Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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As a family advocate for the outdoors, FrogMom spends a lot of time in nature with her children, hiking and backpacking through the seasons. In 2016, we have tested a lot of really cool gear for the outdoors but not all have been retained for this list. Some, unfortunately, didn’t live up to our expectations and lasted only one trip. To be fair to my readers and save them the same trouble, I’ve decided to only mention the products and gear that lasted the distance and that can make the outdoorsy family in your life happy. Without further ado, the best hiking and backpacking gifts of 2016!
* This post contains affiliate links.
As soon as it starts drizzling on an iPhone or as soon as it starts getting damp (waterfall, seaside), it’s game over for pictures and videos. I love how light and easy to use this waterproof case is, to take pics whatever the weather and even underwater (I’ve used it swimming a few times and even done underwater videos with fun aquatic sounds).
Cheap, lightweight and compact, this firesteel makes the best stocking filler for outdoor enthusiasts. Firesteel is a low-cost and efficient option to create sparks and light a fire anywhere, even in the rain and in the snow. Where matches get wet, firesteel still creates sparks and I can attest to its efficiency. Last winter, we had a blast with my girls using home-made lint firestarters to light a fire in a snowed-in forest. It took us 5 minutes to understand how to position the blade to get sparks but once we did, boy were we in business. Totally recommend this firesteel for hiking and camping.
Some hikers and backpackers love to carry their own cup for hydrating in the outdoors. I’m one of those. As much as I love tin cups (and I do love them), they’re bulky and the paint can chip when hitting rough surfaces. I absolutely love the concept of this folding cup that doesn’t take a lot of space in a backpack, is really cheap, only weighs 26g/1 oz and can hold enough liquid to quench a thirst. Plus, it’s virtually indestructible.
Anybody who spends time outside needs a good hand salve to moisturize after a good day out. As many, I tend to get “crocodile skin” in the winter and hand creams are one of my body care indulgences. Kiehl’s makes a great hand salve and this holiday season, the iconic NY cosmetics brand partnered with artistic duo FAILE to create limited edition “Baby Give Back” products whose net profits will help provide meals to families through Feeding America in the US. (I love when you can get quality products and give back at the same time.) Plus, the light eucalyptus oil scent is very pleasant and the salve isn’t greasy. As it covers a lot, a dollop goes a long way in moisturizing active hands.
Disclaimer: Kiehl’s provided a sample for review purposes.
Get it here: US
For really cool photo effects with your smartphones, you can use photo editing apps but there are some things they can’t do for you. Have you ever wondered how Instagram is full of great close-up shots of plants or flowers taken with smartphones? That’s thanks to small clip-on lenses like the Mpow lens kit. All you have to do is clip them on the smartphone’s camera and you can play around with objects, landscapes, textures and wildlife. I’ve ever been able to photograph a snowflake with the macro lens, something my iPhone SE wouldn’t have been able to handle otherwise. Pretty neat, right?
Gaiters are a must-have for anyone who hikes or backpacks through mud, rain, snow or (spiky thorny) brush, both to keep your feet dry inside your boots and to protect your lower legs. These tough Armadillo Gaiters are extremely waterproof (to 20,000mm, which covers heavy rain, snow and high pressure), which makes sense for a brand from British Columbia, Canada. These people know about mountains and snow! Given that they’re designed for endurance and tough terrains (including when using crampons), these gaiters are relatively lightweight. I mean, they’re comfortable, neither stiff nor heavy and yet, they are really sturdy. They’re also easy to put on (front zipper and flap, hurrah!), always a plus when bad weather descends on you at lightning speed. With these gaiters, I’m not afraid of Scotland anymore.
Disclaimer: Hillsound provided a sample for review purposes.
Get them here: US (if you’re outside the US, they ship internationally.)
I have a trusted Canon PowerShot S95 that’s been my faithful hiking and backpacking companion since I started my hiking guidebook. One day, its viewing screen was crushed inside a cabin luggage that EasyJet staff insisted on checking in at the gate. Thanks, EasyJet. Long story short, I now protect my camera in this Pelican case that works in all types of wet weather or wet activities (including kayaking and canoeing), as well as in rough conditions (such as rock climbing or caving). For the outdoorsy types in your life who like to rough it, this case will protect their camera. Choose the right size for each camera.
2016’s groundbreaking nature discovery was the fact that trees can communicate between themselves, using their own underground forest networks. In The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben, a German forester, describes natural forests from the perspective of the trees, mixing scientific facts with storytelling techniques. This book will delight all treehuggers who suspected, all along, that the Wood-Wide Web was a thing.
For young bird lovers, check out this list featuring books, binoculars, bird-feeders and more.