The utility and critical importance of a simple piece of safety gear – the humble paddle float – is generally underappreciated, and it’s a crying shame.

You see, the best kayak paddle float can be a kayaker’s version of the Swiss Army Knife, as long as you know what it’s for, how to use it, and where to buy the best ones!

What The Heck Is a Paddle Float?

Intended as a tool to be used for increased stability of your kayak or canoe, a paddle float can also be used to help you with re-entry from the water. These tools attach to paddle blades and help up buoyance of the paddle so that it can effectively be used as an outrigger for increased stability and support.

 

Understanding the Difference between Inflatable and Foam Paddle Floats

The utility and critical importance of a simple piece of safety gear – the humble paddle float – is generally underappreciated, and it’s a crying shame.

You see, the best kayak paddle float can be a kayaker’s version of the Swiss Army Knife, as long as you know what it’s for, how to use it, and where to buy the best ones!

Why All Kayakers NEED Paddle Floats in Their Lives

If you can get your hands on an inflatable paddle float, your paddling experience will be altered indefinitely. It can be used for a wide range of applications including re-entry. Let’s have a look at some of the most common uses for paddle floats:

  1. Safety

Since paddle floats are used for re-entry safety, they should actually be classified as an essential piece of on-board safety gear. To help increase stability, paddle floats can be used for the “Cowboy Scramble”, “Re-entry and Roll”, and the “Paddle Float Re-entry” maneuvers. They may also help prevent multiple capsizes and help get you back on the kayak faster during a solo re-entry.

  1. Stability

Paddle floats may help increase the stability of kayaks in a few scenarios, not just from a re-entry point of view. Paddle floats can, for instance, be attached to the sides of a kayak to up stability in rough water conditions. They can also help sea-sick paddlers stay upright or help eliminate the need for a tandem tow.

  1. Roll Development Gear

In order to conquer and master the hip snap and paddle positions, a paddle float can be very handy. Paddle floats can be strategically used to help paddlers learn these maneuvers and get the feel of what happens out in the water.

  1. Volume Displacement

Inflatable paddle floats make great makeshift float bags, which is especially helpful in preventing unnecessary water from entering the kayak in case of capsizing. Float bags may also help you get your kayak upright and cleared of any water as quickly as possible after capsizing, which makes using paddle floats for these applications extremely handy.

  1. Comfort

Partially-inflated paddle floats may be used to help boost the comfort of a kayak’s seat and backrest. Some paddlers use their foam paddle floats as spare seats around the campfire as well. It’s a nice-to-have item around the campsite, but an essential piece of gear on board.

Where Can I Learn more About a Paddle Float’s Re-Entry Assistance in Action?

Luckily, the internet is a wonderful place, crammed full of useful information. You can go ahead and check out this paddle float self-rescue video, or have a look at this video which also details the importance of a paddle float for re-entry applications.

What Is The Best Kayak Paddle Float?

Well, in our humble opinions, there are two great paddle floats which currently dominate the market. Check them out and decide for yourself which one better suits your individual needs and preferences…

NRS Sea Kayak Paddle Float

 

At roughly $50 a pop, the NRS Sea Kayak Paddle Float is, as the name implies, best used for sea kayaking applications. We love the fact that it’s compact and is super durable. We should also mention the fact that this is an inflatable kayak which is super easy to use and very versatile!

The Pros:

  • Durable and easy to use
  • Dual air chambers which are fast-draining
  • High flotation capacity

The Cons:

  • More expensive than foam paddle floats

Carlisle Foam Paddle Floa

 

The Carlisle Foam Paddle Float will cost you roughly $30 less than an inflatable paddle float, but there are a few sacrifices you’ll have to make for a reduction in price though. For one, you’ll have to deal with a much bigger pack size. It’s also not easy to get onto the paddle if you’re in a real hurry. As far as reentry applications are concerned, the Carlisle Foam Paddle Float does exactly what it was designed to do, and makes solo re-entry a breeze.

The Pros:

  • Fast drying
  • Durable
  • Lightweight
  • Affordable

The Cons:

  • Big and bulky
  • Can be tricky to attach to the paddle if you’re in a rush

The Worthy Mention – North Water Paddle Float in Red

North Water’s Inflatable Paddle Float isn’t one of our favorite products, and the reason for that is largely due to its insane price tag, hovering around the $95 mark. Still, it’s great because the float lies low, conforming to the shape of your deck. Since it has such a low profile, its secure and can be utilized at a moment’s notice.

The Pros:

  • Has a conforming shape which means it stays secure
  • Two paddle blade pockets ensures quick deployment
  • Features anchoring straps on either end of the float for more secure fit

The Cons:

  • Definitely not a cheap option when compared to other top picks

Final Thoughts

We hope that you’ve enjoyed reading this article and that it has helped you to better understand the importance and need for a kayak paddle float. It might just be another piece of gear, but it’s a tool that may well save your life when push comes to shove!

Author: dwthompson