Whitewater Kayaking Hub

Top Gift Ideas for Kayakers

Choosing gifts for kayakers can be hard, especially if you don’t kayak yourself. Other blogs on the web that tackle this are made by people who don’t paddle and feature items that just aren’t suitable for anyone. Here is a list of gift ideas for kayakers, that they will actually use and appreciate!

Disclaimer: Some of these links are affiliate links and if you were to purchase any of the items below through one of our links we would get a small percentage at no extra cost to you!

1. Throwline

Throwlines are an integral part of a kayaker’s safety equipment; every kayaker should have one. In fact, if they don’t have one, you’re going to get a bad reputation on the river pretty quickly! You never know when you’re going to need a rope to pull someone out of the river, to rescue a boat, or even to abseil into a new run. Some paddlers will even carry more than one group,  of different lengths,  on the River with them,  depending on what they are up to. Some big water runs will require much longer ropes, whereas a lot of shorter ropes will be more suitable for smaller creeks. Multiple ropes are useful for boat extractions or as a spare to lend out to a forgetful friend. 

You never know when you will need to use a rope and they quickly save lives on the river. There are many options to choose from but we love the NRS Standard Rescue Throw Rope or if you’re from Europe, the Lightning throw line is a great option!


2. Carabiners


Working on a carabiner for wall climbing



Carabiners are not just for climbers! Kayakers use carabiners in safety situations as part of a pin kit in order to enable boat rescues and to set up safety such as live baits. 

No matter your skill level a carabiner will be useful, even if it’s just to clip your gear in your boat! 

Make sure when choosing a carabiner that it has a locking mechanism, either screwgates or auto-locking will generally be best. We love the Petzls. 


3. Guidebooks


Guidebooks make great gifts for kayakers as they provide river beta for runs, identify new local runs or help plan wider adventures. Most paddlers can spend hours flicking through guidebooks daydreaming of new runs and rivers only a few have descended. 

Some Guidebooks like Meghalaya rivers are produced so well they look more like a coffee table book than a river guide! 


4. Paddling Shoes

Solid footwear is essential for whitewater kayaking. Now, your standard sneakers or old running shoes might get the job done. But they end up soaking with water making it difficult to swim, taking days to dry, and end up smelling like a football locker room. 

High-performance kayaking shoes should be lightweight, drain water easily, and have great grip. Our favorite shoes for kayaking on the market currently is Astral footwear, who makes super grippy, specifically designed, and sustainably produced water shoes for kayaking and rafting. Astral is trusted by nearly all of the best kayakers in the game and it’s easy to see why. Our favorites are the loyak for playboating or smaller boats, and the Rassler 2.0 for creeking


5. Nose plug – Smileys

Shaman Products Smiley's Nose Clip

Nose plugs are great for beginners getting into the sport or for freestyle paddlers who are under the water a lot. The nose plug stops water from getting into your nose, which can be uncomfortable and can often discourage new paddlers from getting on the water for fear of flipping. The nose plug is great for teaching beginners how to roll as they will be upside down a lot or to increase the confidence of new paddlers who fear water up their noses when they go upside down on a river. 

Smiley’s Nose Plugs are a great option that has a leash attached and was developed by World Freestyle Kayak Champion, Eric Southwick “Wick”.They are all made in the USA and all of the materials are sourced in the USA too!


6. Thermal

Immersion Research Men's Heavy Weight Fleece union suit for outdoor sports

A thermal is essential for any kayaker who paddles in colder climates. The thermal will keep you warm under your drysuit and on the water for longer. No one likes being cold on the river, and these full-length thermals will ensure that you stay warm even in the coldest conditions. 

Our favorites are the Immersion Research Thick Skin Union suits, a one-piece thermal layer that doesn’t restrict you and has an awesome zipperless entry system, so they are super comfortable. They are also quick-drying and keep you warm even when wet which is a bonus for those with a leaky drysuit. 


7. Elbow pads

Elbow Pads, , hi-res

Anyone who has ever hit their funny bone knows the pain of hitting their elbow. Now imagine heading straight for a rock, mid rapid elbow first… Elbow pads do a great job at reducing the bumps and scrapes that can come with an extreme sport such as kayaking. 

Good elbow pads are essential for low-volume runs, like the Green and not only protect your arms, but protect your gear too. Nothing is worse than coming home from a kayaking trip with a bashed-up elbow, a ripped drysuit, and a bruised ego from an embarrassing swim because you dropped your paddle from surprise! 

Sweet Protection Offer a great set that is a little more expensive but is incredibly comfortable and features multi-impact shock-absorbing properties. 


8. Straps

May be an image of 2 people

Image: How to load a kayak: Del Read. Photo: Tom Clare

Another kayaking essential! Every kayaker should carry straps with them, in gear bags, in car footwells, or in the back of your truck. Straps allow you to transport your boats around without resorting to sketchy rope ties or your homie hanging out the window. 

Straps should always be taken when travelling with kayaks too as it is rare that you will find them abroad when you need them most. They are also great for fixing busted backbands in a hurry or for pitching a hammock at the takeout. NRS makes a great set of straps – you can find them here.


9. Watershed

Watershed is a company that produces waterproof drybags based out of North Carolina. These bags, however, are not your average roll-down drybags… Watersheds have a freezer-bag style seal that stops all water from entering the bag and forms an airtight seal that can endure up to 300ft of underwater pressure. 

Watersheds are trusted by Militaries all over the world and scuba divers so you know that you can trust these flexible bags to keep your possessions dry. Watersheds come in all different sizes, with some specifically designed to go in the back of your boat, and are perfect for carrying phones, wallets, medicines, and even cameras. The Occoe is the smallest and most popular bag that is an ideal size to sit in between your legs or to slide into the back of the boat. 


10. River Knife

Image for NRS Pilot Knife

A knife is another essential piece of kayaking equipment and no kayaker should paddle without one. Not only are river knives great for making lunch, but they also allow you to free yourself from entrapment. A river knife should always be carried on the river, especially when working with ropes. If a rope was to catch and pull you under, an easily accessible knife will allow you to free yourself. Seeing as you should never paddle without a throw line, you should ALWAYS carry a knife. 

The best river knives are easily accessible and should be able to be opened with one hand. This can be achieved through a sheath or through a flip knife with a tab or cord that allows you to open it easily. To save yourself from stabbing yourself, kayakers should choose blunt edge knives like the NRS Pilot Knife. If you Raft, you may want a knife with a sharp point to quickly deflate a raft in case of an emergency. 


11. Kayak helmet

Kayak helmets are important for obvious reasons. With the nature of the sport, we often find ourselves hurtling towards a no so cushioned rock or dragging our head along the river bed. A high-performance helmet can save lives and they are well worth the investment. 

Sweet Protection is well known for their Kayaking helmets and is worn and trusted by a large proportion of the professionals in the sport. Both Sweet Strutters and Rockers are great options, the latter providing more protection for harder whitewater. Just make sure you pick the right size!


12. Aeropress

There is nothing better than great coffee… other than kayaking of course. For adventurous coffee lovers, we are normally stuck to drinking terrible instant coffee when out on trips or shelling out for expensive coffee shops. The Aeropress allows you to make great, fresh coffee on the go and at home. 

The Aeropress Go is an, even more, portable coffee maker than the original Aeropress, with a built-in cup and lid. This is ideal for sticking in your gear bag for long days on the river or for packing on your multi-day adventures. 


13. Drytop

Alternate product image 22515_05_Fjord_Lg_Right_062120

Dry tops make for a great gift if you’re looking to spend a bit more. Dry tops keep the paddler warm and dry on the river. A good-quality dry top is a great investment for any paddler in the sport and will last for years if you care for them well. 

Depending on the temperature a shorty dry top can be worn in favor of a long sleeve to beat the summer heats. Or a Long sleeve can be worn in place of a drysuit for those in-between days on the river. 

We love the NRS Flux Dry Top as a long sleeve and the NRS Stampede Shorty for those warm summer months!  


14. Amazon woman

Darcy Gaechter - Adventure, Books to Read, Author

Amazon woman is a great gift for all paddlers and is an inspiring true story of the author’s – Darcy Gaetcher’s – quest down the Largest river in the world, from source to sea in an epic adventure. Just check out this blurb:

This 148-day journey began on Darcy Gaechter’s 35th birthday. She sold her successful outdoor adventure business, upsetting her partner and boyfriend of 12 years and getting them both fired in the process. The emotional waters that would fester and erupt on the ensuing journey were often more challenging to navigate than the mighty river itself. With blistering lips and irradiated fingernails, Darcy would tackle raging Class Five whitewater for 25 days straight, barely surviving a dynamite-filled canyon being prepared for a new hydroelectric plant. She and her two companions would encounter illegal loggers, narco-traffickers, murderous Shining Path rebels, and ruthless poachers in the black-market trade in endangered species. They would plead for mercy at the hands of the murderous Ashaninka people who were convinced that they had come to steal their children’s organs.

In a desperate attempt meant to give her some pretence of control, Darcy even cut off all her hair before entering Peru’s notoriously dangerous “Red Zone” in hopes of passing for a boy and being seen as less of a target. At once a heart-pounding adventure and a celebration of pushing personal limits, Amazon Woman speaks to all of us feeling trapped by our desk-bound, online society. This is a story of finding the courage and strength to challenge nature, cultures, social norms, and oneself.

You can find the Amazon Woman here!


15. GoPro

Gerd Serrasolses demonstrates the ultimate guide to kayaking with GoPro

Everyone loves to see first-person views of your mates charging down rapids. GoPro is the go-to action cam for most action sports lovers. With water being a key aspect of our sport, most paddlers are, understandably, reluctant to bring a camera on the river with them. Action cameras give everyone the chance to take epic photos and videos of their adventures. 


The new Hero10 boasts 5.3K resolution, hypersmooth4.0, and 8x Slo-mo to allow you to capture more of the river with crystal clarity!


16. Re-waterproofing wash

Another great gift for a kayaker is a waterproofing solution to revive old gear that has lost its water-repellant character. A well-cared-for drysuit or dry top will last for years, and it doesn’t take much for your gear to be beading water once again. 

This is also great for those kayakers who always leave smelly gear hanging around the house. Nikwax does a bundle of high-performance cleaner and a wash-in waterproofing solution that quickly revives your outerwear’s water repellency, whilst maintaining breathability.  


17. Whistle

A whistle is another essential piece of safety equipment that should be carried by every paddler on the River.  I whistle can be used when signalling over long distances or loud rapids, letting people know to stop or go. A whistle can also be used in an emergency to attract attention and is universally known for safety and rescue. 

A whistle cuts across the noise of the river much more effectively than shouting does and sometimes just waving your arms in the air just doesn’t cut it. A whistle should be easily accessible and should work when wet – these LuxoGear Emergency whistles have a 120 dB sound power and come in a 2 pack with leashes, so you always have one spare.


18. T-Shirts

Kayakers love to wear kayaking brands. 90% of all kayakers you see will be wearing some form of kayaking apparel! One great and inexpensive gift is a T-Shirt or other piece of clothing from the paddler’s favourite brand, such as Pyranha or Dewerstone. Check out our own line of apparel, featuring contour maps of classic whitewater runs from around the world! 10% of all profits go to a charity to protect our rivers or to get people out on the water. Check out our store here.

Share this Post

Related articles

Free E-Book
Featured Posts

Want to stay in touch?