There are only 5 essential pieces of equipment you need to play pickleball: 1. Pickleballs (outdoor or indoor) 2. Pickleball paddles 3. A pickleball net 4. A lined hard court 5. Appropriate shoes for the court you’re playing on.
(And maybe it goes without saying, but it’s a 2 or 4 person game so you’ll need either 1 or 3 other people too! I don’t consider them equipment though. )
By no means does this mean you need to own all of these things but regardless of where and who you’re playing with, you’ll need each of the above to play a game.
If you’re playing at a pickleball club the only thing you’ll absolutely need are appropriate shoes because they will likely have paddles and balls to buy/borrow/rent when you get there — and obviously they’ll have a great court setup!
Let’s get into each type of pickleball gear you need to play pickleball in a bit more detail:
1. Pickleballs – Outdoor or Indoor
Believe it or not, pickleball has 2 different types of balls — reminiscent of whiffle balls — that are tailor made for playing either outside or inside. I covered this in detail in a previous article on the difference between indoor and outdoor pickleballs.
Outdoor balls are harder and smoother and have smaller, more numerous holes which make them more well suited to playing in the elements and wind of the outdoors.
Indoor balls are softer, lighter and have larger, fewer holes — tailored to the smooth indoor court surfaces you’ll generally encounter.
They usually come in white, orange or yellow.
Remember: once you know if your’e playing outside or inside, make sure you have at least a few balls available for your game because balls might get out of round or could even crack in the middle of a game.
2. Pickleball Paddles
Pickleball paddles are specialized paddles (sort of a cross between ping pong paddles and paddle ball paddles) that you need to play. You can’t really get around either renting/borrowing/buying a paddle, and just don’t try to substitute a pickleball paddle with some other type of paddle – that’s just uncalled for.
You’ll need 2 paddles for a singles game and 4 paddles for a doubles game.
This also gets into the most difficult decision area for any player — which type of paddle to buy? There are 900 paddles listed by the USAPA — and those are just the ones officially approved by that organization!
It’s crazy! There are so many variations on every one of these features:
- grip size
- paddle face shape
- core material
- face material
- edge guards
The paddles will run you anywhere from $20 to $200.
Wouldn’t you know it? I wrote a guide on the 4 best pickleball paddles for beginners! So head on over there if you’re in the market, to narrow down your search.
If you’re just trying the game out, it doesn’t matter much what paddle you are playing with — but I do recommend if at all possible that you NOT play with a wooden paddle. At this point it just doesn’t give you a good representation of the game given all of the advances in paddle technology over the last 30 years.
3. A pickleball net
Hopefully, if you’re just getting started you’re able to play at a place that already has a net in place. If you are in a SERIOUS pinch, you can always use a tennis net as your net. This isn’t ideal though because those nets are 2 inches higher than pickleball nets. Given that the game can get pretty close up to the net, it can make a difference.
The nets are at least 20 feed wide, 36 inches tall at the posts and 34 inches at the center strap.
If you’re in the market for a pickleball net, I reviewed the best portable net options here.
4. A lined hard court
The court is:
- 20 feet wide (inclusive of lines)
- 44 feet deep (inclusive of lines)
- 48.4 feet diagonal (from corner to corner)
In terms of lines, if you don’t have access to a court with the right lines in place already you can set up your own temporary lines. There are a few options for setting up the lines, head over to my article on options for creating taped, painted or chalked lines.
5. Appropriate shoes for the court you’re playing on.
No matter what you’ll need court shoes. Tennis and cross training shoes are a good bet for outside. But if you’re playing inside on a wooden surface, you should be looking at volleyball or basketball shoes. Regardless the important thing is that the shoes give you support for side to side as well as forward and backward movement.
I took a look at the best court shoes for men and women here.
Optional Pickleball Equipment
So the 5 items above were all of the absolutely essential items, below are not needed but if you’re interested….
If you’re transporting your paddle and balls, you might want a pickleball bag to keep things together, easy to carry and protected from damage en route. Check out 4 of the best bags.
While I already technically covered paddles and balls above, these sets package up balls, bags and paddles together.
Depending on the paddle you get you might need either extra width on the paddle if it’s too small or if the grip you have is warn out you might want a new one that is easier to keep hold of. I cover two of the best grips here.
I covered a bunch of other accessories that you can learn about in my article. I cover:
- Pickleball machines for practice and drilling particular shots – we reviewed the best pickleball machines here.
- PIckleball tubes and collectors to pick up stray pickleballs on the court
- Ball band and ball holder to hold pickleballs in between points
- Pickleball gloves – help you maintain grip and decrease chance of blisters
Where can I buy pickleball equipment?
Your best bets for finding pickleball equipment for sale, either online or near where you are some of the below national retailers.
- Amazon (Affiliate link)
- Dick’s Sporting Goods
- Pickleball Central
- OncourtOffcourt.com (Affiliate link)
Where can I play pickleball?
While not completely on topic, I figure if you’re looking for the basics of what equipment you need to play, you might also be interested in finding a place near you to play.
If you just want to try out playing pickleball, I’d recommend going to this site and looking for a local pickleball court or club places2play.org or https://www.pickleballrush.com/ Many times at dedicated pickleball facilities they will have options for coming in without any equipment and borrowing or renting it along with lessons.