I am a huge fan of the Supai Olo paddle, as it is by far the lightest legitimate paddle on the market, and is very packable. The Olo is intended for flat or Class I water where you can get by without the power a good whitewater paddle provides.
Supai recently redesigned the Olo, adding a few refinements. But before discussing those, I thought I’d give some examples of the trips I’ve taken using the 14.5oz Olo paddle.
THE SUPERSTITION WILDERNESS
I know what you’re thinking… one of Arizona’s best known wildernesses isn’t often a spot thought of for paddling. However, the Salt River reservoirs form the entire northern boundary of the wilderness, as any AZT hiker who has had to walk all the way to Roosevelt to cross and continue on north to the Four Peaks Wilderness can attest. I’ve taken trips where I was able to explore seldom seen parts of the wilderness crossing the Salt Reservoirs, and paddling to connectors, trusty 14.5oz paddle on my pack.
THE OWYHEE CANYONLANDS
About to launch in the Owyhee Canyonlands
I used the Supai paddle to connect areas I wanted to explore in more depth.
JOHN DAY RIVER COUNTRY
Paddle fits easily into a side pocket of a Volpi Fastpack
This is my primary shoulder season and winter backpacking territory. Having the ability to cross the river at will is vital to fully exploring this landscape, with limited public entry points and difficult straight line overland travel.
Not an easy place to hike without a raft for crossings!
COMING THIS SUMMER: WASHINGTON CASCADES
I’ve done multiple off trail routes in the Alpine Lakes and Glacier Peaks Wilderness where the circumnavigation of a lake is extremely difficult due to deep cirques with high angle unstable talus. This coming summer the Supai Olo Paddle and Supai Matkat Packraft will be coming with me to make short work of otherwise tiresome travel.
THE REDESIGNED OLO PADDLE
New Olo Paddle blade above, old paddle design below
The Olo Paddle is 200cm long — enough for the flat strokes from the “swan” or spread eagle type position you’re likely to find yourself in while on calm water. The smallish and unshaped blade of the previous Olo did not seem to be a serious impediment to travel, as the maximum hull speed of a typical ultralight raft could still easily be achieved, and more power would be wasted effort on the part of the paddler.
What I was failing to take into account was moments of paddling against the current, needing more power to aim for a particular spot at the other side of a crossing, and eddying out when needed. The new paddle blade makes all of this easier.
No paddle in this picture? That’s because it's holding up my tent. Dual use!
The new blade is slightly larger, and shaped with a scoop to provide a more powerful stroke. It fits more into a “Sugar Island” style of blade, and the increased power is notable. Some clever removable drip rings have been added as well. Despite the increased size the paddle still handily packs in the side pocket of all my backpacks.
A good example of the increased power is this crossing of the John Day in a Supai Matkat Raft, with the redesigned Olo Paddle. This is with the river at 14,000 CFS, near flood stage:
The newly redesigned Supai Olo Paddle gives me plenty of power to keep myself pointed up river in a ferry position until I am able to sidle into the opposite bank.
If you are ready to add some paddling to your backcountry routes and are looking for the best combination of weight, packability, and effectiveness, the redesigned Supai Olo Paddle is a solid featherlight choice.