I have seen people, at my local gear store, trying to buy a gift for the hiker on their list and it is not a pretty sight. These folks wander aimlessly through the store blankly staring at racks of carabineers, down jackets and other gear. Buying a gift for the hiker on your list can be intimidating. I want to walk up to these shoppers and tell them it will be ok but instead I wrote this gift guide. Below you will find gear, clothing, food, education and reading gifts that are sure to delight any hiker who receives them.
Tools of the trade
Hikers love gear; that is just how it is. If the hiker on your list is going anywhere steep, snowy or rocky then the following gear gift recommendations are sure to get them stoked. Also, one of these gifts could be just the thing to give you the lead in the race to be the favorite aunt or uncle.
|The gift of light|
A headlamp should be in every hiker’s pack and it should be a great one like the PETZL Tikka XP2. This is the perfect headlamp for alpine starts, weeknight walks in the dark or those hikes that last until well after the sun goes down. It has tons of features, is super bright and wicked light; everything a headlamp should be.
Black Diamond Half Dome Helmet
If the hiker on your list is venturing anywhere that is steep or prone to rock fall then a high quality helmet is crucial. The Half Dome is extremely comfortable, adjustable and well vented. Once it is on your head you don’t even know it is there.
Outdoor Research Expedition Crocodile Gaiter
|OR Gaiters doing their job|
Gaiters serve double duty to keep snow from getting into your boots and they protect your pants from crampon punctures. OR’s Expedition Crocodile Gaiter are designed to fit over winter boots and insulated layers. They also have very tough fabric that will resist crampon scratches. I don’t believe you can find a better gaiter, period.
Black Diamond Deploy 7 Shovel
|No pack is complete without a shove|
Snow shovels aren’t just for shoveling your grandparent’s driveway anymore. A portable backcountry snow shovel gives you the ability to dig out tent platforms in the snow, build snow caves or rescue someone who was buried in an avalanche. I guess what I am saying here is that winter hikers need a shovel. I like the Deploy 7 because it is packable, quick to use and it is big enough to make every scoop count.
SEA TO SUMMIT eVent Compression Dry Sack
Fancy down insulation layers and sleeping bags are useless if they get wet. SEA TO SUMMIT’s dry sack creates a waterproof container that will protect sensitive gear from a sudden downpour or other wet conditions. Believe me, this is a lot better than using trash bags.
Layers of Awesomeness
Proper clothing is one of the most important aspects of a safe and epic winter hike. Giving the below gifts is like giving the gift of fun and safety; who wouldn’t love that?
|Feeling warm in my Wapiti Woolie|
This is no ordinary hat. Wapiti Woolies are the warmest and highest quality winter hats in the world. They are commonly worn on the summits of the world’s highest mountains by elite climbers like Ed Viesturs. Additionally, each hat can be custom designed and built to the customer’s specifications. This means you can choose the color and design to truly personalize your gift. If you are looking for a unique gift that will stand up to the toughest conditions on earth, this is it.
Patagonia Alpine Guide Pants
These softshell pants are like the overachieving kid in school who did everything well and made it look easy. They are at home during an alpine start on Mount Rainier, an above tree line traverse in the White Mountains or a casual late fall hike in the Berkshires. Softshell pants like this are stretchy, breathable and just plain more comfortable than hard shells. The Alpine Guide also has a great fit with plenty of pockets at a very reasonable price.
SmartWool Liner Glove
SmartWool’s liner glove is one of the most useful and cost effective pieces of gear you can buy. Even if the hiker on your list has 10 pairs of these they will still love an 11th pair. They are the perfect glove for cold weather runs and they boost the warmth of any glove or mitten. I also like to wear them in my sleeping bag when camping in subzero conditions.
There are two kinds of hikers out there; ones who have not yet heard of Buffs and ones who think Buffs are the best thing since sliced bread. A buff is like a bandanna but it is so much more. It can be worn as everything from a balaclava to a headband or a hat liner. I wore mine for 4 straight days as sun protection on Mount Rainier and during summer hikes to wick away sweat. It is made of coolmax fabric that keeps you warm in the cold and cool in the heat. You can also get them in an infinite number of colors and patterns.
First Ascent Hangfire Hoodie
|Loving the hoodie|
This hoodie needs to be worn to be understood. It is a light insulation piece that somehow seems perfect for every situation. It feels great as an outer layer while making a cold summit bid, works perfectly as a mid-layer in cold and windy conditions and looks awesome around town. The hood also has an awesome fit that really supercharges the warmth of this piece. This hoodie is so good that you might want to get one for yourself to!
Fuel the Fire
Winter hiking burns tons of calories and it is absolutely essential to refuel with food that will keep the body energized. Below are the things that have kept me going on long trail runs and cold hikes.
Dehydration is every hiker’s worst enemy. Nuun tabs allow you to enhance your water with electrolyte goodness. They are also designed so your body will absorb the water and electrolytes faster than other sports drinks of water alone. Additionally they come in a tube that is extremely packable. Nuun comes with me on ever run, ride and climb.
PROBAR is an energy bar made from all natural ingredients that you can feel good about. They also pack in hundreds of calories which are useful to anyone who is hiking in steep or cold conditions. I am also amazed by the variety of flavors available such as Old School PB and J.
|Tasty at 11,000 ft|
KIND is another make of delicious energy bars made from natural ingredients. I love these because they have tons of flavors, are very packable and they don’t freeze into a brick when its cold out.
The gift of knowledge
Proper education and skills are absolutely necessary for a safe and enjoyable outdoors experience. The gift of knowledge is one of the greatest gifts you can give whether it is for simple winter hiking, crevasse rescue or advanced ice climbing skills.
|Kel shows us the ropes|
My friends and I worked with Kel from Adventure Spirit while we were training for Mount Rainier. He designed a custom program for us that included alpine climbing, avalanche awareness and crevasse rescue. He also happens to be one heck of a nice guy.
|Learning to climb vertical ice|
Eastern Mountain Sports has a world class climbing school that can teach you anything you want to know. I recently took their Winter Mountaineering 101 class and was extremely impressed by the content and professionalism of the instructors.
The written word
Reading is a great way to kill time between hikes. If there is a hiker on your list then they probably want to read about hiking. Here are some of my favorite mountain inspired reads.
This is one of the best books that has ever been written about New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Not Without Peril is a stark reminder of just how dangerous the White Mountains can be as it provides an intimate account of everyone who has died in the Whites from the 19th century to present day. You can also call it a safety device since it has scared me into being prepared for the worst each time I hike.
No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World’s 14 Highest Peaks
Ed Viesturs is one of my personal heroes. This book highlights his quest to climb the 14 highest peaks on earth without supplemental oxygen. It also serves as an amazing look into the world of mountaineering.
Conquistadors of the Useless
This is one of the 100 greatest adventure books of all time according to National Geographic. It tells the story of Lionel Terray, France’s greatest mountaineer, as he conquered summits just after World War Two when his country desperately needed a hero. This book is also amazing just to read about the kind of gear that was used back then.