The Redtail Paddle Company makes a range of paddle qualities. Although this model is extremely economical I have found it to be an outstanding all-round paddle.
This was pretty close to an impulse purchase for me. I was headed for the Minnesota Boundary Waters for a canoe and trail-maintenance trip a few years ago, and was getting some gear that I really needed. I didn’t really need my own paddle, as those were going to be provided. However, I saw this one, on sale, for $20, and the length fit me (short), so I figured I couldn’t go wrong even if it didn’t last in the long run. It has turned out to be a great purchase for my canoeing needs.
First, the specs. This is a laminated, straight paddle made by the Redtail Company of Hastings, Ontario, Canada. They describe each paddle as being handcrafted, and each one has a hand-labeled tag on it. The tag claims that each paddle is 100% hand crafted. These are obviously machined, but I am assuming that the machines are run by humans rather than an assembly line process. (They do also sell high-end paddles that are individually signed, which I suspect have even more hand-work.)
You can purchase these paddles with or without a resin tip. Mine has one. More on this later. They come in lengths of 36, 40, 44, 48, 54, 57, 60, and 63 inches. You can choose poplar or ash. Mine is poplar. The ash would be a more durable paddle. The regular full price for the poplar in lengths 54" and up with a resin tip is only $27.95. Ash is not offered with a resin tip (as a harder wood it is not as susceptible to tip damage as the poplar). All in the Beavertail line have 6" wide blades.
Since these are laminated, each one is going to look slightly different and if you are selecting one in a store you could choose one with a pleasing combination of panels and grains.
It is a rather light paddle. Mine, at 54" weighs only 1.25 pounds. This makes it very comfortable for paddling long stretches at a time, which we certainly did on the BWCA trip! I was very glad that I had not taken my older, and comparatively heavy paddle.
Since then, I have continued to have opportunities to go paddling two or three times a year. Most of what I do near home is river paddling. And this is where the resin tip is great. There is no way around it; if you are river canoeing you are going to need to push off from rocks on occasions, and sometimes even scrape the paddle on the riverbed. Without that hard tip the paddle would be likely to be really dinged up, or even split and broken. Mine is now showing quite a few scratches, but there is not even a hint of a split, or any separation of the resin from the wood. I’ve had it for seven years.
If you are into racing, or some other type of competitive paddling you probably want something better. If you want some really good, all-purpose paddles to keep around the cabin, use for occasional canoe trips, or for the kids, these are absolutely wonderful.
Redtail Canoe Paddles