It’s Thanksgiving Week! Which means Black Friday sales are coming up. And Shop Local events, too. Instead of shopping on Black Friday, I’ll be participating in Fresh Air Friday, along with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Great Outdoors Colorado, and a number of outdoor retailers who have committed to closing their stores and encouraging everyone to get outside and enjoy the outdoors.
While I won’t be shopping on Black Friday, it doesn’t mean that people are ditching holiday shopping for their outdoor enthusiast friends and family. At some point, people are going to start going through gear guides for gift inspiration.
Well, do I have some inspiration for you!
All during 2016 I’ve been gear testing a whole bunch of items on each and every adventure I’ve been on – spring, summer, fall, and winter; local hikes and on my epic four National Parks backpacking trip. With the holidays here and people left wondering what to get their favorite outdoor adventurer, a number of these items I’ve tested and use myself have been included in one big gear guide here on Fresh Air Fort Collins.
Alright, let’s get to it!
Touted to keep liquids cold for 36 hours, and hot up to 8 hours, EcoVessel is the Boulder-based equivalent of YETI drinkwear. I took this bottle with me on boating and camping trips at Horsetooth, and it has been a regular desk-side water bottle for me this year.
I’ve found that it doesn’t really keep liquids cold for 36 hours. A day, sure. But that’s about it, and I find that to be sufficient. I think the removable ice/fruit/tea strainer is a pretty unique and handy feature, too. It’s nice to take a sip of ice water without getting a mouth full of ice.
However, what I do like, and like a lot, is the sustainability focus of this product. The bottles are made from premium 18/8 stainless steel, are BPA and phthalate free and are recyclable. A socially conscious company that makes a commitment to give back, EcoVessel maintains a partnership with Water For People, a nonprofit that helps build safe and clean water facilities in underdeveloped countries.
This is a great gift for people who want to support sustainable products and local Colorado businesses at the same time.
Performance Bicycle Sportswear
It might be a Fort Collins sin to admit that I don’t ride my bike as much as I probably should, especially after reading Pedal Fort Collins, a sister site in the network. When we lived in Oregon I was on my mountain bike regularly, riding trails by my house and in the hills. Since living in Colorado, I don’t ride as much for various reasons – like generally not enjoying a bruised rear.
Performance Bicycle right here in Fort Collins has a variety of cycling wear to keep you cool, or padded, as the case may be. I’ve been wearing their shorts with cushioned liner and it has made a significant difference in comfort. I’ve also been hitting the trails in their sleeveless jersey with back pockets, which are handy for keeping your phone and wallet.
This is a fantastic option to keep the cycling fan in your family comfortable.
Rockin’ out in a hammock has been a growing trend for campers and backpackers for the last few years, and it’s only getting more popular. I’m a HUGE fan of chillin’ in my hammock by the river on an afternoon break, or at the end of a long hike.
I have a hammock, but I jimmy rigged a suspension system with nylon ropes. Knot tying isn’t that hard, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought until my ass came crashing down in the dirt during a camping trip in Pingree. Shortly after that I got set up with some Hangtime straps.
Hangtime has a strap suspension system stronger than the popular ENO Atlas straps. I took these out on my National Parks backpacking trip, and they were perfect. So easy to set up, sturdy without slipping or shearing the bark on the trunk, and lightweight enough that they didn’t add too much to the pack, although they are bulky and take up too much space for backpacking. They also come with carabiners which make setup a snap.
Learn from my mistakes – nylon ropes aren’t enough. Get yourself some proper hammock straps.
Mountain States Foraging Book
After writing the Wildflower Bloom Cycle Guide here on Fresh Air last year, I have been obsessed with flower identification, and now it is paired with a growing interest in foraging. I think it would be the coolest to be able to forage for some ingredients to add to a camping meal or a backpacking trip for some additional forest flavor.
I’ve wanted to get in on some of The Growing Project’s foraging classes, but haven’t been able to fit them in my schedule. So, getting my learn-on from guides and other resources has been my starting point. Briana Wiles authored Mountain States Foraging, which is an extensive resource to help you find 115 outdoor edibles.
Not only does Briana highlight which plants to avoid, but she includes sustainable foraging practices, tips on where to find items, and how to preserve foraged ingredients as well. I found her recipe suggestions to be incredibly unique – like the forest cocktail of aspen, licorice root, rosehips, sweet clover, and cherry bark bitters to mix with rum, gin or whiskey. Add in a little simple syrup of spruce, pine or fir for a woodsy drink! How cool is that!?
This is a very easy-to-use guide with beautiful clear photos for identification. I did find that my prior wildflower identification skills were a huge help before starting this. And while the book is super useful, it’s too large to fit into a pack for on-the-spot identification on the trail. It’s best for camping and trying to find items nearby until your knowledge base grows. And if you’re all about supporting local business, this book is available at Old Firehouse Books in Old Town, and Golden Poppy Apothecary on North College.
This is the perfect book for the forest foodie in your life!
There may be fewer things more intoxicating than the scent of trees in the Colorado subalpine. It gives me a rush, an honest to god Rocky Mountain High. I love it. The days that I’m stressed the most are the days I know I need to get out there to breathe in some trees.
Abbott creates adventure-inspired cologne that captures the essence of the outdoors in a bottle. They have four scents influenced by four different adventure destinations, one of them being Telluride. Apparently the essence of Telluride smells like suede, sandalwood, and tonka bean (I can get behind that).
The Husband has been wearing a rotation of all four fragrances as Abbott has home try-on kits that allow you to test all of the options before settling on your favorite. He thinks they all smell the same. I think they all smell amazing, each one with a slight variation from the next. And they definitely add some spice to the attraction scale, if you know what I mean.
This is an excellent gift for the outdoor guy in your circle who cleans up well off the trail.
If there’s one place that epitomizes Fort Collins style, it’s Akinz. Sure, there’s outdoor wear and athletic wear everywhere, but if you’re looking for more of a homegrown Colorado adventure-influenced street style, Akinz is your place.
My kids had custom-made Akinz beanies when they were tiny toddlers, and most recently, I instantly fell in love with the Wanderer trucker hats that recently hit their shelves. It seems like we’ve always had something from Akinz in the house!
There’s something for everyone here – whether you’re looking to stay warm, cool, or cute with some Fort Collins flair. Anything from their store in the heart of Old Town will make an awesome gift for a true Fort Collins fan, or the person who moved away and misses being a part of the city.
Whether you’re in the gym or on the trail, everyone needs a good set of earphones. And with the recent news of iPhone 7 coming out without phone jacks and forcing people to go wireless, a lot of people are going to be in the market for a new set.
Decibullz is a Colorado-based business that won the Blue Ocean Challenge a few years back and has been growing and innovating ever since. They offer custom molded earphones and earplugs that are true to the unique fit of a person’s ear.
You simply warm up the molds in warm-ish water, and insert into your ear for the right fit. I have to admit, it took me some time to get used to getting these in my ear again after they were molded. Getting the earbud to work around the ear ridges was a trick. After a while, I figured out the best way to angle and insert so they’d stay in, and once I got that down, they were there to stay.
Also, you can re-mold them if you need to. Sometimes people leave them in the sun and they warp, but it’s an easy fix.
I wear these when I hit the gym, and they are fantastic for running on the treadmill. These suckers don’t budge and things sound pretty good (not a whole lot of bass, but equivalent to most earbuds). Plus, they are noise-cancelling! That feature is something I appreciate.
So if you have a music fan freaking out about the wireless earbud transition, they’ll love you forever with a pair of these.
Ok, this one is for the geekiest of gear geeks. Nite Ize (again, another Boulder-based business) has just about everything for the outdoor gadget collector. Hardware items include things like gear ties, S-biners, and an awesome gearline organization system. I have a whole slew of gear ties and s-biners from them. An outdoor gear junkie cannot have enough of these! They’re great for backpacking trips when you need to strap stuff to the outside of your pack, or when you need a quick fix for securing something.
They also have LED lights and lanterns. I have their rechargeable headlamp and rechargeable lantern, which have been the highest lumen items I’ve owned yet. Man, they are not messing around. These are some bright lights! The coolest thing about the rechargeable lantern is that it also doubles as a charging station for other small devices, like your phone. And I also really love the red LED mode for better night vision.
Aside from these gear essentials, we also have their LED light-up flying disc for the kids. It’s a lot of fun in the summer.
So, if you need some stocking stuffer ideas, Nite Ize is neat business to check out!
Sea to Summit
Sea to Summit is one of the companies that I was considering in my Great Sleeping Bag Research. Their Trek TK II was what I was going to buy, but both REI and Sierra Trading Post didn’t have it in store. So I had to go with a next-best option.
While Sea to Summit is best known for water repellant sleep systems, they have so much more in their product list. I have their Tek-Towel, a quick drying microfiber towel that is excellent for camping trips.
I also have a dry bag, a day pack, and their shopping bag. I love these for when we go boating at Horsetooth and have an option to put wet towels and clothes in. The day pack is great for the gym, too. The perfect option for sweaty gym clothes.
Have a water-lover in your life that needs some specialized weather and water gear? Then this is where you should look.
In preparation for my backpacking trip, I needed to find a better set of boots that would sustain my feet for high-mileage under heavier pack weight. I have not been able to get my pack under 40 pounds, and my feet were blistering with regularity. I didn’t think I could do much about it until I wrote about blister prevention. After that article, I got a pair of Asolo boots and some Superfeet insoles. I have not had a blister since!
Footwear is a very individual purchase, and what works for one person may not work for another. However, these boots have been great to me and have held up over a whole lot of mileage this year. I love them.
This certainly isn’t the last of the gear that I’m currently testing – I have more in the works and more gear reviews for you in the spring! But I hope this helps to give you some ideas of what to get your outdoor friends and family this holiday season. You can shop for some of these items through the outdoor store links on the sidebar. Your purchases help kick back some gas money to Fresh Air Fort Collins!