Gear reviewer Dan A. Nelson offers a gift list for outdoors people that won't break your bank.
For the second year in a row, budgets remain tight heading into the holiday season. Fortunately, great gifts that don’t break the bank exist for outdoor adventurers. With an eye on the economic realities of the season, we offer this list of 10 outdoor gifts costing $20 or less, available at many outdoor retailers.
1. Klean Kanteen bottle, $18.45-$19.95
With the cost and enormous waste of buying throwaway bottles of water, many people are turning to reusable bottles for their daily use as well as on their hiking adventures. With the increasing awareness of the potential dangers of BPA-laden plastic, Klean Kanteen’s line of food-grade stainless-steel bottles have wide appeal. They now also have wide mouths — the same 2-inch opening found on traditional Nalgene bottles, so you can fit your water filter onto it, or simply drop in ice cubes. The 18- and 27-ounce bottles are optimal for most folks. More info: www.kleankanteen.com.
2. Petzl Tikkina
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Petzl’s Tikka headlamp set the standard for bright, lightweight LED headlamps when it was first introduced several years ago. Today, the young cousin of the original Tikka carries the torch forward. The Tikkina lacks the frills of more expensive headlamps but frills aren’t needed. The brighter of the two operating modes (maximum and economy) will easily light your trail after dark, throwing a beam more than 20 meters. www.petzl.com.
3. GSI Ultralight
Java Drip, $9.95
Weighing less than half an ounce, this drip-coffee maker will get the attention of any backcountry enthusiast who likes a good cuppa joe in the morning. A simple plastic frame sits on a cup rim and holds the mesh filter upright. Load the filter with ground coffee, pour in hot water and let it drip through. Simple, effective and minuscule in weight! A sure winner. www.gsioutdoors.com.
Backpacking Socks, $19
For nearly 20 years, wool socks — especially merino wool — have been growing in popularity among outdoor recreationists, for good reason. Wool moves moisture more efficiently than any synthetic material, has natural antimicrobial properties (preventing socks, and feet, from stinking) and helps regulate heat even when wet. As good as merino wool is, though, alpaca wool is lighter and softer, yet also stronger. Even better, Portland-based Dahlgren makes socks here in the Northwest, to further ensure excellent production quality. www.dahlgrenfootwear.com.
Litech Kettle, $20
Backpackers of all caliber appreciate the chance to drop some weight, so consider this ultralight kettle as a gift that will keep on giving as it replaces someone’s old, heavy cook set. When backcountry cooking is restricted to rehydrating dried meals, a simple kettle is the most efficient way to go. Primus’ Litech Kettle, made of hard-anodized aluminum, is as light and durable as titanium, at a fraction of the cost. The kettle features a low profile so it is stable on a camp stove and packs easily in a small backpack. www.primuscamping.com.
Cyber II Recycled
camera pouch, $19
We live a digital life, even when we venture into the wilderness. The Cyber II camera case from Mountainsmith (medium size, at this price) ensures your compact digital camera stays well padded and protected from the elements when attached to your pack, while also affording you a little comfort in knowing it’s made from 100 percent recycled fabric (spun from fibers made from former soda bottles). The Cyber II Recycled includes a padded main compartment, a protected sleeve for memory cards, belt-attach option and a detachable shoulder strap. www.mountainsmith.com.
7. Ruff Wear Bivy Bowl, $19.95
Dogs deserve gifts, too, and Ruff Wear offers a new bowl design that canines and their partners will love. The welded, single-layer design eliminates weight and bulk, so the new Bivy Bowl weighs less than 2 ounces for the 1.5-liter size (6 inches in diameter). These collapsible bowls are ideal for backcountry excursions as well as car travel — a bowl to go, for dogs on the go! ruffwear.com.
8. Sea to Summit X-Bowl, $15
Two-legged hikers need bowls, too, and the X-Bowl from Sea to Summit is a multifunctional tool for backcountry kitchens. When not in use, the bowl lays flat, with a rigid nylon base. This works wonderfully as a cutting board and prep surface for camp cooking. When it comes time to eat, the silicon sides pop up to create a stable bowl capable of holding hot or cold meals (the silicon can even hold boiling water). www.seatosummit.com.
9. Rite in the Rain Birder’s Journal, $7.95
Tacoma-based Rite in the Rain makes a variety of weatherproof journals and notepads, all made from nontoxic waterproof paper and fully recyclable. Their Birder’s Journal is ideal for Northwest ornithologists. The 4.5-inch-by-7-inch spiral-bound journals feature facing pages: The left-hand page includes a large white area for sketching birds (or pasting photos), as well as a form to mark species, location and time/date of sighting. The right-hand page is a standard lined journal page for detailed sighting notes. Birders will love it. www.riteintherain.com.
10. Streamworks Fly-fishing Forceps with Powerjaws, $13.98
Many of Washington’s finest fishing streams are catch-and-release fisheries, with regulations specifying barbless hooks only. Fly fishermen who purchase their flies rather than tying their own usually find the tiny lures made with barbed hooks, so those barbs must be crushed closed. Standard fly-fishing forceps, used to gently lift flies out of fish mouths, don’t have the surface necessary to crimp those barbs, though. Enter Streamworks. Their new Powerjaws-enabled forceps include a small anvil-like projection on the edge of the jaws specifically to be used in crushing barbs. The forceps themselves are precise tools suitable for all streamside operations. www.streamworks.com.
Freelancer Dan A. Nelson of Puyallup regularly reviews outdoor gear for The Seattle Times, and is a contributor to Backpacking magazine and an author of outdoor guides with The Mountaineers Books. Contact him: email@example.com.