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Updated Oct 31, 2022 5:35 PM
The best gift for the paddler in your life is the one they will use. We rounded up 20 gifts that paddlers of all ability levels can enjoy. Since there are many different types of paddling and watersports interests, we included a range of options below. However, folks that enjoy casual paddle boarding, whitewater kayaking, and fishing may have the most relevance.
The NRS Bill’s Bag Dry Bag has been a staple in the NRS line since 1977. Ideal for multi-day paddling trips, it’s made from waterproof PVC and polyester. The durable construction and StormStrip closure ensure your gear stays dry and makes it easy to compress for a secure seal. When appropriately closed, the NRS Bill’s Bag prevents water from entering the bag from splashing water or even if your vessel flips. We also like this bag for portaging since it has an adjustable backpack harness.
Assuming the paddler in your life already has the boat and the accessories needed to get out on the water, a GoPro Waterproof Action Camera can be a fun way for them to document their adventures. It is a bit of a splurge price-wise, especially for the bundle. The camera can be bought separately, but we prefer the bundle since it includes a carrying case, mounting buckle, microSD card, and more. The large image sensor captures more with a higher quality image. This camera has a ton of great features and is waterproof up to 33 feet (10 meters).
Best Waterproof Watch
If you’re buying for a paddler that loves other outdoor sports, the Suunto 9 Peak Pro watch is an excellent investment. The Peak Pro has excellent GPS accuracy, is extremely durable, and has up to 37 hours of battery life from a 1-hour charge. It has 97 sports modes that allow the wearer to better track workouts, weather alerts, and navigation. The Suunto App can be paired to the watch to journal activities and sync with Strava or other fitness apps.
Best Paddle Board
There are tons of fantastic options when it comes to inflatable paddle boards. Although we also love solid paddle boards, the inflatable ones are easier to store and are still quite durable. The Isle Pioneer is one of our favorite boards right now because of its value. It has an affordable price for the quality, and the bundle makes learning how to use it easy. The Isle is great for paddlers who enjoy paddling on flat water, river runs, and even small surf sessions. It is large and stable enough to carry pets, another passenger, or cargo.
There may be coolers explicitly designed for kayaking, but we like when coolers are functional for several activities. The Yeti Roadie 24 is the right size to fit behind the seat of a car. It is travel friendly and secures easily in boats of all sizes. The smaller size is what drew us to this cooler design. It performs as all Yeti coolers should, and the new design is now tall enough to accommodate a bottle of wine. It is thinner and more portable without compromising the thermal performance.
We chose to include an inflatable kayak instead of a solid one because of the ease of storage and transport. The Aire Lynx I Inflatable Kayak is likely the most expensive gift option on our list, but if you are buying a kayaker that needs a durable river runner that is easy to store, this is the one. It has enough storage capacity for multiple days, and the low profile sides and flat hull allow easy maneuvering. It is made from abrasion-resistant PVC materials making it tough and durable enough for rivers. This is an excellent investment designed to be versatile and sufficient for use on rivers or tranquil lakes.
Best Foldable Kayak
Another option for paddlers that are short on storage or don’t have a vehicle with a roof rack is a foldable kayak. The Oru Lake Kayaks are easy to set up and make for a relaxing day on the water. The Oru Lake Kayak is the smallest and most portable kayak design that they have at this time. It is designed for calm waters and is excellent for beginners, travelers, or people that enjoy casual paddles. Assembly only takes a few minutes, and the 5 mm double-layered polypropylene makes the kayak puncture and abrasion-resistant.
Branded Bills is a unique and functional gift for sports and outdoor enthusiasts. Their sports hats perform exceptionally well in various conditions and are customizable, making them easy to personalize as gifts. The Bare Relaxed Performace hat is comfortable, lightweight, and moisture-wicking. The antimicrobial materials prevent odors from building up, and the moisture-wicking capabilities make them ideal for paddling.
Having a sun shirt to wear our fishing, paddle boarding, or for a day on the beach is a must. The Free Fly Bamboo Shore Hoody is a lightweight, breathable option with a hood that fits comfortably over a cap. It has a UPF of 40+, and even though it is made from primarily natural fibers, the performance is comparable to completely synthetic sun shirts. It is available in a few different colors and several sizes.
These may not be paddling-specific shoes, but the Mishansha Quick Drying Sports Shoes are affordable water shoes. Use them for a beach day, boating, sailing, paddling, and more. They have a grippy rubber sole, making portaging in them a breeze. The materials are salt-resistant and can be used in all water sports. The upper is breathable with fast-draining cross ventilation and flexibility for a more comfortable fit. They also have drain holes on the bottom of the shoes to help water flow out of the shoe faster.
The Astral E-Ronny PFD is a versatile and functional PFD for fishing, recreational kayaking, and touring. Even if the paddler in your life already has a personal flotation device, they may need an upgrade. The intentional design makes for a comfortable fit without compromising performance. It has a USCG Type III rating, so you know that the brand did not compromise buoyancy for design. Other features include dual-zippered pockets and heavy-duty hardware.
A good pair of sunglasses goes a long way when you’re out on the water. The goal is to find a good fit and lenses that protect your eyes from the sun and the glare of the water. Available in 14 different colors, the Oakley Split Shot is designed for wear on the water. These glasses have a three-point fit and a no-slip nose pad to ensure they won’t slip off your face as you fish or paddle. The HDPolarized and Plutonite lenses minimize glare and filter out 100% of all UVA and up to 400nm UVB. Prescription lenses are also available.
Best for Fishing
Optimize storage space when fishing from a kayak with the Wilderness Systems Kayak Crate. Designed to fit in the tankwell storage compartment, you can keep all of your equipment secure, organized, and easy to access. The main compartment of the crate fits larger items like tackles boxes, while smaller items can fit in the secondary lid storage. This specific kayak storage crate is ideal for fishing, with four rod holders and space to hold tackle boxes. It is water-resistant when sealed and has universal lash-down points.
Winner of the best reel/rod combo from ICAST, you can’t go wrong with this gift. If you are gifting a paddler who often fishes from their kayak or paddle board, then the Abu Garcia Revo X is worth looking at. The pro-level performance and excellent price make this rod and reel combo a value deal, especially for the bass angler. It has a durable design with a corrosion-resistant frame and easy-to-maintain components. Lightweight and strong, it has the sensitivity anglers love.
Watersports mean that you inevitably will get wet. Having a good towel on hand is a must. We highly recommend all Lava Linens products, but we especially love the Mini Everything Towel. It is a compact travel towel with optimal absorbency. Keep it in the car, toss it in a travel bag, or take it along on a tour as a backup or the primary towel. What we love about it is that it has better absorbency than microfiber towels while being made from natural materials like flax.
If you are on a budget but want to get a paddler something very useful, consider the Pelican 1040 Micro Case, which is just big enough to accommodate phones or smaller cameras like a GoPro and can be submerged when sealed correctly. Pelican sells larger cases of the same design if you are willing to spend a little more. They all perform quite well and can guarantee valuables stay dry no matter what.
Best Under $10
As a stocking stuffer or small gift, an emergency whistle is something that any outdoor adventurer should carry and know how to use. The whistle we selected is a loud double-tube whistle that is easy to blow and provides up to 120 decibels. It is made from a durable aluminum alloy material to ensure it stays intact no matter what. It blows wet and dry, making it an excellent choice for paddlers.
A good wetsuit (or drysuit depending on the activity) is an essential piece of gear for watersports of all kinds. They can be an investment, but they last a long time if you get a quality product. O’Neill has a variety of excellent options for all genders and body types. The Epic Full Wetsuit is comfortable, has a good stretch, and packs down to a decent size for travel. It is of good quality for the price, with glued and blindstitched seams for added durability.
We recommend packing a first aid kit for all outdoor activities. When paddling, it is hard to take any old kit out on the water. The Surviveware Waterproof First Aid Kit is a comprehensive kit that paddlers can get wet without damaging the items inside. It comes equipped with 200 first aid items in a well organized carrying case. The case is made from 100% waterproof materials with a watertight zipper. It can be submerged underwater for up to 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter without damaging contents.
An array of waterproof carrying cases for gear and items like a phone are classic gifts for paddlers. The Pelican Marine IPX6 Waterproof Roll is completely waterproof with an effective roll-top closure. We like that it has room for more than just a phone, providing a secure and easy-to-access space for other items like a compass, towel, map, or snacks. It has a shoulder strap to wear on your body or secure to the boat. Plus, the smartphone touch screen storage is ideal since it allows you to use a phone without having to remove it from the waterproof case.