Best Gifts for Outdoor Lovers
Our favorite seasoned adventurers recommend gift ideas big and small, including camp stoves, a jeweler's loupe and THE best travel jacket. Read on!
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Atiap Ultralight Titanium Camping Stove
“On more and more backpacking trips (when legal), I carry a tiny titanium twig stove rather than a stove that burns fossil fuel,” says Jon Turk, author and National Geographic Adventurer of the Year.
“A twig stove is lighter and less bulky than any stove and fuel, you’re not throwing away cartridges, and a tiny controlled fire of twigs and pine cones is a cheery addition to the morning coffee.”
“Since about 1985, across some 30,000 miles of backpacking, I’ve carried my trusty Leatherman,” says Gary Ferguson, nature and outdoors author of Full Ecology.
“I like the more basic versions, like the Sidekick, which will allow you to do everything from cutting moleskin for your blisters, to repairing a stove fitting, to grabbing the hot lid of a cooking pot, to gently pulling a hook from the cheek of a cutthroat trout.”
Several of our adventurers recommended a good pair of work gloves as a top-of-the-list gift idea. They’re versatile enough to start the day on a home project, then finish it up cross-country skiing or sledding. (Pro tip: Let the recipient know to treat them with oil/wax for better waterproofing.)
“I use the light Give-R gloves most often for yard work, construction and backcountry skiing, then the mittens when it gets real cold,” says Stacy Bare, founder and chief adventure officer at Happy Grizzly Adventures and National Geographic Adventurer of the Year.
“I love that they’re customizable. I have my wife’s initials on one glove and my daughter’s on another, so they can be with me on every adventure!”
Peak Design Capture Clip
For the outdoorsy photographer on your list, give the gift that lets them keep their camera ready yet protected from swaying and banging against rocks and trees.
“As a photographer, I have one gadget that truly simplifies and eases camera carry, and that’s Peak Design’s Capture Clip that secures your camera to your pack’s shoulder strap,” says Christine Paige, wildlife biologist and photographer.
“The clip keeps your camera snug and your hands free, yet your camera is handy for every shot. Even with a telephoto lens, it’s a comfortable carry.”
North Face Resolve 2 Jacket
Any outdoor adventurer can appreciate a durable, basic weatherproof jacket, a versatile travel staple.
“One of my favorite and longest-lasting items of outdoor attire is a jacket similar to this that I got from REI about 12 years ago,” says Audrey Peterman, outdoors author and founder of the Diverse Environmental Leaders Speakers Bureau. “I have worn it in national parks from the Everglades in Florida to Denali in Alaska, and it’s as fresh as ever.
“I took my jacket to Jamaica and wore it bird watching in Blue Mountains National Park, and I bring it if I’m going shopping in town and it looks like rain. Once I hung it on the veranda and a tree frog took up residence in one of the pockets. I shook it out and washed the jacket and voila! It was good to go again.”
Bonus: It costs less than $100.
Solar Cellphone Charger
“It’s a gadget I never leave home without when I’m off on long-distance solo canoe trips,” says Roger Hammer, a naturalist, author and TV survival consultant.
Spot X GPS
At around $250, this GPS tracking device is pricier that other gift suggestions on this list. But for an extreme adventurer, it can be a true lifesaver. The Spot X not only helps with navigation, it interfaces with cellphones via satellite to provide two-way satellite messaging even without reliable cellular coverage.
“I think every paddler, hiker, or even people towing campers into wilderness areas need to own one,” says Hammer, who takes his Spot X on long-distance, multi-day, solo canoe trips in the Everglades and beyond. “If I press the ‘OK’ button it sends an email via satellite to everyone in my contact list, and includes a Google Earth link that shows my position when I press the button.
“It will also send an emergency signal to a 24-hour communication station which will be relayed to the nearest rescue service, such as the Coast Guard, Marine Patrol, National Park Rangers or the local police. It sends your GPS coordinates every five minutes for 48 hours so rescuers can find you. There’s an annual service fee, but it’s a small price to pay for what they offer, and may even save your life.”
Thermacell for Mosquitoes
Dedicated adventurers know in certain locations, swarming mosquitoes can make it hard to enjoy a simple hike or overnight. So it makes sense that a Thermacell mosquito repeller was the most popular gift idea on the Florida Outdoor Writers Association forum.
Thermacell makes various sizes, the largest of which keeps mosquitoes at bay for a 20-foot radius. One Association member says, “It works, I’ve used it in the Everglades.”
Darn Tough Socks
Sure, socks are known as the quintessential boring gift. But trust us and many other dedicated wearers: These quality performance Merino wool-blend socks get a pass, and for good reason.
They’re made in Vermont, come with a lifetime warranty and are good for nearly every sport that doesn’t involve bare feet or water shoes. Give them this year, and don’t be surprised if they pop up on next year’s list.
Geckobrand Roll-Top Waterproof Backpack
“They keep water and sand out, and my clothes, electronics, and important documents dry,” says Tiffany Duong, ocean writer, explorer and speaker.
“I’ll admit that the Geckobrand is bulkier and bigger than other day-use backpacks, but for me, I love the size and durability. It also has a cloth-like feel, instead of that plastic-y feel that most dry bags have. The Gecko can fit my 15-inch laptop, lunchbox, towel, change of clothes and anything else I need comfortably.”
Silva Ranger Compass
For that one person on your gift list who appreciates the old-school: How about a tried-and-true wilderness safety tool, like this Silva Ranger 2.0? It’s a sighting compass, so when paired with a set of paper topography maps they can quickly triangulate their position.
“I know, I know, in this age of fabulous direction-finding phone apps, what’s the point of a compass?” says Ferguson. “But the Silva Ranger never loses power, never needs an update and never sizzles out if dropped in a snowbank or a river. It will keep you on a steady path in even the worst situations, from blizzards to deep woods.
“I’ve been lost a few times. And on every occasion, I got oriented again with the help of my Silva Ranger.”
10x Jeweler’s Loupe
Here’s an out-of-the-box idea for any hiker/curious scientist on your list: A jeweler’s loupe.
“If I could gift one thing, it would be curiosity and open senses to the natural world around us,” says Paige. “One of my favorite gadgets is the 10x folding jeweler’s loupe my brother gave me for investigating the tiny details of flowers, insects, water droplets and rock crystals.”
Marmot Teton Sleeping Bag
There are many inexpensive sleeping bags you could give as a gift. But if you’re looking to splurge on someone this year, this is the sleeping bag to give. The quality down Marmot Teton sleeping bag is rated to 15 F, offers superior water and wind resistance and will last a lifetime.
“I have a Marmot that is still going after decades of use,” says wildfire behavior expert and angler Tobin Kelley. “It may be too warm sometimes and not warm enough other times, but most of the time it will be just right, and the memories you will have of all the places you have used it will always be a pleasant reminder of the time you have spent outside.”
Sometimes basic is best. “On a very wet multi-day hike in Copper Canyon many years ago, my wife and I had our fancy Gore-Tex jackets and rain pants and were soaked,” says Ernie Atencio, a conservation advocate, former wilderness guide and National Park Ranger. “Our hiking companion from the Netherlands had a simple umbrella, and he stayed way drier.”
Plus, they’ll think of you the next time they’re hiking and a shower pops up.
If you have a family of campers to buy for, here’s a gift everyone will enjoy: The propane-powered Ignik FireCan. It means no more buying, gathering and splitting wood, worrying you might set the forest ablaze, or cleaning up ashes. Plus, it’s elevated, which makes it campground-friendly. Connect it to any five or 20-pound tank; it comes with a hose and adapter.
Sun Guardian Straw Hat
Do any of the outdoor adventurers on your list love long hikes over sunny terrain? If so, Atencio says the Sun Guardian straw hat should hit the bullseye. “It is the best hat for the Grand Canyon or river running anywhere in the desert southwest,” he says.
Portable Travel Guitar
Acoustic campfire tunes are like the cherry on top of a long day spent outdoors. Give your musically included camper a basic travel guitar or ukulele, light and small enough to bring backpacking. “It’s an absolute joy to be able to pick that guitar in some beautiful backcountry,” Atencio says.
Gifts of Experience
Instead of material gifts, many members of the Outdoor Writers Association of America recommended things to do: An annual state or National Parks pass; a private lesson with a local expert in a skill or natural history; a wilderness first aid course, like this one from NOLS; or a donation to an organization that protects their favorite place.