Paddling gear that should be in every boat (especially this time of year). 

Yikes! It’s nail-biting time: T-minus two shopping days and here your are still scrambling to find something for the paddler on your list. What to do, what to do?

Here’s what to do: listen to Chris from our Cameron Village store.

Odds are the paddler in your life is a fair-weather paddler. It’s not for a lack of interest; after all, winter paddling offers a peek into riparian woods that are otherwise shrouded by dense foliage. Rather, it’s a matter of being properly equipped to deal with the cold — primarily the cold water. Most paddlers would gladly paddle longer if they just had the gear.

“Let’s say you just want to extend your season by a few weeks,” says Chris. “Maybe paddle late into November, start up again in early March. There are just a few things you need to stay warm.”

  • Water shoe. Your feet are likely the first to get wet — it’s unavoidable getting into the water — so let’s start there. Neoprene water shoes, such as the high-top NRS Desperado Wetshoe have a thin, grippy rubber sole and fleece-like VaporLoft lining that provide cushion, warmth and comfort. They’re slightly more compact than your summertime sandals and are cuffed to keep water from slinking in through your ankles. Expect to spend around $50. If your giftee is claustrofootic (their feet don’t like being constrained, and yes, that’s a made-up condition), consider NRS Wetsocks, also made of neoprene but more spare. Around $30.


  • Gloves. Hands are a close second in the bound-to-get-wet-paddling category. Unless you’re paddling in near-freezing conditions (both water and air temperature), a good pair of insulating gloves should suffice. One key thing to watch for: while many gloves have a slight clinch built in (to reflect wrapping your hand around the paddle), some can be stiff and inflexible, which tires your hands after a spell. A good bet is the NRS Crew Glove, a full-fingered glove made of neoprene with wrist cuffs to keep the water out. Grippy palms, too. $19.95.


  • Fleece hat. You can buy paddling specific hats, but your all-purpose synthetic chapeau will do just fine. Our favorite: Smartwool’s PhD Training Beanie, a lightweight Merino wool/polyester blend made for athletic activity. $25.


  • Jacket. There are two ways to go here, advises Chris. If your paddler is a diehard and has expressed interest in paddling year-round, wherever, the colder the better, and if you’re feeling particularly generous, then spring for a dry suit. The impervious shell works well in both cold weather and really cold weather: “Just layer up underneath,” Chris says. “Expect to pay between $700 and $1,000 for a complete dry suit. A little steep? (And really, is that special paddler in your life really going out on a sub 100-degree (combined air and water temperature) day? Then how about a nice paddle jacket, the Immersion Research Zephyr Jacket, for instance. Seam-sealed, neoprene cuffs at the neck and wrists, a breathable shell and mesh inner liners to keep you from paddling in a sauna on those long, flat stretches. And, it’s got a nifty zippered chest pocket to store your phone or camera. $129.


  • PFD. Has you’re paddler been paddling for a while? Quick, run out to his/her gear shed and check their PFD (“personal flotation device,” what we once called a life jacket). Is it a big, bulky thing with thick shoulder pads, a little mold perhaps sprouting here and there? Your paddler may view this as a badge of honor, using technology from the ‘80s, but secretly they will be ecstatic to enter the 21st century with a streamlined, modern pfd. For starters, those bulky, chaffing shoulder pads are gone, replaced by thin straps that don’t get in your way. Plus, they now have pockets, multiple pockets, to keep a paddler’s stuff from rolling around in the slurpy boat bottom. We’re especially smitten by the Astral Ronny (the Linda for women) fishing version: it comes with a beverage holder. Put your paddler in 21st Century technology starting around $100.


Stocking stuffer: HydroStar SOS SeaStar Deluxe. Nothing like fun technology that doubles to save your paddler’s life. They’ll be agog over the five-light settings (including red and green), the built-in whistle, the fact you can suction-cup it to your boat or clip it to your pfd. Either way, a cool piece of lighting fun that lets others see you in low light and fog.