Monday, July 20, 2015

Ultralite Pack Paddle review

Got a minute, so I'll post a more detailed review of a new paddle I received this summer. I've been so glad to try out the Ultralite Pack Paddle, which you can find on the Advanced Elements website page for paddles. All their paddles are on the one page, just scroll down to find the Ultralite near the bottom. A few days ago I took it with me when paddling my Lagoon in a sheltered cove.

At 20 ounces (a pound and a quarter, or under 570 grams) the AE5005 Ultralite Pack Paddle certainly is light, as its listing said. I couldn't help comparing it with the 2.7 pound (about 1200 grams) AE3034 Touring 4-Part Paddle, which I've used for three years now. Both of these models are more than long enough to be suitable for paddling with these wide inflatables.

This is the AE5005 Ultralite

This is the AE3034 Touring

I liked how both of these paddles take apart into four pieces, which makes it possible to carry the paddle inside the zippered-shut bag for a Lagoon. That's the best thing about these paddles, after five years of stuffing a two-piece paddle into the bag and leaving the shafts sticking out at one end of the zipper.

Something you can't see in these photos is that the metal shaft of the Touring has a plastic sleeve on it, to reduce the feeling of cold. The uncovered metal of the Ultralite's shaft is all right for me. I usually wear paddling gloves, the kind with short fingers, so a cold metal shaft is not a deal-breaker for me even though the sea water where I live is about 7C or 40F year-round. (Cold!)

The black colour of both paddles works for me. If I ever think it's too dark or sombre, I'll put some bright reflective tape on the blades like my husband put on his paddles.

Something that wasn't mentioned on the AE website's Paddles product page is that the Ultralite has a small diameter shaft. The feeling is really very different from a standard shaft! I have small hands and usually find a standard shaft is a bit larger than my ideal. The Ultralite's shaft is smaller than my ideal. It would be a terrific size for a teen or child. I'd also recommend trying this shaft for a person with a problem gripping tightly -- pad this shaft with some pipe insulation and see if it is easier to grip! That's how I intend to use this paddle for a friend with rheumatoid arthritis, when we go out in a StraitEdge2 again this summer.

Unfortunately, there are two ways the Ultralite dissatisfies me. The paddle when assembled has more "shimmy" in it than I like. Many take-apart paddles have a little shimmy at the joins. But the Ultralite has way more shimmy than the Touring, enough that I inspected each join to see if any looked looser than the others. Nope, all looked fine. The shimmy made the Ultralite seem a bit flimsy. I felt like I could bend the shaft in my hands like Superman. I wonder how sturdy the Ultralite is in challenging conditions.

I was also not really satisfied with the way the Ultralite blades bite the water. It seemed inefficient, like paddling with a hockey stick. Maybe I'm too used to the dihedral blades of the Touring. I'll have to go get my scoop blade carbon paddle out of storage, and borrow my husband's Greenland paddle, to have some variety.

My plans are to use the Ultralite when paddling my Lagoon in sheltered flat water that I've reached by bus or on foot, so the light weight of the paddle will be a real asset. It will be good to have a small shaft paddle to loan to my friends with small or disabled hands. The Ultralite could also be a convenient spare, to carry in case someone in my kayaking group breaks a paddle. I suspect that conditions which would break my other paddles would break the Ultralite easily.

Bottom line: this is a paddle that weighs half as much as my other paddles. When ounces of weight matter, I'll use it. In challenging conditions, I'll use my Touring paddle.

Editor's Note: When Paula compares one of the paddles to "paddling with a hockey stick," she knows exactly what she's talking about. Here's the evidence.

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