After your kayak, your paddle has the biggest impact on your performance on the water. Finding a lightweight paddle that performs well comes down to the materials it’s constructed out of and how it’s designed.

This article will outline the pros and cons of carbon fiber and fiberglass and break down the key aspects of choosing a paddle. Towards the end, you’ll find a shortlist of some of the best lightweight kayak paddles for touring currently available on the market.

best lightweight kayak paddle for touring

The first part of this article is full of advice on what to look for in a good touring paddle. If you know what you’re after, feel free to jump ahead to the reviews section to check out our top picks.

Benefits

Benefits of a Lightweight Paddle

  1. Less effort – Shaving a few ounces or a pound off the weight of a paddle may not seem like much, but it definitely adds up when you consider even a short tour involves thousands of paddle strokes. Lightweight paddles require less effort per mile paddled and allow you to extend your time on the water.
  2. Better performance – The composite materials used in lightweight paddles are very rigid, which offer more efficient paddling performance. Your body will also perform better in general because you’ll be less fatigued.
  3. Enjoyment – Put simply, a good lightweight paddle makes your time spent kayaking more enjoyable. You can get by with a heavy inefficient paddle, but you certainly won’t have as much fun.

Materials

Paddle Materials

The single biggest factor that determines the weight, performance, and price of a paddle is the material it’s made of.

Entry level paddles are generally made of an aluminum/plastic shaft and blade combo. While these will do the trick for casual recreational paddling, their heavier weight and relatively poor performance mean they’re not the best choice for longer touring trips.

Shaft Material

Most touring kayak paddles will use a fiberglass or carbon fiber shaft. While they’re both excellent materials, carbon fiber definitely has an edge in terms of performance. It’s ultralight and ultrastiff, even when compared to fiberglass, which means it’s the material you want if you’re looking for the best. Carbon fiber isn’t cheap though, so be prepared to pay a premium for it.

Fiberglass

  • More Durable
  • More Affordable

Carbon Fiber

  • Lighter
  • Better Performance

Fiberglass shafts are a more budget friendly option. They’re still lightweight and rigid, so they’re a great choice when looking for a touring paddle. Apart from price, fiberglass does have one major advantage over carbon fiber – it’s tougher. Its flexibility relative to carbon fiber means it’s not as brittle and holds up better to abuse.

Blade Material

Like shafts, composite materials like carbon fiber and fiberglass are the preferred choice for performance paddle blades. They don’t flex as much while paddling, which gives them a better ‘bite’ and makes for more efficient paddling. They’re tough, but the downside to their rigidity is that they can chip along the edge if they’re knocked against rocks.

Some paddles use plastic blades reinforced with carbon fiber or fiberglass to keep costs low. These blades ultimately aren’t as strong as an all-composite blade but, on the plus side, they aren’t prone to chipping. The major downside is that these blades tend to be heavier. So, they can be a good choice if you’re not totally set on an ultralight paddle and want something you don’t have to worry about knocking around.

Swing Weight

You’ll see the term ‘swing weight’ tossed around quite a bit when talking about lightweight paddles. Swing weight is simply how heavy a paddle actually feels when going through a paddling motion. It’s not a number manufacturers actually measure and publish, it’s more of a ‘feel’ thing.

Two paddles can have identical weights on paper but can have dramatically different swing weights if one has heavier paddle blades while the other has a heavier shaft.

Because they’re located at the end of the paddle, pound for pound, paddle blades have a bigger impact on swing weight compared to a paddle shaft. 

Low-Angle vs High-Angle

Low-Angle vs High-Angle Paddle Blades

Paddle blades are categorized as either ‘high-angle’ or ‘low-angle’ so, it’s a good idea to clarify whether you prefer a low-angle or high-angle paddling style.

Low-Angle – This style is more relaxed and won’t tire you out as quickly. Your hands don’t go above your shoulders while paddling, keeping the paddle at a low angle relative to the water. This style works well for long distance touring and is the style most people gravitate to. Low-angle blades are long and narrow.

High-Angle – This is a more aggressive style that is more efficient, but also tires you out more quickly. This style is commonly used by paddlers who are actively trying to improve their performance but can be hard to maintain during long days on the water. High-angle blades are short and wide.

Sizing

Touring Paddle Sizing Guide

To figure out the right paddle length, you need to consider both the width of your kayak and your height. As a rule, wider kayaks and taller paddlers need longer paddles.

While each manufacturer recommends slightly different paddle lengths based on paddler height, boat width, and angle of the blade, this chart should give you a pretty good idea what size paddle to look for. Keep in mind that paddle length is typically measured in centimeters rather than inches.

Kayak WidthUnder 23”24” to 28”29” to 33”34”+
Paddler Height
Under 5’ 5”210 cm220 cm230 cm240 cm
5’ 5” to 5’ 11”220 cm230 cm240 cm250 cm
6’+220 cm230 cm250 cm260 cm
Reviews

Best Lightweight Kayak Paddles for Touring

Aqua-Bound Sting Ray Carbon

Overall Score: (4.5/5)

AQUA BOUND Sting Ray Carbon 2-Piece Kayak Paddle

Weight: 28.75 oz. (210 cm)

Lengths: 210 cm, 220 cm, 230 cm, 240 cm

Shaft Material: Carbon fiber

Blade Material: Carbon fiber reinforced plastic

Lightweight:

Durability:

Performance:

Value:

Best for: Paddlers looking for a paddle that provides great performance and value for your money.

 from $159.96

Buy on Amazon

(price updated as of 2019-05-25 at 23:36 – Details)

Review

The Sting Ray Carbon is a member of the under 30 ounce club. It’s a true performance paddle and offers some excellent value even though it’s towards the upper end of the performance spectrum. It’s weight, performance, and durability are about as good as it gets in it’s price bracket.

The shaft is all carbon fiber to help shave off the ounces. The blades are made of carbon fiber reinforced nylon and makes for a lightweight blade that is still durable enough for pushing off of rocks.

The low-angle shape and medium-sized blade mean it’s great for full day paddling sessions and suited to the widest variety of paddlers.

While all of our other picks have the option to feather their blades to some degree, the unique Posi-Lok ferrule system on the Sting Ray allows you to feather the blades at any angle you want. If you want to experiment with feathering your blades but aren’t sure what angle you prefer, the Posi-Lok system allows you to test the waters without committing to a specific angle.

If the String Ray sounds like it’s up your alley but you prefer a high-angled blade for more powerful strokes, you’re in luck. Aqua-Bound’s incredibly popular Manta Ray has all the same features but with a slightly larger high-angle blade.

Werner Camano

Overall Score: (4.5/5)

Werner Camano Premium Fiberglass Kayak Paddle

Weight: 27.5 oz. (205 cm)

Lengths: 205 cm – 260 cm

Shaft Material: Carbon and fiberglass blend

Blade Material: Fiberglass

Lightweight:

Durability:

Performance:

Value:

Best for: Paddlers that want the best and don’t mind paying for it.

 from $228.00

Buy on Amazon

(price updated as of 2019-05-25 at 23:36 – Details)

Review

The Camano is the lightest of our top picks. But not just on paper, its swing weight is also exceptionally light.

Werner uses a carbon fiber and fiberglass blend for the shaft of the Camano. The blend offers a compromise between the lightness of carbon fiber and the durability of fiberglass, so it’s a bit tougher than pure carbon fiber shafts.

The Camano features Werner’s most popular award winning blade design. It’s a low-angle blade that’s ideal for extended touring sessions. Rather than using fiberglass reinforced plastic, Werner decided to use an all-fiberglass blade for an even lighter swing weight.

If you want the best and don’t mind paying a premium for it, the Camano is tough to beat.

Werner Skagit

Overall Score: (4.3/5)

Werner Skagit Kayak Paddle

Weight: 34.5 oz. (205 cm)

Lengths: 205 cm – 260 cm

Shaft Material: Carbon and fiberglass blend

Blade Material: Fiberglass reinforced plastic

Lightweight:

Durability:

Performance:

Value:

Best for: Paddlers looking for a good compromise between performance and price.

 from $108.00

Buy on Amazon

(price updated as of 2019-05-25 at 23:36 – Details)

Review

The Skagit uses a similar blade shape to the award winning Camano, but is a more budget friendly option.

Rather than an all-fiberglass blade, the Skagit uses a fiberglass reinforced nylon blade to keep costs down while still offering good performance. It’s also a low-angle blade and is a solid choice for sustained paddling over longer distances.

The carbon and fiberglass blend used for the shaft is a nice addition that helps trim down some weight. You won’t find carbon fiber used in many other paddles in this price range.

If you like the look of the Camano but it’s a bit more than you’re ready to spend, the Skagit could be a solid compromise.

Carlisle Expedition

Overall Score: (4.3/5)

Carlisle Expedition Fiberglass Touring Kayak Paddle, Gold

Weight: 33 oz. (220 cm)

Lengths: 220 cm, 230 cm, 240 cm

Shaft Material: Fiberglass

Blade Material: Fiberglass

Lightweight:

Durability:

Performance:

Value:

Best for:Paddlers that want the most power from their strokes.

 from $129.99

Buy on Amazon

(price updated as of 2019-05-25 at 23:36 – Details)

Review

The Expedition is a high-angled paddle that is a step up from entry level performance paddles. The high-angled shape makes it ideally suited to paddlers that prefer shorter bursts of powerful strokes rather than sustained paddling for long periods of time.

It uses full fiberglass blades to help cut down on weight where it’s most important. While they’re still tough, the blades won’t be as durable as a plastic reinforced with fiberglass. So, you may want to take a bit of extra care when pushing off rocks or paddling in shallow water.

It’s not likely to help improve performance at all but, the Expedition’s shaft is a natural translucent gold color with the fiberglass fibers clearly visible. With so many of the paddles on the market using black colored shafts, it definitely causes the Expedition to stand out and is a nice touch if you’re looking for something a bit different.

Bending Branches Sunrise

Overall Score: (4.1/5)

Bending Branches Sunrise Glass 2-Piece Snap-Button Kayak Paddle for Recreational Day Trips

Weight: 35 oz. (210 cm)

Lengths: 210 cm, 220 cm, 230 cm, 240 cm

Shaft Material: Fiberglass

Blade Material: Fiberglass reinforced plastic

Lightweight:

Durability:

Performance:

Value:

Best for: Paddlers working with a budget.

 from $79.96

Buy on Amazon

(price updated as of 2019-05-25 at 23:36 – Details)

Review

Finding a decent lightweight paddle on a budget can be a tricky task, but the fiberglass version of the Sunrise is a solid contender. While it’s not ultra lightweight, it’s still light enough the be manageable during longer paddling sessions.

The blade shape lies somewhere between traditional low-angle and high-angle blades but is closer to the high-angle end of the spectrum. If you don’t have a strong preference for blade shape, this may be a good option.

The use of a fiberglass shaft and fiberglass reinforced plastic blades add a bit of weight, but also provide some extra durability and help keep the price down.

All in all, the Sunrise works well as an entry level performance paddle if you’re working with a budget.

Wrapping Up

A bit part of choosing a good touring paddle comes down to personal preference and balancing performance and price. Having said that, our top pick for the best lightweight touring paddle is the Aqua-Bound Sting Ray Carbon.

Its ultralight carbon fiber build offers excellent performance and its low-angle blade is ideal for cruising on extended touring trips. Though it’s not the cheapest paddle, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a paddle that offers as much value in the same price range.

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