5 Best Lightweight Wood & Aluminum Canoe Paddles

Finding the best canoe paddle for your next trip on the lake is more than just heading to an outdoor outfitter and grabbing something from the bin.

You need to be aware of the different sizes and shapes of canoe paddles as well as how different materials affect their performance.

Additionally, you can get different shapes of canoe paddles depending on what you want to use them for.

With all of these features to think about, you’re probably wondering, what are the best canoe paddles?

In a Hurry? Here Are Our Top 3 Picks

Top Pick
BENDING BRANCHES BB Special Performance Wood Canoe...
Runner Up
Sun Dolphin Canoe Paddles (Black, 54-Inches)
Best Budget Pick
Caviness RD45 Wood Paddle, 4.5 - Feet (888605)
BENDING BRANCHES BB Special Performance Wood Canoe...
Sun Dolphin Canoe Paddles (Black, 54-Inches)
Caviness RD45 Wood Paddle, 4.5 - Feet (888605)
Price not available
Price not available
$23.88
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Top Pick
BENDING BRANCHES BB Special Performance Wood Canoe...
BENDING BRANCHES BB Special Performance Wood Canoe...
Price not available
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Runner Up
Sun Dolphin Canoe Paddles (Black, 54-Inches)
Sun Dolphin Canoe Paddles (Black, 54-Inches)
Price not available
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Best Budget Pick
Caviness RD45 Wood Paddle, 4.5 - Feet (888605)
Caviness RD45 Wood Paddle, 4.5 - Feet (888605)
$23.88
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Last update on 2021-05-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Reviews of the 5 Best Canoe Paddles

With all of the different types of canoe paddles, it’s important to be able to know what separates the top five canoe paddles from the rest of the pack.

1. Bending Branches BB Special Canoe Paddle

BENDING BRANCHES BB Special Performance Wood Canoe...
  • UNMATCHED BLADE PROTECTION: Bending Branches’ Rockgard protects the tip of the blade from damage,...
  • BENT SHAFT PADDLE: Bent shaft canoe paddles are ideal for long touring trips on flat or slow-moving...

Last update on 2021-05-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This special performance paddle is easy to use and has a bent-shaft design to allow you to use the paddle more efficiently. The canoe paddle has a host of features that made it an easy selection for our Best Overall pick for the Best Canoe Paddle.

This paddle is available in lengths from 48 to 56 inches in two inch increments. The laminate woods are alternating layers of red alder, basswood, and maple. The blade features a layer of protective Rockgard composite material that protects the blade tip from cracks or chipping due to impacts with foreign objects. The end of the shaft has an ovalized grip for comfort to allow you to dig into the water with ease.

The canoe paddle itself is fairly lightweight, although a variance can be expected because the density of the wood will vary from model to model. The surface area of the paddle is a generous 118 square inches, with plenty of cross-section to allow you great steering control and drive.

Pros:

  • 11 degree bend from shaft to paddle to give extra power during rowing
  • Rockgard tip extends the lifespan of the canoe paddle by up to 6x
  • Weighs only 22 ounces

Cons:

  • Laminate Wood construction
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

2. Caviness Marine Twin Stripe Paddle

Caviness RD45 Wood Paddle, 4.5 - Feet (888605)
  • Country Of Origin : China
  • The Package Height Of The Product Is 2.5 Inches

Last update on 2021-05-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Whether you’re planning a day of canoeing on the river or the lake, the most important piece of equipment you need beyond the boat is the paddles. The Caviness Marine Twin Stripe Paddle is a high-quality paddle that can be used in both freshwater and saltwater, making it perfect for any canoeing trip you have in mind. You can use it right out of the box or you can sand it and refinish it. Either option works perfectly. As one of the top canoe paddles, this is an excellent choice for your boating needs.

If you’re looking for a high-quality paddle that you or your kids can use out on the water, the Caviness Marine Twin Stripe Paddle is a great choice. Whether you’re purchasing it as a gift for someone else or for yourself, this is a fantastic product. The palm grip makes it easy to keep the paddle in your hand without causing pain or fatigue in your hands. It even comes in several lengths so you can find the perfect fit for all paddling situations.

Paddling is a very physically demanding task so you want to make sure the tools you’re using are going to make your experience easier and less stressful on your body. The Caviness Marine Twin Stripe Paddle is perfect for a long day out on the water due to the ergonomic palm grip and the lighter weight of the paddle. Weighing just 2 pounds, you’ll be able to handle your paddle for hours without tiring out your arms to the point of exhaustion.

Pros:

  • Sturdy paddle is great in fresh and salt water
  • Comes in 5 different sizes
  • Not too heavy

Cons:

  • May come unfinished
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

3. Sun Dolphin Canoe Paddles

Sun Dolphin Canoe Paddles (Black, 54-Inches)
  • This durable lightweight paddle will help you get where you're going.
  • Aluminum shaft with T-handle

Last update on 2021-05-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This pick for our Best Budget pick comes as a pair of canoe paddles for a ridiculously low price point. The paddles have durable plastic blades with a slight curl to allow you ease with steering and movement. The shafts of the paddles are aluminum. The shafts also use a simple press button toggle to allow you to take them apart for easy storage and transport.

The shafts of the canoe paddles have t-bars at the end, which give you a comfortable place to rest your hand and a way to provide more power as you row. The diameter of the shafts is 1.375 inches, which means you get an easy grip on the shaft as well. The center lock is durable and won’t give way, even if you use the paddle as a push off from shore or dock.

One of the best things about this set of paddles isn’t their value for the price, it’s that they are so lightweight that it’s easy to grab them and head out to the water. They also float if you drop them in the water, but at this price, if you lose one, it’s not that big of a deal.

Pros:

  • Aluminum shaft with T-handle for control
  • Paddle blades made of composite plastics
  • Great paddle for a quick afternoon on the lake or river

Cons:

  • Plastic paddle blades can chip or crack if they hit the ground
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

4. Bending Branches Viper Canoe Paddle

Bending Branches Viper Canoe Paddle
  • Made in Osceola, WI, USA.
  • Proprietary Bending Branches Rockgard around the blade provides unmatched shock absorption and...

Last update on 2021-05-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This laminated wood oar from Bending Branches is a great canoe paddle for tooling around the rivers and lakes. One of the key features is the composite Rockgard protection around the tip of the oar. This protection means that you can push off from rocks or row in tight quarters without worrying about the oar tip cracking or splintering.

The canoe paddle has an 11 degree double bend that is extremely comfortable to hold in the hand and lends more efficiency when you are scooting across the water. The tip of the shaft has a curved palm grip that is designed for optimum comfort on your hands and to ease stress on the joints while paddling.

The blade of the paddle is wrapped in fiberglass for protection and durability, allowing you to show off the alternating bands of light and dark hardwoods. The laminated wood has a total of 18 layers, giving you beauty and strength all in one package.

Pros:

  • Rockgard protection around blade tip
  • 11 degree double bend paddle
  • Blade is fiberglass wrapped with an 18-layer hardwood shaft

Cons:

  • The blades aren’t customizable
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5. attwood 11764-1 Ergonomic Aluminum Canoe Paddle

Attwood 11764-1 Ergonomic Aluminum Canoe Paddle...
  • Included Components: 4-Foot Aluminum Canoe Paddle
  • Ergonomic palm grip for all-day comfort in heavy use

Last update on 2021-05-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This short 48-inch paddle is great for making your way down rougher water. The shorter shaft and blade give you optimal control as you wend your way around rocks and through gentle white waters. The blade has a generous cross section so you can dig in while you need the power, and feather the blade when you need the control.

The shaft of the canoe paddle is made of aluminum with a padded section that feels nice under your hands. The head of the shaft has a t-shape that gives you a place to apply power as you leverage and direct it with your other hand. With the ergonomic grip and pads, you can use this oar all day long without worrying about tiring out too quickly.

The blade is made of durable plastic which means you can use this canoe paddle for a long time without worry. It isn’t recommended, however, that you use this set of oars with oar locks. That’s because the added and focused stress on one point in the shaft could lead to failure and a bend. It might be possible with general reinforcement, but the real strength in this oar is it’s relatively short length and control.

Pros:

  • Aluminum shaft and plastic blade
  • Shaft has a padded grip for increased control
  • Extremely lightweight for increased control and power

Cons:

  • Not great for using with oar locks
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Buying Guide

When it comes to selecting the best canoe paddle, it’s not something that you usually put much thought into. After all, there’s no greater joy than being able to just hit the water and glide off into your happy place. But the right paddle for you and your canoe can make all the difference between that easy paddle and fighting to go in a straight line. Here are four things that you should be considering when it comes to selecting your next canoe paddle.

Four Key Features to Consider For Your Next Canoe Paddle

When it comes to your paddle, think of these four aspects and features of your canoe paddle before you jump into a purchase.

Length of the Paddle – This is a probably the most important feature of any paddle. The length of the paddle means the length of the entire paddle. Paddles are broken into two parts: the blade and the shaft. The shaft is the part of the paddle that you hold, while the blade is the wider part that provides the pushing power. The place where the shaft meets the paddle is referred to as the throat of the paddle.

Initially sizing a paddle is fairly simple. You need to just sit in a dining room chair with good posture and put the paddle between your knees with the top of the shaft resting on the chair between your legs. At this point, with the blade up in the air, the throat of the paddle should be level with your eyes.

Keep in mind that this is only the initial sizing for your canoe paddle. As you gain more experience, you may find that you like your paddle to be shorter or longer. But you may wonder how the length of the paddle affects your time on the water.

  • Shorter paddles give increased steering capability at the expense of paddle power. The blade cross section is smaller, so you’re pushing less water, so you aren’t going to go as fast. So more control, but less go.
  • Longer paddles on the other hand have longer blades so they can bite into the water deeper and let you dig in with more powerful strokes. However, because they are longer, they aren’t as easy to lift up and feather for steering. So, more oomph, but less control.

Blade Length and Width – In most paddles of equivalent length, you can find them with longer or shorter blades. So while the shaft should always be more or less equal to your torso length, a different size blade can allow you to take advantage of different canoeing situations. The size of a blade refers to the area of the blade that is meant to enter the water. So a short and wide blade for white water rafting is considered a larger blade when compared to a narrower blade.

For example, if you’re on a gentle lake, you don’t need to be able to turn very quickly, so a blade with a smaller cross-section will do a great job. On the other hand, if you’re on a series of rapids, having a short blade with a wide cross-section will let you seize control over things when you need it.

  • In general, a smaller blade with a smaller cross-section is easier to row and easier to handle because it doesn’t catch as much air when lifting. However, because it is smaller, you have to paddle it more frequently than a larger blade to maintain speed.
  • A larger blade on the other hand tends to catch more air, which means that it can be harder to control. Additionally, the increased size means that it’s heavier and more tiring to use in the long run. However, on the plus side, the larger size means you’re pushing more water, so you get better bite into the water as you paddle. That translates into faster speed and better maneuverability in the water.

What’s Your Paddle Made of? – The material that a canoe paddle is made of will have a drastic effect on its performance. Paddles can be made of solid wood, laminated wood, plastic and aluminum, or high tech composites. Here’s how your paddle’s material affects how it handles.

  • Plastic – Plastic paddles are made of materials like nylon, ABS, or polyurethane. These paddles are inexpensive, fairly flexible, and last a long time. They are medium weight and some have aluminum handles that make them easier to grip. Higher quality aluminum shafts are usually covered with an insulating material that lends increased grip and makes them more comfortable to hold
  • Composites – A composite canoe paddle is made of fiberglass, Kevlar, carbon fibers, or even high tech graphites. These paddles are usually very expensive, but they are extremely light and easy to use. Fiberglass paddles tend to be a little less expensive than other composites, and have good durability. Because of their light weight, these paddles are very easy to handle and easy on your muscles.
  • Solid Wood – A solid wood paddle is a classic icon. They tend to be among the heaviest paddles, and they do require some upkeep. Maintenance on a wood paddle means that you may need to reapply waterproof varnish from time to time. If your paddle gets chipped or damaged in a collision, you may have to completely refinish it.
  • Laminated Wood – These paddles are made of wood strips that have been glued together. The wood can be all the same kind or it can be a mix of hard and soft woods. This allows them to weigh less in the end and gives them a flexibility in shape and weight. You can find laminated wood paddles that are hollow or solid, and with nearly any shape paddle you can imagine.

Shaft Shape – The last thing you should think about when it comes to finding the best canoe paddle is the shape of the shaft. Remember that the shaft is the part of the paddle that you hold while paddling. There are two different styles of shafts: straight and bent.

A bent shaft is easier to use when you’re just worried about going in a straight line. The bend allows you to get a more efficient stroke, translating more of your arm power into the actual stroke. Combined with the bigger blade cross-section that bent shaft paddles usually have, and you’ve got a canoe paddle that will allow you to go fast. However, a bent shaft is harder to steer with. A whitewater trip means that you should be using a classic straight shaft with a shorter and wider blade for better control and propulsion.

FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about canoe paddles that many people find themselves asking along with answers from our experts.

How do you size a canoe paddle?

The easiest way to initially check the size of a canoe paddle is to measure your torso from the bottom of your seat to the level of your eyes. If you don’t have a measure, you can sit in a chair and check the paddle manually. Place the butt end of the paddle on the seat between your legs with the blade of the paddle up in the air. The place where the shaft of the paddle meets the blade should be level with your eyes. The size of the blade, however, can vary according to your needs.

Does it matter what a canoe paddle is made of?

The material that a canoe paddle is made of has a huge impact on its performance. Canoe paddles can be made of multiple different materials, ranging from plastic to wood. Composites like fiberglass and carbon fiber blades are lighter and easier to handle, while wooden paddles are heavier and give a better feel when you are paddling. If you easily tire, then you want a lighter paddle so you don’t wear out as quickly while cruising along the lake.

Why are some canoe paddles thinner and longer than others?

A thinner paddle gives you better control and lets you steer your canoe a little bit easier than a standard paddle. Additionally, a thin paddle meets less resistance in the water, so it’s easier for people to paddle because it doesn’t take as much strength. The cross section of the paddle determines how much water you can push with it. The wider the blade, the more water you push, so the faster that you can accelerate and the easier it is to maintain your speed.

Why does my wood paddle have a plastic tip?

Having a plastic tip on your wooden paddle helps to make your wooden paddle easier to maintain. A paddle usually gets the most wear and tear, and this can wear off the waterproofing from the tip, leading the canoe paddle to rot. Additionally, you can use a paddle to push away from rocks, and the composite tip means that you don’t have to worry about chipping. The plastic or resin absorbs that wear and tear so you don’t have to refinish your paddle or reapply waterproofing.

Conclusion

While there are several canoe paddles on the market, finding the right one doesn’t have to be hard. With our list and buying guide, you’ll be using the best canoe paddles in no time! We’ve narrowed it down to 5 of the best options on the market.

By far, the best canoe paddle we found was a laminated wooden paddle with a slightly bent shaft that optimizes it for casual days on a stream or lake. The Bending Branches BB Special wasn’t too heavy to maneuver and the Rockgard tip means that we don’t have to worry about accidentally scraping the blade on a rock or the bottom of the water. For those more economically minded, the pair of Sun Dolphin Canoe Paddles give you aluminum handles and plastic blades for a quick and easy way to control your canoe on the water.

No matter which one you choose, each style on our list is of great quality and will do a great job at steering your canoe. The rest is up to you! Try out one of the best canoe paddles for yourself.