21.07.2011

"The Paddle Post"

There are currently very few paddles on the market purely dedicated to packrafting - and the Sawyer Packraft Paddle is the most popular one. It has often been said and shall not be missed here: 
  • the Sawyer is light (870g), 
  • highly collabsable (5 pieces), 
  • adjustable (both in length and angle) 
  • rugged (on the edges)
  • a beautifull decoration in your living room

There is hardly a lighter paddle available (even solid ones) and it fits in the backpack better than any other break down oar. The adjustment in length from 205-230 cm allows "gears" in paddling like riding a bike and doubles as a flexible tarp pole - brilliant. Moreover, the angle free offset allows fatique-proof 0° for your wrist to full 90° for dodging the wind. But the paddle has it's limits:  

"You did a job to that blade!" comment of Bruce from Paddlesandoars.com
Yes I did, and not only once (see next picture). However rare a full break down is, it obviously happens. So the objectiv of this post is to illustrate the restrictions and possibilites for repair as well as to show options. This is not to blame Sawyer or the product, but rather to give a concept of what the blade is capble and what not. There has recently been a lot of undifferentiated recommendations for it ("up to white water class III"). I feel this needs to be balanced, so you do not get disappointed with the item. 

This only serves as a diner tray now! A nice accessory in the living room :)
The blade has a remarkable strengh on the onside, where the stroke usually takes place, but can't take much force on the offside! Both break downs happend thus, especially while touching a hard surface (ground and rock), only class II however. So my recommendation for the Sawyer is:

  • long flatwater and hiking streches: perfect choice
  • big water (even above Class III): yes, very much possible
  • rocky streams (even below Class III): no, not really recommended 
  • playboating (surfing, ferrying etc.): no go, due to change of directions a lot

There is little chance for repairs in such circumstances. Fortunately, both single blades could be replaced individually (without the pole) for a reasonable price. This should still be a rare occasion though. More common however, are cracks and fractures! See below. They come from hard touch downs and unsentimental packing and transport! On the other hand, they do not make the blade unuseable and are easily to be repaired by yourself. 

Do not sit on your paddle! Neither have it transported by bolivian truck drivers.
The gap needs to be filled and the edges take some sealing. Epoxy glue (see below) made a perfect for that. Just apply a 2-4 mm stipe directly on the crack, have the edges smeared out and let it dry. The result  is a  cold welded joint like. Moreover, Epoxy glue serves as a reinforcement of the blades finish to smooth out scraches and to protect the wooden laminate. I usually apply very little glue over the blade by swiping it with a plastic card. Its like a second varnish.  

This is your friend! Epoxy two component glue.
If you feel now this is to much care to take of for a paddle, remember the strenghs of the concept above. They are hard to match with others. Also, Sawyers Dynal edge protectant is quite remarkable. I never damaged it there. In any case, if you do not need the adjustability and high collapsibility, consider a product from Aquabound's range. They are a mere 100g heavier (Manta Ray 4 pieces: 980g), but take the use and abuse of rocky streams and are reasonably priced (135$/~120€). Going beyond that, if stiffness of the whole paddle is a concern and if you are more into pure boating, then a solid one piece paddle is the choice. Last but not least, I started packrafting with a plastic Savylor paddle. Surprisingly light (950g), ridiculously cheap (20€) and fair strengh for a beginning. Extra tip: reinforce the joints by tape, so the poles don't slide.

Comment your experiences with paddles for packrafting or get in touch, if you have a problem or question. We are happy to make the contacts for replacement parts etc., especially for those in Europe. 

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