Bent-shaft paddles have a few extra angles to position the hands more comfortably during strokes. However, these aren’t common on lower-priced paddles, so you may have to look around if you want to get a bent shaft on the best kayak paddle under $100.
Blade materials often differ from shaft materials. Here are the most common options currently on the market.
The cheapest options on the market, plastic and nylon blades offer a nice amount of flexibility and durability when you’re out in the water. This is a popular choice among recreational kayakers, but plastic degrades in sunlight and isn’t as efficient as other materials.
Fiberglass blades are the mid-range choice for a paddle. They’re noticeably lighter than plastic, and rigid enough to provide good performance while you’re in the water.
However, fiberglass blades aren’t quite as durable as plastic. They tend to chip if you use them to push off against rocks and other hard items, though they rarely crack all the way through or shatter outright.
Carbon fiber blades are the premium choice. Like the shafts, using carbon fiber in a paddle’s blade helps reduce the weight. They’re also extremely stiff, which means they transfer energy better with each stroke. This is easily the best choice for long trips or competitive events.
Paddle length has a huge impact on overall performance. While you can look at high-quality products like the Seasense X-Treme, the Aqua-Bound Manta Ray, or a Werner paddle, you won’t get the best possible performance unless it’s the right size.
REI, an outdoor retailer, has an excellent guide to selecting paddle lengths here. We strongly recommend reviewing their guide before you go shopping.
Paddles come in two common angles, each designed for different uses.
Low-angle paddles are best for recreational kayaking, usually in flat water. Rather than moving too far, the idea with low-angle paddles is to keep your top hand under your shoulder level and paddle at a relaxed pace.
High-angle paddles are more performance-oriented. They use shorter paddles and wide blades to maximize energy transfer on each stroke. High-angle paddles are a great choice if you want to focus on speed.
Both low-angle and high-angle paddles are common designs, so you can find either when looking for the best kayak paddle under $100.