Holiday Gift Guide | Staff Picks
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Struggling to find that perfect something for that special someone on your holiday gift list? Don’t worry, we’ve got you. Whether you’re seeking something awesome for an adventure athlete, understated style for the urban roamer, or outstanding quality for outdoor explorations, our holiday gift guide staff picks will help you find it…
Tom Bihn Truck
The Tom Bihn Truck is my absolute favorite do-all, do-everything tote. I keep several on hand, and not just because I like collecting the wide range of colors Tom Bihn offers these in, but because I find myself always reaching for one. One stays in my car as an organizer for my dog and mountain bike essentials. One (or two) stays by the door to grab for market runs. I even keep another set around that I use for weekend trips; stashing an extra pair of boots, a wool blanket, a folded-up jacket, and more.
If you want to carry even more, Tom Bihn offers the Monster Truck – a good size increase over the standard Truck. While the Truck is more convenient, I often find the Monster Truck even more useful.
Nathan Polarized Adventure Sunglasses
These are my new favorite not-afraid-to-destroy glasses. Not that you could anyway; they’re made with a super comfortable, flexible, and durable TR90 thermoplastic. At $50 these glasses punch way above their weight, offering features like prescription compatibility, polarized lenses, no-slip nose pads, and ANSI-rated impact resistance. You could easily compare these to glasses twice their price, or more, and I’d bet you’d choose the Nathans every time.
Nathan offers these in various styles and colors – choose your favorite.
Nocs Zoom Tube
Before I got the Zoom Tube from Nocs, I never kept any type of magnifying glass in my kit; not even for hiking. I honestly never realized how much I was missing out on by not taking a few moments to enjoy the world around me, rather than just trudging forward. The Zoom Tube brought a welcome change to that. It’s small and light, so I never mind keeping it on me. And I love that it can be used in conjunction with the Peak Design Capture Clip – another one of my favorite bits. This way it stays at the ready so you don’t have to go searching for it every time you want to check out the view.
The Zoom Tube comes in a ton of fun colors. And you can even hold it up to your phone’s camera to get some long-distance shots.
Benchmade Station Knife
Benchmade has been perfecting Made In America goods for the past 30 years. But what many don’t know is that the founder’s son, Les, has been focused on creating a cutlery line for a number of years. It’s surprising how rare of a feat this is; for an EDC knife company to bring their blade expertise into the home is harder than it sounds. While this might be pushing it price-wise, their new Station Knife holds a firm spot on my holiday gift guide.
Working with Chef Kyle Mendenhall as well as their team of metallurgists and expert materials and finishing experts in Oregon City, the Station Knife is a do-it-all chef’s knife the likes of which we’ve never seen before. At first glance, the shape seems like a combination of a western Gyuto with the pointy tip but also a Chinese cleaver with the large flat sides. It defaults to a CPM-154 steel and is precision ground to a 14-degree inclusive angle, which is much thinner and thus sharper than typical EDC blades. It’s very lightweight for the size of the knife and excellently balanced. For a make-it-your-own twist, you can customize it with 700 different combinations of blade steels and handle materials. This is truly a buy-it-for-life, single chef’s knife that can do it all in the kitchen.
prAna North Palisade Jacket
I am headed to Boston this winter and could use a new puffy jacket. If you don’t have one in your quiver, consider the latest release from prAna. Their North Palisade features a mid-fill of sustainable down, making it a great Goldilocks jacket for fall through spring. The exterior is coated in DWR which means water wicks off, but make sure you still pack an umbrella or dedicated rain shell if you expect to be in a downpour for extended periods. There are five colorways available for men but the one that really caught my eye is the Black Olive Colorblock. As an added bonus, the company is well into their Responsible Packaging Movement which aims to eliminate plastic from their consumer packaging by 2021, with loftier goals in the coming years.
Ibex Woolies Tech Long Sleeve Crew
Nothing travels or wears better than merino wool. And not many companies have the history or expertise that Ibex does when it comes to nature’s miracle material. Their new Woolies Tech Long Sleeve doubles as a lounge or sleep top but is really geared towards all-day comfort. The nylon core merino was chosen for durability and the optional thumb-holes make for easy layering and use with gloves. At its core it’s a merino base layer so you get all the benefits: moisture wicking, odor control, it’s less itchy, and it’s renewable.
Garmin fenix 6 Pro Solar
Is there an adventure athlete in your life you really…REALLY like? Or maybe you messed up and are looking to make amends in a big way…and also won the lottery. The Garmin fenix 6 Pro Solar edition qualifies as a bit more than just a stocking stuffer. But it’s stuffed with features that everyone who likes to get outside will appreciate.
A previous model, the fenix 3, has been on my wrist 24/7 for the past 4 years and has endured everything from multi-day adventure races to accidentally getting run over by a car and still looks no worse for wear.
So what do you get in a smart watch that costs almost a full kilo? Besides the awesome sport tracking capabilities that Garmin has always been known for, you get full-color topo maps, turn-by-turn directions, sport-specific features like ski tracking and mountain bike metrics, and options that let you leave your phone at home like contactless payment and downloadable music for offline listening.
So if you’re looking for that killer gift for a REALLY special someone, or maybe a bit of a “treat yo’self” pre-holiday purchase, check out the fenix series for a watch that will make you think to yourself, “Wow, I just spent several hundred dollars on a watch, I’d better go do something epic”.
Outlier Futureyes Pants
I recently received my first Outlier piece of apparel and am now a believer. The fit and comfort of their tee have left me wondering about their pants and other items. The new Futureyes Pants look to be made for someone like me who spends time traveling and working from home. With a loose and comfortable fit, elastic waist, and lightweight fabric these pants could be the ultimate versatile garment to add to my daily rotation.
You never know how the weather may change while traveling so the DWR treatment may come in handy to keep the pants clean and dry. The material looks to be durable to withstand daily use. I’m a sucker for pants with a little bit of stretch, especially while on photo assignments. The only downside looks to be the lack of storage with only a couple of pockets. But while at home it’s perfect, and while on the go a pack or sling would pair nicely. The toughest decision would be which of the six colors to choose…my personal favorite is the dark olive.
Prometheus Design Werx Stratus Down Hoodie
Winter season is coming so a good insulation layer would be a welcome addition to any outdoorsman’s wardrobe. The new Stratus Hoodie by Prometheus Design Werx ticks all the boxes to be the perfect adventure down insulation. The outer material is 20D Stretch Nylon with DWR treatment for light drizzle conditions in autumn or snow during the winter season. Inside you’ll find premium 800 fill power goose down (RDS Certified) and also with DWR – a state-of-the-art Dupont treatment with antimicrobial Silvadur for peace of mind. It’ll work in any conditions and won’t stink or rot even when wet. The zippers are YKK reverse coils for better protection from the elements.
There are several aspects of this puffy jacket that I like, but 3 of them make it perfect for me:
1. Stitchless down baffles – this is how the modern and most thermally-effective puffy jackets are made. No stitching means no thermal bridges and no loss of warmth.
2. Brushed tricot inside the hood and in the neck area – on a chilly day the next-to-skin feeling on the face is just super soft and cozy. A classic nylon liner inside a hood feels cold on skin contact so the tricot is most welcome here. It may sound small, but the difference when you’re up in the mountains on a cold winter morning is significant. And you know what? It works equally well when you’re walking a dog at 6 AM in December. So yeah, I really love this feature.
3. Pockets! Lots of pockets. Two handwarmer pockets are also tricot-lined, so they are REALLY handwarmer pockets. There’s a Napoleon pocket on the chest, plus an inside pocket for valuables. The latter one could be called a “warm pocket” as well as it’s located next to the body, under an insulating layer. It is perfect for storing spare camera batteries or a smartphone – nothing kills a battery as fast as serious frost.
All in all, it’s my favorite down hoodie of them all so far. It’s lightweight, not too thick, and breathes well – so in a blizzard it could be used also as a mid-layer with a hardshell on. It packs really small, and last but not least I absolutely like the travel pillow-shaped bag that PDW provides with the Stratus Hoodie – that is ingenious!
GiantMouse ACE Nimbus V2
As an adventurer, I can’t imagine going outdoors without a good cutting tool in my pocket. GiantMouse might be still a newcomer in the knife industry, but the knifemakers behind it are among the most sought after – Jesper Voxnaes and Jens Ansø, both coming from Denmark and both with worldwide recognition. And if there’s one knife in the GiantMouse range that is fully dedicated for outdoor use, it is the Nimbus. With a 3-inch blade, it’s big enough for most outdoor duties dedicated to a folder. But it’s also compact enough to be carried as a true EDC (Every Day Carry) when exploring the great outdoors. Elmax steel has a strong reputation as a premium blade material – it’s tough and stays sharp for a long time, so sharpening won’t be your daily duty when camping in the backcountry.
The micarta handle has a warm organic feel to it and stays grippy even when wet; both aspects are more than welcome during the cold season. The lanyard hole is quite generous, while the wire clip is reversible for right and left hand and set for semi-deep carry. The Nimbus is not excessively visible in a pocket, but the handle is partially exposed for quick and easy deployment – in outdoor use accessibility is key. Full liners add rigidity and protect the edges of the micarta scales if the knife is dropped on the rocky ground, etc. And last but not least it runs on heavy-duty bronze washers instead of ball bearings (as other GiantMouse folders do). This makes it much more durable and jam-proof even if covered with dirt, mud, sand, and what have you.
The opening action is easy, even with gloved hands, thanks to a big opening hole. The regular shape of the Nimbus handle works well in multiple grips so it can be easily used for most bushcraft cutting tasks. A stainless liner locks the blade firmly and with a positive ‘clack’ sound, so you know exactly when the knife is open and ready for work. I’ve been using my old Nimbus V1 for years and last winter I switched to the new upgraded variant with a fully 3D sculptured micarta handle. So I know that the ACE Nimbus is a good tool for an outdoor enthusiast.
Also, I’ve heard that the new color and blade finish variant is coming soon to the GiantMouse website, just in time for delivery before the Christmas holidays. So if you plan to spend that time in the backcountry, I couldn’t recommend the Nimbus V2 more. It’s a full-blown outdoor folder, which fits fine in a pocket.
For my picks, I chose some items that have really enhanced my mobile existence over the last couple of months! These allow me to be more streamlined and comfortable on the move.
Peak Design Mobile Tripod
Peak Design are known for their ingenious approach to products that we all think we know and love. They take them apart, and reshape them into something functional and beautiful. They did it with their everyday bags, their camera straps, and their travel tripod. They’ve taken their learnings from those and put them into their newest venture – the mobile line.
There is a whole assortment of mounts and attachments in the line for day-to-day use – ranging from phone cases and wallets to car and cycle mounts. All of these are excellent in their own right, but the one that has really caught my attention in testing is the mobile tripod. This slender (0.5cm thick) magnetic tripod is unlike anything else on the market. A fully articulating micro ballhead (with adjustable tension via the included tool!) has anti-slip feet and can be used in either landscape or portrait orientation.
I’ve found it to be useful for video calls, long exposure photography, and media viewing. It can work with any phone (either through MagSafe or a case) – so I expect to see a lot of these on the back of phones soon!
Fox and Leo Slimline Glasses Case
If you’re a glasses wearer like me, you’ll know that carrying them around is one of the worst parts! I’m always flip-flopping between my sunglasses and my dailys and I hate pulling a big clunky case out to do it. Thanks to Fox and Leo, those frustrations are behind me. This leather case is incredibly slim (5mm height!) and houses most glasses easily. A microfiber liner keeps your lenses safe from harm, while the magnetic opening and closure make for a swift, secure transfer. The outer is ever so slightly curved to hold your glasses securely. In use, this glasses case can go just about anywhere in a bag, a jacket, or even your pants pocket. This is a solution to a ‘problem’ that I’ve been dealing with for years, and I couldn’t be happier!
Snow Peak Titanium Curved Flask
This is one of my personal favorite products ever made. Any category. All time. Why? Well first of all, it’s handsome, beautiful, timeless, and perfect. Secondly, it’s made from titanium. Sure, I dig titanium (a lot), but there’s a reason to have a flask made of titanium. Your favorite high proof spirit won’t leech chemicals from titanium (unlike lesser metals… which can actually get pretty dangerous after a few days). Plus, it won’t leave a weird taste in your fancy booze. Lastly, it’s made in Japan by Snow Peak, so you can trust that you’re purchasing something quality for life.
Arc’teryx Hedron Toque
I was pretty hesitant when I saw the price for this one. But after having used this 100% merino wool beanie in Iceland for two weeks in some brutally bitter cold weather, I am converted. This thing looks great in an urban environment, unlike some that are really focused on shouting “I am made for the outdoors only” kinds of vibes. It’s super soft and comfortable. And most importantly, it’s incredibly warm, breathable, moisture-wicking, and doesn’t get stinky when you sweat in it. Merino wool is magic and the Hedron Toque is magical.
Glerups The Shoe
Another standout from our recent Iceland trip. Out of all the high-end, performance, extreme weather, badass gear that I brought along… I didn’t expect this bit of kit to rise to the top as one of my favorite items for the entire trip. I used these things every day. In rain, in wind, in ice, in deep snow. There’s almost nothing worse than waking up in your tent at 6 AM, the mercury sitting well below freezing, and you need to lace up your boots just to hop outside to go pee. Pop your feet into some cozy wool Glerups and you’re out the (zippered) door in no time. Now, I essentially live in these incredible shoes. They’re like little warm hugs for my feet.
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