Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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Finding gifts for hiking and backpacking can be tricky if you don’t know what the person already has. A lot of us are already over-equipped and most outdoor outfitter offer similar items. Enter Uncommon Goods, an upscale Etsy-type retailer based in Brooklyn, New York, whose products are both rad and unique. More than 50% of their products are handmade and a third are made from recycled and/or upcycled materials. nature lovers will totally approve.
What sets Uncommon Goods apart from most online retailers is that it’s also a B-corporation, a company that has its own minimum wage higher than the state minimum, a progressive paid family leave program. It also offers modest scholarships to college kids studying art and design, donates $1 from purchases to various non-profits on customers’ behalf, and has policies to minimize its environmental impact.
In a nutshell, buying from Uncommon Goods for holiday gifts is also a way of doing good, which is pretty cool. Below are my favorite 10 items for the hikers and backpackers in your life. I am sharing these through affiliate links with you. Should you purchase the item through the affiliate link, I will receive a small percentage of the sale, which helps cover running costs of this site. Simply click on images to get to the product page.
Hydration, hydration, hydration. It may be cold outside, but you still need to hydrate. If you are a tea lover like me, this insulated water bottle with tea strainer is your best friend for winter hiking and drinking warm tea when going outside. Be gone, vile tea bags! Only loose leaf tea finds its place in this insulated bottle that holds 12 fl oz/350ml. Made of stainless steel with a BPA-free lid, this is the best way to drink tea on the go. If by any chance you find yourself inside (say, at the office), this travel mug will serve its rightful tea-infusing purpose and keep your tea warm during 6 hours.
Have you ever tried to eat rice salad with a pocket knife? It’s terribly inconvenient, I speak from experience, and it takes ages. Featuring spoon, fork, knife and the versatile bottle and can opener, this pocket set could be the Swiss Army knife of picnics. Or a least, it could make your picnic or travel life much easier when you need a spoon off the cuff and you’re too hungry to carve your utensils from a log.
In your wildest dreams, where do dead tents end up when they no longer sleep outside on starry nights? They may live a second life as this adventure blanket, made of repurposed nylon flannel and upcycled ripstop nylon. Besides the green factor, this blanket features a hood and connectable snaps so that if it starts pouring down (winter weather, you know), you can stay warm and dry in a jiffy. Last but not least, a clever little zippered pouch serves as valuable pocket or pillow, if you fold the blanket.
At 24l of capacity (that’s a normal day pack capacity), this backpack would be super helpful to carry extra winter layers, an insulated water bottle and a camera. Hell, even a pair of binoculars for spotting winter wildlife. It’s also waterproof, hence ready for rain, snow and ice. Last but not least: it folds into a small pouch and fits into a pocket.
A water bottle that fits in your pocket? I love the idea of this collapsible water bottle that you can squash and put away after finishing the water without taking up space in your backpack. BPA and odor free, this small bottle contains 21 fl oz/620ml when filled and is light enough that you can take it with you when hiking or traveling (or both).
For tropical travels or summer hiking, this slap-on bracelet does exactly what it says. You slap it around your wrist or ankle when the tiny bities come out and it keeps the bugs away. Bliss! Unfortunately, some people are better bug magnets than others and for them, hiking or backpacking bug-free would be a dream come true. I love that this bracelet keeps bugs away without nasty chemicals and is made with essential oils. DEET is the absolute worst thing for the environment and this bracelet has none of that bad stuff.
At 0.7 lbs/317 g, this hammock is so lightweight than you can pack it in your backpack while hiking or backpacking and when you feel the need for some down time, hang it from surrounding trees. What better way to enjoy a forest? Of course, your kids might see it as a swing-on-the-go and that’s fine too because hammocks swing perfectly-as we all know. If that weren’t enough, this hammock is made by rural Thai women, many of them from the Mlabri ethnic minority living in forests at the Thai-Laotian border. Buying this hammock helps these mothers provide a much-needed income for their families.
Clip this multi-tool watch to your trousers and you only need to look down to know what time it is. (Handy when your smartphone is stored away in a pocket.) Completely trail-functional, this watch also features a small compass for quick bearings while outdoors, no GPS needed. Last but not least, when you take a break, unclip the watch and you’ll be able to use its pocket knife, tweezers, screwdriver, toothpick or bottle opener. How’s that for a super nifty hiking tool?
Slow down. Sit on a rock. Enjoy the view. Write a few lines. It’s not often we take time to record our observations but it certainly magnifies the outdoor experience and makes for great memories. I, for one, always backpack with a journal, watercolors and a pen as my one luxury to enjoy in my sleeping bag at the end of the day. This travel journal is divided into four sections that detail your plans, experiences, activities, and reflections. Printed in Texas, this journal fits into any backpack and you can also use it before the trip for packing lists and camping food recipes.
Your feet need to be pampered if they are to take you far. That means that regardless of your hiking shoes, socks should keep your feet dry and warm. Hand-knit with Peruvian alpaca fleece, these Fair Isles socks wick away moisture and are scratch-free. Fortunately for fashion-conscious hikers, they also come in two other patterns and as ankle socks, so you have a choice of good-looking stocking fillers.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this selection as much as I’ve enjoyed selecting items that without hesitation, I would love to receive as hiking and backpacking gifts.