Quality Gifts for The Outdoorsy Woman
My first backpacking trip was with a yoga mat, a borrowed tent, flip flops, and a hilariously inappropriate school backpack filled with sweet potatoes I grew. Wow, why didn’t someone stop me? I had an uncomfortable time, and I inconvenienced the other hikers with my unpreparedness. I learned the hard way that gear is crazy important. I’ve spent the last five years hiking the Appalachian Trail, backpacking Europe, trekking with my dog, and volunteering on farms. I’ve amassed quite the list of gear that has served me well, and my trip quality has improved because of it. I actually enjoy getting lost in the woods now. So, whether you’re shopping for a loved one or for yourself, the gift guide below has something for everyone.
A note about gift giving:
There is a lot of waste in gifting. Cards are usually thrown away, often we are given things we don’t want or need, and small novelty items are a waste of resources and are likely to be made by underpaid laborers. What is the shelf life of gift we give to others or to ourselves? What is the value? I don’t mean monetary value, I mean life value. Does it add joy, fix a problem, or improve life in any way? Practical gifts save money in the long run, save resources, and can improve our lives.
When we spend money as an investment, especially an investment in things that will be used, our lives become curated to help us instead of hinder us.
(All of the brandslisted below I either personally use, have been in close contact with, or I’ve done research on them before promoting them.)
My very first camp purchase was a hammock. On the backpacking trip mentioned above, all of my friends were comfortably rocking to sleep amongst the trees while I enviously tried to ignore the roots digging into my back. As soon as I came home from the trip, I went straight to the camp store and bought my first hammock, an ENO DoubleNest. (I also have to upgraded to these hammock straps that are tree friendly). It was an is an awesome beginner friendly hammock from Eagles Nest Outfitters, a company that started in a van. How fun is that? They sold hammocks along the East Coast of America until their business became too big for the van. Then they planted hammocking roots in Asheville, North Carolina in my home state. (Yay, local businesses)! I lived out of this hammock while hiking the entire state of Georgia on the Appalachian Trail, and it was my cozy home each night. The DoubleNest is big enough to share the fun and fit two people inside, and, maybe this is too much information, but I definitely was very near to a couple getting it on in their hammock during the infamous first backpacking I went on. I also hung up my hammock in the Copenhagen Airport the night I had a flight that left at an awkward time, and I hitchhiked my way there. You can read my hitchhiking tips here.
The handiest thing I own is a headlamp, and I mean that. I keep mine the bag I carry out with me all the time. I use it for just about everything, or maybe actually everything. I use it to read in bed at night on dim, so that I can see but don’t have a light shining in my eye. I used it to create a lantern out of my Nalgene water bottle living in a shed in Norway when I need a better source of light. I use the red-light feature to read when I visit my grandparents, and I don’t want to disturb them with the light. Possibly most importantly, I use my headlamp to keep me safe in the dark while I’m hiking. I knew the importance of a good headlamp from a hiking trip I went on where every person had a headlamp except me. (Seriously, these people should have stopped me). Because of this experience, I did my research before purchasing and settled on the Black Diamond Storm Headlamp with no regrets. At 350 Lumens, there’s almost nothing that can’t be illuminated. In case you don’t speak headlamp, that’s really fucking bright. It has a strobe feature, ultra-bright settings, flood lights, a very hand red light, and it’s waterproof! This is such an awesome way to upgrade your life experience or someone else’s with ultra-convenient light.
Believe it or not, this water bottle travel story comes from Italy. I was being a good water drinker and bringing my water bottle absolutely everywhere with me. I was drinking Tequila for the first time ever, and I was at a small festival. I met a girl named Georgia that brought me to a bar to have a drink with her, and, to my embarrassment, I dropped my knock-off Nalgene water bottle onto the floor. It shattered into hundreds of tiny pieces like glass, and I had, had one too many shots of tequila to properly clean up my mess. Ugh. What a disaster! As soon as I got back to America, I bought a proper Nalgene water bottle. It made such a gigantic difference. This water bottle is absolutely indestructible. I’ve dropped it numerous times, retrieved it from a raging river, accidentally left it on top of my car, and purposefully done yoga on top of it as a prop. It will probably outlive you. In this world of disposable, this is one thing made to last.
These blankets are on the top of my wishlist. I am constantly wrapping them around me when I get the chance. Even though I haven’t personally taken the plunge to purchase one of these, you can take my word for how awesome they are. The Orignal Printed Puffy is only 2lbs and is like a giant puffy jacket crafted into blanket form. So. Nice. The down blankets are lightweight and pack-able. Can you imagine having a blanket that can go from trail to plane or couch to a deep in the jungle hotel? Rumpl has solved an amazing problem explorers didn’t even know they needed solving. Also, the color selection they have is amazing. Whether you live in a van, out of a backpack, or in New York City you’ll enjoy having a blanket that can travel with you.
This one is for the solo female traveler that has taken a lover. (Good for you)! If you’re buy this as a gift for a significant other, it is highly likely you’ll be invited into the the sleeping bag. Big Agnes is no new player in the gear world, and they make amazing products. Ideally, this would be an amazing gift to surprise someone in your life that would like to get a little cozier in the outdoors. Who wouldn’t? My dog and I sleep in the same sleeping bag when we travel and camp. I find it cozy, but even my dog would prefer a little extra space. Tandem sleeping bags are for every kind of outdoorsy pair. At less than 2.5lbs and rated down to 30 degrees, Big Agnes makes a damn good one.
The MSR Flylite was my first ultralight purchase, and there is no going back into the world of heavy gear. I love my hammock set-up, but the weight of it isn’t always practical. This single-walled, 3 season tent is only 1lb 9oz. With some practice pitching and two trekking poles, you’ll have the lightest tent around. I was originally swayed by it’s beautiful blue color, and I’ve been happy with it for years. It’s so small and packable, it could even be strapped to a daypack as a carry-on. In countries like Norway and Sweden that encourage camping just about anywhere, this would be a valuable tent to bring.
If you’re a little less hardcore about the weight of your tent, the Hubba Bubba, also made by MSR, is an excellent choice. It’s less than 4lbs, has a large vestibule, and there’s plenty of room to fit two people and sit up comfortably. I’ve played cards in this tent and cuddled dogs in this tent. As a woman that travels, I can say I would be absolutely delighted to receive this as a gift. It’s a light tent that doesn’t seem like a light tent. It feels sturdy and homey to sleep in. If this is going to be your home for a night, or a gift for someone that may call it home for months, it will be a cozy one.
There’s nothing worse than buying a jacket to keep you warm, and discovering it’s not actually warm. This jacket will have no such surprises. I bought it after discovering I didn’t own anything that was actually warm. I took it to Colorado on a layover flight in winter not even realizing that it would be snowing. I was toasty warm. I wore it to the Grand Canyon at sunset, and I was the only person actually prepared and warm in the group I was with. The other people had to buy coats at the gift shop! It has a handy secret pocket on the inside, and it can stuff into one of the pockets for better packing. I love this jacket. Best gift I’ve gifted myself in a while.
Fjällräven has been making backpacks since the 1950’s, and I somehow made it through 21 years of life without discovering this amazing company. During my time in Norway, I grew incredibly fond of these backpacks. Almost every single person from business professionals to school kids carried one around. Built around the motto, “Straight backs are happy backs,” these backpacks have decades of tested design behind them. Each one is made of superior materials and has the potential to span generations of carrying your belongings on your back. The Classic Kånken is made from vegan friendly materials. From the horses mouth, Fjällräven says, “Wherever possible we use organic, renewable and recycled materials. We also prioritise traceable natural materials. And, of course, a material that lasts is better than one you have to replace after a winter or two.” Don’t you love a company that has high standards? If you want to purchase an even more sustainable product from this very cool Swedish company, the Re-Kånken is made from 11 recycled water bottles!
Part of shopping sustainably and ethically is also shopping small! These two outdoor themed items are perfect for traveling or sprucing up the home. Both of the shop sellers have multiple options available for the mugs and sleep masks! These are perfect for a gift that is still purchased from an artisan, but is without a hefty price tag. No matter what your relation is to the recipient, either of these (or both), would be appropriate for the adventurer in your life.
Whoever you have in mind for these awesome outdoorsy items, thank you for taking the time to consider lessening your footprint around gift-giving by purchasing items that will actually get used. If you’re here to inspire gifts for yourself, I totally get it. There’s nothing more satisfying than investing in yourself, and that includes the things you use every day. They can either add value or de-value your daily life. Add items in your life that will add value. No happy moment is insignificant. If you can sleep more soundly because of your tent, have extra cuddles in a tandem sleeping bag, sip hot chocolate from a fun mug, or finally get some sleep on an airplane because of a sleep mask with whimsical deer on it, that is something that adds value to your life. Happy travels!