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Stocking Stuffers and Last Minute Gifts for the Outdoor Adventurer on Your List

My holiday list is full of golfers. Is there a harder group of people to buy gifts for?

You can’t just go to a sporting goods store and pick out a nice looking 3 iron, wrap it up, and shove it under the tree.

No, golfers have a special relationship with their equipment… one far too specific and personal for a third party to get involved in. Strange bunch, they are.

On the other hand, those of you who are shopping for the outdoor adventurers in your life… the hikers, skiers, climbers… should consider yourself lucky. Your holiday shopping is a breeze!

At least it can be.

There are a lot of small, (relatively) inexpensive, basic gifts you can get them… “staple” gear, so to speak… and it is stuff they actually need and use and will LOVE to get.

Here are a few suggestions.

Patagonia Capilene – Performance Base Layer
Two things you should keep in mind when it comes to shopping for your outdoor fanatic. One, they need base layer clothing. And two, they never have enough.

Seriously, unless the person you are buying for has an underwear factory in their basement, I guarantee you they can use a few more pieces of this stuff.

Patagonia Capilene is the Cadillac of performance base layers. Sure it costs a little more than other brands, but is totally worth it and you will be the holiday hero if you give it. It comes in 4 “weights”. R1 through R4, with 1 being the lightest, and 4 the heaviest. This allows you to pick and choose based on the activities you are buying for. Skier? Winter Hiker? Pick an item from 3 or 4. Is it for someone who mostly enjoys summer activities? Go for 1 or 2. If not sure, the lighter stuff is more versatile, so stick to that.

Nice alternatives to Capilene include REI’s Polartec and EMS’s Techwick

Performance Socks
Yeah, I know. As a kid, getting socks as a gift was only one step above coal. But trust me when I say your outdoor adventurer needs, and will really like getting, performance socks. No matter what activity they do… aside from swimming, I guess… you can find a pair of socks that will help keep their feet comfortable, warm, or both.

For general hiking, walking, running, it is hard to beat Smartwool. For winter sports you will, of course, want to get a heavier sock. REI’s Merino Wool Expedition Sock is a nice option.

Skiers can get away wearing regular athletic socks, but ski socks are made specifically for the demands of that activity and are much more comfortable. If you have a skier in your life, consider getting them something like the Smartwool PhD Ski Sock.

Hand and Foot Warmers
If the person you are buying for enjoys any winter activity (or even late fall, early spring activities) chances are good they go through a fair amount of warmers each season. These little bundles of heat are useful when doing just about anything. From snowshoeing to skiing to ice fishing to standing around at a football game.

While hand warmers get all the attention, for my money foot warmers are the real super stars. They are specifically designed to fit comfortably in your footwear, be it a hiking boot or a plastic ski boot, and do a wonderful job of keeping your piggies from freezing. They come in two versions, a full footbed insert and a smaller patch that concentrates on the toe area.

Outdoor Food and Snacks
Feed me Seymour! All of that outdoor fun has one universal symptom… hunger. Your outdoor gift recipient, be they hardcore backcountry hermits or casual weekend warriors, will appreciate energy food and snacks. There are a ton of options to choose from, everything from trail mix and GORP to all sorts of granola and protein or carbohydrate bars.

If you are looking for something a little less ordinary, my personal favorites are an energy gel by the name of “Gu” and a line of products from a company called Honey Stinger. The latter makes organic honey based treats, including these Energy Chews that received an Editor’s Choice award from Backpacker Magazine.


  1. Rich

    How heavy or thick is the R4 version of Patagonia Capilene? I’m buying a gift for a friend, but also interested in some myself, and would like to get an idea of what weight to get.


    • Dave

      I tried on an R4 zip-neck top this weekend and it was pretty thick. Would serve as more of a mid-layer in most of the conditions I encounter, and is even something I would wear as an outer layer in some fall/spring situations.

      That particular piece also wasn’t very underwear like at all, in looks or feel. More like a really nice fleece pull over. It was something I wouldn’t hesitate to wear around town.

      The pants were more long underwear-ish in look and feel.

      Which weight to get definitely depends on what kind of activities you will be doing, and not just the season.

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