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Holiday Gifts for the Gourmet Paddler

If you are a regular reader of this food column, chances are you like to eat a lot. And you probably love to paddle as well. But over the years, I’ve noticed that for many kayakers or canoeists, trying to reconcile their passion for great meals while getting up close and personal with nature is often a big challenge. Because fresh foods are difficult to carry along for more than a couple of days and paddlers have specific needs when it comes to nutrition and food storage.

With more and more emphasis on gourmet fare, even at your local grocery store, and the arrival on the market of interesting camp cooking accessories, things have changed tremendously over the last couple of years. Now you can fix yourself a nice frothy latte in the heart of Pacific Rim National Park, simmer a fragrant Indian curry with basmati rice within 30 minutes once your camp is set in Baja or bake your own corn-bacon muffins on the banks of an Alaskan river (well, maybe not, because Grizzlies love bacon). The fact is: cooking original meals in the wilderness has proved to be a breeze.

So I decided to get into the spirit of the Holiday Season by proposing an assortment of gourmet gifts specifically suited for paddlers who love to eat and to cook, even in the wilderness. I’ve come up with many selections to suit every budget, style and type of paddling expedition, which might make a huge difference in the type of gift you are likely to offer. For instance, if the person you wish to spoil is more a day-tripper than a hardcore expedition lover, it may not be a sound choice to pick a fancy pressure cooker or a food dryer.

Here’s the gift list. I hope you have as much fun picking your favorite items to create the perfect Holiday gift package as I had researching. I must say that not only do I now know what to ask Santa Claus for myself, but I have also found the gifts I will be wrapping for the significant paddlers in my life.

Happy Holiday season!

How to choose the perfect gourmet gift for a paddler:

  1. Determine your budget. Under $20 (for a Christmas stocking, or for a co-worker)? Under $50? Under $100, or sky’s the limit?
  2. What type of paddler is the person you want to treat? Fitness paddler (2-3 hours on the water at a time to get a good workout); day tripper who loves to picnic on the beach or a passionate camper who likes to organize multi-day expeditions a few times a year; is the person solitary, do they paddle with a partner or are they a member of a paddling group, or a club?
  3. Choose a theme. What type of a food lover is the paddler: coffee or tea addict, breakfast lover, epicurean with a love for wine and cheese, a vegetarian or a meat lover, a cookie monster or a nibbler?
  4. What type of a cook are they? Do they have minimal skills, trouble boiling water? Is he a seasoned cook who likes to spend time in the kitchen as a social activity or as a means to unwind after work? A family person who paddles with kids or teenagers or with a significant other?

Once you have answered those questions, then you can mix and match one or as many cooking utensils, tools and goodies as you want from the following package suggestions.

Some gifts ideas according to budget and style

Wrapping: If you can afford it, chose paddling-related wrappings with ribbons and decorations instead of boxes or gift bags: neoprene socks or booties can replace a traditional Christmas stocking, dry bags or waterproof boxes make good containers, Nalgene bottles or flasks can be filled with olive oil, good alcohol, etc.

The affordable Christmas neoprene stocking stuffed with essential goodies 

Fill one or two neoprene socks with affordable small essentials: Lexan cutlery for one or two, chopsticks, a table cloth, a good quality stainless steel can opener, a nylon vegetable brush, waterproof matches, ecological dish washing soap, plastic bottles filled with oil and vinegar, fruit leathers, a small rack of spices for camping, yogurt covered raisins, 70% cacao chunks, hard candies, etc.

The affordable gourmet Christmas neoprene stocking 

For those who have all the essentials, go for edibles that fit easily in a stocking: dry sausage, a tube of pesto, honey, gourmet sea salt, chicken liver pâté, jerky, chocolate covered cherries, smoked oysters, a package of mulled cider or hot cocoa powder. If your budget is a little more expandable, add a Victorinox Swiss Army knife with all its interesting gadgets: corkscrew, etc.

Christmas dry bag for the wine and cheese lover 

Collapsible or regular wine bottle, corkscrew, 2 stainless steel wine glasses, 2 table cloths 

For the cheese lover, add to this package: camembert and crackers in a metal box, small wood cheese board, cheese knife, spicy nuts

Christmas dry bag for the coffee addict 

Lexan latte set, two mugs, good coffee in a metal box with spoon, coffee beans covered with chocolate. You can even buy a manual camp coffee grinder or acoffee press that fits in a Nalgene bottle for the seriously addicted…

Christmas dry bag for the breakfast aficionado 
Stainless steel radiant toaster with foldable handle, non-stick ribbed griddle, set of spatulas, 2 mugs with coffee press, ground coffee, fruit jam, almond butter, chocolate spread, pancake mix, home made granola (some recipes here), Nalgene bottle filled with dry milk

Christmas foldable cooler for the day-tripper 
Good quality foldable cooler filled with: 4 small ice packs, Lexan 2 persons table set, Lexan cutlery for 2, 2 Nalgene bottles, home made gorp (some recipes here), fancy granola bars (some recipes here), dry olives, vacuum foil packed smoked salmon, cheese in metal box, smoked mussels, carrot juice in a fancy bottle, etc.

Christmas box for the gourmet cook 
Hard anodized camp pressure cooker filled with a mix of quick cooking dried beans, cubes of dried broth, dried tomatoes, dried vegetables, Basmati rice, a set of spatulas rolled in a dish towel, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, small rack of spices for camping, salt and pepper

For the Zen cook 
Hard anodized camp wok, 2 sets of chopsticks, 2 large acrylic Asian inspired bowls for soups or noodles, vacuum packed tofu, sesame oil, Sambal olek or Thaï sauce, green curry paste, soy sauce, vermicelli rice noodles, dried shrimps (in Asian markets), dried chicken broth, foldable cutting board, good cutting knife

For the Italian lover 
4qt cooking pot, collapsible sieve, wood or acrylic cooking spoon, good imported pasta, dry parmesan cheese, tube of pesto, tube of tomato paste, tube of anchovy paste, chili flakes in small container, gourmet bottled tomato sauce, bottled bruschetta, dried pepperoni, Italian olive oil, balsamic vinegar, can of imported tuna in olive oil, bottle of Chianti, bag of biscotti, Panforte (almond candy made with orange and citrus rinds), espresso coffee beans covered with chocolate

For the expedition amateur 
Choose among sturdy dehydrator with a good ventilation system ($100 approx.), book about dehydration, Ziploc bags (2 different sizes), parchment paper, waterproof markers, waterproof cards to write recipes; hard anodized large cook set with stackable 4 person lexan dinner ware, waterproof lighter, vinyl table cloth, large camp rack of spices for camping, salt, pepper, bag of cocoa powder, bags of tea, good quality granola bars (some recipes here); sturdy water purifier with 3 Nalgene bottles of different colors: one filled with olive oil, one with dry milk, one with orange powder crystals or lemonade, map reader filled with fruit leathers

Happy holidays and happy paddling!

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