Equipment for pickleball alone most likely won’t make you a better player. However, the right gear may and probably will help you with uncovering your true potential. Thereby, you should consider getting proper pickleball equipment will all seriousness while not overestimating its role and remembering that your skill is more important.
As a beginner, you may be at a loss, not knowing what equipment to purchase. This material has been made to help you.
We are now going to list all the key items that you should have in your pickleball arsenal. We’ll also complement each item with a buying guide – where applicable – to help you with picking the right gear.
Let’s get going, shall we?
Essential Pickleball Equipment
A paddle is the first thing that you’d need to get for pickleball.
You may use paddles available at recreational centers, but if possible, we’d advise you to get your own paddle. At a recreational center, you don’t know what kind of a paddle you will be able to play with. If you have your own paddle, you will be able to learn pickleball technique consistently without having to think about differences between paddles.
There are certain tournament regulations for pickleball paddles, which we covered in a separate material. We may mention them briefly here as well. If you will be competing, do make sure to get acquainted with the rules so you get the right paddle.
By the way, if you happen to be looking for a pickleball paddle for spin, we have a separate material on that. Below are more general guidelines for buying a paddle, while the other material has tips specific to getting a paddle for spinning the ball.
Now, let’s see what things you need to look for in pickleball paddles.
Weight should overall be your top priority when choosing a pickleball paddle.
Paddle weights range from 6 to 14 ounces. Those few ounces may not seem like a huge difference, but in reality, they are going to significantly affect your playing ability. If you get a paddle that is too heavy for you, you will definitely feel early fatigue in your wrist, elbow, and shoulder after swinging hundreds of times during a game.
Usually, pickleball paddles are categorized in the following way:
- Lightweight (under 7.3 ounces).
- Mid-weight (7.3 to 8.4 ounces).
- Heavy (over 8.5 ounces).
Generally, your strength and endurance will determine how much your pickleball paddle needs to weigh. Aside from that, the weight significantly affects the overall performance of the paddle.
All in all, whether you are going for a heavier or lighter paddle, you need to get a paddle that is going to allow you to compensate for your weaknesses and to uncover your strengths. And now, let’s see what each weight has to offer.
Lighter paddles, all in all, allow you to move and respond to the moves of your opponents quicker. In addition, lighter paddles tend to provide you with increased control over the ball. And because lighter paddles put less stress on the elbow and shoulder, they are better for beginners or those who have injuries in their elbow and/or shoulder.
On the other hand, lighter paddles lack drive and power. Due to this, a stronger swing is required to make long and hard shots.
So who would need to go for a lighter paddle?
Well, it would be a player whose joints and muscles can’t take much load, first of all. If you tend to hit harder than necessary, you may also want to switch to a lighter paddle to reduce your shot’s strength. And lastly, you may want to go for a lighter paddle if you wish to improve ball control.
Things are the other way around with heavier paddles.
Needless to say, heavier paddles deliver more power, which allows you to put less effort in sending the ball further. It is easier to hit the ball deep with a heavier paddle.
On the other hand, heavier paddles are harder on the joints and muscles. If you are yet weak or have an injury, you’d want to avoid a heavy paddle. In addition, heavier paddles have a slower swing and offer less control over the ball.
Who should go for a heavier paddle? If you have a problem with hitting the ball far and deep, then you may want to try a heavier paddle that would deliver more power. But remember that a heavier pickleball paddle is going to be more stressful on your joints!
The next important factor after the weight is the grip. A paddle with a wrongly sized grip is the same as shoes that don’t fit. Needless to say, choosing the right grip is key to obtaining the right amount of control over the paddle.
The correct grip size is determined from the height of the player. Pickleball paddle grips go from 4 to 4-1/2 inches. You could use the chart below to pick a grip size, but please do keep in mind that these measurements are only general, and they may not be right for your build.
5’3” to 5’8”
4-1/8” to 4-1/4”
A smaller grip allows for more wrist action. With more wrist movement, it would be easier for you to spin the ball. In addition, increased wrist action could allow you to put more power to the serve and improve the overall control over the paddle.
However, due to the increased wrist action, the risk of straining the wrist is higher with small-grip paddles.
A paddle with a larger grip will deliver more stroke stability, at the same time putting less strain on the wrist, elbow, and shoulder. But using a too large grip may result in elbow strain.
A good thing about smaller grips is that you can always add an overgrip to increase their size. At the same time, there is no way to make a large grip smaller. If in doubt, you could go one size smaller and, if necessary, add overgrip or tape to make the grip thicker.
Pickleball paddle manufacturers don’t always indicate what the grips on their paddles are made from. You don’t really need this information though: the main things that you want to have in your paddle are sweat absorbance, perforation, and good, grippy texture.
If your budget doesn’t yet allow you to go for a paddle with a good grip, no problem. The good thing about paddle grip is that they can often be easily replaced. Besides, you may just add overgrip to the paddle if there is room for it.
Paddle material is crucial as well, both in terms of performance and pricing.
Three material types are commonly used in paddle making – wood, composites, and graphite. All those materials have their advantages and disadvantages, so let’s address them one by one.
Pickleball paddles made from wood are the cheapest and heaviest out there. In spite of their heavier weight, wood paddles still remain a viable option for beginners or amateur players alike.
The original pickleball paddles were made from wood, so modern paddles definitely are usable, especially given that they’ve been noticeably improved over the original wooden paddles.
Needless to say, a cheap wood paddle makes for a good entry-level paddle for a beginner. A beginner isn’t likely to play pickleball frequently and for extended periods of time, so the increased weight of the wood may not be as big of a factor.
Wood paddles are also rather good for summer camps, schools, community centers, and whatnot because they can take quite a beating. Besides, buying large quantities of cheap wood paddles is going to be less costly for you.
Composite is used in middle-end pickleball paddles. These paddles usually have a fiberglass/carbon fiber hitting surface that delivers a lot of power, as well as a core. The core, in its turn, is made from either aluminum, polymer, or rigid nylon, also known as Nomex. We’ll examine core types in pickleball paddles a little later.
Aside from their good price/quality ratio, composite paddles usually have a textured surface that allows you to put a spin on the ball easier. In addition, there is a wide variety of prices and weights available among composite paddles, which makes them suitable for plenty of people.
Graphite paddles are the lightest, strongest, and priciest pickleball paddles out there.
At their core, they are pretty much identical to composite paddles. But when it comes to the face, things are completely different.
The graphite layer on the faces of the paddle is thin and lightweight yet exceptionally strong. This is what makes graphite paddles so lightweight. Due to their price and lightness, graphite paddles are popular among highly skilled players who wish to gain as much control over the ball as possible.
The structure of the core has an effect on a paddle’s performance that is similar to that of materials. Again, both price and performance are affected by the core.
As we’ve already said a little earlier, the core in pickleball paddles is usually made from aluminum, Nomex, or polymers. Let’s now examine all those core types one by one.
Paddles with aluminum cores tend to be lighter. Thereby, they usually offer greater control over the paddle and the ball.
An aluminum core has a honeycomb structure that makes the core strong yet light. While providing better control, aluminum cores lack power, which makes them better for players who are willing to sacrifice drive for increased control.
Nomex has been used in a variety of fields due to its excellent thermal, chemical, and radiation resistance. Lately, it has been used in pickleball paddle core production as well.
Nomex is related to nylon, but it is made more durable and rigid than nylon. Cores made of Nomex have a honeycomb pattern, but it is much stronger than that of aluminum.
Due to its characteristics, Nomex cores make for the loudest paddles. If you have ever heard a popping sound after a player hit a ball, then it was most likely produced by a Nomex core.
In addition, Nomex cores are the hardest out there, which makes paddles with such cores quicker and more powerful. This is excellent for singles where those two things are valued the most.
Do keep in mind that loud noise could actually be an issue with Nomex cores. Based on noise output, some recreational centers or pickleball clubs are putting restrictions on what kind of paddles can be used in their territory. The loud noises of pickleball have even been a cause for lawsuits.
Polymer cores are basically made from a plastic blend. The polymer technology is relatively new to the pickleball market, but it has been quickly gaining popularity over the years.
Polymer cores are the softest among the three core materials. This, first of all, means that a paddle with a polymer core produces the least noise. Being the quietest paddles, paddles with polymer cores are suitable for shared gym space centers or whatnot where the noise produced by pickleball is undesirable.
Aside from noise-dampening features, polymer cores also slow down the shot, which makes the ball more controllable. Thereby, a paddle with a polymer core is a better choice for a player who prefers to have more control over the ball.
The body shape doesn’t have a direct effect on the speed or control of the paddle, but it can make a big difference when it comes to comfort and consistency.
Pickleball paddles can be edgeless, wide-body, or elongated. Now, let’s see what each body shape has to offer.
Normally, pickleball paddles have a protective guard running along the edge that protects the face from impact and prevents chipping and nicking.
Edgeless paddles, as suggested by their name, do not have this edge guard. The absence of the guard maximizes the hitting surface of the paddle, which is a thing highly preferred by more skilled and serious players.
On the other hand, edgeless pickleball paddles are susceptible to chipping or nicking. The faces of edgeless paddles are normally protected with a thin tape, but it doesn’t provide the same protection level as an edge guard would. Thus, one would need to be very careful with an edgeless pickleball paddle.
Wide-body pickleball paddles are usually the ones used for competition. These usually measure 8 inches wide and 15-3/4 inches long in order to comply with the regulations of the International Federation of Pickleball. As the rule states, the length combined with the width should not exceed 24 inches, including the butt cap and the edge guard.
For most of the people, a wide-body pickleball paddle is going to be the best bet. It provides a good combo of reach and hitting surface width, which allows skilled and less experienced players alike to consistently hit the ball.
In recent years, the elongated kind of pickleball paddles has been gaining popularity. Elongated paddles still aren’t used as often in competition as wide-body paddles, but they are rather popular nonetheless.
Elongated paddles sacrifice some width for increased length of the paddle face. The width of the paddle is decreased to allow the paddle to remain compliant with regulations.
The longer paddle face allows for an increased reach, which could really benefit some players, especially short-handed individuals who suffer from insufficient reach.
On the other hand, the narrower face of an elongated pickleball paddle has a narrower sweet spot for ball contact. Obviously, this makes properly hitting the ball more difficult. Due to this, novice players should probably avoid elongated paddles.
Beginners will most likely think that price is the primary thing they should consider in a paddle. This isn’t true: you may get the cheapest paddle out there, for example, but it might be the completely wrong kind of paddle.
Don’t get us wrong, price does play a role, but there are things that are much more important, like those we described earlier.
Before starting your search for a pickleball paddle, we’d recommend you to outline your budget. If you know your limits, many paddles will get out of the equation, and you will have to look through fewer paddles.
Another thing that should be mentioned is that price is less important to beginners than to experienced players. Skilled players are willing to spend the money on a good paddle, and since they already have a developed playstyle and an experience with paddles, they are less likely to make a mistake.
On the other hand, beginners have little to no skills, and getting a pricey paddle may be a mistake for them. You may get a great paddle overall, but you most likely won’t need its features. Furthermore, as you become better at pickleball, you may discover that your pricey paddle isn’t the right one for you, meaning that the paddle was a waste of money.
As a beginner, don’t rush to get a premium-quality paddle, even if you have the money. It would be much more reasonable to allow your skill to unfold, and when you are ready, you’d be able to make an informed decision when looking for a pricey paddle.
While color won’t be impacting the performance of your pickleball paddle, it may have huge importance for you. If you really want to match your paddle with your outfit, then you’d need to pay special attention to the color scheme of your paddle.
Even if you aren’t this picky, you should go for a paddle that you like. In addition, you should probably buy an unusually colored paddle, which would allow you to identify your paddle among others at clubs and tournaments.
There is also an opinion that a yellow paddle face is the most advantageous for competitions because the yellow ball blends with it, making it more difficult for the opponent to prepare for the shot. But given that now ball colors vary widely at competitions nowadays, it is difficult to say how much of an advantage the paddle color could really provide you with.
The second important piece of pickleball equipment is a pickleball ball. While your performance on the court will be largely affected by your paddle, the ball can also make a huge difference.
Even if you aren’t going to get your own ball, you should know as much about them as possible before the game. In addition, you may want to get several different kinds of balls to add a bit more variety to your training.
Now, we are going to introduce you to several key features to look for in a pickleball ball. Like it was with paddles, there are certain regulations for balls that are used in competition, so make sure to have a look at them beforehand.
First come outdoor balls. As suggested by their name, these are used for outdoor pickleball matches. They differ from indoor balls quite a bit, and it is important to understand how,
Outdoor balls are harder, heavier, and slightly larger than indoor balls. Due to this, they come off of the paddle harder and quicker. On the other hand, outdoor balls are harder to control, which very often causes outdoor rallies to be shorter.
Secondly, outdoor balls have a smoother surface, as well as a higher number of smaller holes – usually 40 – which is likely done in order to decrease the effect of wind onto the ball. Speaking of wind, the heavier weight is another factor that makes outdoor balls less susceptible to wind.
Due to the harsher outdoor conditions – like UV rays and rougher outdoor court surface – outdoor balls tend to degrade and crack quicker than indoor balls. In addition, outdoor pickleball balls tend to lose their round shape due to impact. So overall, the lifespan of outdoor balls is shorter.
What should be also kept in mind is that the heavier and harder pickleball balls hurt more if you get hit by them. In addition, outdoor balls are noisier, which may be a limiting factor in some recreational centers.
Indoor balls pretty much fully mirror the features of outdoor balls.
Indoor balls are lighter and softer, which makes them come off of the paddle face slower and in a more controlled fashion. Due to this, indoor rallies tend to last longer than outdoor ones.
Indoor pickleball balls have fewer and bigger holes than outdoor balls, but they usually have a minimum of 26 holes to comply with regulations.
Needless to say, indoor balls are more susceptible to wind due to their build and lighter weight. This will be a crucial factor if you will be playing with an indoor ball outside. And while using an indoor ball outside may sound like a silly idea, many people prefer to use them because they are more forgiving and allow for longer rallies.
Unlike outdoor pickleball balls, indoor balls don’t tend to lose their round shape. Indoor balls may get soft, but usually no worse than that. Additionally, they overall live longer because indoor conditions are less harsh.
And yeah, lighter and softer indoor balls hurt less if they hit you.
Regulations require that the ball be made from a durable molted material with a smooth, texture-free surface. A slight ridge at the seam is allowed on the ball as long as it doesn’t impact the flight of the ball.
Pickleball balls are typically made from thermoset plastics like epoxies, melamine, or acrylic. As the name implies, thermoset plastics are molded into the required shape at a high temperature and then cooled down.
Pickleball balls can be also made from either aged pellets or virgin thermostat pellets. Virgin plastic has a much higher grade and is more durable, which is why it is commonly used in outdoor balls.
In the end, regardless of what material the ball is made from, ensure that it complies with pickleball regulations.
Competition-approved pickleball balls weigh between 0.78 and 0.935 ounces. Indoor balls usually weigh around 0.81 ounces, while outdoor balls weigh towards 0.9 ounces. Needless to say, the lighter the ball, the more susceptible it will be to the wind, as we’ve said above when describing indoor and outdoor balls.
Pickleball balls need to be between 2.87 and 2.97 inches in diameter to be compliant with competition regulations. Again, the lower bound is usually characteristic of indoor balls, and the higher of outdoor balls.
When dropped from a height of 78 inches on a granite surface plate, the ball needs to have a bounce between 30 and 34 inches. Before getting a ball, make sure that it falls in the required bounce characteristics.
Regulations require that the ball have a hardness between 40 and 50 on a durometer D scale. Again, whether or not you will be competing, you should make sure that the ball’s hardness is compliant with regulations.
Pickleball balls are most often made yellow, white, or orange. However, there aren’t any limitations on what the color of the ball should be. The only requirement is that the ball be of uniform color, except for identification markings.
Nets are also important, but not everyone is going to need them.
Recreational centers or gyms that have pickleball courts are likely to have a net system already set up. If you will be playing pickleball on prebuilt courts, then you won’t really need to spend money on a net.
However, in some cases, having your own pickleball net system can be beneficial. If you want to set up a pickleball playing area in your backyard or in a local park, you’d obviously need to have your own net. Besides, some people prefer to have their own little pickleball area set up in order to practice more frequently.
If you do need a net system, then have a look at a separate material we made. We’ve reviewed a couple of great nets there, as well as prepared an in-depth buying guide for pickleball nets.
You may shop for all the equipment described above one by one, or you may alternatively opt for a complete pickleball set.
Sets can be very different, with some coming with just 4 paddles and others including everything starting with balls and ending with nets. Some even include extras like court tape, rulebooks, or carrying bags.
The good thing about pickleball sets is that they are often cheaper than all their items sold separately. Besides, you will only have to track one order, not three or more.
On the other hand, you don’t have as much choice with pickleball sets. You are limited to whatever comes with a set, so if you have very specific needs, you are unlikely to find the right set. But for general purposes, pickleball sets are great in that they are convenient and money-saving.
If you happen to be looking for a pickleball set, have a look at our reviews of best pickleball sets.
A bag is another must-have for pickleball. Specifically made for pickleball, a specialized carrying bag will allow you to conveniently carry your paddle, balls, or whatnot. In addition, the bag can make equipment storage easier.
If you are interested in getting a pickleball bag, have a look at our roundup of best pickleball bags.
While the main item that is going to affect your pickleball performance is your paddle, you should not neglect the importance of clothing. Your apparel may make or break your pickleball experience.
Clothing for pickleball is commonly made from skin-tight breathable clothing, but not always. First off, this kind of clothing is more comfortable and less distracting, and secondly, it is lighter than heavy and sagging clothing. If you are looking for a pickleball shirt, we’ve showcased a couple on our review.
Shoes are very important in pickleball as well. Street shoes or running shoes very often lack traction and support, which leads to worse performance at the very least and to injuries in the worst case. Specialized shoes would be able to provide you with the necessary traction and comfort, so you should opt for a pair instead. We have a separate material on pickleball shoes.
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