By Nathan Borchelt
Sep 28, 2022
THE GAME OF PICKLEBALL — a sport that takes its cue from tennis, ping-pong, and badminton — has become one of the fastest-growing activities in the world. And with good reason: it’s a fast, fun, kinetic sport that’s easy to learn and even easier to improve. The best thing about pickleball is it’s not that hard to get started with just a court and few key pieces of gear.
In exploring the best pickleball gear of 2022, we focused on a range of items from the best paddles for different skill levels to what to wear to keep you supported on the court to portable courts you can take anywhere. If you’re not actually sure what pickleball is, scroll down and read our primer featuring intel and tips from Carl Schmits, managing director of equipment standards and facilities development at USA Pickleball Association. If you’re already a pickler, we say, game on!
This is the best pickleball gear of 2022:
OUR TOP PICKS
Best Overall Paddles: Wilson Juice Carbon Pickleball Paddle
Why We Love It: Outfitted with a carbon fiber face, a wide body, and a poly honeycomb core, the Juice Carbon will help you deliver the optimal shot and find true ball control.
What to Consider: Grip size is limited to only 4-1/8th inches (10 1/2 cm).
With a polypropylene honeycomb core that cuts vibrations and reduces noise, the Juice Carbon from Wilson will help you up your game, regardless of your skill level. A layer of woven carbon fiber on the face affords serious power, helps adjust any mishits, and improves ball control with a wide body shape that expands the paddle’s sweet spot. Wilson wraps the paddle with a shock-absorbing bumper guard that’ll dampen impacts and abrasions, which extends the life of the paddle and helps justify the Juice Carbon’s slightly high price tag.
Best Budget Paddles: Pickleball Central Rally Meister
Why We Love It: The low price, lighter-than-average weight for a wood paddle, and a high-end grip make the Rally Meister a steal.
What to Consider: Non-wood paddles will definitely be lighter than the Meister.
Wooden paddles are some of the least expensive — and often the heaviest option — available to budget-conscious players. But the Rally Meister wins accolades because it doesn’t weigh more than 300 grams (10.6 ounces) and comes with a high-quality grip with solid cushioning, sweat-wicking perforations, and textured ribbing that leads to a confident grip. The wide-shaped paddle is composed of seven layers of white maple, making it rigid and strong, and it includes a removable wrist strap.
Best Paddles for Experts: JOOLA Ben Johns Hyperion Pickleball Paddle
Why We Love It: If you’re consistently pushing past your limits, the professional-approved Joolay Hyperion CFS 16 is the tool you need.
What to Consider: All that technology comes at a hefty price point.
Joola worked with pro player Ben Johns in developing their Hyperion series, and the Hyperion CFS 16 may be the holy grail of paddles. It boasts an advanced Carbon-Flex5 material on its face, which delivers serious power, max ball speed, and minute ball control. A reactive honeycomb poly core specifically designed for expert-level players provides the feel and bounce they demand. A proprietary Aero Curve shape promotes less drag, increasing swing speed, and Hyper-Foam has been injected into the paddle head perimeter to help dial the optimal weight and expand the sweet spot. High-strength carbon was also crafted into the flexible handle, and it comes with Joola’s Sure-Grip, which is built with sweat-wicking perforations, ridges for added traction, and solid shock absorption.
Best Indoor Balls: Jugs Pickleballs
Why We Love It: Inexpensive, ready to use out of the box, and very lightweight, the Jugs Indoor Pickleballs rank as some of the most popular options for indoor use.
What to Consider: The balls are not approved for USAPA-sanctioned tournament use.
Available in both white and high-vis green and in three quantities (6, 12, or 100), the best-selling Jugs Indoor Pickleballs are constructed of soft plastic suitable for use on smooth hardwood, tile, or cement courts, with a slightly textured surface that amps the ball’s bounce. The lightweight (23 grams / 0.81 ounces) balls have larger holes than outdoor balls, per indoor specs, boast an average bounce height of 94 centimeters (37 inches), and require no conditioning prior to playing.
Best Outdoor Balls: Wilson Tru 32 Pickleball Balls
Why We Love It: A patented 32-hole design makes the Wilson Tru 32 one of the most performant outdoor balls on the market.
What to Consider: They are sold only in two-packs and are more expensive than other options.
If you’re primarily an outdoor sport enthusiast, Wilson has the best pickleballs for you. Laced with 32 evenly-distributed holes, the Wilson Tru 32 balls rotate evenly on any axis, thanks to a durable injection-molded construction that extends the life of the balls and delivers serious flight and bounce. A rough exterior delivers an intuitive feel and the neon green makes it easy to track at high speeds.
Best Overall Net: OnCourt OffCourt PickleNet Deluxe
Why We Love It: One of the strongest portable nets available, the PickleNet Deluxe is easy to assemble and strong enough to stand up to the most extreme conditions.
What to Consider: At 19 kilograms (42 pounds), it’s a bit of a bear to constantly transport, though the wheeled bag makes it easier to get the net to and from the court.
The official net of USA Pickleball, OnCourt OffCourt’s PickleNet Deluxe utilizes high-quality aluminum components, with end-base components constructed of textured, powder-coated steel that weighs down the net so it can stand up to serious abuse and high winds. The 56 x 86-centimeter (22 x 34-inch) net aligns with the official sport requirements, and a center-strap design keeps the net height consistent throughout its span. Adjustment straps on the ends provide the necessary tension, and the whole thing sits on locking four-inch wheels to make it easy to maneuver. The net comes with a heavy-duty 420D nylon wheeled carrying bag with strong zippers, carry straps, and internal storage pockets.
Best Portable Net: Pickleball Central Rally Portable Pickleball Net System
Why We Love It: The Rally Deluxe Portable Net System provides a lightweight, easy-to-transport solution that’s more durable than most portable nets.
What to Consider: If you are a fair-weather player, you could find a lighter portable option.
Weighing in at a manageable 14.5 kilograms (32 pounds) and outfitted with a nylon carrying bag, the Rally Deluxe Portable Net System hits the sweet spot: it’s lightweight enough to transport and durable enough to stand up to winds. The net sits on a powder-coated black steel frame with three legs — two at either end, and one in the center — to support the black nylon netting. Set-up can happen as quickly as five minutes, with oval tubing that makes it easy to assemble. The net measurements adhere to the sport’s dimensional requirements, and a Velcro tensioning system is a breeze to adjust.
Best Overall Bundle: Head Extreme Elite Deluxe Set
Why We Love It: Four high-end paddles, a handful of balls, a high-quality portable net, and a super-organized duffle bag…what’s not to love?
What to Consider: It’s a bit pricey.
Assembled by Pickleball Central, the Head Extreme Elite Deluxe Set provides a single-purchase solution for more experienced players. It includes four Extreme Elite composite paddles, three Penn 40 Outdoor Pickleballs, one Rally Portable Net System, and a Game On duffle bag. The paddles come with Head’s diamond shape and a composite hitting surface for both power and control. An OTC honeycomb polymer core improves sound and feel, and grips made of ergonomic foam add comfort. Weighing in at 14.5 kilograms (32 pounds), the portable net assembles quickly, stands up to strong winds, and matches all the dimensional requirements of the sport — and includes a nylon carrying case. Pair it with the multi-compartment duffel that has ample space for your paddles, balls, and other essentials, and you’re ready to hit the court.
Best Starter Bundle: Pickleball Central Rally Meister Portable Light Pickleball Set
Why We Love It: The low-cost, convenient Rally Meister Portable Light Pickleball Set makes it easy (and inexpensive) for up to four people to dive into the sport without overcommitting on expensive gear.
What to Consider: While suitable for both indoor and outdoor play, the net should be stored inside during inclimate weather and may not stand up well in strong winds.
With a price point south of US$200, the Rally Meister Portable Light Pickleball Set makes it easy for first-timers to get everything they need to try a new sport. The four wooden Rally Meister Wood Paddles, which are, on average, lighter than most wooden paddles, boast a seven-layer construction for strength and durability. You also get a Rally Portable Light Net System, four high-vis yellow balls, a pair of court-line chalk sticks, a rule sheet, and a drawstring bag to haul everything around. The net itself only weighs 16 pounds, making it one of the lightest portable options available for minimalist packers. It assembles quickly and comes with its own carrying case.
Best Men’s Pickleball Shoe: Tyrol Striker Pro V Court Shoe
Why We Love It: By focusing on stability, support, comfort, and grip, the Striker Pro V delivers what the most demanding of players require.
What to Consider: Both the orange and the blue colors offered may strike some as too bright.
Outfitted with a durable Vibram sole that provides serious grip on outdoor courts, the new Striker Pro V Court Shoe from Tyrol focuses on stability, comfort, and high-end performance. A wider-than-average toe box delivers a plush, forgiving fit and also enhances the player’s stability because it allows them to employ their toes for balance. Medial side power clips and an external heel counter also improve stability, especially when quickly changing directions. Designed specifically for pickleball, the Striker Pro V uses an open-weave mesh nylon in the uppers along with an aerated mid and insole to improve ventilation, and the EVA midsole compound really takes the sting off hard strikes.
Best Women’s Pickleball Shoe: Babolat Women’s Jet Tere All Court Shoe
Why We Love It: Breathable, lightweight, and proudly loud in color (if you go with pink over whilte, blue, or black), the Jet Tere aims to increase a player’s speed without them weathering painful heel strikes.
What to Consider: The 10-millimeter heel-to-toe drop may be a bit aggressive for some neutral-footed players.
Bold in its pink color, the Babolat Jet Tere All-court Shoe is a lightweight solution for players looking to amp their speed on the court. It comes with the brand’s KPRS-X system that focuses on protecting the heels with EVA foam inserts placed strategically to lessen the inevitable hard heel strike. The mesh uppers breathe well, and a piece of Matryx on the forefoot provides additional support for lateral movements common to the game. Babolat also worked with the rubber experts at Michelin’s to devise a dedicated sole that’s durable and provides increased resistance and optimal grip.
Best Bags: Selkirk 2022 Tour Backpack
Why We Love It: With a space for everything, including a vented spot for your sweaty post-match shoes, the Tour Backpack gets everything right in a pickleball-specific backpack.
What to Consider: At three pounds, it’s a bit heavy for a backpack; some may want a lighter option.
The Selkirk Tour Performance Backpack demonstrates why a sport-specific bag wins out over a generic duffle or backpack. It comes with a dedicated vented shoe compartment, a feature that justifies the bag’s value-add alone. But factor in the loads of other storage options — a large main compartment, a padded laptop sleeve, a padded front pocket, three internal organization pockets, large mesh bottle pockets, a thermally insulated food and drink pouch, and a hard EVA top with a cell phone pocket — and it really tips the scale in Selkirk’s favor. The whole thing is built in a new, durable +V11 Max Polyfiber performance fabric and can be accessed from the top or front. EVA pack padding helps lessen the load.
TIPS FOR BUYING THE BEST PICKLEBALL GEAR FOR YOU
Buy equipment based on your experience level
If you’ve never played a racket sport before, Carl Schmits, managing director of equipment standards and facilities development at USA Pickleball Association, suggests “a conventional wide-body shape” when selecting a paddle. “This will have a balanced feel, be very maneuverable, and will serve a starter well when blocking fast balls.” But if you have some experience in sports like tennis, racquetball, or squash, go with “paddles that have a longer shape, taking advantage of stroke mechanics developed previously.” As you gain experience, you can then explore higher-tech rackets like those with carbon fiber-faced paddles, which “provide considerable friction enabling more spin.”
Make sure you consider a paddle’s key components
Pickleball Central, the official retailer for the USA Pickleball Association, says that the three key considerations are price, weight, and grip size. The three material categories are wood (priced from US$13-36), composite (US$45-145), and graphite (US$60-145). Wood paddles are the least expensive, but, as experts point out, are also the heaviest and don’t provide as much pop. Heavier paddles do help you drive the ball, but you sacrifice control and also increase arm fatigue. Grip size dictates the control you’ll have on the paddle. Go too big and it may cause the paddle to slip in your hand. If you’re stuck between sizes, Pickleball Central advises to go with a smaller size first, as they allow for more wrist action, which aids in putting spin on the ball and enhances control. Grips range between 4 and 4.5 inches around and are broken out into ⅛-inch increments.
Make sure your pickleball shoes provide traction and lateral stability
“Shoes designed for tennis are best for outdoor play,” advises Schmits. “Those intended for squash, racquetball, and table tennis are best for indoor maple or other non-acrylic (like a tennis court). Do not sacrifice support for lightness; a play session is typically several hours and the support and comfort are needed.” Naturally, the footwear industry also has pickleball-specific shoes, typically with wider-than-average toe boxes for added stability and comfort and tech to help support quick lateral movements.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is pickleball?
Think of the sport as a mash-up of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. It was invented in 1965 and is one of the fastest-growing sports in the country. It’s played on a 20 x 44-foot court (indoors and out) with what looks like an oversized ping-pong paddle and a plastic ball with holes. Open to both singles and doubles, the court has left and right service areas, with a seven-foot non-volley zone (or “kitchen”) close to the net, spanning the width of the court and striped similarly to the white line markers of a tennis court. The net itself is 36 inches at the sides and sags to 34 inches in the middle.
What equipment do I need to play pickleball?
Each player needs a paddle, and you also need a ball and a net as well as a court on which to play. “There are two types of construction for balls; injection-molded balls, which generally play a bit slower and are quieter, and roto-molded, which play faster,” says Schmits. “Indoor balls for playing on maple (gymnasium) or other non-acrylic (like a tennis court) surfaces are injection-molded.” In terms of apparel, most players wear clothes similar to tennis attire because much of the athletic actions are similar. You want a pair of shoes that can support lateral movement and quick changes in direction and that grip confidently on the court surface (inside and out). Outdoor players also typically wear sunglasses and brimmed hats or visors to help cut down on the sun’s glare, as well as loose-fitting clothes that won’t restrict movement.
How do I pick a pickleball paddle?
“If you are new to racket and paddle sports, we suggest a conventional wide-body shape,” says Schmits. “This will have a balanced feel, be very maneuverable, and will serve a starter well when blocking fast balls at the non-volley line. If you come from a racket or paddle sport with a big swing (tennis, racquetball, squash), you’ll likely be comfortable with paddles that have a longer shape, taking advantage of stroke mechanics developed previously. Some come in a round, shorter shape that will feel familiar to table tennis players.” When evaluating paddles, start with your price point; if you’re mildly curious about the game, wooden paddles are a solid, budget-friendly starter option. But more skilled racket players will benefit from those with wider faces that employ elements like carbon fiber, which helps with ball control.
Why Trust Travel + Leisure
Nathan Borchelt has been writing, reviewing and testing outdoor products for decades and is surrounded by a family of pickleball enthusiasts. In selecting each item, the cost, performance characteristics, durability, and function of each product was weighed against competing options. Both professional reviews and verified user feedback was taken into consideration, as were specific characteristics like a net’s portability, a shoe’s stability, a ball’s durability, and the different performance-oriented materials of each paddle, along with a paddle’s weight and grip size.