Gifts for yourself: A practical gift guide

Soon we will follow some post-Thanksgivings rituals.

You carved the bird. And you made turkey soup, turkey sandwiches, and turkey hash. And more than one slice of pie has been served for breakfast.

Why yes, I did have pie for breakfast in Pie Town!

And that means more listicles gift guides are out.

Buy stuff to suit the outdoor person in your life.

From Cairn

Except, well, it really is a gift guide for you…isn’t it? 🙂

It is OK.

We are adults.

We happen to like our toys that are more expensive than what we used at ten years old.

And sometimes we even need these toys if the outdoors is something to be enjoyed.

Difficult to enjoy the Colorado backcountry in winter without snowshoes or skis, for example.

Post-holing anyone???

However, a fat and jolly old man who has NSA-like abilities to know if you are bad or good, and employs slave laborers with pointy hats, is not giving you gifts.

We buy our own stuff or strongly hint to others to buy us things via these listicles gift guides that are conveniently published every year.

So let’s eliminate the middle person.

Here are five gifts you can, and should,  give yourself.

  • The gift of giving back

Dad spends a good portion of his retirement volunteering. He is the shorter, bald guy. He looks familiar…

 Nearly half of all outdoor participants have an annual household income of $75,000 or more a year. And are mainly college-educated.  It is a safe assertion that most outdoor recreationists are pretty comfortable overall.

We have skill sets, contacts, some disposable income, or knowledge that we can contribute.

And when only 10% of all outdoor recreationists travel more than 50 miles to recreate, an increasingly narrow group of people available to support our public lands. If you have the means, consider donating money to something such as Big City Mountaineers to give another generation of outdoors people the spark to enjoy our wild places.

“Giving back”  is a gift that will help you enjoy the wildlands.  The places where you use the gear bought with a listicle gift guide.  Hopefully. 🙂

  • The gift of space

From Edmonton home inspections

If you purchase something for yourself with a listicle gift guide, you probably have extras now, too. I am guilty of that. Extra hats, gloves, old packs, etc.  I purge every so often. And try to limit what I buy now, too.

So what to do with heavier tents, older packs, gear given from listicles gift guides in the past, what-have-you?

You could eBay it.

Better yet, donate it to a local youth group instead.

Your heavier, but still serviceable gear, will let the next generation of outdoors people have a love for the wild places.

And you will gain less clutter in your life.

  • The gift of functioning and organized gear

Once you purge your equipment, it is time to organize and take care of your current gear.

The best way to make use of your time bank is to have minimal prep time.

An organized collection of gear and clothing helps immensely. 

You can get out with little preparation. There is no need to scramble and pack gear, gather supplies, and frantically driving around in traffic to get items on a Friday night.

And part of this preparation means functional gear.

Find yourself in town and can’t go backpacking? Have a few hours to kill on a sunny Sunday?

Clean that gear. Sew that loose button. Sno Seal those boots.

Having functional and clean gear will let you be able to enjoy the outdoors.  (And, yes, I’ve learned this lesson the hard way in the past!)

  • The gift of knowledge and skills

From Clipart Panda

Winter is here, and that means an excellent time to brush up on skills or learn new ones.

Learn to snowshoe, ski, or acquire new winter skills in general.

Practice those knots.

Go to a field or local open space and brush up on your navigation skills.

Learn different tarp configurations in your backyard.

Study up on different backcountry concepts such as site selection.

Maybe spend a cold and overcast weekend taking a Wilderness First Aid course.

Or practice preparing some new backcountry recipes for your upcoming trips.

Learning new skills, and making existing ones more substantial, is a gift you should give yourself.

Your precious time spent in the outdoors will be more efficient.  And enjoyable.

Bonus: The best way to go lightweight is not the gear you carry, but rather what equipment you don’t take. And an increased skill and knowledge set means you have to bring less stuff.

  • The gift of time


A blogger whose writings I regularly read talks about the recreation inventory.

And I’ve often referred to my timebank.

The same idea expressed by both of us: We typically have 52 weekends a year, holidays, and vacation. Time is a valuable resource. Once you spend it, it is gone.

How do you want to use those resources?  What will you do with those resources available?

We all have things that come up in life — On-Call, in my case, or recent weekend work and late hours.

You may have family and social obligations, and emergencies do come up.

But if you love the outdoors, you will make time.

You will use the time bank funds in the best way possible, and however, you can.

Can’t thru-hike? Section hike.

Is backpacking time limited? Do some Sub-24 hr Overnighters.

Have to be home on Saturday and can’t backpack? Day hike.

Both Saturday and Sunday are too busy? Get up early and take a sunrise hike.  Or flip it and do a night hike during the week.

Are you working too much? Lobby vigorously for comp days.

You are an hourly employee, and the overtime helps?  Dad gave up his overtime one weekend to take me hiking.  Thirty-five years later, that one weekend is still having an impact on me. 

Too many family activities? Structure family time, so you all camp together on the weekend instead. Or rather than going shopping some Saturday morning, take a hike together instead. 

Significant other does not like the outdoors? Swap weekends. Give him a chance to play poker with his buddies one weekend somewhere while you watch the kids. And then you take a weekend for yourself and go backpacking.

On-call and can’t go far? Go to the local park, enjoy the sunset, and take photos. You are only ten minutes from home.

I am speaking from the heart here. 🙂

Is work taking up too much of your alleged free? Quit work for a bit. 🙂

The point is that if you love the outdoors, you will give yourself the gift of time somehow and in some way.

And going outdoors is the best gift of all for any outdoors person.

So you are looking for gifts to give? I wrote these suggestions five years ago originally, and it still applies. 

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7 years ago

You got me! I was looking forward to wasting some time reading about cool gear and gadgets and in turn I found myself pondering about some of the choices I make in life. Great post Paul!

Joseph Buettner
Joseph Buettner
5 years ago

A great post Paul. I am a 76 year old and very active in local and long distant hiking. Just recently my coronary heart disease has temporally slowed me down and my hiking days have been limited to very short hikes with limited hill travel. I am anxiously waiting for my cardiologist to prescribe a new medication that will dilate my coronary arteries. Now that i have read your article its given me a big push to look deeper into my soul and to focus on other outlets in life. Thank you very much.

2 years ago

Wholeheartedly agree! Over- abundance of “stuff” is pandemic!