Open main menu

Canoe Paddles

Read Trailspace's Guide to Canoes and Paddles.

Top Picks

How we choose: The best canoe paddles highlighted here were selected based on 18 reviews of 15 products. Our top picks are those that are readily-available in the United States and have received the highest overall ratings from reviewers.

How we test: Trailspace is powered entirely by our community of readers. The reviews posted here reflect the real-world experiences of outdoor enthusiasts just like you.

If you've used a canoe paddle that you think should be listed here, please share your experience.

Disclosure: Trailspace never accepts payment for gear reviews, product placement, or editorial coverage. When you buy through affiliate links on our site, Trailspace may earn a small commission, which helps cover the costs of running the site.

Bending Branches BB Special

user rating: 5 of 5 (3 reviews)

Great bang for the buck in this paddle. While it isn't the lightest or fanciest paddle on the market, it's a great workhorse that is easy to use for hours and hours. Think of this as the old diesel work horse that doesn't run at high RPM, but produces massive torque!

Reasons to Buy

  • Fairly light
  • Produces big power
  • Fairly comfortable over all
  • Solid ergonomic design
  • Good balance
  • Good quality at a fair price

Reasons to Avoid

  • The grip is clunky
  • Not aimed at women's hands

I wanted a better paddle to take on my Missouri Breaks than the paddles that came with the used canoe I bought, since they really were not comfortable (as I learned on a 50-mile Ross Lake trip I had taken two years earlier).  So, I started the process of finding a reasonably priced, solid paddle that would fit the bill that worked the way I wanted.  Thus, I discovered the bent paddle designs. The back paddle is the Bending Branches To be honest, I lusted over the Whiskey Jill bent paddle, but the price tag was more than I was willing to spend for how much I really wind up using the canoe.  (The Whiskey Jill is the front paddle) My friend and I swapped paddles for a time to fairly assess each other's paddles.  My research led me to REI.

Read more: Bending Branches BB Special reviews (3)

L.L.Bean Beavertail Canoe Paddle

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

A classic redone with a robust edge guard and modern wood finish. This paddle isn't for white water, but on a lake or quiet stream, it's a lovely paddle to hold and use.

Reasons to Buy

  • Beautiful
  • Comfortable
  • Light

Reasons to Avoid

  • Potentially fragile
  • Varnish will need to be maintained

I received this paddle as a birthday gift from my wife yesterday. I'm quite taken with it—it's so "Moonrise Kingdom." The wood used is straight-grained and clear of imperfection. The paddle is understated and beautiful. Beavertail paddles are a classic choice for lake paddling. Once the paddle is submerged, its shape allows it to be held very close to the canoe, which keeps the boat tracking straighter than it would otherwise. Beavertail paddles have traditionally been crafted from a single piece of Ash.

Read more: L.L.Bean Beavertail Canoe Paddle review (1)

Bending Branches Viper

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Most comfortable paddle I've used for long distance paddling. The curved shaft really makes a big difference.

Reasons to Buy

  • Ergonomic
  • Light
  • Tough

Reasons to Avoid

  • Sorry, can't think of any

I purchased this canoe paddle to replace my 20-year-old Bending Branches bent paddle that finally took some damage after many miles. This one has the curved shaft as well as the bend where the paddle connects. The curved shaft really makes a big difference for comfort, it just feels good. I also feel like I can steer better with the Viper as opposed to my old bent paddle, maybe it's just me. I used to bring a straight paddle for two people, using the straight one in back to steer, especially for river paddling.

Read more: Bending Branches Viper review (1)

Bending Branches Impression Solo

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

This is a well made, eight-foot-long paddle made for solo canoeing. It is a very strongly and beautifully made paddle.

Reasons to Buy

  • Solid paddle that can be used to push you off in shallow waters

Reasons to Avoid

  • Needs longer rock guards

I just finished paddling the Mississippi River from Lake Itasca and the Venice, Louisiana, in an 18-foot canoe and spent many days fighting a south wind and the waves there would sometimes be so strong they would push me back. With my Bending Branch Solo Canoe Paddle I was able to make miles and fight my way down the Mighty Mississippi River on days I would otherwise have been wind bound and would have had to Zero Day. It is a long enough paddle that I could sit in the middle of my 18-foot canoe and paddle and be comfortable.

Read more: Bending Branches Impression Solo review (1)

Sanborn Canoe Co. Gunflint

user rating: 5 of 5 (2 reviews)

The Gunflint looks great, is very comfortable in hand, and is really powerful. Goes out in the canoe every time I do.

Reasons to Buy

  • Fairly lightweight
  • Looks awesome
  • Comfortable hold
  • Tons of power

Reasons to Avoid

  • Not an UL paddle

Full disclosure: I received my paddle from Sanborn as a gift for some photos I did for them, and I had also used them prior to that.  I have a Gunflint with the 14° bend from the blade to shaft. The weight is not ideal for an ultralighter, but it's still really comfortable, and definitely better than the cheaper paddles I've used. I really like the oiled grip. Seems to chafe less than a fully finished grip. Seems pretty sturdy; I push off from rocks and so on with it without feeling nervous about it.

Read more: Sanborn Canoe Co. Gunflint reviews (2)

Mitchell Paddles Premier

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

Many people spend thousands of dollars on a canoe or kayak, but go cheap when choosing something equally important...their paddle. If you are looking for a great performing white water canoe paddle, Mitchell Paddles makes the Premier using wood, fiberglass and carbon fiber. These paddles are very well made for paddlers, by paddlers. They are stiff, and heavier than lighter duty paddles, but will last more years than others.

Reasons to Buy

  • Extremely stiff
  • Metal tip and fiberglass edging protects blade
  • Oval shaft and countered T-grip is comfortable

Reasons to Avoid

  • Heavy compared to lighter duty paddles
  • Moderate to high price

Background: David Mitchell started whitewater slalom racing in the early 1960s. He was British National Champion for 8 years, and achieved both bronze and silver medals in the World Championships. After he retired from racing, he continued to coach. With his wife, Peggy, also a canoe racer, he founded Mitchell Paddles more than thirty years ago. Today, their son Peter continues to handcraft some of the world’s finest canoe and kayak paddles in New Hampshire. My first whitewater paddles were Mohawk paddles.

Read more: Mitchell Paddles Premier review (1)

Whiskeyjack Whiskey Jill

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

For people with smaller hands or need a lighter bent paddle, this paddle is a lovely choice. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, the design is very efficient, very comfortable, and really light. I voted down a bit because it is pretty expensive for the canoe enthusiast who doesn't get out regularly.

Reasons to Buy

  • Well designed
  • Very tough
  • Lightweight
  • Beautiful wood
  • Very comfortable handle

Reasons to Avoid

  • Expensive for the casual paddler
  • Smaller paddle might struggle with keeping up with a larger paddle

From the Whiskey Jack website: The Whiskey Jill is an incredible canoe paddle designed specifically for female paddlers. The Jill has a smaller grip and skinnier blade that is easy to hold and easy to pull through the water. This canoe paddle is super light, weighing a mere 14oz. and features an ultra tough blade that is fiberglass and epoxy reinforced with an epoxy blade guard. Enjoy the warmth, flex and beauty of wooden canoe paddles. Individually handcrafted from red and white cedar.

Read more: Whiskeyjack Whiskey Jill review (1)

ZRE Power Surge FW-Z Light

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Hand made in the USA carbon fiber work of art that makes heavier paddles obsolete IMHO

Reasons to Buy

  • Incredibly efficient
  • Incredibly light in weight
  • Incredibly beautiful

Reasons to Avoid

  • None other than not inexpensive

We purchased two ZRE Power Surge Light paddles a year ago and they still make us smile every time we use them or even just pick them up. At near 8 1/2 ounces (varies slightly by length), they allow two Medicare-age paddlers to paddle for four hours without even having our arms get tired. My wife has arthritis in her hands, so I phoned Mr. Zaveral himself for advice. He told us what measurements to take and then recommended specific widths/lengths for each of us. The idea of hefting a paddle that weighs three times as much (typical fine quality wood paddle) now seems simply nonsensical.

Read more: ZRE Power Surge FW-Z Light review (1)

Sanborn Canoe Co. Minnesota

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

The Sanborn Canoe Co. Minnesota 14° is a light weight (19 oz.) and durable paddle making all environments pleasant. The paddle is comfortable in the hands, takes a beating, and comes out still looking beautiful. Some may think the light weight compromises durability, but not with this paddle.

Reasons to Buy

  • Extremely light
  • Durable
  • Comfortable
  • Beautiful

Reasons to Avoid

  • Nothing

I recently purchased the Minnesota 14° bend for an excursion in the BWCA.  I have paddled with many other well-known brands before with no complaints, but this paddle came out on top for paddles to own. I know looks do not matter as to use, but it is definitely worth mentioning. The paddle is definitely a thing of beauty and the care the Sanborn Canoe Co. puts into its paddles is obvious. Even my partners thought it was the nicest looking paddle they have seen. The paddle comes with an unfinished grip that needs to be oiled before use.

Read more: Sanborn Canoe Co. Minnesota review (1)

More Reviews of Canoe Paddles

Trailspace reviewers have shared 18 reviews of 15 different canoe paddles.

Show All »

or add yours

Other Types of Paddles

Find more paddles reviewed in these related categories:

Kayak Paddles

all Paddles

Review Your Outdoor Gear

If you've found this site helpful — or if we've missed something important — please consider paying it forward by some of your favorite outdoor gear.

Why? From professional gearheads to outdoor novices, everyone has an important point of view to contribute. will support the outdoor community and help others find the best gear.

Trailspace reviewers are outdoor enthusiasts like you: hikers, climbers, paddlers, backcountry skiers, and trail runners who share our experiences with the gear and clothing we rely on to get outside. Learn more about Trailspace