Tag Archives: Canoeing


Bent-shaft canoe paddles vs. straight-shaft

“What’s the degree of bend in this paddle?”

As you may remember from the summer of 2010, I wrote a couple of articles entitled “My favorite questions as an outfitter.” And while the above question may have been in contention for inclusion in that list, it might be a good inquiry. My first reaction was to think this guy was some kind of gear geek, and had been reading too many canoe forum paddle posts. But in reality it is a question that should be answered.

Let’s start with the basic, bent-shaft canoe paddles vs. straight-shaft canoe paddles.

In the early 1980’s canoe racers discovered that they could increase their stroke efficiency by bending the shaft of the paddle between 12 and 14 degrees. The bend changes the mechanics, and creates a stroke where the blade of the paddle stays virtually upright through the arc. The transfer of power from the paddle to the water is almost entirely horizontal.

Through the arc of a straight shaft paddle motion you have three transfers of power. As the paddle enters the water much of the effort is pushing down on the water. In the middle of the stroke you are pulling horizontally. And at the end of the stroke you are lifting up on the water. Mimic the motion sitting on a chair and you can visualize the arc and see the transfer of power.

Therefore, when somebody asks about the degree of bend in a paddle they are really asking, “is this the most efficient paddle you have?”

How do I measure for a bent-shaft paddle?

All other variables being equal, the bent-shaft will be about four inches shorter than the straight shaft paddle. The quick and dirty method is to sit on a bench, turn the paddle upside down, and shoot to get your nose right to the bend in the paddle. Other factors like seat height will affect the length, but this is the best place to start.

Which paddle is right for me?

Bent-shaft paddles work well for a canoe team that is going to paddle with the hit and switch method. Which is taking four to six strokes on one side of the boat and then switching to take four to six strokes on the other side of the boat.

If you are a j-stroker, like myself you may prefer the straight shaft paddle. I have found the twist of the j-stroke with a bent-shaft paddle to be a bit too cumbersome. Yeah, yeah, I know. All you bent-shaft converts have no problem with the j-stroke, I am just stating this old guy likes to j-stroke with the straight-shaft paddle.

What if I was to suggest this? How about a 12 degree bend for the bowman and a seven-degree bend for the sternman?

In the end it is a personal choice. And who really cares how you propel your boat, just get out on the water!

Photo and Article By: Brad Putney. “Captain” Brad Putney considers himself an inland waters guru after spending 40 years on the lakes of Minnesota. The Captain likes to say he has been at the helm of everything from a ten-foot inflatable to an America’s Cup yacht. Mr. Putney can be found at the Duluth Pack Store, helpfully dispensing free advice. He has degrees from Gustavus Adolphus College and the University of Minnesota. Please contact at: truenorth@tds.net.

2010 Fall Photo Contest Winners!

Wow, do we have some talented Duluth Pack fans! We had a hard time sifting through a ton of great photos.

We enlisted the help of professional photographer Ed Wargin to help us pick the top three photographs. A big thank you to Ed, you had a tough job!  Click here to find out more about Ed and his award winning photographs.

Don’t be discouraged if your photo didn’t win a prize, a few that didn’t win will definitely be on our website or next catalog so stay tuned. Drumroll please…..

The winning photo and winner of a $100 Duluth Pack gift card is Takashi Isaka of Japan with this beauty. Ed commented that this photo has “good composition and color and just feels like a Duluth Pack kind of day”.

Choice #1











The second place photo and winner of a $50 Duluth Pack gift card is…. Jeff Evans and his faithful companion Darby! Ed liked “the warmth of the dog and the bags in the background”.











And last but certainly not least the winner of a $25 Gift Card is Kat Ramsland! Ed loved the “joy and celebration of a family being outdoors” while using their Duluth Pack bag. Congrats to you and your family Kat!













We just have to throw in a few honorable mentions!

alaska 2



- Thanks Ben M. of AK, be looking for this one in the catalog!








- Jason B. loves our #51 Utility Pack as much as we do!








- Our versatile Pack Basket. We love the urban setting, thanks Amy T.!









- Beautiful Canoe – thanks Heather C. (some folks in the office now have this as their screen saver!)






- We know Kat already won 3rd place but we had to showcase this beauty too!


Family Spring Summer 2010 113





- We love the matching sweatshirt and shoes in this photo by Taylor A.



Our hats off and thanks to all who entered.  We are honored by your loyalty to Duluth Pack! Keep those cameras handy for our next winter photo contest.

Join Us! – The Wilds of Atikaki Wilderness, Manitoba

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Whitewater and Quiet Wilds of Atikaki Wilderness Area of Manitoba by Fred Sproat
6:30pm – 8:00pm, Duluth Pack Store, 365 Canal Park Drive, Duluth, MN 55802

Come learn about a unique trip in this amazing place with few rules and fewer people, not far from Duluth, MN

fallsAtikaki Wilderness Provincial Park in eastern Manitoba is a refuge of wildness unparalleled by the Boundary Waters or Quetico. It is a place of few rules and fewer people. Fred Sproat recently lead a 23-day canoe trip through the park in search of whitewater fit for canoeists and soli- tude only dreamed about in the lower 48 states. The numerous creeks and handful of rivers running through Atikaki connect numerous lakes. The goal of the trip was to paddle the Pigeon River from its start on Family Lake down east to Lake Winnipeg. With rapids of every size and constantly changing riverbanks the Pigeon is an eclectic mix of the park’s other landscapes. Jack Pine dotted cliffs give way to tamarack sprouting swamps with groves of aspen and birch marking the transitions. The sea- soned canoeist will revel in the opportunities and experiences available within the park, while the less skilled paddler may be doomed to long ordeals and painful lessons.

Fred Sproat is the Outreach Coordinator for the University of Oregon’s Outdoor Program.

Registration: FREE

Quitting Time at Duluth Pack


Internet worlds collide or more like intertwine when I posted on Twitter about my after work canoe paddle adventure on a calm Lake Superior. Folks wanted to see photos (or maybe proof).

Duluth Pack has been in Duluth for 128 years and I am sitting in the factory where we have been hand making our products since 1911. The factory is a mile away from the head of Lake Superior.

This Lake must be taking seriously, we picked a calm day and stayed close to shore and never took off our life jackets.  On one of the last days of summer, you realize what a special place this is.

How To Measure Your Canoe Paddle

Does your canoe paddle fit properly? Are you in the market for a new paddle and unsure what size to buy? Well we hope this will help you find that perfect paddle!  There seems to be an ongoing debate with our staff on how to properly fit one for a paddle, so in the interest of staff unity, (and my sanity), I am including both methods!


The first method, “the chair method”, involves sitting in a chair and measuring the distance between the seat of the chair and eye levelTake that measurement from the seat of the chair to eye level and add 18 for a bent shaft and 24 for a straight shaft. Take that measurement and use that to measure the proper length for your shaft and grip of your paddle only, not the blade.

This method works best for the straight shaft paddle.  Straight shafts work best for rivers (easy maneuvering) and for windy days on lakes.


The second method, “the kneeling/canoe seat method”, involves kneeling on the floor with your “rear end” 6″ off the floor.  Hold the paddle upside down with the handle on the floor.  When the paddle is in this position, the blade of the paddle should begin around nose and eye level.

* If you are measuring for a bent shaft paddle (best used on lakes) deduct 2″-4″ from this length.

If you have another method we would love to hear about it (and debate it’s merits)!  We hope this helps you find that perfect paddle for years of paddling enjoyment!