Best Emergency Paddles: Trusty Backups when Disaster Strikes!

The Coastal Side is supported by readers and some links on this website are affiliate links. We may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you click through our links and make a purchase from one of our partners.

One of the best safety items you can add to your kayak, canoe, or motorboat is one or more compact emergency paddles. If you lose your primary paddle, or your outboard motor won’t start, you’ll still be able to work your way back to solid ground.

While no one likes thinking about it, there are several different scenarios where an emergency paddle could save your behind. If your boat’s battery dies while you’re in a remote location, having a compact paddle means you’ll have no problem paddling back to safety. If you’re kayaking or canoeing, and one of your buddies loses their paddle, you can toss them your spare paddle and keep going along your merry way!

Many of these paddles telescope down to less than 2-feet long, making them compact enough to stash behind a seat, in a kayak hatch, or lashed to other gear. They also pack several useful features like boat hooks, flotation, and lightweight construction. I’ll break down some of the best emergency telescoping handles on the market, and help you find the right one for your needs.

Quick Answer: 5 Best Emergency Paddles

Best Overall: Airhead Telescoping Paddle
Best Longer Paddle: SeaSense Paddle Boat Hook Telescoping
Budget Pick: Attwood Emergency Telescoping Paddle
Emergency Kayak Paddle: Backwater Paddles Assault Hand Paddle
Also Consider: Seachoice Telescoping Paddle with Boat Hook

Best Overall: Airhead Telescoping Paddle

31s5o5qw1fl. Sl160

When it comes to emergency paddles, you’ll have a tough time beating the convenience and versatility of this bad boy. At just 25.5” long when retracted, its small enough to fit nearly anywhere on your craft – including underneath boat seats or inside storage compartments. It extends out to 72” long when fully elongated, giving you plenty of reach to maneuver larger watercraft with higher freeboards.

A corrosion-resistant aluminum shaft ensures strong performance in both fresh and saltwater, while the bright colored blade makes signaling in emergencies a possibility. The shaft is fully adjustable, so you’ll be able to set it to the exact length you prefer.

The blade is made from high-impact molded plastic, while the end of the paddle shaft features a double-sided boat hook handle for use while docking. It also features a small hole in the shaft for attaching a wrist lanyard in case you drop it in the drink.

Key Features

  • Telescoping shaft allows for completely customized length
  • Brightly colored high-viz orange paddle color
  • Corrosion-resistant aluminum shaft
  • Shaft extends from 25.5” to 72”

Best Longer Paddle: SeaSense Paddle Boat Hook Telescoping

Seasense telescoping paddle and hook, black (pack of 1)

You don’t always need the most compact paddle around – sometimes you want a slightly longer paddle with a bit more reach. The aluminum shaft easily extends from 48” to 72” with a twist lock – allowing you to comfortably paddle a wide variety of watercraft.

The handle doubles as a boat hook, making docking and pushing off a breeze. A handle cut out in the blade makes a good handhold while docking or when pulling someone out of the water! The paddle will float on the surface in case you drop it, so you don’t have to worry about losing your emergency transportation method.

If you’re looking for a slightly longer paddle for your runabout, sailboat, or other medium to large-sized boat, this one will fit the bill nicely. Because it telescopes less than more compact paddles, it’s more solid feeling in hand – making it less likely to bend or break under stress.

Key Features

  • Telescopic handle extends from 48” to 72” with twist lock
  • Boat hook handle helps with grabbing cleats while docking
  • Cut out in blade allows another person to grip and assist during docking
  • Paddle floats in case you drop it

Budget Pick: Attwood Emergency Telescoping Paddle

Attwood 11828-1 emergency 20-inch to 42-inch telescoping paddle for boating, orange

If you’re looking for a compact emergency paddle without spending an arm and a leg – this is the one for you. It’s compact and lightweight, weighing just 1lb 5oz and measuring just 20 ¾” when collapsed. When fully extended it measures 42” – making it ideally sized for kayaks, canoes, and other small watercraft.

It features a corrosion-resistant aluminum blade, as well as a high-impact plastic blade and handle. The handle has a small cutout, allowing you to lash a lanyard or small rope to your wrist. The paddle floats on the surface in case you drop it in the drink, and the high-viz orange color makes it easy to spot from a distance.

While it’s not the most durable paddle on the market, it’ll more than suffice in emergencies. Keep in mind that this style of telescoping paddle should be paddled with one hand on the handle, and the other hand at the base of the paddle. This will prevent your paddle from warping or snapping under pressure.

Key Features

  • Telescopes from 20” to 42” when fully extended
  • Corrosion-resistant aluminum handle with a high-impact plastic blade
  • Lanyard cut-out in paddle handle
  • Float on the surface

Emergency Kayak Paddle: Backwater Paddles Assault Hand Paddle

Backwater paddles assault hand paddle - orange

If you’re looking for a backup or emergency paddle for your kayak, canoe, or other small watercraft – you’ll have a hard time beating this well-designed hand paddle. It works well both as an emergency paddle and as a backup, as it lets you propel your entire craft single-handed.

A serrated edge on the blade makes pushing off of docks, logs, rocks, and other obstacles in the water a breeze. On the opposite end of the blade is a cutout hook feature for grabbing fishing line, tree limbs, and other hazards.

At just under 23” long, and weighing less than a pound, the paddle is compact enough to fit nearly anywhere. A handle wrist lanyard comes included, and even if you do drop it in the water, it’ll float on the surface until you recover it. It’s available in both high-viz orange and olive green, with the orange color being more useful for emergencies.

Key Features

  • Works well as a backup and emergency paddle
  • Serrated blade edge makes pushing off a breeze
  • Cutout on opposite side of blade for grabbing fishing line, rope, and tree limbs
  • Measured just under 23” long and weighs less than a pound

Also Consider: Seachoice Telescoping Paddle with Boat Hook

Seachoice 71070 telescoping paddle with boat hook – anodized aluminum – floating

When it comes to telescoping emergency paddles, the Seachoice is one of the best options around. It features a corrosion-resistant, anodized aluminum handle along with a high-impact plastic handle and blade. The handle also features a positive, non-slip cam lock for adjusting the length, as well as dual boat hooks for easier docking and pushing off rocks.

A handle cutout in the blade turns it into a makeshift rescue handle. The paddle won’t sink if you happen to drop it in the water, and it collapses for compact storage.

It’s one of the more durable emergency paddles on the market, making it great for larger boats and more frequent usage.

Key Features

  • Corrosion-resistant aluminum handle
  • Boat hook built into handle
  • Handle cutout in blade for rescue use
  • Won’t sink if you drop it in the water

Wrap Up

1 2022 07 best emergency paddles wrap up

A good emergency paddle should be considered a necessity for anyone that spends significant time on the water. If you take multi-day wilderness trips in a canoe or kayak, then an emergency paddle is an absolute must. 

These compact paddles give you the capability to paddle small, medium, and even large-sized watercraft if the main propulsion method fails. You’ll have peace of mind knowing you can muscle your way back to shore if your outboard motor fails, or you lose your primary kayak paddle.

Most emergency paddles are also relatively inexpensive, so getting one or more to stow in case of emergency makes good sense. 

Be sure to check out my review of the best kayak paddle floats for another key piece of emergency gear.

About the Writer

Share this article

More to Explore

how to winterize your kayak in fall lake reflection with autumn leaves
Kayaking Guides

How To Winterize Your Kayak with Ease This Fall

Unless you are fortunate enough to live in an area with little or no winter, the chances are that with …

Read Article
Kayaking Gear

Which Kayak Companies Produce Quality Products?

When the pandemic started, I thought kayaking would be the perfect way to get out of the house while keeping …

Read Article
Kayaking Guides

What Should You Do When Approaching a Low-Head Dam in a Kayak

Kayaking involves several risks, like approaching low-head dams. Knowing what they look like can help you stay safe while kayaking. …

Read Article