When I walk into the local outdoor retailers, I feel like a kid in a candy store. And apparently this runs in the family, because my son recently asked if we can spend the afternoon making his Christmas wish list by snapping iPhone photos of all the gear he would like.
That led me to ask the gear experts at Mast General Store and Great Outdoor Provision Company for some items in a variety of price ranges that outdoor enthusiasts might like this holiday season.
One of the most popular items I have seen on the trail is the Helinox Chair One ($100) and Chair Zero ($120) backpacking chairs. At two pounds and one pound, respectively, these compact chairs easily fit in or on a backpack and provide users a seat off the hard ground after a long day’s hike.
Patagonia has introduced a line of food products called Patagonia Provisions that includes seed packets, energy bars, dehydrated meals, buffalo jerky, mussels and smoked salmon. The food follows the same company concept of protecting the land and environment through responsible farming and sustainable fishing. Products range from $2.50 for seed packages and energy bars to $14 for smoked salmon.
Another popular item from Patagonia is their Better Sweater. This 100 percent polyester fleece knit sweater comes in men’s and women’s styles with ¼–length zip ($99), full-length zip ($139) and full-length zip vest ($99).
The Mast and Great Outdoor both offer a full line of American-made, merino wool socks from Smartwool, Darn Tough and Mount Airy-based Farm to Feet. Merino wool is a naturally antimicrobial which means backpackers can wear them multiple days before needing to change. Wool also absorbs up to 35-percent more sweat than synthetics and cotton before moisture is noticeable. Prices range from $15 for Mast’s holiday two-pack to the mid-$20s, depending on style.
A can’t-miss for those heading off to college are ENO hammocks. The basic SuperSub hammock comes in two sizes — a Singlenest ($60) for one or Doublenest ($70) for two. There’s also a lighter Sub6 model in each size which appeals to minimalist backpackers. ENO also offers a variety of accessories including straps, bug nets, rainflys and LED lightstrings.
Whether on the trail or in the classroom or office, water bottles, coffee mugs and hydration packs are always a popular choice. Hydro Flask, Klean Kanteen, Nalgene and Camelback offer a variety of sizes and new colors. HydraPak makes ultra-lightweight, collapsible water bladders for backpackers to transport water.
Looking for stocking stuffers? Take a look at the French-made Opinel pocket knives. These nostalgic knives feature a tight-grained hardwood handle with a twist lock and come in both carbon and stainless steel models. Depending on the size, basic models range between $10-20 with more decorative models reaching up to $100. Opinel also offers kitchen sets and wine openers.
Lights are also popular stocking stuffers. Both stores feature the 220-lumen Nebo’s LEO Light LED bar ($15) on their checkout counters, and the folks at Mast say Nebo’s FlipIt 2-pack ($15) is one of their best sellers during the holidays.
Disc golf enthusiasts will find a variety of drivers, putters and mid-range discs $10-$20.
And if you are looking for something to carry all your gear, take a look at the line of Cotopaxi daypacks and duffels. These brightly colored bags are made from recycled materials, and the company donates 2 percent of their revenue to poverty reduction.
If you are looking for a good all-purpose sleeping bag, consider the NEMO Disco 30 ($260 at GOPC). This lightweight bag features 650-down fill with a waterproof toe box, a draft blanket at the collar to keep heat in and thermo gills that let out excess heat on milder nights.
Don’t forget Fido — both stores offer a variety of Ruffwear harnesses (sizes XXXS to XL) and dog packs along with accessories like ChuckIt! ball launchers.