These are the best of the items that found their way to my desk over the past few months. There are camping gear updates, tough travel items, and a couple of game-changing gadgets. I’m most interested in gear that is versatile enough to function equally well in the backcountry, at altitude, at the campsite, in a canoe, in an airport, or on chicken bus. Enjoy these gift ideas, either for yourself or the burly camper in your life.
1. Haswell Survival Knife 2.0 ($119, pictured above) is a hand-forged carbon steel knife with a Scandi grind blade and old-school leather sheath. It will be nice to have around the campsite, for bushcraft, or for outdoor survival, if it comes to that. The Haswell’s wedge-shaped blade is ideal for cutting, shaving, and whittling, and it just looks plain savage.
2. Boulder Smart Lantern ($100) is the latest release in the Lander lantern line. In addition being a robust power storage unit and device charger, the 350-Lumen Boulder adds proximity lighting, a feature which adjusts light intensity based on how close you are to the unit. The Boulder connects via Bluetooth to a phone app, where you can control power, dimming, color, light alarms, and strobe lighting. It also has wireless device charging, plug-in ports, and an IP65 waterproof rating.
3. Triage Kit ($35) is an ultra-lightweight (100g) backcountry first aid, repair, and survival kit, which was curated by interviewing over 100 outdoor professionals about the most vital items they carried. The small kit (which I keep in my larger first aid box as a mobile unit to take and leave) includes UCO Storm Matches, a variety of bandages and wound care, zip ties, duct tape, 22-gauge wire, aspirin and painkiller, and emergency blanket. Unchartered Supply Company also makes a number of larger survival kits, both for outdoor expeditions and in case of natural disaster or emergency.
4. Pelican Air Travel 1535 Carry On Case ($333) is a hard-sided, bad-ass, overhead bin–compliant case for important or delicate adventure gear (or precious, breakable souvenirs, for that matter). Its interior dimensions are 20.4″ × 11.2″ × 7.2″ and it weighs just over 10 pounds. Bounce it, drop it, freeze it, submerge it, hand it over-eager baggage handlers—it’s as tough as any other Pelican case. It has has press-and-pull latches with integrated locks, a lid organizer with zip and mesh pockets, and comes with two packing cubes. Its stainless-steel-bearing roller wheels are handy, it has a purge valve for high altitudes, and watertight O-ring gasket for river trips.
5. Zenbivy Quilts ($129-299) are soft, warm blankets in a variety of creative designs with footboxes for your tootsies—and no zippers to get jammed or add weight. These quilts can substitute for sleeping bags, wrap you up in a hammock, or just serve as nice, warm blanket to have around the campfire or in the car. They range from thinner 40ºF synthetic quilts for summer, to 800-fill 3-season quilts rated as low as 10ºF for other seasons.
6. Outside Inside 5-in-One Game Set ($26) is ideal for the backpacker/ board-gamer in your life. The roll-up board is lightweight and packable, and the set has chess, checkers, ludo, backgammon, and Snakes & Ladders, all in one kit. It comes with its own carrying case; the same company has other fun gifts for the trail, like harmonicas and lightweight kites.
7. MyCharge PowerFold ($59.99) is a portable, compact solar charger with three foldable panels and a removable 8,000 mAh powerbank that can provide up to three times extra battery life for most phones. It can be recharged via the solar panels or micro-USB. I’m going to strap it to the top of my backpack to test it out. They say it takes about four hours to recharge the battery pack. Start hiking … now.
8. Truly Wire-free Earbuds ($80) from iLive are wireless, Bluetooth buds with either yellow or all-black black rubber ear-hook that wrap very securely and, so far, stay in place. This pair is equally ideal for outdoor activities, exercising, or zoning out in an airport or train station. They slip right in and stay in place, rivaling even the personal-molded earbuds I’ve tried. I’m always worried I’ll lose things like these, but the hard-shell carrying case (which doubles as a charging unit and can itself be plugged into a USB port) helps alleviate that fear.
9. ChargeHub Auto Phone Mount & Wireless Charger ($60) is not actually adventure gear, but it’ll help get you to the campsite. This particular unit solves several mounting and charging problems at once, so I thought it was worthy of this list. The ChargeHub mounts on a pivot ball, either clipped into your car’s air vent (my preference), or on a bendable arm and suction cup mount that attaches to the dashboard or windshield. The motorized arms with automatic phone detection grab and grip your phone when it is placed on the foot of the mount, so no more dangerous steering the car with your elbows while fumbling with the mount (as I’ve, um, heard some people do); tap a touch sensor on the side to automatically release. It also has a wireless charging pad, plugged into the USB separately, which charges the phone more quickly than direct from the car’s USB.
10. CatTongue grip ($15) is a minimalist no-slip device for your phone, either in the car or elsewhere. They have an enormous variety of designs for their non-adhesive grips for your phone or tablet, and they also sell rolls of non-adhesive grip tape to keep your other gadgets from sliding around. The idea is to be able to place your device down on the dashboard of a moving car or boat and not have to worry about it moving.