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15 Best Birthday Presents for your Kayaker Friend - That won't break your budget.

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

Rockpool Taran - MSR Tent - Puerto Rico

Buying a gift for a kayaker can be a little tricky. It must not be too expensive, it has to be small enough to fit in the kayak, and must be something that they will use. Kayaking gear can be very pricey, however, there are a few gifts that every kayaker will appreciate and won't break your budget. The list compiled here is based on what I as a kayaker have used would love to get as a Christmas or birthday present.

Before we get on with the list, I'd like to note that you should not buy the following items for your kayaker friend:

1. Paddles - Unless you know their exact preferences for blade size, shaft length, and paddling style, it will be tough to get this item just right. And if you get it wrong, it will be a hassle to do the return.

2. Life Vests, Drysuits, Wetsuits, & Spray Skirts - Again, unless you know their exact size, this could end up becoming a complicated return item, so best to avoid it. They might also get a little embarrassed about receiving a very expensive present, and then will feel obliged to get you something equally expensive which isn't going to feel good if they can't afford to.

3. Electric Bilge Pumps - This is way too complicated, and will need to be customized for their kayak, not to mention all the work and cost that goes with the installation. It's a white elephant. Give this to a person you don't like so they have a new problem to stress about.

4. Carts - If your kayaking friend carries their cart inside one of the hatches, chances are that they know the exact one that fits, and anything different won't work. If it is a day cart, then maybe it is ok. Still, why make life difficult? Get something else.

Here are the 15 Best Birthday Presents For Kayakers

1. PVC Dry Bags

These are always an easy gift that will be appreciated. Kayakers need dry bags to store their gear so it doesn't get wet. The 5 to 10 Liters range should be the right size for most items. Usually, an expedition kayaker will have about ten of these bags, and they will be different colors to know what's inside of each (food, electronics, boat repair, bug/bear spray, toiletries, first aid etc...)

A PVC dry bag is robust to withstand rough treatment without tearing, and will keep your things dry and secure. A 5 Liter bag is good for small things like your wallet toiletries, and snacks, while the 10L will handle bulkier items like a pair of shoes. I don't recommend going above 10L as above that it can be impractical to fit the bag through the hatches.

Dry Bag

2. Bilge Sponges

Bilge sponges are a thoughtful gift that shows you understand the little hassles of sea kayaking. It doesn't matter how tight your kayak hatches are, there's always some water that ends up getting in, especially during rough weather and if you had to do some combat rolls to stay afloat. Few things are worse than finding standing water in your hatches, discovering that one of your dry bags had a few pinpricks, and now your change clothes and sleeping bag are damp with seawater. Buy three bilge sponges (one for each hatch compartment) for your kayaking buddy, and they will be reminded of you when they squeeze the water out and think, "Thank goodness I have these with me!"

Bilge Sponge
Bilge Sponge

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3. Compression Bags

Compression bags are an excellent way to cut down volume inside your kayak hatches for those things that are fluffy. These include your sleeping bag, your clothes and your tent fabric. Usually you want a 10 Liter for your clothing, and a 20 Liter for your sleeping bag or tent fabric. I normally have about four of these bags with me in an expedition (two for clothing, one for the sleeping bag and pillow, and one for the tent fabric). You'll be amazed just how much extra room you'll find inside your kayak after that. If you want a great quality compression bag, get the AMK Compression Sack!

Compression Dry Bag

4. Luci Solar Lamp

Yes, at some point you'll find yourself paddling at night, so you're going to need a lamp. These Luci Solar Lamps don't take up much space. You can attach them to your deck lines with the solar panel facing up, and over the course of the day, they will charge up enough to last a few hours. I'll normally carry about 3 of these with me.

Luci Light

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5. Kit Bags

Every kayaker knows that making a bunch of trips from the campsite to the kayak carrying your gear is no fun. We want to make as few trips as possible, and quickly pack the kayak so we can get on our way. Having a dedicated kit bag for each hatch compartment really makes this easy. Usually kayakers use Ikea duffle bags as they are reliable, and sometimes free at the store, but if you gift your kayaking friend a fancy PVC mesh bag with a sand proof zipper, they will be thrilled with the product quality.

Kit Bag

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6. Wide Brim Sun Hat You can get some very bad sunburns in a bright day on the water. For that reason you need a wide brim sun hat that will keep your face in the shade. Most wide brim sun hats have a 4-inch rim, but the AMK Helios (yes it's my creation, and it's me in the photo and video!) has 6-inches! Don't think that an extra 2-inches makes a difference? You will know it when you wear one! Plus you can roll with this hat as well, and it won't come off your head!

Wide Brim Sun Hat

7. Beach Chair

One of the best things to have in a kayaking expedition is a comfortable place to sit when you're at the campsite, eating your food, and enjoying the scenery. The "sort of flat" boulder, the oddly shaped log, and maybe even that random toilet seat cover you found at the beach just can't compare to a good folding chair that you can even take a nap in the shade (yes, it's me in the photo again!). Your friends in the trip who don't have one, will be jealous of you.

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8. Gator Patch

Field repairs to your hull are really distressing. You don't want to be fiddling with epoxy glues, mixing cups, and mesh cloths when there's no clean place to do it, and the wind is blowing the sand everywhere. You want something that will get the crack patched quickly, and get you through the end of the journey, or at least to the nearest port.

The Gator Patch is easy to use, hassle free, and takes up very little space so you can keep two or three patches with you all all times. Your kayaker friend will really like this gift if he doesn't already have one.

Gator Patch

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9. Jelly Belly Sports Beans

If I'm your kayaker friend, I would love to get a box with 25 packs of these. They are tasty, and there's plenty of variety to chose from. My favorite is caffeinated version. They give you a hell of a kick when you need fast energy to finish off a 40 mile paddle against they wind. I call them the He-Man jelly beans...

Jelly Belly Beans

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10. Neoprene Booties

If you know your kayaker friend's shoe size, then a new set of booties will be a really nice present. Just make sure that you buy one size bigger than their shoe size, especially if they use those booties with a dry suit.

Kayak Booties

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11. Chamois Butter Anti Chaffe Cream

If your kayaker friend is a hardcore paddler who goes on long paddling expeditions and doesn't shower for weeks on end, then he (and let's be honest, it's definitely a guy, not a girl), is going to need something to ease the chaffing on those body areas that are constantly rubbing against each other, so they don't turn into nasty raw sores. I put a generous amount under my armpits, around the nipples, and those other important private body parts you definitely don't want chaffing on... It's a life saver! It turns a multi week kayaking expedition into an experience, as opposed to a slog. Your kayaker friend will appreciate having a tube of lube with him.

Chamois Butter

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12. Neoprene Gloves

If your kayaker friend is one of those hardcore dudes who takes pride in his hand calluses to show how much he paddles, then he might think that gloves are for sissies. However, if you ever had to wrap bandages around your naked fingers and had the salt water reeling in your wounds with every paddle stroke, you know how much you wish you had a pair of comfortable gloves with you.

kayak Glove

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13. O'Neill Men's Premium Skins

If you are paddling in warm tropical weather, then you'll need something that will protect you from the sun, but it's also breathable and flexible. I really like these O'Neill Skins and I took five of them with me in my trip around Puerto Rico (yes its me in the picture, looking silly, but definitely not sun-burned). They are comfortable, dry quickly, and are good to go after a rinse. I would highly recommend that you go for at least one size bigger than your regular shirt. If you think your kayaker friend is a medium, then definitely get a large. I'm 6 feet, 180 pounds, and I use an X-Large.

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14. Mosquito Repellent

Of all the predators you might encounter in a paddling expedition; bears, sharks, mountain lions, and wolfs, none is more common and ferocious than the mosquito. They will bite you through the tent fabric if you lean against it. They will sting you in the butt when you're doing you're business. And they will buzz in your ear all night long when you're sleeping. That's why you need a powerful mosquito repellent like the Therma-cell. It slowly releases a chemical repellent into the air, creating a little bubble of protection which keeps all the bugs away. It's like magic when you see it work. One minute the bugs are eating you alive, and then suddenly, they're all gone! If I was in the arctic and I had to chose between the Therma-cell for the mosquitos and a shotgun for polar bears, I'll take my chances with the bear without the shotgun...

Mosquito repellent

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15. Zipper Wax

If your kayaker friend has invested the money on a Dry Suit, then he definitely using zipper wax to make sure those zippers on the suit run smoothly, don't get stuck. and seal tightly. The last thing you want in a kayaking expedition, is to find that your dry suit isn't sealing, or worse, you can't open the zipper, and you have to go number 2 REALLY badly ASAP.

Zipper Wax

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16. Amazon Gift Card

If you still can't think of anything to give your Kayaking friend, then I suppose you can give them an Amazon Gift Card. They might, however, think you're trying to be their dad...

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