Paddles for the Solo Canoeist

solo canoeist at sunset
It doesn’t get any better than this! (photo courtesy of Vincent Ortega)
Many canoeists enjoy the benefits and challenge of solo canoeing over tandem canoeing. Or they solo canoe in addition to tandem canoeing, especially when a canoeing partner isn’t available all the time.

Solo canoeists have three different paddle options to choose from: A single-bladed canoe paddle, a kayak paddle and a double-bladed solo canoe paddle.

But first…

How Is a Solo Canoe Different from a Tandem Canoe?

Most people who really love to canoe alone opt for a solo canoe rather than a tandem. There are two main differences between the two:
  • Solo canoes are shorter, anywhere from 10-16 feet long. Tandem canoes are generally 16-18 feet long. A shorter canoe is much easier to control when you paddle alone.
  • Solo canoes have one seat that’s centered in the boat, while tandems have a seat both in the bow and stern. A central seat gives you more control.
Read “Should You Buy a Solo or Tandem Canoe?” for more details on that.

Pros and Cons of a Single-Blade Canoe Paddle

A traditional single-blade canoe paddle is much easier to use when you’re paddling and having to maneuver in tight spaces. And some canoeists just plain prefer to use a single-blade paddle when they canoe. It’s very doable in a shorter solo canoe.
solo canoeist on a still, misty lake
Solo canoeist using a single-blade canoe paddle (photo courtesy of Dawn LaPointe)
The main disadvantage of a single-blade is when you’re canoeing in rough weather conditions. Battling wind and waves with a single-bladed paddle alone is much harder than it is when there are two paddlers in the canoe or with a double-blade paddle.

Having just the one blade often means switching from side to side in these kinds of conditions. That can get tiring pretty quickly. And whenever your paddle isn’t in the water (between every stroke), the wind has a second or two to move your canoe around.

Pros and Cons of a Double-Blade Paddle

Using a double-blade paddle like a solo canoe paddle or kayak paddle is generally faster and less physically demanding. Steering strokes aren’t necessary, which can especially help in wind and waves.

If you deal with aches, pains or injuries will find the double-blade paddle easier on your shoulders. There’s no need to switch sides of the boat as you paddle.

Some solo canoeists who are out for long days find a double-blade paddle to be more fatiguing. These paddles are heavier, there’s an extra blade catching wind (unless you feather your blades) and the paddle is much longer.
solo canoeist with his dog

It’s easy to control your solo canoe with a double-bladed paddle (photo courtesy of Greg R.)
One drawback: “Paddle drip” is a given with a double-blade paddle. It’s not that big of a deal on a hot summer day, but it isn’t ideal in cold weather. Having durable drip rings and waterproof pants helps with this.

Why Use a Solo Canoe Paddle Instead of a Kayak Paddle?

Solo canoe paddles and kayak paddles look basically identical. So why use a solo canoe paddle?

Because you sit higher in a canoe than a kayak, your paddle needs to be longer so you can comfortably reach the water. Most kayak paddles stop at 240 or 250 cm, which isn't long enough for many solo canoeists.
Because solo canoe paddles are designed specifically for use with canoes, they’re made longer, up to 280 cm.

If you paddle a pack canoe you may be able to use a kayak paddle. The seats of pack canoes sit lower than traditional canoes so your paddle can be shorter.

The Best of Both Worlds

If you can swing it with your budget, the best of both worlds is to bring one of each type of paddle when you canoe alone. You’ll be ready, then, for any situation that comes up.

This is an especially great idea for a multi-day trip. Some canoeists even go so far as to bring a single-blade straight shaft, a single-blade bent shaft and a double-blade solo canoe paddle.

Bending Branches’ Solo Canoe Paddles

Bending Branches offers two paddles specifically designed for the solo canoeist:

Slice Glass Solo—With a fiberglass shaft and epX engineered polymer blades, the Slice Glass Solo is both light and durable. It comes with a 3-hole snap-button ferrule with two feathering angles, and a comfortable, ovalized shaft. It’s available in two lengths, 260 cm and 280 cm.

slice solo canoe paddle



 Impression Solo—With its ovalized shaft of solid basswood and blades of eye-catching red alder and basswood, the Impression Solo has beauty as well as performance.

The blade tips are edged with our patented Rockgard® protection, promising years of durability. It comes with a 3-hole snap-button ferrule, and is available in two lengths, 260 cm and 280 cm.

impression solo canoe paddle



(For a real-world discussion on the pros and cons of a double-bladed paddle, check out this forum on It’s a few years old but still applicable!)

What paddle questions can we help you with today? Get in touch with our Wisconsin-based Customer Service Team: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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