Let’s start with noting that I’m taking this task quite seriously. As a former Eagle’s Nest camper and counselor, I’ve taken to heart the intrinsic value that Giving Day holds in our community, for relationships both budding and matured. It continually informs my thoughts around this time of year, when we collectively have the chance to celebrate the year that each of our loved ones has had.
I’ve carefully crafted some shoddy, some borderline mediocre, DIY gifts to show appreciation to some (the thought always seems to count). I’ve also gotten into the habit of keeping close track of whatever outdoor endeavors folks might be into, and gifting gear that will support those interests. It’s incredibly gratifying to then receive photos of people next to a campfire or on a mountain, with a message saying that they just had to get outside and test out the new toy.
So this season, Eagle’s Nest would like to offer up some tips and suggestions for gifts that can encourage those in your circle (and you!) to get outdoors.This list is curated in regard to those special items that I’ve personally seen make an enormous impact on peoples’ outdoor experiences—be it comfort, access, or just plain fun. Style points are, obviously, also a factor. Might I suggest first making a list of those who might appreciate the encouragement or have a trip planned, keeping them in mind as you peruse this snapshot of the massive gear world. Read on!
Note: I intentionally omitted some of the more standard items, like tents, sleeping bags, footwear, and backpacks, that are essentials. This list is meant to highlight less evident items that can take experiences up a notch. Please feel free to reach out (firstname.lastname@example.org) for recommendations on those bigger items.
Ultralight Camp Chair
The single most popular item among Eagle’s Nest Camp staff in 2021. I saw more and more of these at evening activities and cookouts as the summer went on. These are lightweight and pack down smaller than your typical camping chair that you may only use if you’re car camping. I’ve enjoyed many a comfortable evening in the backcountry with mine, as it’s great for shorter treks.
Smartphone Camera Lens
Few, if any, return from adventures without photos these days. Smartphone cameras have improved dramatically over the past few models, yet a specialized lens can take outdoor photography to the next level. Small and packable, these lenses save you from having to carry and risk damage to your point-and-shoot or fancy DSLR. From wide-angle panoramas to fisheye close-ups, these can be an excuse for a trip in themselves, and your giftee will have some fantastic shots to share with you afterward.
If you’ve ever been involved with Eagle’s Nest outdoor programming, you’re probably familiar with the Trangia alcohol stove. These are tried and true, lasting years and are lightweight and compact. I can’t knock them—I simply can provide some alternatives. Compared to gas stoves, alcohol stoves tend to be simpler, inexpensive, more eco-friendly, and fuel is slightly cheaper and easier to find. They do take longer to boil water, however, and carry a higher risk of fuel spills (looking at you, Noah). In contrast, gas stoves tend to be costlier, but more durable, boil faster, and are virtually spill-proof.
Note: Jetboil systems are incredibly convenient and work well. These benefits combine to yield a relatively heavy system, though. You can piece together a system that is just as effective and significantly lighter by buying another stove and a separate titanium pot. Food for thought. Or, rather, thoughts for food.
Have you ever broken a plastic spork while midway through a weeklong trek in a remote area? I have. It’s not fun, and twig chopsticks aren’t the best solution. Don’t be like me. Get yourself and others one of these immortal utensils, or suffer the fate of eating soup with a brittle leaf.
Have you ever tried to hold a conversation on the trail in the rain and had to yell “WHAT?!” a bunch of times because your hood is fastened securely over your ears? I have. Enter the trek umbrella, and voila! In all seriousness, this has become my preferred rain protection on hikes. I’ll throw on my rain shell to cover my torso and arms, but it’s nice to be able to keep the hood off. It can also double as a partial pack cover if you forgot yours or get caught off guard by a sudden shower. AND you can leave your things underneath it while you go check out that view.
Have you ever had the realization that bringing your hand grinder, beans, 1-liter aluminum French press, and plastic mug on a multi-day trek maybe wasn’t the best move? I have. The coffee was great, but I’ve evolved. For that bitter morning nectar, consider a lightweight, compact system that can strike the balance between your local barista brew and your functional, if only somewhat palatable, instant “coffee” packets. Grind your beans before you depart, and enjoy a relatively fresh cup each morning while still having pack space for your sweet new outdoor ukulele.
- GSI Ultralight Java Drip (individuals)
- GSI Java Press (groups)
Have you ever—just kidding. Many folks are including technology in their outdoor pursuits these days. The conversation around the pros and cons of this can wait for another time. From phones to Kindles, or GPS devices to cameras, it can be nice to extend the use of our devices while we’re out there. This market has come a long way in the last few years, so many products are durable, hold a lot of charge, and are multifunctional (power bank, compass, AND flashlight??). Like GPS devices, these can also just be something you take along as simple security, whether or not you intend to use it.
Specifically Set. Many hours spent.
- Nevermind. Set.
I would consider this an essential, but it also makes a great holiday gift and can be tucked neatly into a stocking. Companies are also frequently updating their models to be brighter and longer lasting, so your experience can be improved with your own update. Great for tent reading, pitching a tent at dusk, or a calming night hike, this really is a piece of equipment that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Guidebooks, Park Passes, & Maps
Sometimes we just need an idea or some information to inspire us to step outside. Guidebooks for trails, climbing crags, rivers, or mountain biking spots can hold enough information to spark many trips.Park passes for access, and maps for navigation, can round out some solutions to some of the barriers we may perceive to certain places.
- The AT Guide by David “Awol” Miller
- National Park Service: America the Beautiful Pass (all National Parks)
- National Geographic maps
Note: Don’t worry, non-East Coast folks. Analogous guidebooks exist for the PCT, CDT, all the National Scenic Trails in between, and probably nearby state parks.
Wilderness Medicine Course
This is a much bigger ticket item, but is also potentially the most invaluable. As a trip leader, my wilderness medicine training has helped me in both actual medical situations as well as identifying and mitigating backcountry risks. An entry-level Wilderness First Aid course can be completed in a single weekend, and will teach you enough to be prepared for virtually any minor, and some major, situations. Register a loved one who may benefit from the training, or even spend a weekend learning as a family.
- Landmark Learning (North Carolina)
Note: For those interested in higher levels of training, explore the Wilderness Advanced First Aid, WIlderness First Responder, or Wilderness EMT options. I recommend the same agencies for those.
For the little quadrupeds in your life. Don’t forget about them, meow.