Paddle Your Way to Success: Best Rafting Paddles on the Market

Key Points

  • A paddle is the most important piece of rafting gear.

  • Many companies like Carlisle, Werner, Aqua-Bound, and NRS make high-quality, affordable paddles.

  • Whitewater rafting requires a different paddle than kayaking.

Of paddle gear, a rafting paddle is the most important. Whether it's a modern carbon fiber paddle or a wooden paddle isn't important. What matters most is that you have one. Rafting without a paddle is like driving a car without a steering wheel.

Both activities require you to exert control and provide direction. Without a paddle, all your other rafting equipment is useless. Paddles help you steer the raft, avoid obstacles, and control the speed. A paddle-less raft is one where the River Gods control your destiny, and they're often not very nice.

Here are some of the best whitewater paddles on the market. These paddles offer superior performance, reliability, and comfort, ensuring you have the control you need to navigate the most challenging of rapids.

Carlisle Outfitter Paddle

High-quality materials go into the making of every Carlisle Outfitter Paddle. The paddle blades are made of fiberglass-reinforced polypropylene, a hardy substance that increases the strength and durability of the paddle.

The blade is slightly spooned, allowing for more powerful strokes, making it an excellent whitewater paddle. Whitewater rapids are fierce and demand every ounce of your strength. You need a paddle able to withstand them.

The 2-piece fiberglass shaft makes these lightweight paddles durable. There's a push button that adjusts the paddle from a zero to a 60-degree offset, so you're able to refine it to fit your needs.

One reported issue by some reviewers is they received only half the paddle. This isn't a reflection of the quality of the paddle but rather a shipping error that is easily remedied by contacting the manufacturer or retailer.

Carlisle Outfitter Paddle Photo source:

Werner Sherpa Paddle

Werner Sherpa Paddle is both a canoe paddle and a kayak paddle. The Sherpa delivers low-angle power, so it's easy to propel forward with each stroke.

The shaft is straight, designed to be lightweight, affordable, and still feels like an old-school wooden paddle. This makes it a great choice for paddlers who appreciate the simplicity and elegance of traditional paddles and still want the benefits of modern materials.

Whether it's used as a canoe paddle on a calm lake or as part of your rafting equipment arsenal while hitting the rapids, the Sherpa Paddle is able to handle it all.

There's nothing bad to say about a Sherpa paddle. They're top-notch. Cost is the only barrier for most people at $308. If you're a rookie rafter, go with a cheaper model.

Werner Sherpa Paddle

Photo source:

Aqua-Bound Manta Ray Paddle

Aqua-Bound Manta Ray Paddle is a carbon fiber paddle and an exceptional choice for rafters seeking lightweight paddle gear and maximum power.

The carbon construction makes this lightweight paddle easy to wield with a low swing weight, allowing you to focus all your energy on propelling forward.

The blade is made of carbon-reinforced nylon resin, which makes the blade strong, lightweight, and stiff. They're also large, providing lots of surface area so you're able to cut through the water and gain maximum speed. If you're rafting in a large boat with lots of people, this is the paddle you want.

If you're looking for a nimbler paddle that's made for kayaking or canoeing, opt for something else. This paddle is all about generating power in bigger rafts or moving water.

Whether you're covering long distances at a leisurely rate or navigating the rapids at break-neck speeds, a Manta Ray Paddle has got you covered.

Aqua-Bound Manta Ray Paddle

Photo source:

Bending Branches Whisper Paddle

Bending Branches Whisper Paddle is a great choice for any skill level. It's an adjustable paddle that you're able to separate into two pieces for compact travel and storage.

Paddling farther while using less energy is easy with a Whisper Paddle. The paddle blades are reinforced with fiberglass and strike an excellent balance between weight and durability. The grips and coated shaft ensure a comfy grip even after hours of paddling. However, extended trips on the water might lead to blisters. Fortunately, the shaft also comes coated with 3M Versafit, which prevents chafing and reduces the potential for blisters.

A Whisper Paddle from Bending Branches is a perfect recreational paddle for beginners, but it's heavy. Some rafters might start to get tired after a few hours of using one of these paddles, so hit the gym and get your back strong before heading to the rapids. The blades are also smaller than other paddles, so you're probably going to be exerting more force to propel.

It's a solid paddle costing between $75 and $100, making it perfect for beginners. If you've been rafting for a while, drop more money on a paddle that's able to handle your needs.

Bending Branches Whisper Paddle

Photo source:


SUP stands for stand-up paddle boarding. It's where you stand on a longboard-style surfboard and propel yourself forward with a paddle. Stand-up paddle boarding is done everywhere. Lakes, rivers, oceans — essentially any body of water is perfect for this leisurely activity. It's a great way to get exercise and enjoy the outdoors. When doing SUP, you need a paddle made specifically for this activity.

NRS PTS SUP Paddle is the paddle. It's built with a sturdy aluminum shaft and high-impact blade, making it an excellent choice as a kayak paddle — where you're bound to face a lot of high-impact situations — or as a heavy-duty SUP paddle.

The blade sets this paddle apart from others. It's designed to withstand the rigors of rough water and unpredictable conditions.

The shaft is airplane-grade aluminum, and the dual-pin quick-adjust coupler makes for easy adjustments to the paddle's length. This makes it one of the most adjustable paddles on the market. There are two paddle lengths to choose from. The first is 72 to 81 inches with four adjustment points. The second is 79 to 91 inches with five adjustment points. Humans of all lengths have no problem adjusting this paddle to their height.

At $90, it's affordable, durable, and versatile. If you're looking for a paddle that's made for a stand-up paddleboard, this is it.

NRS PTS SUP Paddle Photo source:

Dare to Take on The Uncaring River

As the world record rower, Bryce Carlson said, "The river doesn't care how skilled you are. It just takes you where it wants you to go."

Fighting against the ebbs and flows of the river is like trying to stop the sun from setting. You have no choice in where the river takes you. Your choice comes in how the river takes you there.

With a quality paddle, you're able to twist, turn, propel, and flow through the river at your own rate. A paddle is a critical piece of equipment, essential for safety, navigation, and control of the water.

Whitewater rafting

Fear not the river, for it's going to take you where it wants you to go. Instead, fear rafting on the river without a paddle. In such moments, you're helpless, exposed to the arrows and slings of the rapids and all the obstacles therein. Avoid such dangers by wielding a paddle.

From the best hammocks for camping to the best snowboards and skis, let MyOutdoorGear guide you in creating the adventure of your dreams.

Was this article helpful?