Getting a headache trying to think of gifts for friends and family? Never easy is it? To help you in your quest we have given some ideas for the outdoor adventurer for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, trail running and hiking. Items to fill that stocking and earn a smile from the receiver.
The perfect gift does not have to be huge and often outdoor people are grateful for the smallest of gifts because it usually means they are light and carrying them is not a chore. However, a pair of skis, or running shoes would never go amiss and a camper van would be nice also!
Most mountain people love gear, and it doesn't matter how much you spend on a gift for them as long as its the right colour for that year. Every year product developers are challenged with coming up with new kit that will become a 'must have' in the gear cupboard of any self respecting outdoor enthusiast.
Socks! Well, why not? They may not seem the most exciting of presents, but in my opinion it's just bad press. With long days in the mountains spent in boots, and often in very hot or very cold weather the perfect sock is a welcome gift. Nowadays socks can be a high tech affair with areas of the foot or ankle designed with extra padding, and support which aims to make exercise more pleasurable. Then you have to choose between artificial fibres, and natural wool and in a myriad of colours.
Do not underestimate the lure of a good pair of socks - 'ski de fond' is the French term for 'cross-country skiing'.
While on the subject of wool, there are now many ranges of woollen base layers that come in a variety of bright colours and designs that are a joy to wear. Natural fibres have made a big comeback in recent years, and their ability to remain smelling sweet, yes, sweet not sweat, for many days and if not weeks are legendary. I once did a feature for the BBC's Adventure Show on wool underwear when Chris Townsend, gear guru and reviewer, proclaimed he had worn the same merino wool underwear for ten weeks and it didn't smell. In Norway my friends don't wash the wool when it needs freshening up, but instead hang it outdoors overnight in minus zero temperatures which apparently kills the bacteria that creates smell. Go on, try it for yourself?
Natural fibres continue to be very popular, and base layers never go wrong
Other simple suggestions would be to gift wrap some ski wax, or hand warmers, perhaps a thermometer for attaching to a rucksack, cross-country ski gloves (lovely technical items), a colourful head band, or a most excellent gift of heated socks or boot warmers which keep your feet toasty while you ski.
Again this is a winter sport where keeping warm is a major challenge at times, and gifts that do keep you cosy are very welcome. As above a good sock is a comfort, and a merino base layer will always be enjoyed.
In winter as in summer keeping hydrated is very important as it works towards keeping energy levels high. When out in the winter landscape on snowshoes you will need to remember to hydrate and sometimes this is difficult as many do not like to drink cold water on a winter day. An insulated water bottle is a good idea as even in your rucksack the water can begin to freeze. Hydration tube systems even when insulated in piping can be hard to keep from freezing, and then it is a huge frustration if you have a thirst but can't get at your water. Even if the tube doesn't freeze often the nozzle will.
Chilly bottles keep fluid at the temperature it was poured, either cold or hot
As well as keeping your water fluid, a winter day out often calls for a hot drink. There is a wonderful sense of a reward well deserved to arrive at a summit or high pass and being able to sit down and enjoy....? Hot blackcurrant, hot chocolate, coffee, or your favourite tipple of tea? There are some great thermos flasks available out there, and for the fashion conscious they now come in a range of colours and designs. Long gone is the day of only 'silver' thermos flasks and they also seem a lot more robust than previously.
Cheap, cheerful, works well and at 0.4 litres just right for a few cups - I use this thermos from Decathlon
Other simple gifts you could consider, such as a peaked cap for those days when the sun is bouncing off the snow and searing your eyeballs. A fancy sunscreen that promises you will never get that rosy glow again, a Silva compass to show the way home, perhaps a pair of 'down' filled booties for après snowshoe, a waterproof map case or even maps for their next big adventure? Those this will require a bit of discreet questioning on your part.
Trail or mountain running has become stunningly popular in recent years. Hereos such as Kilian Jornet have inspired many to run for the hills and to keep running. The ability to move fast through what is sometimes rocky and loose terrain means all kit has to be kept to the minimum but still ensure safety.
Manufactures have had a field day coming up with new materials and ideas for trail runners. Hydration is super important and there is now a range of silicon collapsible water containers ideal for this purpose. A litre of water weighs one kilo and if your water container is not light then this adds even more weight to your pack. Look out for Soft Flasks for a great and relatively inexpensive gift.
Think also about items such as a years subscription to a trail running magazine, or an entry fee to a race (now that would be a surprise and a challenge for the New year) which might prove to be a very unexpected gift. Rather a throwing down of the gauntlet in retaliation to all those pub night boasts. :-)
Receiving a magazine every month throughout the year is a gift that keeps on giving
Poles are another great aid to trail runners and they are available in incredibly light materials, many also collapsing down to short sections which can then be easily attached to the pack. These are on the more expensive range of 'stocking filler' but might buy you enough brownie points to mean you do not have to do the cooking on the 25th of December.
Gaiters for running shoes are a great gift, and now that they no longer only come in black you can help the receiver create a colourful wardrobe. Waa Ultra offer a range that will keep sand and grit from filling up your running shoes. I have a few of these and love that they take up very little space in my rucksack which means they are always carried and then simply whipped out when required.
Gaiters are not what they used to be!
Hiking has been around for a while. I doubt, however, that cave dwellers were on line shopping for the latest accessory. Today it's hiking heaven in outdoor shops. At one time the hiker had to be content with badly cut, often baggy, outdoor clothing. Not the best example of trendy but 'fit for purpose' gear that the British fashion industry has produced.
Personally, I find it hard to browse in an outdoor shop and not come out with something novel and new that I usually, mistakenly, thought I really needed.
Whether winter or summer, hydration keeps featuring and last year I was interested to see my guests using silicon water containers with filters. This meant that in the intense heat on the Corsica GR20 route, where we needed a lot of fluid, they could stop at any stream, and fill up and drink immediately. The particular soft flask they were using was Katadyn, no need to pump the water through the filter, you simply fill up and start drinking.
High tech gifts for those who love technology could be solar panel chargers, or charge banks for a phone. Many hikers now use their smart phones as a means of navigation which is all very well until the battery runs out and then where are you - literally? Here is the disclaimer we always recommend a map and compass! But if you do use your smart phone for map reading you might like these ideas.
PowerTraveller produce a range off solar items including power packs that attach directly to the phone
From the point of view of being environmentally friendly you are not using electricity and using instead the free source of the sun. Power as you go! Keeping your phone from being smashed as it plummets from your hand while taking a shot on the trail is another consideration. I use a Vena phone case, which also has storage on the back for credit cards etc. I have dropped it many, many times and my phone remains undamaged. It gets my vote.
Staying with techie things you cannot beat a good head torch, even if you never use it on the trail but only in the mountain hut as you wobble your way to the outside loos during the night, you should keep one in your rucksack. Many now use their mobile phones instead of a torch, but your phone battery is better kept for emergencies rather than finding your way on the trail. In fact if you are trying to find your way some where, you most certainly want to know your phone is not 'flat'.
The Black Diamond Storm is a good buy for price and performance
Black Diamond launched a new range of head lamps for 2022 with better specs and new features, but they are just one of many manufacturers. Now you can also buy a head torch with a rechargeable battery such as the Petzl Actik Core. You just connect a micro usb and charge, the downside is you need to know you do have access to electricity or a power pack as mentioned above.
Stocking fillers also include sun hats, energy bars and gels, head bands, fancy laces for boots, miniature first aid kits for those days when you are just nipping out for an hour and don't want to carry a full on first aid box.
Finally, something for anyone who enjoys a good read and enjoys a giggle. If Gondolas Could Talk, is the new offering from John Hemming Clark. 101 superlative short ski stories from the snowy slopes and beyond, featuring pop stars, royalty, MP's but mostly people like you and me.
Hopefully we have given you some ideas and reduced the headache factor. Enjoy shopping!