10 Holiday Gifts for Rafting and Kayaking

by Zachary Collier

River runners (guides, rafters, kayakers, catarafters, SUP-ers, riverboarders, etc.) always seem to have their next gear purchase and river trip in mind. This is a list of suggested gifts for your friends and family who enjoy whitewater.

1. Swiftwater Rescue Course. Safety first! Everyone can use more safety training and this is a great way to gift a useful experience. Sierra Rescue or the Swiftwater Safety Institute both offer quality training.

Practicing raft flipping during safety training

Practicing raft flipping during safety training

2. Membership to American Whitewater. This fine organization works hard to gain river access and flows so we can boat more places, more often. Annual membership includes a subscription to the American Whitewater Journal and a few American Whitewater stickers. Check out American Whitewater Gift Memberships.

3. Throw bag. This is an essential piece of safety gear that every river runner needs and and item that wears out over time. Most rafters and kayakers want rope at least 75 feet long and a high quality bag. Super Guide Gear offers well-designed, handmade throw bags.

Throwing a throw bag to help a friend

Throwing a throw bag to help a friend

4. New Personal Flotation Device (PFD). These wear out over and should be replaced on a regular basis. A new PFD is a great way to keep your loved one afloat when they take a swim. My favorite PFD for rafting is the Astral Designs Blue Jacket.

5. Warmth. Everyone loves a brand new warm fleece. My favorite is the classic and versatile R1 Hoody from Patagonia.

Winter boating on the Wind River

Winter boating on the Wind River

6. Literature. There are some great books out there with stories set in and around the river. My favorite is Halfway to Halfway and Back by Dick Linford and Bob Volpert.

7. Waterproof Camera. Boaters go to beautiful places and if they have a great camera they can come home with some great photos and videos to share. The new GoPro Hero 6 Black is great for video and Olympus is well known for its waterproof digital cameras. Another great option is a waterproof iPhone case from LifeProof.

Stand Up Paddling Below the Stari Most in Herzegovina

Stand Up Paddling Below the Stari Most in Herzegovina

8. Headlamp. Everyone loves headlamps and this makes the perfect stocking stuffer. The Petzl Actik Core and Black Diamond Storm are my favorites.

9. Small Watershed Bag. These are sweet bags for little things on the river that can be stuffed in a kayak or tied in a small place on a raft. Photographers love this bag as it's the perfect size for an SLR. I suggest spending a little extra to get the military grade fabric. Learn more about the Watershed Ocoee Bag.

10. Cash! If your favorite river runner has all the gear they need, then give them cold, hard cash to spend getting to their next destination.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission when you click a link and purchase and item.

Any other suggestions? Leave your gift ideas below!

Originally Published: | Updated on



Zachary Collier

As owner of Northwest Rafting Company, Zach Collier combines international guiding experience in places like Siberia, Bhutan, and Chile with a natural business acumen for systems and logistics. Whether he’s on big water or in the back office, Zach strives to ensure NWRC offers exceptional whitewater and wilderness experiences for guests and guides alike.

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