For a small stocking-stuffer gift or something that kids can afford to get for a parent, look for dry bags. They come in a wide variety of sizes and materials and prices that range from about $10 on up. Most paddlers are only going out for short day trips, so a few small dry bags that can hold keys, wallet, cell phone, and snacks are very useful. For more serious paddlers going out in cooler weather or on colder waters, a slightly larger dry bag can be used to carry extra dry clothing to change into in case of a capsize, or just to carry some extra layers like hats, gloves, sweater and rain gear.
Most dry bags use a roll-top closure system with a buckle to hold the bag closed after the opening has been rolled over a few times. This is an excellent method for sealing a dry bag and probably works better than more gimmicky methods. If there are any seams in the bag, make sure that they are sealed with a good waterproof seam tape or you may get water leaking in through the seams.
Clear bags or at least ones with some clear windows can make it easier to find what you are looking for without having to unpack everything you have stashed in your dry bags. I like to use a red dry bag to hold my first aid kit.
Since a well-used bag will eventually wear out, and most paddlers like to have several bags of assorted sizes, there is very little chance that your gift won’t be very much appreciated and used.
If you want to make a paddler very happy, get him/her a nice cart for moving kayaks, canoes, or SUPs around on land. Paddling is always the easy part. The reason most people don’t bother going out paddling is because of the difficulties they have in moving their boat around on shore. The two companies whose carts I use and which I think are fantastic, are carts from Wheeleez and Suspenz.
You want to get carts that support the entire weight of the boat/board rather than wheels which just attach at one end. If the wheels are at one end, the person moving the boat still has to lift a significant portion of the weight of the boat. Carts that attach at the center of the kayak, canoe, or SUP will carry the entire weight of the craft and allow the person moving the boat to focus just on steering.
The quality of the wheels makes a big difference depending on the terrain over which you will be moving your boat. For soft sand and rough terrain, get a cart with big pneumatic tires. For harder surfaces, smaller wheels will work OK. There are some new “airless” tires that work almost as well as pneumatic tires and you don’t have to worry about springing a leak.
For kayaks, getting a cart that breaks down small enough to stash it in the hatches can be handy. Once you arrive at the shore, you may not want to walk back to your car or home to return to stow the cart. A cart that breaks down and folds up allows you to easily take it with you on the water so you’ll have it handy as soon as your paddling trip is done.
Plan to spend around $100-150 for a good cart. Mine get a lot of use (I have 4 different carts) and have moved boats that weigh as much as 100 lbs with ease.
I know there are a lot of inexpensive recreational kayaks and cheap stand-up paddleboards being sold that include a paddle. That’s such a shame because the people receiving these kayaks and SUPs are really being short-changed. You want to have the best paddle you can possibly afford – even if it costs more than your boat/board. For many recreational kayakers, their paddle will cost more than their kayaks because you should plan to spend no less than $200 and if possible, more like $300-400. Lighter is better. Kayakers will take upwards of 800-1000 strokes for each mile paddled. Every extra ounce adds up. At a minimum, you may be lifting an extra 60 lbs per mile. More likely, you are hoisting an unnecessary extra 200-400 lbs per mile with your cheaper, heavier paddle.
Some cheap paddles are fairly light, but that may be because they are made of very flimsy aluminum and plastic. Thin, plastic blades that flex are inefficient and waste the effort that you are putting into your stroke. In other words, you are taking extra strokes to cover a mile when compared with a well-built and well-designed paddle.
Ideally, you want a carbon paddle, but if that is too cost-prohibitive, look at good fiberglass paddles. Werner Paddles makes several very good paddles suitable for recreational, sea, and whitewater kayaking as well as carbon and fiberglass SUP paddles. Don’t worry about durability. Carbon fiber paddles are very durable. I, and most of my paddling companions, have used carbon for years with no breakage or damage beyond your basic scratches and dings. You can check out a few of my paddle recommendations on the Amazon.com Local Associates Page for Fox River Paddle Sports.
I’m sure that many of you reading this are thinking, “No way a paddle makes that much difference.” If you don’t believe me, find someone who has a really good paddle and ask to take it out for a quick 100 strokes and see what you think. I have lots of experience teaching all kinds of paddlers, and I have yet to find anyone who doesn’t immediately feel the advantage of a good paddle. If you have someone who is looking to spend a bit more for a nice Christmas present for you, now is the time to start dropping some hints about that carbon fiber paddle you really want. 🙂
On the 4th day of December, my true love gave to me, a waterproof cell phone case.
With everyone carrying cell phones everywhere and using them as cameras, it is especially important to find ways to protect your cell phone from loss or damage when falling off a dock or out of a kayak. UGO makes a very interesting waterproof case for cell phones that they bill as “the first waterproof life jacket for your phone!” It may seem a bit pricey, but not when you consider how expensive new smart phones are. The UGO is waterproof, floats, and is submersible up to 15 feet. You can use the phone while it is inside the case so you never need to risk getting your phone wet. This makes a great gift for anyone who spends time on or near water – whether or not they are a paddler. You can check out the particulars on the website, ugowear.com. I would choose one of the bright colors for visibility.
For a bit less money, you can get a very good waterproof cell phone pouch/case made by Aquapac. They come in a variety of sizes. You can use the phone while it is in the case, but the phone is not guaranteed to float like the UGO.
It can be sometimes be tough for kids to find affordable gifts for parents that are truly useful, as well as thoughtful. If you’re a kid and your mom or dad paddles a canoe or kayak, they can almost always use another good sponge for cleaning bilge water out of a boat. I know I either lose my good sponges, or they seem to wear out quickly from the constant use. NRS (Northwest River Supplies) sells a couple really good boat sponges. SealLine also makes a very absorbent bilge sponge. Unfortunately, the fabric cover is not as durable, but it still makes a nice gift.