Outdoorsy Holiday Gifts : Non-Gear Edition!



Cool Santa ornament that is, alas,  no longer avail

Around this time of the year, many outdoor forums and websites invariably post the “Top 5 Gifts for Outdoors people”

Invariably, it is gear focused: This cool set of skis. A new type of stove. That really killer  down jacket that is good for belaying or sucking down lattes in downtown.

The problem with giving gear and apparel to an outdoors person is that, unless they specifically tell you what they want, it is difficult to purchase exactly the right item.

Sizes can differ between boots.  A women’s medium may be a women’s small in another brand. And they just don’t need the item you are getting them.

The cool lantern you bought someone?  Turns out it is a bit impractical for backpacking.

A plastic egg carton holder?  The person has not packed eggs in a long time.

 The Bear Gyhlls survival machete? When a  person has a sleeping bag, shelter, stove, clothing food and water, a 13 inch blade that chops down jungle brush seems a tad overkill. 😉

I do not have the machete, but I do have this entertaining video! 

And so on.

Add that to the fact that most outdoor people have a lot gear already, and it can be difficult to buy the perfect gift.

So here are my ideas for gift giving. Maybe it will help you decide what to get?

1. Mapping software subscription

Buy your favorite outdoors person a subscription to an online map service.

All Trails is good for someone who likes to use the popular NatGeo TI maps.  You can get mileage, elevation gain and export a .GPX file.  Good stuff.


If they do any kind of off-trail hiking or prefer more details to their maps, a subscription to CalTopo would be very useful. I use this service extensively for my trips.

And in this day of electronic navigation aids, purchasing an app such as Backcountry Navigator would be very useful, too.


2. Gift card to the local brew pub

After successfully completing a trip using some mapping software, the outdoors person will need to quench their thirst, eat some food and talk about the post-trip with their friends. A gift card to their favorite post-trip watering hole would be awesome.



3. Local outfitter

Everyone eventually needs new gear. A local outfitter often has gear avail that REI or online can not stock esp if a person is into climbing or backcountry skiing.  Sure, you can buy skis and climbing shoes online. But the expertise found at the smaller places are often worth stopping in and paying the (sometimes) higher prices vs online or larger retailers. And when a person needs an obscure item (clip for a climbing skin? some blue ski wax?) a lot easier to stop in and buy it as a person tends to need it sooner rather than later.

When I bought my current backcountry touring rig at Neptune’s in Boulder, they were beyond helpful in assisting me in choosing a ski and boot setup for the type of skiing I want to do.

Most local stores should have gift cards avail.

Esp when you use your gear to scrape off someone’s bubble-gum like red wax! 🙂

4. Amazon

OK, and sometimes you need stuff that just is not (easily) found locally. The nice thing about Amazon is that they have EVERYTHING (or so it seems).  Obscure guidebook for a relatively little known hiking trail in Canada? Check!  Bulk freeze-dried meals for said trip? Got it! And need a poutine gravy mix so you can enjoy one of Canada’s finest culinary gifts before going to Canada? They have that too.  An Amazon gift card can even be sent by e-mail. Tres cool. And now with Amazon Smile, it is very easy to donate to your favorite outdoor organization at the same time. Everyone wins!

Poutine! (Courtesy of Wikipedia)


5. Donation to an outdoor organization

Your family member or friend politely declines a gift? Consider donating to an outdoor organization in their name.  A gift that even the person who has it all will appreciate.

Depending on where they are located or what recreation they enjoy, any one of these organizations should work. 

Tools of the trade your donations help buy!

So there they are. Five outdoor gifts that aren’t gear related. Who woulda thunk it???

Happy non-denominational, politically correct holiday!!!! 

Notify of

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
9 years ago

Beer gift card is a great idea!!!