Let’s not screw around, big man, here’s the list of socks, cooler, trail tights, and down jacket that won’t get returned.
These days, Santa doesn’t have time for a sit down featuring a handwritten, double-sided list of battery-powered want. Santa can barely rip his eyes off his Twitter feed, adding coal recipients to his “naughty” list in Washington. (Coal IS coming back.) So, whether you plan to demonstrate in the streets in 2019 or go find solace in the outdoors–or both–let’s dress for it. Here are my hit gift picks for the 2018 holidays, because I think the best gifts get you outside. Plus, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just boneheads who pretend they don’t have to dress for it.
Toasty, blister-free tootsies are the root of all happiness on the trail, in the tent and on the couch. You guys responded to my original blog post from Jay Cooke State Park on Darn Tough socks. According to your feedback, you stand with my “A” rating. Justin says “great socks with a lifetime warranty.” My friend Laci has hiked in a pair for more than a year and the only dog barking over at her house is Millie, a VERY good girl. Made from merino wool in Vermont, Darn Tough socks seem to be earning their name in everyone’s book. At $64 this “Happy Hiker” three pack from the Holiday Collection would make any lady happy from peak to pub, and no judging if we’re really only talking pub. Or if by pub we mean couch.
Trail tights are a new-ish category of pant and they feel as good in the home office as they do humping it up a mountain. You get the stretchy mobility of yoga pants without the ass-crackin’ bareness in the backside. Plus there are pockets for phone, keys, dog bags, tube #352 of lip balm I am currently using, losing then baking in the dryer. (Still searching for lip balm that is THE bomb, send me your best bets, please.) I’m enjoying the REI Screeline Hike Tights with technical features like scuff guards around the ankles and soft but seemingly indestructible fabric. I like the olive color it comes in; $75, now on sale at REI. Skewing less “hiking pants” and more “tights” are Eddie Bauer’s Trail Tight Leggings. I have been wearing them constantly, as much for the comfort and zippered pocket as the odor control technology. Nothing says go ahead and wear these yet another day like “odor control technology.” $85, often on sale. I plan to get another pair of these, so Santa I already have black, fyi.
Speaking of Eddie Bauer, you pretty much can’t go wrong with a gift for the outdoors lover from there. This is true for a number of reasons. Let’s start with range of sizes–my 6’4″ boyfriend shops pretty much exclusively there for the selection of tall sizes and performance of the “Travex” line on the disc golf course, year ’round. Then, there’s the packability factor–the MicroTherm stretch down jacket is peak Bauer; minimal bulk, ease of movement, effective at keeping you warm in all conditions. Stuff it in a pocket for travel. $249, but there are frequent sales. If you are more worried about insulation than packability, Eddie Bauer’s got you covered in other types of down jackets. Lastly, Eddie Bauer stands behind everything they make and I can vouch for that. They’ve paid to have a zipper replaced on my favorite pair of EB jeans. They replaced a sweater whose seam uncharacteristically split, no questions asked.
If you don’t want to worry about sizes give the gift of chill. Yeti coolers are one of those rare, mythical beasts of legend that lives up to the hype. Buy a cooler once, why buy one again? I did in fact blow an REI gift card on a large one for camping and I don’t regret it. The thermos is an affordable extravagance. I know Minnesotans who swear (well, Lutherans don’t really swear) a Yeti thermos keeps their Swedish egg coffee hot even outdoors in January, dontcha know. Back to coolers–Santa, if you could see your way to a smaller, more portable soft-sided Yeti, say for a 6-pack or so, I’d pour one out for ya.
And since I’ve gotten one of these for literally everyone I know, I feel I can safely put it on the list here: a folding book lamp. It’s useful, it’s a great gift for anyone and the price point on Amazon hits the sweet spot at around $30. It looks like a thin book, or a book for stashing things inside, but when you open it, it’s an accordion LED light of many colors. You can set it to one shade, or have it cycle through them like a literate lava lamp. I keep mine on my nightstand as a night light, but I also took it to Blue Mounds State Park to use inside the tipi. It’s safe to use inside tents, then folds and packs away flat.
Shirt or jacket? So hard to decide sometimes. I have to admit I Santa’d myself and ordered a Smartwool Anchor Line Shirt Jacket from their “Lifestyle” line. I’m favoring “Darn Tough” over “Smartwool” for socks these days, but Smartwool’s sweaters and base layers are super durable, breathable and…cute. Smartwool doesn’t itch, and if wool long johns made you itch as a kid, you might be surprised. Like other performance merino wool clothing such as Ibex and Icebreaker, Smartwool uses premium fibers are that are long and silky. Short fibers are more likely to feel scratchy. The crimson buffalo check shirt jacket goes for $180, but I found it inexplicably on sale for $140 at a website I’d never heard of, HDO Sport. At this price I expect to get a lot of use out of my, um, shacket.
Since the point of these picks is to get outdoors, you can facilitate the “getting out” part with the swell gift of a Minnesota State Parks permit. (Or, a parks permit in the recipient’s home state. You get the idea.) I can’t think of a better way to spend $35 dollars. That’s how much it costs for a year-long pass for unlimited visits to all 75 Minnesota state parks. Your purchase helps preserve and improve this string of pearls we call our state park system. And to me, it’s better motivation than a gym membership to rack up steps on the Fitbit.