At the risk of overcomplicating one of the last bastions of low-tech, totally offline recreation, there are a few things you can take into the outdoors that add to the experience rather than detract from it. A lot of gimmicky outdoor gear isn’t worth bothering with, but the right tools in your belt (or your pack) can enhance a big hike, backpack or camping trip by making the adventure smoother, safer and easier to capture with these outdoor gift ideas.
We won’t get into notoriously personal pieces of gear here like sleeping bags and tents — those are generally big ticket items that depend a lot on individual preferences. Most of the gifts here would be a safe bet, depending on whether your giftee is more of a glamper, a seasoned hiker or an aspiring weekend warrior looking to spend more time in the woods.
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Safety first: Garmin inReach Mini 2/inReach Messenger
If you spend any time outdoors alone, off trail or out of cell phone service, one of Garmin’s compact little satellite messengers guarantees that you won’t be out of luck if things don’t go as planned. There’s a bit of an upfront investment and an associated subscription cost with these devices, but you won’t regret springing for one when you wind up in a tough spot with no cell service or a dead phone.
Garmin’s pair of devices is very similar, with the Garmin Mini 2 offering more potentially superfluous navigational features, so just pick the price point that works best for your budget. Garmin’s offerings are the gold standard here and there’s no better way to buy a bit of peace of mind in the backcountry for two-way texting, weather forecasts and emergency calls.
Never get lost again: Gaia GPS Premium Membership
Okay, I know you can’t touch this one or cram it into a stocking, but Gaia GPS is pretty much essential if you have any plans to hike outdoors and won’t solely be relying on paper maps. Nothing can compete with a backup (laminated!) paper map, but Gaia GPS is the most reliable option for mapping trails, figuring out a route or even figuring out where you are when you aren’t quite sure (it happens!).
Gaia GPS offers a free app too, but the premium subscription scores you offline map downloads, which are essential. My favorite move is downloading a whole area on Gaia GPS before heading out when I’m not sure which trails I’ll wind up on — the flexibility and peace of mind can’t be beat. Don’t rely on sketchy trail reports, Google Maps or anything else outside — investing in the real deal will keep you safe and on trail.
Pinterest with pages: Outside magazine subscription
A magazine subscription is the classic gift that keeps on giving. While the field of options has sadly narrowed recently, Outside is a comprehensive outdoor publication full of great ideas for getting outside and staying active. There’s no better way to figure out what you’d like to do next weekend, next winter or on that once-in-a-lifetime trip than cruising through the print pages of an outdoor magazine, with the added bonus of never needing to worry about battery life when you read in your tent. Outside covers a broad swath of activities, including kayaking, mountain biking and trail running, and includes gear reviews, essays and excellent travel ideas for adventures waiting to happen.
Every pack, everywhere, all at once: REI Co-op Flash 18/22
You don’t need to know much about your giftee’s outdoor aspirations to be sure that they can use at least one more unstructured, lightweight pack that weighs next to nothing. I’ve been buying these flash packs for years and they’re about as good as it gets when you need a small pack to throw in your other pack, be it a 45L backpacking behemoth or even a suitcase.
REI’s Flash Packs come in fun patterns, roll up easily to barely take up any space and are generally just really useful (whether as a primary or second pack) for everything from a sunny beach day to a summit slog in the snow. The 18L option is actually my favorite because it’s just so simple, but the 22L version is also super handy if you need pockets.
Glamping without limits: Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 300
If you plan to car camp or otherwise carry your gear not on your back, a portable battery can go a long way toward making things convenient. A power pack like the Jackery Portable Power Station can help you blow up an air mattress, run string lights or charge iPads, iPhones and even laptops, all at once.
This thing isn’t tiny but it’s easy to carry and compact enough to tuck into a corner of the car that’s got a little space left. If you want to take things up a notch, pair it with a solar panel like the Jackery SolarSaga to charge up without ever needing to plug in. Jackery has plenty of Power Station options if you need more juice or less. You might be surprised how many times this thing comes in handy, even at home.
GoPro Hero12 Black
GoPro is synonymous with action cameras for a reason. If you need a big little gift with a ton of utility, a GoPro is still the best bet for any outdoor adventurer. Equally useful on a long hike, at the top of the snowboard park or on whitewater, the GoPro Hero12 Black is the relatively indestructible solution to scoring great action shots and video in extreme settings. If you’d prefer to save a little cash, picking up a model from a year or two ago is a killer value option (the same goes for most cameras!) and you’ll barely be sacrificing in terms of features.