Kayak Paddle Holders: Which Is the Best One for You?
If you’re a kayak enthusiast, then the world is your oyster. Once you’ve made the two most important buying decisions -- what type of kayak (sit inside kayak vs sit on top, touring or angling, etc.) and what kind of paddle you’ll use -- there are literally hundreds of kayak accessories available to tinker with and explore. Dry bags, rod holders, kayak carts, wind sails, PFDs, bilge pumps, paddle leashes, oar holders, outriggers. The list goes on and on.
With so many fun gadgets to choose from, it’s hard to know which ones are genuinely necessary and which models function the best. We can’t cover all that territory in a single article, but we will delve into one of those accessories: kayak paddle holders.
But first, a definition.
Kayak Paddle Holders: A Tale of Two Types
When most people think about a kayak paddle holder, they think of a clip, bungee cord or other small device that allows them to temporarily secure their paddle to their kayak to keep it out of the way. The component is usually fairly small and tends to attach with simple hardware, either directly onto the kayak or in conjunction with a track or other mounting accessory. YakGear’s Taco Paddle Clip, Yakclips and bungee kits all fall into this category.
These devices hold the paddle when it’s NOT in use. For the sake of this article, we’ll call them “traditional” paddle holders. More about them in a minute.
So is there ever a scenario in which you’d want your paddle in a holder WHILE you’re using it? Is that even possible? The answer is yes, and that brings us to a second type of kayak paddle holder, one that supports the weight of the paddle while the person is stroking it through the water.
What madness is this, you might ask? This madness is a relatively new entrant onto the kayak accessories playing field, We’ll call it an “assistive” paddle holder, though it can also be considered an “adaptive” product. The leader in this category is the Gamut Paddle Holder which has only been on the market for the last two years.
The Gamut – named so because it works with a wide array (i.e., a gamut) of paddles -- fills a unique niche in the paddling world. It was designed to give older paddlers, who might otherwise have had to stop kayaking due to arthritis or joint pain, the ability to keep kayaking. It also enables people with certain types of injuries (e.g., torn rotator cuffs) or physical challenges (e.g., weakness on one side from a stroke) to start or continue paddling. Unlike traditional paddle holders, Gamut works with a sizeable mount that attaches to the cockpit area to hold the weight of the paddle. It incorporates two YakAttack RotoGrips to grasp the paddle, which rotates in every direction around a pivoting head. The Gamut Paddle Holder also has other applications that are highlighted in the graphic below.
Top Reasons for Using Paddle Holders
Now that we’ve clarified that there’s more than one type of kayak paddle holder, let’s talk turkey. How important are they, and why do people typically use them?
On a scale of 1 (waste of money) to 10 (an absolute essential), we’d rank traditional paddle holders at about a five. They definitely contribute to a more hassle-free paddling experience, especially for anglers who don’t want to have to repeatedly reposition their paddle between casts or photographers who don’t want to have to juggle both a camera and a paddle. They’re also useful in a variety of other scenarios, as noted in this graphic.
When it comes to an assistive paddle holder, its importance ranks anywhere from a two to a 10, depending on the paddler. For someone who generally goes on a straightforward outing and doesn’t tend to fish, take photos or make frequent stops, such a device is not necessary. But, for someone who might not be able to kayak if not for the joint stress reduction and paddle weight alleviation that an assistive paddle holder like the Gamut provides, it can rank as high as a 10!
Even More Turkey: Which Are the Best Kayak Paddle Holders?
Beauty – in this case, function and price – is in the eye of the beholder. Rather than give you our opinion on which is the "best,” we’ve highlighted some of the most popular paddle holders we discovered in our research. We’ve also included some of the features that paddlers liked and disliked on these models.
As you'll see, we've grouped the traditional holders into several different design categories, including clips, grips, tacos, velcro and bungees. We've linked every product to a place you can buy it online.
What these models may lack in versatility they make up for in terms of being a fun product category (a taco shape, that is!). But seriously, these are a great option for a low-profile holder that's easy to install. The PadLoc style has the bonus of the bungee tie for double security. Both the Scotty Paddle Clip and the YakGear Deck Mount are simple and sleek. The Quick Grip requires a track to mount, but we can see how having the paddle resting a couple of extra couple of inches away from the cockpit -- where all the action is happening -- could be a real plus.
Possible downsides? These styles might not fit oval shafts as nicely as round ones.
Each of these grip-style holders has a certain asthetically-pleasing mechanical element. With the RotoGrip, for instance, it just feels good letting your paddle nestle between the grips. This model accepts both oval and round shafts. We haven't tried the RAM Roller-Ball ourselves, but it bills itself as holding paddles as well as gaff hooks, nets and other accessories. Finally, the Cam-Lok Paddle Holder also gets high marks. Its rubber grips work with all kinds of shafts, storing them away quietly and without scratching.
All three have a fairly high profile, lending themselves to catching on other items. They each also require mounting tracks, one for each side.
Our choices for clip style holders range from super simple to sophisticated. We like how the Yakclips by Cascade Creek just clip onto the coaming. No installation required, and they fit a wide range of kayaks. The downside? The paddle has the potential to slide around inside them. YakGear has at least two styles of clips: their entry level paddle clip and a more versatile folding clip. The folding clip sounds pretty good in theory, giving paddlers the option of having their paddle within easy reach or draped over the side of the kayak, but since they have to work in concert with one another, it seems like it might be a bit logistically challenging to move them both at once. Just a guess, though, we haven't tried them out yet.
Velcro & Cords
Velcro Paddle Holder Clips - Various Styles
In our final traditional paddle holder category are various types of bungees, Velcro and tie-down options. There is quite a range of bungee kits available, and they can be used for holding paddles and many other needs. Some, like this one from Field & Stream, require a drill for installation. Others, like the Velcro options here, don't require any installation at all.
We're intriqued by the Paddle Keepers because they attach to any available hardware on the kayak and hang over the side. Two small rubber hooks hold the paddle in place. One downside to these easy and inexpensive Velcro options is that taking a few seconds to open and close the Velcro straps to secure the paddle each time seems like a hassle, especially as opposed to just popping the paddle in and out like you can do with clip and grip models.
Assistive/Adaptive Paddle Holder
Hanging out all by its lonesome in the assistive paddle holder category is the Gamut Paddle Holder. This system is generally recommended for sit inside kayaks, but it does come in a sit-on-top option. A t-shaped hinged mount attaches to the front coaming of a sit in kayak, and two stablizing brackets on the sides hold the mount in place. A multi-directional rotating clevis head on top of the mount holds the paddle in place using two of YakAttack's RotoGrips. By not having to support the weight of the paddle, kayakers with shoulder problems, poor grip strength, arthritis or other upper body strength limitations don't have to give up kayaking.
The price point for the Gamut is obviously much higher than for traditional paddle holders, but it is not unreasonable given that it can extend a paddler's kayaking ability for many years to come. On the downside, it only fits about 70% of sit in kayaks and a smaller percentage of sit-on-top kayaks. Installation is also a bit more involved.
It's not rocket science, but you should keep in mind a few factors before deciding which paddle holder to purchase. Here are some important ones.
Oval vs Round Shaft: Make sure it fits your specific paddle shaft!
Sit Inside or Sit on Top Kayak: Some holders require blind installs, others clip on.
Ease of Installation
Ease of Use
There you have it! We've taken a stroll around the landscape of paddle holders for kayaks, now it's up to you to decide which one is right for you. To read more about other kayaking trends, including kayak maintenance tips and the best kayak tracking apps, visit our blog.
Angle Oar LLC's mission is getting people who didn’t think they had the strength or endurance to kayak out on the water and keeping experienced paddlers there longer! We provide adaptive paddles, outriggers and other equipment to people with shoulder problems, physical disabilities or limited upper body strength due to age, injury or ability.