Yeah, we really like to be able to say what we think. We certainly wouldn't accept a sponsorship if someone said, "Here's some cool gear. If you don't think it's cool, you're wrong, so you can't talk about it."
Before I go into the Sawyer Paddles, I'll say that neither Erin or I pay that much attention to the subtleties of the way paddle blades move through the water. In our experience the packraft's limits are not your ability to exert force on the water... we use a whitewater paddle on flat water and feel totally cool with that. What we pay attention to is weight (and swing weight), durability, alternative uses, and packability.
Overall we loved these paddles. We were a little skeptical of those cedar cored blades and the clamp when we started, and then we beat the crap out of them for a year and were amazed at how well they did. They aren't perfect, but they're very good.
How we used them: We'd shove off beaches, run rocky rapids, and put our all into hard paddles around points against the tide. We also shoveled snow and sand, used them for shelter support, and packed them tight in our packs.
Blades: They are incredibly light. Basic construction is a cedar core, a transparent structural covering (fiberglass?), some carbon-fiber reinforcements, and a reinforced edge (also carbon fiber?). The cedar has a grain, so the easiest way to break them is straight cracks running the length of the blade. We had two cracks, one from shoving a paddle into a pack in a way that bent it along this line, and once when a large bear stepped on one. In both cases the crack was only through one side of the transparent covering, and we successfully repaired the paddle in the field using dental floss and Aquaseal (that's how we repair everything). The main sign of wear was along the edge. I think another month of abuse would probably wear through the edge in places. Also there was minor impact damage that extended into the wood at the point on the edge of the blade where the wood fibers are parallel to that edge. These happened fairly early on, but never spread.
Clamps: These paddles have a clamp that affixes to a cylindrical central shaft. We have a version of the paddle with two clamps, which is totally unnecessary and heavier, hence Sawyer has gone to one clamp and then a normal pin for their production version. The advantage to the clamp is that it allows arbitrary length and feather settings. We would change the length sometimes, I just measured it... Normally we'd use it at about 213 cm. To power against the current, we'd go down to the minimum of 204 cm. And when we were paddling the longboat we'd extend out to the max of around 235 cm. But we would have been fine with a fixed length paddle. The extendability was quite nice setting up our mid shelter, since you could pop the paddle into place and then extend to stretch the shelter tight. We also used the arbitrary feather to train ourselves out of feathering to a flat blade to lessen wrist fatigue. So overall the clamp is kind of nice, but not a necessity, and they add weight. The weakness of the clamp is that the coin screw that allows you to adjust the tightness bottoms out eventually. So once the shaft wears down a bit, it becomes loose even if you tighten the screw all the way. A host of ours, Kathy Todd in Valdez, pointed out an easy fix: Simply take the screw out and file off the end. In the field you could probably find an abrasive rock and achieve the same result more slowly.