Adventurous Gifts for Any Budget
What will the holidays bring for adventure? No matter what the weather outside, there'll be something exciting brewing indoors when your favorite outdoors lover unwraps one of these fun surprises—even if your favorite outdoors lover is you.—Steve Casimiro
Helly Hansen Pace Norviz Reflective Top
Photograph courtesy Helly Hansen
Scandinavians take their visibility seriously. The Finnish Reindeer Herders Association paints its herds’ antlers every winter to lower the chance of the caribou getting hit by cars in the long Arctic night, and now Helly Hansen has found a similar but more subtle way of protecting your favorite runner.
The Pace Norviz LS thermal top looks like any other zip-neck shirt in daylight, but when headlights hit it at night, the shirt pops with a reflective pattern hidden just behind the face fabric, giving off a rich, bright, impossible-to-miss glow. It’s also quick drying, warm, and water-resistant, so it works as a training piece by itself or as a base layer for skiing and snowboarding.
Get It: $110; hellyhansen.com
Danner Jag Steel Boot
Photograph courtesy Danner
Danner has been doing retro since it was neo, but the company has mostly stuck to its traditional super-rugged leather models. The Jag Steel is one of the lightest Danner boots made and perhaps the most comfortable out of the box—ever. It needs zero time to soften or break in the leather. It's got a suede-and-canvas upper, a waterproof lining, and a waffle outsole. Just slip it on and it’s like a hug from an old friend.
Get It: $150; danner.com
SALT Optics Francisco Sunglasses
Photograph courtesy SALT
As gifts, sunglasses are tricky, but you can never go wrong with classic aviators, which look good on everyone. Seriously, everyone. SALT Optics’ Francisco frame rounds the teardrop shape to soften the effect, which lets it work for men or women. Want to be more subtle? Check out the black version. Thinking highway patrol? Silver’s your choice!
Get It: $460; saltoptics.com
Filson 48-Hour Duffle
Photograph courtesy Filson
Be careful around Filson: Once you’ve tried one of its time-tested, ultratough pieces of clothing or luggage, you’re forever hooked on the style, ethos, and commitment to quality. Made in Seattle within eyeshot of the Puget Sound, the 48-Hour Duffle is constructed of the same kind of oil-finish Tin Cloth that first went into C.C. Filson’s designs in the late 1800s, when he outfitted Alaska-bound gold miners. It’s water resistant and durable, with enough room in its main compartment—if you’re a light packer—to carry a full week’s worth of kit. The strap is cotton, the handles and tabs bridle leather.
Get It: $395; filson.com
Photograph courtesy Arcade Belts
Since when did anyone ever think about a belt being comfortable? Belts are simply for holding up your trousers, right? Professional skier Cody Townsend had other ideas: His Arcade belts are constructed with stretch, so no matter how snug they are, they always give a little. With prices in the $20 range, you can pick up one or two fun adventure styles for the skier or boarder on your list and one or two of the work styles for yourself. Seconds on holiday dessert, anyone?
Get It: $26; arcadebelts.com
New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro Trail
Photograph courtesy New Balance
If “pounding out the miles” doesn’t sound all that appealing before, during, or after a run, avoid lightweight trail shoes or minimalist constructions in favor of a well-padded model like New Balance’s Fresh Foam Hierro Trail. What you pay for in weight—11.4 ounces in men’s size 9—you more than get back in cushioning, thanks to a generous one-piece midsole. Someone’s feet will thank you.
Get It: $115; newbalance.com
Industry of All Nations Alpaca Sweater
Photograph courtesy Industry of All Nations
Ever wonder what color alpacas are? Take a gander at this Industry of All Nations sweater and you’ll know. The warm woolly piece is hand knit in Bolivia with no dyes or coloring. The knitters—mostly women, mostly working at home—live and work in the Bolivian Highlands and the wool is shorn from Huacaya alpacas, which are native to the Andes. Run your hand over this sweater's soft warmth and you’ll understand why the Inca called alpaca the fiber of the gods.
Get It: $325; industryofallnations.com
Aether Hooded Cashmere Sweater
Photograph courtesy Aether
Don’t even think about reindeer, Santas, bells, or any other novelties that typically bedeck sweaters this time of year. Instead, think luxury. Think elegant. Think warm in the city, cozy under a ski parka. Think, in fact, about the Aether cashmere sweater, blended with wool for durability and extra warmth and designed with a body-hugging, flattering ribbed pattern.
Get It: $395; aetherapparel.com
Patagonia Men’s Down Snap-T Pullover
Photograph courtesy Patagonia
It might look like something from your dad’s year spent backpacking around Europe circa 1975, but what’s at the core of the Patagonia Down Snap-T pullover is forward thinking: 600-fill down that's verified to be cruelty-free. To keep the price within reach, Patagonia uses duck down, as the price of goose down has skyrocketed, and adds a durable water-resistant coating to protect you on misty or snowy days.
Get It: $199; patagonia.com
Cargo Works Everyday Carry Laptop Kit
Photograph courtesy Cargo Works
The new digital age demands a new strategy for carrying electronics, and the Molle-strapping-system-based Cargo Works Everyday Carry Kit might be it: Any 15-inch laptop slips inside the main compartment, with room in another sleeve for your tablet, and yet another for your smartphone. There’s a zippered pocket on the bottom for stashing cords and a military-inspired webbing ladder for adding pockets or other storage units.
Get It: $70; cargo-works.com
Shinola N/S Messenger Bag
Photograph courtesy Shinola
You—or the lucky recipient on your shopping list—might only care that the Shinola N/S messenger bag is buttery soft, elegant, and the epitome of understated style, whether carried on the subway, in a town car, or on a bike, but the brand has a very cool backstory. Owner Tom Kartsotis made his fortune launching Fossil watches, then built an investment company called Bedrock (named after the Flintstones’ hometown), then launched the Shinola brand in Detroit, where it’s committed to making high-quality, long-lasting stuff, from watches to bikes to bags that will engender envy, right here in the U.S.
Get It: $695; shinola.com
Thule K-Summit Tire Chains
Photograph courtesy Thule
What’s it worth to have snow chains that slip on and off without crying, bleeding, or tantrums? Certainly, Thule’s innovative K-Summit chains, even with their premium price, are far cheaper than giving up one’s sanity or peace of mind rolling around in the slush. The K-Summits, which fit nearly every passenger car, use a clever ratcheting system to snug the cleats to the rubber. No more fumbling with frozen fingers, no more curses for the kids to overhear.
Get It: $520; thule.com
Photograph courtesy Otium
Some cars were made for roof racks—Land Rovers come to mind. Some, on the other hand, were designed for zipping down the autobahn in an aerodynamic whoosh. For those vehicles whose looks would be sullied by a permanent rack, or for those who only occasionally need to throw something up on top (a fir tree, perhaps?), there’s Otium’s SoftRack. Beefier and more stable than most soft racks, the Otium measures 39 inches wide by 4 inches thick by 3 inches tall and can carry everything from a touring sea kayak to a full-size stand-up paddleboard. It easily stashes in the closet when not needed.
Get It: $160; otiumoutdoors.com
Victorinox RangerWood 55 Swiss Army Knife
Photograph courtesy Victorinox
Wait, what? A Swiss army knife that isn’t red? Not only is the RangerWood 55 not red, it’s a gorgeous, heavy-duty tool bound in a luscious wood grain. Designed for real backcountry work, the locking blade is 3.75 inches and the saw is just over 4 inches—it’s too big to carry every day, but for a stylish, serious tool that will last a lifetime, it’s just the trick.
Get It: $101; swissarmy.com
Photograph courtesy Exotac
How about a stocking stuffer that eliminates scorched thumbs? If you’ve ever tried to light a campfire with damp wood and a Bic lighter, you know how quickly that little opposable digit can get burned. The Exotac fireSLEEVE, in addition to keeping your lighter from sinking or getting wet, has a lock to keep the flame burning while your favorite campfire builder goes about his or her business, thumbs safe.
Get It: $15; exotac.com
Yeti Rambler Colster
Photograph courtesy Yeti
Surely there is someone on your list who likes cold, frosty beverages that stay cold, yes? Then get them the Yeti Rambler Colster, which brings the same ultra-insulating properties of the brand’s coolers to a handheld happiness device, with fits for bottles or cans.
Get It: $30; yeticoolers.com
Snow Peak Silicone Rocks Glass
Photograph courtesy Snow Peak
The textbooks are wrong: Civilization was not founded on agriculture, the wheel, and a written alphabet. It was founded on a splash of whiskey in a classic glass tumbler. At the end of a long trail day, a hard-earned finger or two of the finest malt is just the thing, but don’t risk the tragedy of a broken glass: Use the Snow Peak Rocks, a 240-milliliter “glass” of flexible food-grade silicone.
Get It: $25; snowpeak.com
Kletterwerks Flip Pack
Photograph courtesy Kletterwerks
How many products are so flawlessly designed that they remain unchanged for 40 years? The Kletterwerks Flip is, yes, an old-school klettersack (German for “climbing bag”) that’s ideal for a day hike or a trip to the coffee shop, but it’s also a reminder of how simple and comfortable a pack can be.
Get It: $229; kletterwerks.com
Big Agnes MtnGlo Tent Light
Photograph courtesy Big Agnes
It’s the little things that make the difference: a tablecloth laid over an old picnic table, some citronella candles, and your own string of glowing stars. Light strips might be a staple of dorm rooms, but they’re equally atmospheric in the tent, around camp, or on the inside of your camper van. Big Agnes's mtnGlo Tent Lights use LEDs protected within a lightweight sleeve to cast a lovely bluish glow. The string is 100 inches long and has six clips for easy hanging.
Get It: $40; bigagnes.com
Photograph courtesy Leatherman
With the clever, eye-catching Tread, Leatherman is thinking outside the pocket: This multitool is worn on the wrist, redefining the idea of both tools and jewelry. Although it at first seems to be made of uniform links, the stainless steel Tread contains 29 (!) tools, from a bottle opener (of course) to standard and Phillips screwdrivers (naturally) to a carbide glass breaker (whoa). Check that MacGyver off your list.
Get It: $165; leatherman.com
Tiktaalik Field Knife Set
Photograph courtesy Tiktaalik
When food matters—which is always—the prep of it matters, too, and if you’ve ever found yourself trying to dice garlic by lantern light with a too short, too dull Boy Scout knife, it’s time to embrace the quality and style of Tiktaalik’s three-piece Field Knife Set. Made of Sandvik stainless steel, the field knives are pared to their essence—slender blades with equally slender handles—but still feel wonderful in the hand. Somewhere, a clove of garlic just got goose bumps.
Get It: $279; tiktaalik.com
Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack
Photograph courtesy Osprey
What if the stuff you stuff in a stocking is something that itself is made for stuffing? At four-by-four-by-two-inches compressed, the Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack is so small it’ll go anywhere, even the bottom of a briefcase, then pop out into an 18-liter backpack ready for the nearest trail. Its weight? A feathery three ounces.
Get It: $35; ospreypacks.com
Juniper Ridge Aromatherapy
Photograph courtesy Juniper Ridge
If you live in a rich, loamy pine forest where the tangy aroma of evergreens perfumes your day, we’re jealous. If you don’t, join us in allowing Juniper Ridge to bring the forest to you. The passionate foragers at this tiny company harvest raw materials from national forests and other public lands (with permits, of course), then turn them into delightfully heady aromatherapy treats. We like the Cedar Campfire Incense ($12), but if smoke isn’t your thing, try a spritz of Christmas Fir Cabin Spray ($40)—it’s the quickest way to bring the outdoors in.
Get It: juniperridge.com
Silca HX-One Wrench Set
Photograph courtesy Silca
It's tempting to admire the Silca HX-One tool set and then tuck it away where it won’t get dirty. The HX-One, which covers the range of almost all hexes you’ll need to work on a bike, is that pretty. But don’t insult it—the red polymer coating is designed to be gripped with greasy hands and the shiny chrome is there for durability, not looks. Despite the fancy getup, you can fix almost anything needed on a bike with the HX-One.
Get It: $125; silca.cc
Drawn: The Art of Ascent by Jeremy Collins
Photograph courtesy Mountaineer Books
“Go where you’re drawn,” writes artist Jeremy Collins, and that’s just what he did to create his book, Drawn: The Art of Ascent, a companion to a film in honor of his good friend Jonny Copp, who died in an avalanche. It’s the document of a quest to discover how one reconciles the inherently selfish pursuit of climbing with the unselfish commitment of being a parent. Collins found a rich trove of material in the Yukon, Yosemite, Venezuela, and the China-Mongolia border, and brought back a narrative that is a visual riot and a heartfelt exploration of an adventurous life.
Get It: $25; mountaineersbooks.org
Suunto Traverse Watch
Photograph courtesy Suunto
Today’s top adventure watches pack the equivalent of a weather forecaster and a sports performance center inside, which is great if you’re a semipro athlete. If you just want to go on day hikes without getting lost—or missing a text—a smart outdoor model like Suunto’s Traverse is a better choice. Although still loaded with features, the Traverse is simpler to operate than most, a little more urbane looking, and easy to connect to your phone. It connects quickly to the U.S. GPS satellite system, too, and later this year it will also shake hands with Russia’s GLONASS network, providing unprecedented accuracy.
Get It: $450; suunto.com
Garmin Forerunner 920XT Watch
Photograph courtesy Garmin
Much as we love the Apple Watch, being smart without being tough might mean the watch stays behind at the water or crag’s edge. Not so with the Garmin Forerunner 920XT, which handles the basics of wrist-based intelligence, displaying news, texts, and other alerts, but is also rugged and ready for anything. Track your run or ride via GPS and your daily activity? Check. Record your heart rate and distance even when swimming in open water? Check. Tell you where you are, provide performance metrics, and allow you to change the watch face or add apps? Yes, indeed.
Get It: $450; garmin.com
Sony RX100 IV Camera
Photograph courtesy Sony
We hesitate to say that the Sony RX100 IV is the best point-and-shoot camera available, but, well, let’s just say we don’t know one better. The technical description of the sensor is 20.1 megapixel one-inch-type stacked CMOS backside illuminated; what that actually means is that it captures bigger, brighter, sharper photos, in lower light. And a lot faster, too—the RX100 shoots a whopping 16 frames per second (try to get away now, cheetah) and 960 frames per second in super-slow motion video mode (we see every muscle, buddy), as well as in ultra high definition 4K video (wow, your fur’s beautiful). Tired of anemic smartphone shots? Here’s the solution.
Get It: $950; sony.net
Koch Leather Minimal Horween Leather Journal
Photograph courtesy Koch Leather
You don’t go naked into the wilderness, so why should your journal? Josh and Jen Koch make the Minimal Horween leather journal holder by hand in eastern Arizona, within sight of the White Mountains. It comes with a Field Notes notebook and two slots for credit cards or your cash. And if it seems like there’s a little extra room in the center, that’s by design—your pen tucks into the middle, nice and neat.
Get It: $52; kochleather.com
Top National Geographic Adventures Trips
A coast-to-coast bicycle ride is just one of our favorite 10 classic adventures.