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Which packraft paddle?
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Michael Schwartz
(greenwalk) - MLife

Locale: PA & Ireland
Which packraft paddle? on 09/04/2011 02:50:53 MDT Print View

I just bought a used packraft and am now looking to buy a paddle. Any recommendations or advice? I am thinking about the Splat or the Sawyer. The blades that attach to the trekking poles look good too, but as stated in thread below, they are intended for flat water, and I am looking for an all-round paddle.

Also, anyone interested in selling a packraft paddle you are not using? If so, please PM me.


Edited by greenwalk on 09/04/2011 03:43:25 MDT.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: paddles on 09/06/2011 10:43:39 MDT Print View

My insight:

For a cheap, bomber paddle get a Splat.
For a light paddle get the Sawyer.
For a slightly heavier, much more high performance paddle get a Werner.

Werner sub-section:
If you want light and don't ruthlessly beat your gear get a touring paddle (eg Shuna)
If you're a gorrila get a WW paddle (eg Powerhouse)

Just finished a three day packraft trip, with 2 full days and 30 miles of paddling (on the Middle Fork of the Flathead). I had a Shuna, the three others had Sawyers. The weights are comparable, both seem durable enough (likely not as bomber as a nylon blade) but the performance of the Werner is worlds above. It's much stiffer, and the blade shape is more sophisticated and has better power transfer (by comparison the Splat blade looks like an oblong wooden plate, and the way the wood blade in bonded on to the carbon shaft doesn't inspire confidence). At the end of the long, strenuous trip my Shuna still felt light and fast.

My only reservation about the Shuna is the durability of the thin fiberglass blade, insofar as rock bashing is concerned. Only time will tell, though the 'glass should be easy to repair/reinforce as needed.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: re: paddles on 09/06/2011 14:47:30 MDT Print View

One thing to consider is packability. From my tiny iPhone screen, it doesn't seem that the Werner paddles break down much. Of course, I could be very wrong.

I just used the Sawyer for a week up in Isle Royale and open-water paddled for about 30 miles, and hiked another 30. I loved that the Sawyer broke down into 5 sections, but I usually only packed the blades and used the shaft as a hiking staff. Admittedly I don't have experience with other high end paddles, but I had zero complaints about the Sawyer. To me, my paddle felt solid.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
4 piece paddles on 09/06/2011 18:51:21 MDT Print View

You can get most Werners as 4 pieces, they end up being the same size as anything else.

In my mind anytime you say "packraft paddle" a 4 piece is assumed.

Where's the TR Travis? ;)

Edited by DaveC on 09/06/2011 18:52:03 MDT.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: 4 piece paddles on 09/06/2011 21:12:30 MDT Print View

David, TR coming at some point!

4 sections for the Werner... I stand corrected.

Michael Schwartz
(greenwalk) - MLife

Locale: PA & Ireland
Which packraft paddle? on 10/01/2011 00:03:39 MDT Print View

Travis and David, Thanks for the advice.

David, do you recommend the straight shaft on the Shuna, which is the paddle I'm leaning towards. --M

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
straight v. bent on 10/02/2011 23:53:04 MDT Print View

I don't think they make a 4 piece bent shaft.

If they do, could be interesting. I've never paddled with a bent shaft paddle, but would like to try one.

Chris S
(ChrisvonS) - F

Locale: UK mostly
Consider Aqua Bound Manta Ray in carbon (4 piece) on 10/03/2011 04:55:38 MDT Print View

I now wish I hadn't sold my Aqua Bound Manta Ray in carbon (4 piece) at the end of our kayaking and packrafting trip in northern Australia last week (
In the US they're under $200 and in five years it's been a brilliant stick. The non-fibreglass (plastic/nylon?) blades take a beating, the shaft is light and stiff enough, and the simple and solid TLC joint gives you feather in 15° increments. On the Fitzroy river I often push-poled the packraft through the shallows - bad form I know. In my experience a fibreglass blade wouldn’t last long doing that. I also use the Manta Ray’s shaft with a metal nip as a 'packstaff'; while walking crossing country with a heavy load.
I have a couple of nice Werners (including a bend-shaft Camano which IMO is more suited to day-long sea kayaking than packrafting), but I've already ordered a replacement Manta Ray. It really was my most versatile paddle and managed fine for a few windy days sea kayaking before the Fitzroy. I know Alpacka recommend the cheaper/heavier FG Manta Ray as there were stories of the old Manta Ray carbons breaking. All I know is mine's been fine over the years and according to this guy ( his Sawyer did not fare so well.

Chris S

Edited by ChrisvonS on 10/15/2011 10:30:56 MDT.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Shuna on 01/05/2012 15:41:27 MST Print View

I've been looking around at paddles such as the Werner Shuna, which led me to looking at the other Werner paddles like the carbon fiber Cyprus ($400, 23.5oz). The Cyprus looks extremely similar to the Shuna ($275, 27oz) but the Cyprus is more expensive and lighter since it's carbon fiber.

Is the Cyprus better than the Shuna (ie. lighter with no other downsides) but more expensive? Or are the fiberglass blades of the Shuna preferable, likely because they are more rugged? The Shuna certainly has a nicer aesthetic.

Ryan W
(mwilks) - F
Re: Shuna on 01/05/2012 16:38:30 MST Print View

I haven't had a chance to Packraft much but I've used all the paddles mentioned a ton.

I think Dave's advice is spot on, I'm a huge Werner fan

The Werner bent shafts are really nice, although a straight shaft can do everything a bent shaft can do and I also agree I can't remember seeing a Werner 4 piece bent shaft. Bent shafts are usually 2-3 ounces heavier. Lendal makes some really nice, light 4 piece bent shafts if your committed to that route.

The Cyprus is a really, really nice paddle. It has a foam core blade which adds a ton of buoyancy. This advantage, however, is most striking for braces, rolling, and a few other sea kayak maneuvering strokes. For me, these advantages would be mostly lost on a dedicated packrafting paddle.

Werner also makes a Carbon Shuna as opposed the 'glass Shuna with the principle advantage here being a 1-2 oz weight savings. The swing weight on this paddle is really nice for long tours, but for a packraft paddle, necessary for the, probably not in my calculation. If you do go with the carbon, yes, you are sacrificing some rock banging durability. Not a problem for lakes (but I'm w/ you on trying to make a treking pole superlight paddle for these instances) but not ideal for bony river running. The glass paddles really are very durable and the increase in stiffness over a generic nylon blade is worth it in almost every circumstance. Werner's whitewater paddles are awesome, but much heavier than the touring line and more specialized than required for many excursions.

Aquabound has mostly fixed the carbon MR breakage issues from years past (I once had 3 paddles break in a class I was teaching.) Avoid flexing the shaft (launches, shoves, and kayak reentrys) and you have yourself a good all-around paddle.


David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
carbon Shuna on 01/05/2012 18:13:56 MST Print View

Dan, I known Werner will make a 4 piece all carbon paddle (Forrest McCarthy has a carbon Powerhouse). You might have to order direct from Werner. No downside I'm aware of other than cost.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

CF & Cost on 01/05/2012 18:42:00 MST Print View

It's too bad most Werner paddles are two piece....that makes it much harder to find a good deal on a 4 piece. I've found a few nice deals online but so far they're all the 2 piece paddles. It seems like I'll have to pay full price for a 4 piece which is quite a bit more expensive and it kills any money I might have had left over for CF. I can get a new 2 piece Shuna for $189 but a 4 piece is going at least $310 it seems.

Philip Marshall
(philthy) - MLife
Re: CF & Cost on 07/21/2013 22:44:55 MDT Print View

Sorry to dredge up an old thread but it seems to be the most recent on paddles-

Dan, how did you go with the Werner Shuna? I've been tossing up between the Shuna, the Sawyer or a cheaper AB paddle for a little while now - not sure whether the added weight of the Shuna is worth it - and havent been able to find anywhere that stocks a 4 piece (does this need to be custom ordered from Werner?).

Edited by philthy on 07/21/2013 22:45:56 MDT.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Paddles on 07/22/2013 20:13:52 MDT Print View

Yeah I went with the Shuna. I'm fairly ignorant about paddles so I can't delve into the nuances or offer an intelligent critique, but it seems excellent. I've got some light damage on the blades (mostly from my first whitewater forays) but no real areas of concern.

My wife has the Sawyer (original version) which I've paddled with on occasion. Both paddles are fine, but the Shuna subjectively seems like a much nicer paddle. The blades seem to have a better shape that connects with the water more effectively.

I got the Sawyer for her so I'd have a lighter paddle option for some trips, but the Sawyer (32.2oz) actually came in heavier than the Shuna (30.8oz). I recommend either going with a cheap paddle (AB) or ponying up for the Shuna. Opting for the Aquabound might be a good idea if you're a new paddler, as you can abuse that until you're a better paddler. I think most of the (minor) damage on my Shuna was from my first 2-3 trips where I was pretty out of control.

As far I could tell, all 4-piece paddles need to be ordered specially. I ended up buying from a dealer, who placed a special order with Werner and then shipped it to me. I live in Canada and Werner would have dealt with my directly but their shipping costs were crazy (ie. $150).


Edited by dandydan on 07/23/2013 19:12:09 MDT.

Philip Marshall
(philthy) - MLife
Re: Paddles on 07/22/2013 20:55:00 MDT Print View

Judging by the picture your Shuna is the one with carbon shaft but fibreglass blades. Is that right? Interesting that it came out lighter than the Sawyer, that pretty much makes up my mind for me Shuna vs Sawyer.

I might look into getting a cheap fibreglass Manta Ray/Splat for now and head down the Werner road once I've honed my skills a bit - sounds like pretty solid advice, thanks.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
An Alaskan perspective on 07/22/2013 22:33:06 MDT Print View

Seeing as I spend more time than most with the descendants of the original kayakers and I paddle in northern waters, I'll chime in with my contrary (to modern theory) ideas. I'll note that I don't get arguments from anyone who's paddled a few thousand miles.

White guys use short, high-surface paddles to go down exciting white water.

Native peoples use long, narrow-bladed paddles to go long distances, and catch food.

Longer shaft length lets you keep your shoulders lower and the paddle at a shallower angle which drips less water into your lap. This helps you even more with the low seating position and high sides of a pack raft, compared to a sea kayak. A longer shaft length also lets you compensate for windage more easily - just hold the paddle a little off-center - to maintain course without using a rudder. Smaller surface-area blades do just as well at speed (but get you to speed a stroke or two later) and offer less wind and wave resistance. I can make a very low-weight paddle out of $10 of lumber and $5 of epoxy (or less if I scavenge door skins at the dump).

The Werner Camano is narrower than many white-boy paddles, and although (at 28 ounces and $275) not as light as spendier carbon-fiber paddles (23-26 oz and $400-475), and still not as narrow or as light as I prefer. But for an off-the-shelf option, it is my first choice.

If you are doing white water, you want a short-shaft, large-blade paddle.

If you are doing thousands of miles or filling the freezer, I've had better luck with the centuries-old designs.

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
Re: Which packraft paddle? on 07/23/2013 07:24:14 MDT Print View

i don't paddle any water that has above a ripple in it.
for my river crossing purposes (alpacka scout) i use the paddles off an old sevylor raft. and they get used as a pair. with a pair of paddles you have Fantastic acceleration .. for about 50 feet. no real long term distance is comfortable. but at 13oz a pair, it's the way to go (if thee is me) for crossing lakes and rivers. even big rivers are not too bad.

i floated 5 days one time down a river, and it all worked ok. the current does most of the work, and once the headwind kicks up whitecaps (small ones), you're not going to be making much raft headway regardless of paddle choice.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: An Alaskan perspective on 07/23/2013 07:45:09 MDT Print View

My only advice on paddles is to find what charts and experts say "should" be your length, then chuck that and buy a longer paddle. You can choke up and increase your angle on a longer paddle. You can't perform a low angle stroke with a short one.

This is especially important, paradoxically, with shorter paddlers in packrafts. Short arms, high sides, and a short paddle will make you look like a windmill out of a cartoon.

Rob E

Locale: Canada
Re: Which packraft paddle? on 07/23/2013 08:07:58 MDT Print View

I have the Sawyer packraft paddle and the inexpensive Aqua bound manta ray fiber glass (4 pieces, purhcased from Alpacka). I've used both in moving water and still water, and much prefer the AB manta ray. The catch of the curved paddle blade of the AB seems better to me, and most importantly, I find the large circumference of the AB's shaft to be much more comfortable than the Sawyer on long days. For the money, the AB manta ray fiber glass is great value. I'd probably replace it with exactly the same if/when this one breaks or is lost.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Re: An Alaskan perspective on 07/23/2013 08:10:53 MDT Print View

"My only advice on paddles is to find what charts and experts say "should" be your length, then chuck that and buy a longer paddle. You can choke up and increase your angle on a longer paddle. You can't perform a low angle stroke with a short one."

This works well, to a point. In heavily filled creeks a longer paddle will get you into trouble. Shorter paddles means less torque, less waddle, but it means you can be closer to stream banks, too. It depends on where you are headed. Not designed for forward motion, they are designed to help you maneuver.

I use anything between a 4'6" paddle and a 9'6" paddle. I have several canoes, mostly solos, but heading downstream in a pack raft with a 9'6" paddle is not something I would try. Nor would a lake with a 4'6" paddle be quite the best. Paddles are a compromise between foreword power, and, maneuverability. Choice is made depending on what you know you will encounter.