The Best Outdoor Gifts, Whether They’re for the Backcountry or the Backyard
Coolers, knives, blankets, backpacks and oh so much more
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Somehow, we found ourselves spending more time outdoors in 2021 than ever before.
Fueled by an ongoing pandemic and renewed interest in personal well-being, wide-open spaces across the country welcomed longtime outdoor enthusiasts and novices alike. We jumped at the chance to experience wild adventures, recognized novel ways to reduce our impact on the planet and, yes, discovered a lot of really cool gear along the way.
Chances are your gifting list includes outdoor veterans with years of experience as well as newcomers that are just stepping foot into the unknown. Rest assured, the gifts we’ve hand-selected are sure to stoke a passion for the outdoors, no matter who you’re shopping for.
Yeti hard coolers have become as much about status as they have about functionality, but there’s no doubt they outclass the competition. And yet, most people don’t need a substantial, tailgate-worthy cooler, but rather, a smaller alternative like the Roadie. Its 24-liter capacity stores up to 18 beers with ice or enough food for a weekend away, and it’s still small enough to haul almost anywhere.
Earlier this year, we fell in love with the quirky, colorful simplicity of the Zoom Tube. No larger than a can of pop, its rubberized housing is water-resistant and shockproof to improve durability, and the multi-coated lens offers a wide field of view to find your subject. Pair it with Rear Window reenactments in the city or on backcountry hikes, depending on your preference.
Store over 70 survival essentials in one place with this rugged VSSL container that looks like a piece of outdoor gear designed by West Elm. The waterproof, military-grade housing is nearly indestructible and VSSL, just showing off at this point, tossed in a flashlight and compass without compromising its size — the entire package weighs less than two pounds.
They say spending time outdoors is its own therapy, but who’s to say you can’t add medicinal therapy to the outdoor itinerary? We’ve enjoyed packing flower and pre-rolls in this tiny stash tube that’s tight-fitting and made with sustainable bamboo all summer long. It fits in any pocket to keep the goods within reach at all times (just don’t forget a lighter).
Possibly the most beloved brand in the backpacking industry, Osprey designs comfortable, hardy packs for hikes lasting a few miles or a few months. We’ve adored the Atmos AG 50 for its just-right size and noteworthy support mile after mile, which leads us to crown it one of the best backpacks of all time. The anti-gravity suspension system reduces the load across your body, and Osprey’s organization system ensures your gear is stored exactly where it needs to be for easy access.
Snow Peak Takibi Fire & Grill
Cook up some grub from just about anywhere with Snow Peak’s portable five-piece grill set that includes a grill net, grill bridge, base, fireplace L and carrying case. The packable, portable and modular design goes anywhere your adventures take you, bringing good food and warm tidings in tow. Ideal for car camping and backyard gatherings, let this setup make you the envy of friends and family for summers to come.
Rumpl’s Original Puffy Blankets earn a spot on holiday gift guides year after year (ours included), and for good reason. The versatile, packable blanket is stuffed with recycled synthetic insulation and dozens of patterns give you the opportunity to find one that speaks to you.
Most of us embrace the notion of getting dirty quite literally when we’re spending time outdoors, but maintaining a clean mouth is still of the utmost importance no matter where the trail takes you. For that reason, we rely on Dr. Squatch’s Soothing Spearmint Toothpaste that uses hints of chamomile and valerian to help you unwind after a long day. It also features a list of ingredients as natural as those you’ll find outdoors, from clay to saw palmetto, which gives us a little peace of mind when all we really need is a clean mouth.
We’d argue that few camping tasks are more satisfying and primal than chopping firewood and this axe gets the job done thanks to its split head that features two weighted blades. The heavy-duty beachwood handle, while beautiful, also contains a solid steel core to switch out the head or the handle after years of use. Apply the pommel base as a hammer when driving tent stakes as you set up your shelter before bed.
Filson’s heavy-duty duffel might not be bombproof, but it’s damn near close. After all, the heritage brand built it with cut- and tear-resistant ballistic nylon before adding bridle leather accents to give it a more mature look whether you’re hitting the gym or hauling gear. Standout features include a full-length laptop pocket, a lined mud pocket for dirty gear and padded straps that convert this do-it-all duffel into a backpack.
There exists a seemingly endless number of reasons to love wool and even more to love the Frontier Wool Blanket. In operation for over 150 years, Faribault still uses raw wool and century-old machinery to create a curated selection of woolen goods, including this Merino blanket. The fabric is incredibly soft and the natural properties of wool make it breathable, hypoallergenic and hardy, supplying warmth for years to come.
Business bros might be putting a damper on vests, but there’s no stopping this one from Eddie Bauer. Its ultralight 650-fill down offers refuge from the cold through shoulder season and the higher neck creates a buffer between your nape and nippy conditions. The design is easy to pair with any ‘fit, and the price is great, especially with the included discount.
There’s a good chance you don’t have enough loose change around the house to buy them a new camera system, but you can still help them step up their outdoor photography game with one of Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Camera Pods. The lightweight packs, available in regular and large sizing, deliver just enough space for a point-and-shoot, compact mirrorless camera or film camera, as our editor discovered. Eight attachment points allow them to fit the pod virtually anywhere on a backpack.
This small California label has only been around for 10 years, but you’ll find its belts keeping up the pants of well-known outdoor athletes all across social media, from Jimmy Chin to Cody Townsend. The elastic webbing stretches with your movements to improve comfort, materials are hard-wearing to endure tough outdoor adventures and every model is approved through athlete testing. Oh, and you can chuck your belt in the wash whenever it gets dirty.
Outdoor headwear runs the gamut from trucker hats to beanies, but Filson’s Tin Cloth Packer Hat delivers timeless, year-round comfort and style. The cloth’s oil finish repels water in the midst of rain while ventilating grommets promote breathability to ensure you feel as cool as you look. Underneath, a cotton sweatband delivers a proper fit to ensure your headwear stays put when you’re getting after it.
Step up your gifting game with a rental from Outdoorsy. Sure, it’ll cost a little more upfront than your run-of-the-mill present, but few opportunities exist to send someone on a trip in a decked-out camper van, trailer or RV (it also doesn’t hurt if you can tag along for the ride). Visit destinations across the country or explore your backyard while living #vanlife to the fullest, if only for a few hundred miles.
The Ellis is an all-time favorite among everyday carry enthusiasts looking for a blend of substance and style. While it’s technically classified as a keychain tool, this jack-of-all-trades is big enough to stand on its own thanks to a 2.6-inch blade that opens via nail nick. You’ll also find a multi-type screwdriver, scraper and bottle opener packed within the slim profile. Unlike other high-end knives, this one is modestly priced, making it a suitable choice for holiday gift-giving.
The X Ultra 3 Mid has proven to be a powerhouse on the trail, with long-lasting comfort that rivals your favorite trainers and mid-height cuffs that add stability and support. A best-seller among Salomon’s roster of hiking boots, it’s versatility delivers smooth transitions between casual hikes and technical climbs. And did we mention it looks good too? Use that as an excuse to wear it around town after you’ve had a chance to fall in love.
If what they say is true, that smell and memory are intertwined, then you’ll want to pick up something from Juniper Ridge that reminds you of the outdoors even when you’re home. Wild scents, from coastal pine to desert cedar, serve as the foundation upon which all of Juniper Ridge’s products are made. The California-based label sustainably harvests plants for essential oils, incense, body wash and more, all of which make for great stocking stuffers or last-minute gifts.
In recent years, outerwear brands have made a greater effort to reduce their impact on the planet, but few can measure up to the efforts put forth by Swedish outerwear brand Houdini. By 2022, all of its products will be made from recycled and recyclable (or naturally biodegradable) fibers, including the Mono Air Houdi. Its recycled fabric, while thick and durable, sheds 80% fewer microfibers compared to conventional fleece and the raw materials can be used again if you ever choose to remove it from your rotation (even though you probably won’t).
This everyday carry folding knife features a white Grivory handle, CPM-S30V steel and confidence-inspiring ergonomics so you can effortlessly cut through just about anything. And don’t let its “mini” status fool you — there’s a reason this sub-three-inch blade comes highly recommended by the knife community.
Whether you’re on the trail for days or simply uninterested in doing your laundry, a Merino tee will stay fresh and resist wear thanks to the natural properties of wool. This long-sleeve option from Proof sources Merino from industry leader Global Merino ensures the fabric is the strongest, softest stuff on the market. It’s also reinforced with nylon to retain its shape when you finally decide to give it a wash.
Dubbed the most comfortable hiking pants by third-party testers, Coalatree’s Trailhead Pants are breathable, waterproof, antimicrobial and tear-resistant, yet mellow enough for the office when you ultimately decide to keep them on forever. The fabric’s blend of Fair Wear nylon and Spandex allows for four-way stretch when you’re sending a technical peak. And the pants pack into the front pocket, creating a small pillow upon which you can ease your mind.
The AlpenGlow Lantern impressed us this year when its LED technology created colorful tones and hues reminiscent of the natural environment, in contrast to traditional camping lanterns. Rechargeable and water-resistant, its numerous light modes include ambient and task-based lighting options as well as Fireworks mode — a dazzling display only unlocked when you give it a shake. Use the sizeable battery to charge other devices or BioLite products.
When every pair of outdoors-inspired shades looks indistinguishable from the next, Shwood’s Camp Eyewear collection embraces sustainability and innovative design that stands out. Made from a blend of bioplastics and wood, every pair comes complete with a carrying pouch that resembles a sleeping bag and straps to prevent your shades from wandering out of sight.
What looks to be an unassuming collection of camping utensils actually accommodates a spatula, four-function multi-tool, veggie peeler and grabbing tongs. Each utensil nests inside the other for on-the-go eating and food prep, ensuring you won’t lose one tool on your travels. Choose between four muted colors.
For the backcountry hiker in your life that’s hitting the trail every weekend, onX’s detailed GPS navigation platform features route descriptions and photos, map customization tools and offline maps to use when a signal isn’t available. App features like avalanche forecasts and slope angle cater to skiers and snowboarders, while onX Hunt and onX Offroad provide information to hunters and offroad enthusiasts, respectively. Annual plans supply a year’s worth of use.
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