The Perfect Packraft Paddle for You?

Hey y’all, Steve Fassbinder and I run a multi-sport adventure guide service (and I’m now on the board of the APA). We get SO many clients and random packrafters we meet all the time asking us about paddles, the best length, the best style for bikerafting or whitewater, etc, etc. So we decided to commission Swiftwater Safety Instructor and Class V boater Dan Thurber to write an article for us on the subject. It’s super comprehensive. But I’m sure there are things we haven’t thought of. So we wanted to ask you, “Did we miss anything?” and “What’s your favorite paddle.” Please chime in! Thanks!

Article here: The Perfect Packraft Paddle: How Do You Figure It Out?

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Hey Steve,

Thanks for answering one of those random questions from me!

As a new packrafter and experienced bikepacker with an Alpacka Caribou on the way I reached out to Steve for his opinion on paddles a couple days ago and he gave me an abbreviated version of the advice that Dan lays out in the article above. I’m going to be doing most of my packrafting on lakes/flatwater and Class I moving water until I get a solid idea of my capabilities as a boater.

Doing a little research while my boat is on order I got the following advice.

Steve recommended a 200 or 202 paddle.
Aqua Bound sizing guide for packrafts recommends a 205 for all purpose paddling.
Alpacka bills the 210 Manta Ray Carbon as the favorite all purpose paddle and their best seller.
Nice guy at the local paddling center recommended a 230 or 240 while acknowledging that he had a lot of kayak experience and no packraft experience.

I was able to put hands on a 230 Manta Ray Carbon Posi Lock at the paddling center and thought that it felt good in hand, and felt more stiff and stable compared to the cheaper snap button 4 piece paddles I was able to handle.

In the end, I ordered a 4 piece Manta Ray Carbon Posi Lock in 205 from Aqua Bound and it should be here at the start of the year. 205 seemed like a reasonable compromise in recommended length and $250 is about the max I’m willing to pay. I’m happy to have the ability to change feather angles while I’m learning before I commit to a paddle with a fixed feather angle, I’ll be able to pack the paddle on a bike or in a pack, and if I end up wanting something else this should be a great spare/backup/loaner paddle. I am also glad to have a little more blade in the water than something like the Sting Ray if I’m paddling with a bike on the bow.

If this article would have come out a couple days ago I might have looked harder at the Shred, but I’m hoping that for my use the Manta Ray will be a good all purpose paddle while I learn.

Brendan

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I think that Manta Ray will treat you super well, especially for mostly calmer water. That advice you got for a 230-240 is expected for someone paddling a boat with speed and a skeg. 205 is much more appropriate for a packraft and will help you develop good technique. Congrats on getting the new kit put together!

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Thanks for the input Danno. Makes sense that a longer paddle would be too much leverage for a 5lb boat with no keel. Very excited to get out on the water. Have a couple friends with boats nearby and we already have some day trips planed.

Curious what other folks are using for paddles?

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I have been using my kayak paddle which is a Werner showgun bent shaft 197cm or a Werner 3 piece straight shaft 197cm also. I am fine on whitewater with that length and personally would not go higher than 200 cm (but I guess it’s a matter of preference).
My problem is: I’d like to find a 3 or 4 piece BENT SHAFT whitewater paddle as I have wrist issues. I have searched the internet not to avail… anyone knows who makes those?
Thank you
Flo

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Hey @lizzyscully,

Great article y’all put out. Really enjoyed the pictures which augmented the information quite well.

Only thing I would add that might be helpful is if y’all could elaborate a bit more on the benefit of a shorter vs longer paddle for packrafts. Almost all the beginner packrafters I talk and explain this concept to have difficulty grasping this concept, and rarely take the advice on it. So if you were able to further punch that home and get that message to start to spread more, I think it’d be incredibly helpful for the community.

Great work + thanks for this!

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Thanks for the input, Adam. I’d be happy to ask a few folks that and add an addendum to the article.

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Hey sorry for the late reply. Here’s an answer to your question from Ben Phillips, one of our intermediate/advanced instructors, a Class V boater and former long-term employee and boat tester at Alpacka Raft: “Basically, the longer your paddle gets, the more horizontal your strokes become. A horizontal stroke turns the raft as much as it propels it forwards. This results in a loss of forward momentum as the boat wiggles back and forth through the water. Having more leverage, a long paddle takes more energy to swing back and forth between strokes which slows reaction time and increases fatigue. This increased leverage can also make it harder to release the blade from the current in chaotic whitewater. A shorter paddle is recommended for most situations in packrafting (210cm or less, 205 or less for WW) The exception to this would be if you are using a longer, wider raft such as an Alpacka Oryx or Forager. These larger boats require a bit more paddle length to reach the water as the are wider craft with larger tubes. The increasing length of these rafts will also counteract the wiggling and turning caused by a more horizontal stroke. Historically, packraft seats were thin and caused you to sit low in the boat which necessitated a longer paddle to reach out over the tubes to the water. Modern packrafts typically have thicker seats and some have smaller tubes which have allowed for a more upright posture and more efficient paddling technique using shorter paddles.”

I really appreciate the way this is articulated and agree with all of it, except it think 210 is way too long and most people would be served by paddle 196-205.

Hey Flo! I know Lendal makes a 4-piece bent shaft paddle. I don’t have any personal experience with them, but have heard great things. They are pricey, but my understanding is their joint is really bomber compared to the simple Werner system