It’s that time of year again. The air is cold, snow is on the ground (at least in the mountains) and you’re scrambling to buy gifts for the outdoorsy folks in your life.
Therein lies the problem: The thing about those who love the outdoors is that, by and large, they have what they need. And if they don’t have it already, they probably know exactly what they want. Down to the quarter inch. Your bumbling attempts at buying them gifts only stands in the way. Send money and call Christmas done.
While that may be prudent, it’s the cowardly path. Don’t fear. We’ve compiled 10 gifts, as recommended by local outdoor enthusiasts. From hand saws to tiny, ultralight flashlight flasks, these gifts are off the beaten path and sure to please on Christmas Day. (But, just to be safe, keep the receipt.)
Maps and guides
Assuming you buy gifts for friends, and not enemies, you want them to return home safely. Knowing where you’re going is the first step in that endeavor. Consider buying your outdoorsy loved one a year membership to one of the two premier GPS trail and mapping apps: Gaia GPS and onX Hunt. Both are great and do similar things, although onX is geared toward hunters and GAIA is more for hikers.
Jeff Lambert, the executive director of the Dishman Hills Conservancy, uses onX and loves the fact that it shows property boundaries.
“Trespassing is the No. 1 reason that property owners prohibit access,” he said. “With this app, one avoids trespassing and can contact owners for permission if desired. It works without cell coverage if you download your map ahead of time.”
Gaia costs $20–$40 per year, depending on the features you want, while onX costs $30 for one state for a year and $100 for all 50 states for a year. Cabelas offers an onX gift card.
Both give topographic information, trail and property information and much more.
Not into apps? Check out Frugal Navigator for high-quality United States Geological Survey maps. The Spokane company can make custom maps based off USGS and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data. More popular maps are sold at REI.
“His maps are NICE,” said Holly Weiler, a hiking leader for the Spokane Mountaineers and the Washington Trails Association’s Eastern Washington coordinator in a message. “I’m a total map junkie, which is probably weird in this digital age. But I love them.”
The maps are printed on tear- and water-resistant paper and come with a mini ruler. Prices vary.
It can be a tricky thing to buy gear for someone else. Sizing. Usage needs. It gets complicated. So we’re going to keep it light (literally).
First up: a folding saw.
Todd Dunfield, the Inland Northwest Land Conservancy’s community conservation manager and a prolific trail builder, has a favorite option: a folding hand saw made by Silky, such as the Silky Professional Ultra Accel 240 with a 24 cm curved blade ($59).
“They are Japanese steel and super sharp and useful,” he said in a message. “Hunters can clear brush for better sight lines and game-camera mounting, great around the house, and I personally love them for trail work. I usually keep one in all my daypacks and mountain-biking hydration systems because they are so useful for clearing downed trees from the trail.”
REI sells a variety, he said, as does Amazon.
But what to do, late in the day, once you’ve finished clearing all that trail? Drink, of course. The VSSL Flask ($95) is a “compact adventure flask” that includes a flashlight and compass.
And while taking swigs from your flashlight-flask, you’ll want to take a load off in an extra-warm camp chair. Why is it warm? Because someone bought you a chair quilt. The REI Co-op Flexlite Chair Underquilt ($30, char sold separately) creates a pocket of heat that keeps your tush nice and cozy.
Classes, passes and memberships
Even experienced outdoorspeople can benefit from a wilderness first aid course. These multiple-day courses are the go-to primers on backcountry medicine and a must-do for anyone who spends a serious amount of time off the grid.
REI and NOLS offers a two-day Wilderness Safety Training course ($245 for REI members, $275 for non-members) on different dates and at various locations around the state. Cascadia Wilderness Medicine also has training classes
So you’re trained up. The trail is cut, you’ve had a nice evening sipping liquor in your uber-warm camp chair marinating on all the first aid knowledge you have. You hike out to the trailhead and find — horrors of horrors — a parking ticket on your rig.
Too bad you didn’t have the right parking pass. If only someone had gifted you one for Christmas.
An annual Washington State Discover Pass costs $30. Also consider gifting a state Sno-Park permit. A daily Sno-Park pass costs $20, which the seasonal pass is $40. Going farther afield? Consider an annual American the Beautiful Pass for $80.