Let’s do it again—for dads who are into camping and backpacking, and for those who are just faking it. Here are some gift and gear ideas to get going, from basics like sleeping bag, hiking gear, and headlamp, to—shall we say—less essential items, like wine-spouting day packs, inflatable loungers, and ice barrels. Some of these gifts are just for him, others he’ll have to share with the whole family. Consider that as you browse my latest assortment of tranquilo Father’s Day picks for campers and travelers.
Katmai Backpack (from $259.95) is the latest from Gregory, my favorite backpack company for several decades. The Katmai, new for 2021, boasts a FreeFloat 360 suspension system, which adapts to a hiker’s hips and shoulders as they move. My body has been begging for a lighter, smaller load, and packing lighter starts with a smaller pack. This 55L (the Katmai and Kalmia models come in 50–65L versions for men and women) fits my goal of reducing my pack size by a significant chunk this summer; I’m going from an 85L behemoth, which I justified last summer because I sometimes used it to schlepp my kids’ extra gear, to this more practical size, which I’ll test on a chunk of the Colorado Trail in a few weeks. Other features: perimeter alloy frame, Polygiene odor-control fabric treatment, and durable, recycled nylon materials and PFC-free DWR fabrics, which, says Gregory, results in a 28% reduction in carbon footprint compared to a conventional nylon pack.
Mammut Relax Down Sleeping Bag ($329.95) is a toasty, lightweight, zero-degree Fahrenheit mummy bag, but with extra room and sound-free insulation around the head for a built-in silencer (it also comes with a sleep mask and ear plugs). This bag has plenty of wiggle room for different sleeping positions and is made with PFC-free bluesign materials. I also like the bombproof, top-center zip system.
Third Eye Headlamp ($49.99) is a lightweight, battery-powered, bright (up to 168 lumens) headlamp, although I like it for how dim it can go, so you’re not blinding anybody in the tent. It has six different brightness settings, plus red light, and is waterproof to IPX6. It uses three AAA batteries, is made of recyclable, non-toxic plastic and comes with a lifetime warranty (and a no-questions-asked 100% return policy). This headlamp is a member of 1% for the planet, and comes in an enormous array of fun, colorful alternate 1” headbands ($12) which fit most major headlamp brands.
Trail Crampon ($69) from Hillsound Equipment has heat-treated carbon steel spikes and a snug elastomer harness that fits most boots and shoes. This over-the-boot traction device is handy for ice-crusted trails and mountains, of which we have many in Colorado, at nearly any time of year. These crampons can be worn with hiking shoes, hiking boots, and insulated boots and are suitable in snowy, icy, and muddy settings; each foot has 11 carbon steel 2/3 inch spikes with an ergonomic plate system to enable even weight distribution.
Armadillo LT Gaiter ($59) pair nicely with the crampons for year-round use against mud, water, and snow sneaking into your socks. They are made of lightweight, high-tech, waterproof, and breathable fabric and have a waterproof zipper. Secure these gaiters with lace loops, under-boot leather strap, and calf buckle to prevent unwanted shifting. They’ll protect your feet from water and debris, and prevent rips and tears to your pants.
Nakie hammock ($103 each; couples size $174) is a hammock that is made from 37 recycled plastic bottles each, plus the company plants four trees for every hammock sold (more than 90,000 trees planted so far). The ultra-light hammock, which comes with a lifetime warranty, can hold an impressive 500 pounds and includes easy straps and carabiners. They are made of a breathable nylon taffeta material, and come in sky blue, pastel pink, twilight blue, river blue, sunburnt orange, and merlot red.
Giga Lounger ($85) is an interesting crowd-sourced, packable, inflated bed/lounger project. It’s more of a car-camping or outdoor festival extra item. The Giga is a fast-inflating body-forming chair with powerful integrated electric pump and USB port for charging your device. Oh yeah, it floats in the lake or pool. The Giga is foldable and packs down pretty small, and the tough material can support up to 330 lbs (150kg, or one Dad with two kids jumping on him).
Outlaw Soaps Big Daddy Bundle ($95) isn’t just any soap set. These products come in manly scents that include Blazing Saddles Solid Cologne, Gambler Body Wash, Fire in the Hole Campfire Handmade Soap, The Triple Threat Milled Soap Set, Blazing Saddles Lotion, and Calamity Jane Natural Deodorant. Their various gift sets have names like Fire in the Hole and Hell Bent for Leather, something for every man.
Jack Wolfskin Tech Tee ($24.95, pictured above) is a high-performing, long-lasting top from a 40-year-old German brand. It’s a lightweight, moisture-wicking shirt that I’ve worn on a few rainy morning runs, and will be testing on some high mileage days under a backpack next month. The shirt uses an antimicrobial fabric and comes in several vibrant colors in addition to the classic black shown above.
Costa Fantail Pro Sunglasses ($269) are most popular with anglers; they have a a vented and fully-adjustable nose pad for a customizable fit and sweat channels and eyewire drains designed to help keep your vision clear during heavy activity. The side shields and hooding help in super bright mountain sun, and you can choose various lens colors and frame styles.
SedrunM Hemp Multisport Pant ($139, pictured above) from Maloja, a German company, are a comfortable compromise between expedition pants and stay-at-home sweats. They have an elasticated waistband with drawstring and easy-to-tighten pull strings on the cuffs. There are two front pockets, one thigh pocket with invisible zip, one back patch pocket. The pants themselves are made of Hemp Stretch, an environmentally friendly material popular with climbers which is a mix of 54% hemp, 44% organically grown cotton and 2% spandex. The slightly coarse surface is soft yet still resistant to abrasion, and hemp has natural antibacterial properties.
Men’s Trinidad Sport Sandal ($60, pictured above) is a nice water shoe for the summer, with a closed toe and heel and made of waterproof nylon and neoprene. That kicks it up several notches from just a slip-on or a flip-flop. Northside is an independent company in the small Pacific Northwest town of Marysville, Washington.
CopperJoint compression socks ($18.28 when on sale) are also pictured above under the sandal and pants; they are calf-high, copper infused compression socks. These types of socks stimulate oxygen delivery to the muscles and augment airflow, and copper ions in the fabric reportedly provide pain relief to muscles. I’ve worn these while teaching on my feet all day and will try them out on the trail this summer, under a heavier load.
National Parks Socks Collection ($19.99) is a new six inch crew/hiking sock from Swiftwick that has 360-degree designs of National Parks like Rocky Mountain, Denali, Joshua Tree, Grand Teton, and Arches. The socks are designed for breathability, dry feet, coolness, and blister prevention. They’re made from 75% Nylon, 21% Polyester, and 4% Spandex.
Injinji Hiker Crew + Liner ($20 crew, plus $11 for a pair of liners with toes) is a solid hiking sock with strategic padding to minimize friction and pain. These are made from 43% NuWool, 43% Acrylic, 12% Nylon, and 2% Lycra. The liners wick away moisture, have an ultra-thin ergonomic fit that doesn’t bunch up or slip, and feature a five-toe design that minimizes friction between digits, which can be a real bummer on long hikes.
Flite XT Zero Tab Swiftwick sock ($15.99) is perfect for running and also indoor workouts. They are lean and mean, have GripDry fibers on the sole that help secure your foot inside your shoe, and olefin sweat-wicking fibers to keep your feet dry and blister-free. Flite XT come in a few different length and are popular for a variety of sports and workouts, including running, hiking, golf, and racquet sports.
Indosole Slides ($55, pictured above) are a sustainably made slip-on for Dad to patter around the house or campsite. Indosoles are recycled from waste tires in Indonesia by repurposing them into the soles of footwear, and feature natural rubber and vegan uppers. They use recycled tire sole technology and have a contoured rubber footbed, embedded arch support, are waterproof, and are made without the use of fuel powered machinery.
Pace Insole Kit ($85) is a combo pack of inserts for your running shoe, hiking boot, or other footwear. They’re used either for pain relief from foot problems like plantar fasciitis or by athletes looking to improve their biomechanics and performance. This kit contains a few different heights of molded arch supports topped with 3D molded, low friction, 100% recycled polyester fabric with PURE antimicrobial treatment. I’ve got one set in my running shoes and another in my everyday trail shoes that have helped enormously with some heel pain I’ve had.
Men’s High Water Tropic Shirt ($115, pictured above) by California Cowboy is an all-terrain update to the Aloha shirt which they call a “wearable happy hour kit” for its built-in special pockets for phone and cold beverage. It comes in a variety of floral prints, including “motel surf white sand,” and comes in a slightly warmer, terry-cloth lining version as well.
Old Trapper’s Kippered Steak ($24 for a container of 12) would be a thoughtful add-on to your Father’s Day gift or card. Each meat stick is 2oz. of protein, perfect for the trail. Flavors include Old Fashioned, Peppered, and Teriyaki.
Tracksmith Harrier Long Sleeve ($82) is a nice merino-Nylon blend tee shirt that wears well and doesn’t stink after repeated heavy use. They come in a number of dark, neutral colors and are ideal for running and hiking.
The Edifier TWS-1 Earbuds ($49.99) are low-cost, high-tech earbuds that Dad can use in the office or on the trail. These noise-canceling Bluetooth buds last up to 32 hours on a single charge, have a range of 30 feet, and connect easily and automatically when you pop them out of their case. I’ve had glitchy luck with other wireless earbuds (they won’t hold a charge, or won’t properly sync with each other or my devices), but so far, these Edifiers are bombproof and sound great, whether on sweaty runs, cooking, or just sitting on the porch.
Steelie Squeeze Dash Kit ($37.49) is a car-mount for any phone. Again, I’ve had varying luck with these items and I never liked the ones that clipped into the air vents. This is a simplified magnetic ball design that glues to a circle size spot on your dash smaller than a quarter. You pinch open the two Squeeze arms, and your phone fits, with or without a phone case. It’s a solid hold, and I hope the sticker on my dash stays firm and doesn’t leave any residue, we’ll see. In the meantime, the Steelie is one of the better solutions I’ve found.
AiKAVE Portable ($349) is a product for those who still may be a little hesitant about traveling. This portable, antiviral handheld air sanitizer may offer an added layer of protection and peace of mind. It claims to kill “harmful airborne pathogens, including SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), influenza, MRSA and more,” all in a compact (7-inch tall, 3.3-inch wide) battery-powered device you can carry from the airport gate to an indoor dining experience. The technology works by generating “micro-lightning bolts to sanitize contaminated air around you quickly and effectively. Air is pulled into airKAVE’s internal Plascide reactor, creating a thunderstorm of micro-lightning plasma which sanitizes air within a fraction of a second.”
Einova Ultra Fast Power Bank ($69.99, pictured above) is the portable charger that’s going in my backpack top pocket this summer. I tried solar last year and was not satisfied; I ended up having to mooch power off my friend. This year, I’m not messing around and will be carrying this 20,000mAh, 63W backup battery. It’ll keep my phone charged and any USB and USB-C devices I may have (headlamp, etc.). It will fit easily in my top pocket and is covered in soft waterproof linen canvas and a soft touch frame. The LCD display shows the remaining battery life at a glance.
Drink & Eat
Steeped Coffee ($15 for a 10-pack) has accomplished something I’ve always wondered about: single-serve, tea-like coffee bags, but with actually strong, delicious coffee. Steeped did it. They make compostable coffee bags with high quality specialty coffee that you soak like tea. They are a Certified B Corp and their eco-friendly product has been a big hit with hotels trying not to produce so much waste. The micro batched coffee comes in Nitro-sealed bags, which captures and holds that fresh-ground smell and flavor. It takes about five minutes to fully immerse and make a cup; the flavor profile is nice, though sometimes lacks the punch I crave, so I find myself doubling up. Great item to keep in the camping bin all summer.
CamelBak Stainless Steel Drinkware (various prices) is a thoughtful gift idea that keeps on giving; whether you get an individual cup, like a wine tumbler or camp mug, or a stainless steel package for the whole family. All of these water bottles, mugs, and containers are durable, insulated and work at home or at the campsite. Of note is the MultiBev 22 oz Bottle / 16 oz Cup, Insulated Stainless Steel ($50) combination tumbler, mug, and thermos, with double wall insulation and that switches between hot and cold beverages like a champ.
Day Escape Soft Cooler ($149.95 for the 18L, pictured below with chiweenie) is a part of the above Hydro Flask line, and is a beach-bag-shaped insulated soft cooler (18 L and 26 L Tote sizes). It keeps items cold for 36 hours, with a waterproof zipper and layers of insulations. Pair this gift with anything from the Hydro Flask Outdoor Kitchen ($19.95–$79.95), made of reusable dining and serving gear for picnics, car camping, and park outings. You can get individual cups, plates, sealable bowls, and utensils, or buy outdoor bundles to encourage more family outings (and give you more things to toss into said cooler).
SearBQ ($59.95, pictured below) is an accessory for your grill or cooking fire. It’s a heavy (17 lbs!) cast iron BBQ griddle and press that halves normal cooking time and sears in the juice and flavor. It comes pre-seasoned and is 10” by 16.”
PortoVino Day Pack ($54.99) lets dad be the Hero of the trail with his gravity-fed backpack spout of Parent Juice, red or white. Call it trail magic; this bag holds up to 1.5L (two bottles) of wine or any beverage, and will keep it hot or cold. They also make oversized purses and other discrete bags that carry up to 3L of your favorite beverage.
Bonus gift idea:
Bonus gift idea: Ice Barrel ($999.99) is the latest wellness product that your Dad will definitely use every day to stay young, fit, and invigorated. I haven’t actually tried this out but couldn’t resist sharing. Ice Barrel offers “the physical and mental health benefits of cold exposure,” used by endurance athletes to speed up muscle recovery, and, apparently, to “help reduce anxiety, manage stress, and even stave off cognitive decline.” Made of recycled materials, Ice Barrel holds up to 105 gallons of water, with drainage system, for both indoor and outdoor use.