Pickleball Gear Necessities
If you are new to pickleball, you really only need a pair of shoes, a paddle, and a ball to use at the court. Everyone else may want to slowly start building up a collection to improve their gameplay and turn your hobby into a sport. While not everyone will need all these supplies, it’s nice to know what options you have available.
From items, you would expect for pickleball to a few surprises, get a comprehensive look at what can take your game from novice to pro. Find out what items are helpful and which are only if you have disposable income. Let the pickleball game begin!
Pickleball paddles come in various shapes and sizes, and you need to pick because you cannot play the sport without one! The key factors you need to look at are level, weight, grip size, and materials. Also, you need to know what you hope to achieve, such as basic play, pro, or a little extra spin action.
Originally the sport was played with wooden paddles but since have morphed into various materials with different objectives. The primary materials used now are still wood along with polymer, Nomex, aluminum, and graphite. Moreover, you need to focus on both internal and external materials.
Choose a wooden paddle if you only play casually for outdoor summer fun or family gatherings. Everyone else, from beginner to pro, will want to invest in a quality paddle. Pick a graphite surface for power and durability. A polycarbonate paddle surfaces are lighter than graphite and last even longer. Composite paddles combine graphite and fiberglass with a textured surface that makes a perfect paddle for spin.
Next, you need to worry about weight with a range of 6 ounces to 14 ounces with an average closer to 8 ounces. A lighter paddle offers more control, while a heavier option gives you more power and drive. Next is grip size, and it goes by height. People under 5 foot 2 inches need a grip of 4 inches; 5’3″ to 5’8″ need 4 1/4 inches, while taller individuals need 4 1/2 inches.
A paddle also needs a sturdy edge guard to ensure the paddle does not chip and keeps the ball inline. The shape of the paddle can come in a range, but the average 8 inches by 15 inches. Try out both regular and longer paddles to find the right sweet spot for your style.
Get a pickleball cover to protect your investment. Equipment covers are often weatherproof and can prevent the paddles from rusting or getting scratched. Most pickleball paddles now come with a neoprene cover with a zipper. However, they do not include handle covers or a strap for carrying.
Pickleball is the only sport with a different ball for indoor and outdoor play. The balls are very similar to a wiffle ball but with more holes to make them more aerodynamic. Indoor balls are lighter and have larger holes, while outdoor balls are heavier and have smaller holes. Outdoor balls weigh about .88 ounces, while indoor balls weigh about .85 ounces. The larger holes help to slow down indoor balls, while outdoor balls can go much further, perfect for a court. Also, indoor balls have about 26 holes, while outdoor have about 40 holes.
Do keep track of whether the balls are USAPA approved if you plan on playing in a tournament or professionally. Spend a couple of extra bucks to get a ball constructed of durable and smooth material free of texture besides the holes. The balls should bounce a little too but still be a little hard. Choose from a variety of colors to better suit your tastes.
For people who do not have access to a pickleball court with a standard USAPA net, you will need to get one to play or to practice. A pickleball net must be 22 feet wide and 36 inches on each end with a 34-inch center to meet regulations. Also, nets will need a frame made of steel, preferably to keep them in regulation.
Many nets and frames are now portable, so you can fold them up and store them easily when not in use or during bad weather. Mind you, a large amount of space is necessary as a pickleball court measures 20 feet by 44 feet, but you need more like 34 by 64 feet for room to move around the court. This is large enough to play both singles and doubles.
It’s best to have the frame and net set on concrete, asphalt, or another harder surface instead of on outdoor ground. You may want to add some lights to the court if you plan to play outside. Most people do not have the space for an indoor court, and many do not for an outdoor court either. Many half-size nets and frames exist, too, if you only need a net at home for practice. Most nets also include a storage bag to keep them safe and protected.
If you get a full-court, you may also want to consider a few other items too. Court tape allows you to mark the lines o the court along with a pickleball court stencil. Consider also getting a pickleball paddle holder or cart too for the balls as well. You can even buy a pickleball machine that’s capable of holding dozens of balls and shoot them for practice.
For pickleball, you need the same clothing as for racquetball or tennis. Light and easy to move in clothing. The clothing should be lightweight, breathable, and tight as other clothing can weigh you down and reduce your ability to move. Men will want to wear shorts while women may want shorts, dresses, or skirts. A lightweight shirt should go with any of these options. If you opt for a jacket, make sure it’s made of sports material to ensure it’s lightweight.
Proper pickleball shoes are an important piece of gear for the sport. A few companies now make shoes specific for pickleball, including K-Swiss, Fila, and Wilson. You can also get all court shoes and, in a pinch, wear your tennis shoes.
Pickleball requires a lot of movement on the balls of your feet, and you need a shoe ready to do the work with you on the court. Before you pick, though, you need to know if you are going to be playing inside, outside, or on a soft court. Get a different pair of shoes for indoor and outdoor use as you do not want to ruin an indoor court.
The sport requires a lot of movement, including a little bounce and moving quickly around the court. You need comfortable, lightweight shoes to get the necessary actions as heavy shoes can weigh you down. Pickleball shoes also need a stiff toe box for effective toe drag and cushion around the midsole for support.
Furthermore, pickleball shoes need to be supportive and protect your ankles, too, with a high collar. A pair of sneakers that breathe will help a lot with sweating. Pickleball shoes need built-in shock absorption to help with comfort and impact as well. Finally, pickleball shoes require quality traction as court surfaces can be slippery.
Hats & Headbands
While a hat is not a necessity for pickleball, it’s definitely a smart investment. A hat can keep hair out of your face and protect you from the sun. Choose a hat with a brim for outdoor games to get UV protection, especially if you play multiple games on a sunny day. Also, pick an option with mesh for ventilation. For extra protection from the sun, pick an option with a foldable neck drape in the back, as the sun will often beat on your neck.
Another option is a visor to protect your eyes while also keeping you cool. Use the hat also as a way to protect your eyes and face if your backswing goes too far. For an indoor game, you may simply want a headband to keep perspiration under control. If you do play outside, remember to use sunblock even if you have a hat or visor to protect yourself from harmful rays.
Eye guards are essentially protective glasses without a prescription. You can get some with darker lenses to prevent eye damage from the sun or clear options for indoor courts. Moreover, a pair of protective eye guards can protect you from a stray ball or paddle too! Choose eye guards with unbreakable lenses and tough frames. Also, get a band to ensure they do not fall off your face when you need protection most.
If you play pickleball year-round, you may want some gloves to keep your fingers from freezing while you play. Even in the heat, gloves can protect your hands from the sun and help increase your grip under sweaty conditions. A slippery paddle makes the game quite difficult! Most gloves come with padding to help make holding the paddle more comfortable and effortless. Not everyone likes gloves and finds them to be uncomfortable. Don’t worry, they are not a necessity but can help to improve your game.
Braces & Supports
Those players who need extra support may need a brace of some sort. Talk to your doctor if you have an injury or issue and find out if he or she recommends any specific products. Choose according to your injury. You may need an elbow brace, knee brace, ankle wrap, or compression socks. Sports tape can help to tape up smaller areas that need attention. A patella strap may help with knee pain or tennis elbow as well.
The right brace or support can give you a better range of motion and make playing more comfortable so you can keep on playing. Ensure the brace allows you the range of motion needed to play. Also, ensure they slide on and off for flexibility. A support should also have anti-microbial protection to protect your body. Avoid fabrics you may be allergic to if you have sensitive skin, such as neoprene.
A towel gives you a way to absorb excess sweat or moisture. Taking one to the court can prevent you from needing to run to the bathroom for a paper towel. Pick a small easy to pack size and get multiple to keep a clean one (or two) in your bag at all times. Keep another towel in your bag separately to clean your shoes off if necessary.
Water or a sports drinks are not optional in pickleball. Exercising requires rehydration, which means you need either a disposable drink every time you game or a reusable option to use over and over again. The right water bottle can keep you drink cold for as many games as you play! Moreover, you can even pick a bottle with a straw to allow for quick sips between games.
All the pickleball equipment above needs a place to stay. It’s time to pick a bag to carry all of your gear. Most pickleball bags come in three styles, including sling, backpack, or duffle bags. Which you need depends on you and how much gear you own or purchase. Larger bags will give you space for shoes, paddles, balls, a change of clothes, towels, personal items, and more.
A sling bag usually only holds just a couple of paddles, balls, and a towel. Meanwhile, both backpacks and duffle bags can hold a lot more. It comes down to which way you prefer to carry, on your back or on a single shoulder. Either way, pick an option with tons of pockets and a special pocket for your shoes. No one wants their dirty shoes touching the clean items in the bag.
Another great advantage of a pickleball bag is they are often waterproof and can keep your gear protected. Also, they often come with a hook to attach the bag to a fence on the court. This allows you to keep your gear close to you even in a game. Lastly, a great bag will have room for more than just your gear but for your on-the-go life to and from the court.
FAQs About Pickleball Gear
Do I need a first aid kit for pickleball?
Hopefully, you will never need a first aid kit for pickleball, but you never know what will happen. Even if you do not get injured from a fall or fly ball, your teammate or opponents might. Make sure a medical kit has bandaids, antiseptics, antibiotic cream, bandages, eye paid, and gauze pads. Keep your phone handy, too, in case of an emergency.
What items from this list are essential for pickleball beginners?
As a beginner, the only essentials you need are a paddle and a ball (check out our recommended paddles for beginners). Once you know you like the sport and plan to commit to the game, then you can add on to the collection. For now, use shoes and sports clothing you already own and focus on learning the game and see if it is the right fit for you and your lifestyle.
Once you are familiar with the game and want to make it a permanent fixture in your life, then you can focus on getting shoes and a couple of outfits. At this point, you may also want to get a pickleball bag if you are going to the court on a regular basis.
Are there books on pickleball rules and strategy?
Absolutely! You can find any number of books about this wildly popular sport. If you fall in love with the game, you can even sign up for the Pickleball Magazine and get all the information you need delivered monthly to your inbox or mailbox. While the website is incredibly useful, finding all the information you need in a decent layout may be difficult, which is why a book may be exactly what you are looking for to improve your game.
Final Thoughts About Pickleball Gear
Pickleball includes a ton of gear; however, you do not need to get all of it right away. Start with the basics like a paddle and a ball, and slowly start building up your options as you build skill and interest. Focus on what you can afford and what you really need at the moment. With more time on the court, you will gain a better understanding of what you need, so do not get bogged down with purchases. Or if you would like to get everything at once you can purchase a good pickleball set. Happy gaming!