The River Store Non-paddler Shopping for Paddler Guide

YEP! This is the Guide for those who don’t paddle but need some help figuring out a useful, cool gift for their buddy. May it be partner, child, or friend these items are sure to keep your out of the dog house this winter. Now, I know what you’re thinking… How do I know what gear to get them without asking and ruining the surprise? Don’t worry The River Store has you covered. Below you can learn about the gear that most paddlers need and the subtle questions you should ask your gear head to find out exactly what they need.

First, here are some basic universals that most paddlers can use:

  • Noseplugs (great stocking stuffer)
  • Zinka Colored Nosecoat (Keep their faces safe from the sun rays with colored Zink super great for kids especially!)

  • Locking Carabiners (you can’t ever have enough of these)
  • Filter bottle (Not in stock at the River Store currently, but can custom order)
  • Sink the Stink (whether they think they need it or not, this helps remove the stink from the gear)
  • New sponge for sponging out their boat
  • Straps 12′ 15′ or 20′ all good sizes
  • A new set of fleece or Capilene Top and Bottoms
  • Don’t know what to get… Gift Cards always are Sweet you can do them for Gear or For Instruction.

Now if you are looking for the extra brownie points or are trying to do the shopping on the sly, here are some helpful tips for figuring out what is needed.


This is the part where you check-in and see what info they might give out automatically or what you can glean. Below are some key things to find out, because even if you can’t make full sense of it The River Store staff can help you decide on the perfect presents. So here is where to start…

  • Find out what they paddled and what they like to paddle or aspire to paddle is it all playboating, creeking, river running, stand up paddle boarding, or they do all of the above.
  • Find out if they have any paddling trips or goals they are working towards now through next season.
  • You can bluntly ask if they need any gear
  • Pay attention to what time of year they like to paddle in, do they paddle June-September, Do they paddle Year round, do they paddle April thru October? This will help you know what layering or shells they might need or want.
  • Also stealthy or directly find out where they keep their gear so that you can go check it out on your own time and see if anything needs replacing.



“Stealth mission” Wait till your buddy is Out and about but NOT PADDLING, to ensure full gear kit is present. You are checking to see what they have, and what condition it might be in… First avoid the stinky items, but make a note: IF really stinky a definetly get the Sink the Stink (enzyme that will help with the stench and not damage the materials).

Next look at the kit they should have the basic 5 items first, Helmet, Paddle, PFD (lifejacket), Skirt, and Boat. Here are some things to look at to figure out if they need to replace anything due to use.

· Paddles, check the edge of each blade, do they look battered as if your friend was chopping firewood or rocks with the blade instead of gliding through the smooth substance of water. Is their carbon fiber or fiberglass either on the shaft or blades that gets poky and could cause splinters?

· PFD(lifejacket): look for serious fading, sun damage to body of jacket or any of the straps, PFD’s loose flotation over time due to aging, sun, and heat.You can also squeeze the foam if it doesn’t rebound back to shape immediately it may be loosing flotation. If it looks worn, or sun damaged, or if foam doesn’t bounce back to shape immediately then it may be time to get a new PFD. Also note, does the vest have a webbing belt that goes around the whole jacket with some sort of funky big plastic clasp… This means they have a rescue vest, and this may mean they may need some of the accessories that go along with it.

· Helmet: Look for major scatches or dents, does the webbing look like it is in good condition, does the helmet have missing foam from the interior… Does it have a face guard, etc… You may not be able to identify anything but this could be a good conversation starter to find out about other gear.

· Skirt: So first of all there are two sizes on a skirt, one is the waist the other is the cockpit, if you see any sizing written on the skirt write it down, also write down whatever the brand and model name and size of the boat/s they might have. This info will be useful if it turns out the skirt does need replacing, you can call in and have staff member help you make sure to get the right sizing. Now look for wear marks and holes, Wear usually occurs along the sides of the skirt on the top of the deck. Also look at the bungee or rubber rand that goes around the skirt is it well attached. Some things to note about the skirt is it all just neoprene, does the skirt have areas that are doubled up for abrasion, is it made of Kevlar or very rugged material in some areas, does it have a hard plastic strip either sewn into the deck of the skirt or in a pocket that runs across the deck this is called a implosion bar it keeps the skirt on the boat even in rough water.

· Boat: Unless they have been talking about what they want specifically I would steer clear of trying to pin point what boat they might want… however a great gift might be a membership to a demo program at a local shop, then they can try a bunch of stuff till they know what they want.

LAYERS & SHELLS    This is where knowing what time of year your friend paddles helps, if it is the colder season anywhere before May and after October then these items are handy to have:

Gloves or Pogies (a mitten looking thing that attaches to paddle) Skull cap (equivalent of a beanie for the water)                        Neoprene Socks or Wool Socks AND most importantly if you want to be a true hero get them a Union Suit!

Extra layers… If they are not swimming much and there boat doesn’t leak and or they have a drysuit so they arn’t wet, Fleece can be a great upper and lower body layer.  Capilene, long underwear are great for wicking the moisture away from the body and the fleece is good at insulating. And again Union Suit;)

If they have a leaky boat, or are still swimming periodically, and they don’t have a drysuit. Neoprene, may be a better option for the pants, because it clings to the body and warms the water that soaks the fabric, Fleece will hang away from the body not insulating.

Wetsuit:  IF your bud has a wetsuit you might consider upgrading them to a pair of neoprene pants and a neoprene top, easier to adjust for various weather conditions because you can use either layer alone or both, also it makes it easier to pee.

Drywear: This is tricky, people can be more particular about what they want.  IF they have a drytop or drysuit already here are some possible ideas for gifts:

  • Pre-pay a repair job for the gaskets on the suit or top, the Neck gasket generally blows out once a year, if you prepay then this way they can come in at a later date and get the work done.
  • Another simple repair item that makes a good stocking stuffer is wash in water proofing formula, or Gortex/Synthetic fabric cleaner, often tops will loose a portion of their ability to breath or dryness after several seasons of use.

IF THEY DON’T have a

Drytop, and they paddle anytime before June or after September, you might consider getting them a drytop.

Drysuits are amazing, particularly if your bud is headed on a trip like the Grand Canyon anywhere from October-May or to Chile, Alaska, or the Pacific North West.  They are highly useful if they paddle year round here in California also.

You may at this point want to tell them that this is what you want to do, so that you can get the sizing and color right.  One thought on this, whatever top you buy make sure the company has a repair facility, if they don’t do repairs on the fabric, the top will not last as long.  Kokatat, IR, Stohlquist, NRS all have repair facilities.

Other Items they will need-

  • River Knife (you may need to find out if they like folding or ones that attach to their pfd)
  • 3/4 inch tubular webbing hopefully 15’ length (Great stocking stuffer particularly if included with a locking carabiner)
  • Spare Paddle  (They may have specifics that they want time to ask)
  • Float bags (these are big inflateable bags bags that fill up the back compartment of their boat it helps keep water out of the boat when paddler takes a swim, important safety feature, if they don’t have any or they don’t hold air any more, make sure you know what boat they need to fit, both make and model)
  • Throwbag (this is often yellow in color or red, it is a rope stuffed into a bag of some sort, they might have specifics on what they want if they don’t have one so check in with them.)
  • 1st aid kit  (good size to get 2-3 person 2 day outing size Adventure Medical makes a good one)
  • Good Shoes/Booties (this one may be best done as a gift certificate… unless you know what they are looking for & the size…. )
  • A Drybag (Snacks, Cameras, Dry clothes, Car keys, and anything else that needs to stay dry must go in a dry bag while kayaking)

So at this point, you have established what they have or don’t have, in Hard Wear, and what condition it is in.  Now you need to find out if your paddling buddy has particular tastes on gear…



Friends of your buddy are the next best bet in keeping this a stealth operation. See IF they will ask your buddy about gear and what they would get if they could replace it.  Your backup if this doesn’t work is to ask or Gift certificate.

One last note… The River Store staff is super knowledgeable and maybe able to stealth mission some things for you feel free to shoot us a e-mail:

Our The River Store return policy is either return for store credit or exchange with a receipt. If an item was special ordered or on sale we unfortunately cannot do returns.

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