What do you do when you can’t get to a pickleball court near you? Put up a net and create one wherever you are. That’s what Katherine Hedden, USA Pickleball ambassador in Manhattan, does at least five days a week. There are approximately 1.632 million people living in the New York City borough—and not one permanent pickleball court.
“I have yet to play on a permanent court,” says Hedden, who travels around the city spreading the pickleball gospel, setting up games in playgrounds, schoolyards, athletic facilities, anyplace that will take her. “Everybody has to carry their nets everywhere, on the back of their bikes, down subway stairs.” She’s got three portable nets of her own—and a wealth of advice for anyone looking to find the right net to take their game on the road.
The Four W’s
The first things you need to keep in mind when choosing a net are: Where and When you’ll play, Who you are, and the Weight you need and can handle. And that last W is dependent on all the others.
Before buying, ask yourself where your net needs to go. If you’re just going to roll it from the garage to the driveway, or if you’ve gotten permission from your local gym to host pickleball games provided you supply the net, you may want to invest in a sturdy, heavier net on wheels, which will last a long time and doesn’t have to be broken down between games but can simply be rolled off to the side.
But if you’re the type who bikes all over town when you hear there’s a court free, you’ll want a lighter model that zips away in a carrier bag—especially if Who you are is not a bodybuilder who can carry 30 pounds on your shoulder with ease. “I reached out to several pickleball clubs, and we all agree that if you carry your net, a great option is the SwiftNet,” Hedden says. At around 15 pounds, she says, “it’s the lightest I’ve found, durable, and easy to put up.”
For urbanites, it’s the lighter the better, with one caveat: Where you’re playing and under what conditions. “If it’s really windy out, I’ll bring out my heavier net, a Head, which weighs close to 30 pounds,” Hedden says. “I put it in a rolling cart and roll it to local courts, but I don’t take it on the subway.”
If wind is rare, blocks or bricks on the base of a lighter net should stabilize it. But if you consistently play in blustery weather, like a downtown team captain Hedden consulted, you’ll want a heavier net at all times. (He relies on a Head too.) And if you’re simply going from your car to a court, a net that’s a little more work to carry may actually work for you.
Portable by Design
Play with enough portable nets and you’ll start to notice the features you like—and the ones you don’t. This is where Who you are comes in. Hedden prefers nets that have clips only at the ends—not between the holes. “I find it can be hard to push that metal button to activate the clip when each piece needs to click on—especially if you don’t have a lot of strength in your hands,” she says. At the same time, someone else might appreciate the extra security.
Another pet peeve? “If your net has a center post and you’re hitting your shot close to the net, it will hit the center bar and pop up,” Hedden says. “Which really is a distraction.” The SwiftNet, and some other newer designs, have eliminated the pesky post—but, Hedden points out, this is really only a problem for more advanced players; “beginners and intermediate players won’t have this issue.”
In addition, several experienced players mentioned looking for nets made with oval, not round, tubing, as that seems to prevent the net from twisting as much. The best way to figure out which design elements you like, or don’t, is to play with a variety of portable nets whenever you come across recreational players using them. Once you’ve tried a few, you’ll know which one you want to take with you on your pickleball adventures.
Portable Pickleball Nets – Keep Calm and Carry These On
For Semipermanent Use:
Douglas PPS-22SQ Premier Portable Pickleball System
“I still play in New Jersey sometimes, and when we were indoors in the tennis bubble, we used the nets that were on rollers and would just push them behind the barrier at the tennis courts and then roll them back out; we didn’t have to put them up and down every time we play,” Hedden says. That’s exactly what this net was designed for; it has detachable handles to help you lift it, smooth wheels, and a center strap—not post—that won’t interfere with play. It’s no wonder that so much careful attention was paid to the net’s details; the current design was developed for use at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden for the 2018 USA Pickleball National Championships. $1,800, nationalsportsproducts.com
Wheels make it easy to roll a 215-pound Douglas PPS-22SQ onto a court.
It’s a Bargain!:
AMA Sport Portable Pickleball Net System
When one of our photo directors got curious about pickleball, she wanted her own portable net to bring to the playground near her home. But with a family full of new pickleball players, she needed something affordable enough that if her sons took it out to hit a few balls and forgot to bring it back, it wouldn’t be a big loss. At $90, this 20-pound net fit the bill. As beginners, the boys don’t mind the center post. And, she says, “it’s easy to set up.” $90, amazon.com
Affordable and easy to set up, the AMA Sport Portable Net makes pickleball accessible to beginners looking to play on the go.
Rally Deluxe Portable Net System
This 32-pound portable net is all about ease. It’s designed with oval tubing to prevent the net from twisting and heavy-duty nylon netting for maximum durability. Plus, the carrier bag has dividers and straps that secure each piece in place when the net’s not in use, so stowing it away won’t take longer than the game itself and setup is easy the next time you play; average setup time is five minutes. $190, pickleballcentral.com
The Rally Deluxe carrier bag is divided into compartments to make packing up a breeze.
Lean & Green:
SwiftNet 2.1 Portable Pickleball Net
A huge hit with city dwellers, this durable but light option weighs less than 15 pounds—or, as pickleball pro Glen Peterson says on the company’s site, it’s “half the weight, half the time, half the hassle” of other nets. That’s because it’s made by the Composite Recycling Technology Center using recycled carbon fibers, which makes it both extremely light and highly sustainable. Hedden also liked the design: no center post to impede play. For a serious player who moves around a lot—and wants to take a net along—this innovative, planet-friendly net is worth the investment. $370, pickleball.com
The SwiftNet is light enough to carry on your back as you ride a bike.
Head Portable Pickleball Net System
If stability is key, it doesn’t get much better than this 29-pound net, which is easy to set up and features oval tubing to help keep it in place. Designed for indoor and outdoor play, it can stand up to strong wind and tough handling. $170, head.com
At 29 pounds, the Head is “a good, sturdy net,” says Hedden.
Fila Accessories Pickleball Net Set
A great gift to bring to a party, the Fila Accessories Pickleball Net Set comes with everything you see here. $99, amazon.com