Holiday Gift Guide for the Canoe Paddler in your Life


If you’re reading this, there’s probably a paddler or Boundary Waters enthusiast on your list. Which makes holiday shopping a challenge.

Afterall, paddlers don’t need much: A nice tailwind, a bit of sunshine, a little extra sugar on their oatmeal. If a paddler has just one of these, they’ll be more content than the richest person in the world. Simplicity is the heart of every Boundary Waters experience. It’s one of the reasons so many of us keep returning to this unique ecosystem.

This leads to a problem: What to get the paddler in your life for the holidays?

While you can’t package the magic of the Boundary Waters and give it as a gift, there are some truly unique, heartfelt items out there that will make a perfect gift for the paddler in your life. At Friends of the Boundary Waters, we know and work with some great companies and people
who are an endless well of creativity and care deeply for the BWCA, making it a delight to put together this list.

Hopefully, you find something on this list that is perfect for your paddling family member — or yourself!

Granite Gear Moonlight bags

1. Granite Gear Moonlight paddle gear

Take one of the most practical pieces of gear for organizing your equipment, add some
illustrative flare and you get the Moonight Paddle Collection from Granite Gear. Minnesotan
Illustrator David Rollyn Powell drew and designed these limited-edition totes.  Air
Zippdittys & Air Zippsacks and other offerings from the collection will keep you organized,
while also providing BWCA inspiration. These packing systems are water-resistant and durable,
in space-saving shapes that tuck neatly into a backpack or bag. The perfect stocking stuffer for
your adventurous friend.

Frost River bag hanging from a canoe thwart

2. Frost River Thwart Bag

You can pack a lot on a canoe trip, but sometimes it can be hard to find and pull out just what
you need. That’s why every paddler can use a thwart bag. Frost River’s Canoe Thwart Bag hangs
anywhere in a canoe. Twin zipper slides offer access to the main compartment. You can even
load it up with a tackle box so you’re ready to cast when you see fish sipping off the water. A
leather flap strap keeps the full-length pocket secure and waxed canvas keeps contents dry.
Everyday convenience. A lifetime of durability. A timeless look.

Colorful painted canoe paddles

3. Painted Artisan Paddles from Sanborn Paddles

For years, the folks at Sanborn Paddles, based in Winona, Minnesota, have been crafting some of the finest paddles we ever used. Lightweight and durable, these paddles are a pleasure to bring on canoe trips of any length. In addition to making beautiful paddles that are whole functional and trail ready, the folks at Sanborn have a collection of stunning artisan paddles, painted with unique colors and designs that will enhance any living area. Perfect to hang over a fireplace, near an entrance, or anywhere you think might need a little more of a paddler’s accent!
Check out their complete collection.

Colorful cribbage boards

4. Sanborn Cribbage Board

Many will tell you that a cribbage board is as essential to canoe country as hot cocoa or bug spray. Each year, the U.S. Forest Service estimates that approximately 24.1 million cribbage games are played on rainy mornings, either inside of tents or under a tarp. That might be a made
up statistic, but having a good cribbage board is no joke. Pick up one of these beautiful, hand-crafted boards for the camper in your life. It will be sure to be a centerpiece of many memories for years to come.

Picture of a Moose and membership benefits

5. Friends of the Boundary Waters Gift Membership

You can’t package up a week in the wilderness or wrap up what it feels like to explore the Boundary Waters, but you can help ensure the life-changing power of the BWCA is preserved for this and future generations. A gift membership to Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness shows that you recognize the importance of the Boundary Waters in that special someone’s life. Your donation supports our work to protect and preserve this special place. There is no better way to acknowledge the connection between your loved one and the wilderness.

Fisher Cartoon map

6. Vintage Boundary Waters Map

What is it about maps that fascinates us so much? Is it the sense of possibilities? The future adventures they seem to promise or the memories of past routes? Whatever the reason, maps hold a special appeal. In particular, old maps. For almost a century, the folks at Fisher Maps have been producing the iconic yellow and blue maps that thousands have used to navigate these treasured waters. They also have a collection of antique and cartoon maps, replicas that are great to mount on walls or hang in an office. Check them out!

Kevin Dupuis, Chairman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa holding a piece of art from Indigenous First Arts and Gifts.
Kevin Dupuis, Chairman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa holding a piece of art from Indigenous First Arts and Gifts.

7. Indigenous Art

From major artists such as George Morrison, (whose work recently appeared on a postage stamp) to painters like Carl Gawboy, Minnesota has a rich Native American art scene. Indigenous First Arts and Gifts is your one stop shop for indigenous art, prints, apparel, and a variety of crafts. You’ll not only find unique gifts that reflect the richness of the northland, but you’ll support the gallery’s mission of advancing, promoting, and investing in Indigenous artists and entrepreneurs.

8. Fire Starting Tools

Flint and Steel Fire Starting kit & Bow Drill Set
Even with matches, starting a fire takes skill! So how did they do it before matches were invented? Sometimes they used a flint and steel, other times it was good old-fashioned friction. This might seem like an impossible feat, but with these fires-starting kits and some practice, the paddler on your list can become the master of a “no-match” fire. Whether you give the flint and steel kit or the bow drill set, whoever receives them will learn an impressive new skill!

Toboggan Kit

9. Northern Toboggan Kit

You won’t be able to use many of the gifts on this list until the ice thaws, but with this toboggan kit, you’ll have both a fun, family activity and a great-looking way to enjoy the season. Northern Toboggan Co., makes a wide selection of gorgeously handcrafted toboggans (seriously — you gotta check them out!). They also have this neat DIY toboggan kit that, with a few common tools, you can assemble with your family and friends, and then have the best looking sled on the hill!

Box of Crapola Granola

10. 8 pounds of Crapola

Bannock, Hudson Bay Bread, and shore lunch can evoke powerful memories of traveling through the northland. And for breakfast, what food could be more evocative than granola. Give the culinary gift every Boundary Waters paddler is familiar with: Granola. For decades, the iconic, Ely based Brain Storm Bakery has been making this delicious staple right at the footsteps of the Boundary Waters. You can select from a variety of flavors, or purchase eight pounds of Crapola in bulk. It’s the taste that has motivated many tired traveler to get out of their sleeping bag in the morning — though coffee helps too.

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