Christmas isn't exactly the time of year to try out that canoe or kayak on the water. Think about what the new owner will want to do most with the canoe or kayak or accessories. Then think closely about what you have to spend and write that down; it is easy to spend a lot in this business. Next check with someone who is actually knowledgeable about the industry, not just a boat or a brand of boat. When checking with retailers look to see if their policies are friendly and reasonable. Can you try things out? Can you return them if they don't fit or don't seem to fit as well or work as well as hoped for or maybe just don't quite fit the preferences of the new owner. Will the retail facility store the boat or other items for you until you want to give it to the person and is there a charge for that? Ask about complimentary lessons and package discounts. Are other services available like advice on trips, gear for camping, groups to paddle with, repair skills, and fun ideas for ways to enjoy being on the water? Finally, and perhaps all encompassing, are you comfortable with the person/s you might be doing business with. The Holidays, including the winter ones like Christmas, new Years, Thanksgiving, Easter can be great times to take advantage of sales and still meet your primary goals of the right equipment, at the rite time for the right person. Happy contemplation.
PFDs/Life Jackets can be a wonderful holiday gift idea. This is a gift that keeps on giving. When it comes to paddling a PFD should be short waisted so it doesn't ride up under your chin, it should be highly adjustable so it can fit sung and comfortably, it should provide good, head up flotation, be soft and flexible and be highly visible if that is a desire of the paddler. If the color isn't right or the fit is a bit off, is the PFD easy to exchange for a different one? Be sure to ask. A comfortable PFD is far more likely to be worn and more important than any other factors except good judgment and skill. It will increase safety more than any other piece of equipment.
Paddling and Camping during the shorter daylight hours of late fall, winter and early spring require a shift in my attitude. Usually I think of this time of year as less favorable because I can't paddle as far or hike as long. It seems that no sooner have I broken camp than I am having to stop and start making camp again. However, as I grow a bit older I don't mind stopping sooner to enjoy the camping experience as much as the paddling. There is more time to cook wonderful meals. More time to sit around the campfire and more time to just kick back; I am forced to by mother nature. I have a hard time with kicking back but short daylight hours help a lot, especially now with the wonderful LED headlamps. Base camping is more desirable during the short daylight season and lets you explore all the little and special nooks that we otherwise go right past because we don't linger long enough. So don't give up on outdoor adventure because daylight gets short, just get ready for increased camping enjoyment.
Wool clothes are wonderful. My favorite camping/paddling pants are Filson wool whipcord. They are seriously expensive but warm without being sweaty, shed water reasonably well, dry reasonably fast and feel good to wear all day and night. Put them under rain pants and you are comfortable in cold weather, wear them in your summer weight sleeping bag and increase the comfort zone by several degrees,wear them alone on most days and they are just right. Their versatility lets you pack lighter and still stay comfortable.