Christmas is just around the corner and you are again left wondering what to offer your favorite paddler. The problem, you say, is that they already seem to have every gadget a kayak-canoe enthusiast might need. Well, maybe not: how about some special camp cooking tools and/or goodies? Everybody loves a few treats! In that department, you can hardly go wrong!
The idea of adding a few more suggestions to fill the paddler's Christmas stocking came to mind because of one of those "real life" situations. Last year, our daughter-in-law (the shopping afficionado in our family) offered my hubbie and me two lovely hats designed for kayaking under harsh conditions; the year before, it was a pfd for each of our two dogs; the year before that, she picked waterproof cases for our camera and cell phones. But this year, while chatting on the phone, this adorable young woman confessed she was panicking because she did not know what to offer us that would continue the kayaking theme she and my son had picked for us years ago. So because I didn't want to leave my lovely Annie torturing herself any longer I decided it might be fun to think about those quirky and useful camp kitchen helpers for paddlers that would make very nice and affordable gifts. Most of them are not essential and, for that reason, we tend to not buy them for ourselves. Who knows? Maybe Santa Claus himself will read this column and get a few ideas on what to put under the tree for me…
Find unusual wrapping or bundles
As my daughter-in-law always does when she wraps gifts, it's always nice to find unusual ways to put things together in a special package in order to surprise your loved ones. That's why I have created a few " bundles " for all types of foodie paddlers. According to your needs and budget, feel free to upgrade the offer or to pick only one or a few items from each list. For instance, why not replace the traditional Christmas stocking with a large dry bag tied with a nice piece of ribbon for a change? How about a table cloth that will be put to good use and will become part of the gift or a cooler?
Bundle 1) For the uncurable romantic:
Since romantic paddlers are usually very sensitive to ambiance and lighting, start with some12-hour tealight candles with cute unbreakable supports; add 2 to 4 placemats and a set of battery-powered Led string lights; they create a wonderful atmosphere and they don't take up much room in your luggage. They cost around $10.00 dollars for a 6 to 8 foot strand. To this package, add 2 unbreakable wine glasses and 1 foldable soft sided wine carafe with a wine tote (GSI Outdoors wine gift set, $39.95 www.gsioutdoors.com) filled with an excellent wine, some crackers in an airtight container and camembert cheese sold in a metal box.
Bundle 2) For the breakfast amateur:
I confess a passion for breakfast and, according to what is now available online, I'm certainly not the only one! For this package, start with a nice coffee maker (the choice is amazing; collapsible, for 1-2 cups, French press, drip or espresso, etc.) After trying many models, we really fell for the Aeropress, a simple double cylinder system that makes the best espresso coffee ($25.95,www.aerobie.com/products/aeropress.htm). It is so good that we often use it at home for our daily latte instead of our fancy Italian machine! Add 2 cute mugs large enough to be used for other purposes as well (like for soup or ragout). Then add a collapsible toaster, a cutting board with a Japanese plastic serrated knife and an assortment of jams and jellies. I would also add some cheddar or Swiss cheese packed in a metal box. You can offer some organic almond or peanut butter too!
For paddlers who really like to take their time in the morning, you could even include a waffle maker especially created for camp cooking!!! (collapsible toaster and waffle maker available atwww.gsioutdoors.com).
Bundle 3) For the organized camp cook:
One of the greatest pleasures for a serious camp cook is to get everything organized in a minimum amount of space allowing easy access to all the cooking necessities. With that in mind, I would personally love to get an assortment of collapsible bowls, plates and mugs for 2 persons. The X-Pouch ($49.95 for a set of three at www.seatosummit.com) fits that description perfectly and allows one to be well equipped while travelling light. To that I would add a spice rack to allow for variety and diversity without compromising my desire to leave bulk at home.
The GSI Outdoors Spice Missile (www.gsioutdoors.com) is another nice invention: you can carry 6 different types of spices in one single container thanks to its separate compartments. So why not prepare your own favorite spice mixes and pour them into the Spice Missile for a nice added touch to your gift? And, at only $8.95, the price is hard to beat. I would complete that gift package with a few nice essentials: a set of bamboo utensils for 2 (To-Go Ware, www.togoware.com $12.95), one Microplane grater, one serrated plastic knife and one ultra-thin cutting board.
Bundle 4) For the serious cook:
For many campers meal time is the best part of their outdoor trip. They love to cook on their portable stove and they also thrive when creating dishes that feel and taste like home: comfort foods. The only problem is that those recipes often call for long cooking and simmering time, which is fuel-costly.
The GSI Outdoors pressure cooker lets you cook food twice as fast and, since it is made from scratch-resistant Halulite, a 10-cup model weighs only 2 pounds (www.gsioutdoors.com). At $49.00, it is a very good investment for people who take their camp meals seriously. To this package, I would also add the Spice Missile and a set of Pivot spatula, Pivot tong and Pivot spoon (also sold at GSI Outdoors), which allow to stir efficiently without adding too much bulk.
Bundle 5) For the clean freak:
Many paddlers have a reputation for keeping their camp nice and tidy. Here's a gift package to satisfy this need for cleanliness. In a nice table cloth, place 1 collapsible kitchen sink (Sea to Summit, $22.95, www.seatosummit.com), 2 dish washing towels, one scrubbing sponge, 1 bottle of dishwashing soap created for the outdoors (with no phosphate) and one plastic mat for drying plates. Add to this a cute portable broom with a dustpan and some organic air freshener for your tent.
Bundle 6) The perfect gift for any paddler
Another nice gift is a collapsible cooler: the REI Cooler (www.rei.com) looks really nice and sturdy and, at $19.95, is a real steal. To fit in a kayak hatch easily, it should not be more than 14 X 16 inches.
Fill this well designed cooler with a few very useful cooking tools: a small whisk, a foldable spatula and tong, 2 sets of bamboo utensils from To-Go Ware (www.togoware.com $12.95), a Microplane grater and a small foldable cutting board coupled with a serrated plastic knife. Complete this package with a wire mesh storage bag, designed to prevent wild animals from foraging in your food (from Simple Outdoor solution: www.simpleoutdoorstore.com) and with a 10-liter Sea to summit foldable water bucket (www.seatosummit.com, $24.95) and you will make a paddler happy!