7 gifts for the kayaker who has (almost) everything

Having trouble thinking of creative Christmas gift ideas for the kayaker in your life?

We’ve put together a list of seven interesting, unique, where-in-the-world-did-you-find-this gifts that every kayaker will love.  Some are cheap, some are pricey, but they’d all be a fun addition to your kayaker’s arsenal.

All of these items can be purchased online, most of them at our two favorite kayak stores – Austin Kayak and REI.

1) Greatland Laser Rescue Laser Flare – $109.95

The Greatland Laser Rescue Laser Flare from REI

The Greatland Laser Rescue Laser Flare from REI

Safety first, right?  Well, this is unquestionably a safety device.  But it’s also a high-powered laser, which makes it so much cooler than other safety equipment.  Flares, Glo-sticks and whistles all have their place, but when it comes to being rescued in style, you can’t go wrong with a laser.

Completely waterproof, the laser can be seen from over 20 miles away. It’ll also drive your dog crazy.

Buy this for the kayaker in your life and, even if they don’t trust it as their main emergency device, they’ve still got an awesome laser to play with.  A classic win-win.

2) Topeak iPhone Dry Bag – $29.95

The Topeak iPhone Dry Bag

The Topeak iPhone Dry Bag

One of the great dilemmas of the past decade – as we’ve watched cellphones become more important and more expensive – is what to do with them when you’re kayaking.  It’s always a good idea to have a phone with you, but at $700 for a new smartphone, who can afford to risk it?

You can always throw it in the bottom of your dry bag and hope it doesn’t get crushed or soaked, or you can double bag in Ziplocs and watch as it overheats.

Or you can buy the Topeak iPhone Dry Bag, which allows you to view and use your phone while it’s in a waterproof case.  You can even use your rear-facing camera with the case on.

For 30 bucks, it’s cheap insurance for an expensive investment.  And if you need to use your phone while on the ‘yak, you can do so without fear.

3) The Oru (Oragami) Kayak – $800

Perhaps opening up the sport of kayaking to apartment-dwellers worldwide, the Oru Kayak is a plastic, folding, origami-ish kayak that’s lightweight and extremely portable.

They’ve raised over $350,000 dollars for this project on Kickstarter and early reviewers are thrilled with the product.

It’s a full 12 feet, watertight, durable and comes with a warranty.  I’ve watched the video several times and still can’t quite figure out all the folding involved, but it doesn’t look any more complicated than my inflatable.

4) Brunton Solaris 4 USB Solar Panel – $199

You can file this one in the category Completely Unnecessary but still Totally Awesome.  It’s a portable, waterproof solar panel made by Brunton with built in USB ports.  Advertised for kayakers, hikers and especially campers, this mini power station is ready on a (sunny) moment’s notice to charge your phone, camera or GPS device.

Burton Solaris 4 USB Solar Panel

Burton Solaris 4 USB Solar Panel from Austin Kayak

The panel folds up to fit into a small space or backpack, and as long as you have your USB charging cables, you have virtually unlimited power for your gadgets – until nightfall, of course (then you better hope you have your laser).

If you like multi-day paddling trips, this may be a good purchase.  Use your cameras during the day, charge them up from your campsite at night and set out the next day with a full charge.

5) Hobie Island Conversion Kit – $1,809

Hobie Adventure Island Conversion Kit

The Hobie Adventure Island Conversion Kit from KO Sailing

At over $1,800, this gift idea is for the high-net-worth readers only.  If you have a 2007 or newer Hobie adventure kayak, and there are lots of used ones out there if you want one, this conversion kit allows you to turn your kayak into a small but stable sailboat.

Hobie Kayaks already have the inserts molded into the hull, so adding the sail and the outrigger hulls is fairly easy.  The sail is big enough to generate some serious movement but small enough to remain maneuverable while seated in the kayak.

The outrigger hulls are retractable, allowing you to pull them in tight when you are ready to dock or if you want to switch back to paddle-power, and a twist and stow rudder is included as well.

If you’ve got some money and an interest in sail-yaking, give this kit a shot.

6) Wildcat Light System with Bug Lights – $139

Wildcat Light System with Bug Lights

Wildcat Light System with Bug Lights from Austin Kayak

This kit comes with two sets of kayak lights: A green set designed to attract fish to your kayak, and an amber set to keep mosquitos away.

Sounds like a cool idea for kayak anglers, if it works.  But even if it doesn’t, it’s a great way to dress your kayak up for the Christmas season.

The lights are waterproof and come with all of the necessary assembly hardware.  The green lights, according to Wildcat, have a frequency that was specially calibrated to penetrate deep into the water.  The frequency of the amber light is designed to discourage mosquitos and other bugs from getting too close.  And again, they look awesome.

7) YakAttack ParkNPole Stakeout Pole – $75

YakAttack ParkNPole Stakeout Pole from Austin Kayak

YakAttack ParkNPole Stakeout Pole from Austin Kayak

This gift is perhaps the most practical one on the list – an 8-foot stakeout pole.

This pole is light and long and can be used for more than keeping your kayak in place.  Flip the pole over and use the handle as a foot for pushing off in shallow water.

Stakeout poles are a must for anyone interested in kayak fishing, snorkeling or photography.  This one would also make for a great extension for a GoPro camera.

The benefit of this pole over others is that it floats, it has a solid, fiberglass construction and is thin enough to fit on the kayak without cutting into your seating space (unlike some PVC stakeout poles).

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$40 to sleep on the sand? Check out Long Key State Park

If you’ve never slept on a beach, you should add it to your bucket list.

There’s something about the roar of the ocean in the middle of the night that is unforgettable.  I spent the first 23 years of my life within five minutes of the Gulf of Mexico.  I’ve spent every year since within an hour and a half.  I’ve boated, kayaked, fished, swam.  I’ve run on the beach, I’ve snorkeled on reefs, I’ve cruised from island to island in the Caribbean and Central America.

But I’ve never felt the ocean like I did sleeping in a cheap tent on the sand.

Sunset from Long Key

If you’re reading this within four hours of the Florida Keys, here’s what you should do this weekend:

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Video from Silver River in Ocala – Hiking, biking, kayaking, Oh yeah!

I’ve written about kayaking on Silver River in Ocala before, but I haven’t touched on any of the other cool things to do there.

I’ll hit on a few of them quickly, and I’ve put together a little video to give you the sense of what else is out there.

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Review of Baja Dry Sack from SealLine

Keeping things dry on a kayak is no easy task.

For a long time, I used a very small, quasi-waterproof box to protect a few valuables – my phone, my wallet and a key to my car.  The dry box prevented things from getting soaked, but at the end of a day on the water, everything inside was, at best, moist.

I’ve been poking around for a while, looking for something that I could trust to protect my ever-expanding set of techie stuff with which I kayak.

I had three criteria:

1. Fairly cheap (no $150 waterproof duffles)

2. Big enough to hold an SLR camera, a cellphone, snacks and some extra clothing

3. It needs to float and be really, truly waterproof

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Otter Springs in Trenton, Fla., has lots of promise, little payoff

Coming off of my guarded endorsement of Hart Springs, we’re headed 10 minutes south to Otter Springs, which, like Hart, feeds the Suwannee River.  Otter Springs sign

Otter Springs is a second-magnitude spring, meaning it pumps out an awful lot of water (somewhere between 7 and 70 million gallons every day).  The park is privately run, and it has a modest entrance fee – only $4 a person.  The entrance fee gets you access to the springs, the boat ramp and a few miles of hiking trails.

The park also has a large RV campground near the springs.  Not close enough to be disruptive, but close enough to offer campers easy access.  I’ve been RV camping many, many times, and I’ve got to say, I’ve never seen sites as tightly packed as these ones.  I like to keep a little space from my neighbors, but that’s out of the question here.  On the plus side, there is an indoor swimming pool.  Frankly, I was a little surprised to see an indoor swimming pool a few hundred yards from a natural spring.  But then I saw the spring, and it all made sense.

I hate to be disparaging about this place.  The woman in the office was extremely helpful, answering all of my questions with a smile, and she gave me plenty of maps to help me get around.  But the springs are in rough shape.

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Kayaking Silver River in Ocala, Fla.

You’d be hard pressed to find a more scenic river in central Florida than Silver River.  The slow, meandering current (2-3 knots, according to the park rangers) makes for an easy paddle in either direction, and because it flows through a state park, there is no development along the riverbank, save for one tattered old cabin.

Silver River State Park

Beautiful afternoon for kayaking up Silver River.

There’s a kayak launch inside the state park ($6 per car to enter), and from there, you can explore the 5 ½ mile spring run, before the river eventually joins the Ocklawaha.

It’s a bit of a hike from the parking lot to the river, and motorized vehicles aren’t allowed on the trail.  If you’re traveling alone, with several kayaks or with a heavy canoe, you’ll need a manual trailer to get your gear down to the water.  It’s a long ½ mile with a kayak trailer in tow.  Complicating matters further, the trail to the river is mostly soft sand, and while I didn’t have the pleasure of dragging a trailer through it, I’m guessing it’s a less-than-pleasurable experience, particularly in mid summer.

In light of all that, the park offers canoe rentals for $7 an hour on a first-come-first-served basis.  They’re locked up down by the water, so a key and a paddle is all you’ll have to lug down the river trail.

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