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Gift Guide: New Gear for the New Year

With the holiday season quickly approaching, you might be in search of ideas for the adventurer in your family. Whether it’s footwear, clothes, a pack, or a piece of gear, we’ve got some suggestions for Christmas and the New Year beyond.

Winter Boots for Mountain Hiking

Vasque Coldspark winter boot.

Vasque’s Coldspark Ultradry is perfect for those who like to play outside in winter. At 2 lbs 4 ounces, it’s lightweight for a protective, waterproof winter boot, meaning it won’t weigh you down on the trail like many other cumbersome cold-weather boots. The exterior uses coated leather for a sharp but protective look, and the midsole features heat reflective technology that allows for proper ventilation – a key factor in keeping feet warm on cold days. The price is also right – at $139.99, you can justify it as a two-season (winter and mud season) buy.

Winter Boots for Walking

City dwellers sometimes get so focused on their outdoor weekend adventures that they forget to gear up for the day-to-day reality of winter – aka, walking the city streets in the wet, cold snow. But there are a number of casual, everyday-wear type winter shoes that help keep feet dry and avoid slips.

Advanced Walking Machines from CAT.

Advanced Walking Machines are designed for city dwellers looking for a comfortable, non-slip winter walking shoe. It combines the toughness of the CAT Kinetic (see below) with the style and wearability of a normal sneaker, offering a combination of support, protection, traction, and low-cut, sneaker-esk style. At $100, it would be fine if they were a one-season shoe, but the latter means that you can get away with wearing them any time of year in any city.

Forsake’s Clyde II mountain/metro boot.

Those out in the western states might be considering stepping up to something like Forsake’s Clyde II, which stays fashionable but brings with it more of a mountain vibe. That is, with big lugs, waterproof mesh, and high-top ankle support, you feel comfortable even on rocky terrain. Yet when you look at the shoe, you can still imagine pulling it off at a business casual event – the sloping cut of the ankle collar camouflages its power, and the full-grain leather and color scheme soften its look. While the $139.95 price puts them in the same category as full-on hiking boots – which these are not – the added bonus of their functionality as an everyday shoe makes up for it. 

Winter Boots for Working

Kinetic work boots from CAT.

Last but not least in the boot department, let us not forget those who work outside during the winter. Whether it’s an official job (lifty, mailman, warehouse worker) or chores (shoveling snow, house projects) that requires you to schlep around outside in snow and ice, you’ll need something to keep you steady on your feet. Check out the “Arctic Grip PRO Vibram technology” on this pair of Kinetic Ice+ Boots ($180), billed as the “most advanced cold weather gripping system ever created with three times more grip on slippery wet ice.” The boot can even tell when it needs to step up its game: An Arctic Grip Thermochromatic lug “senses” when temperature drops to 32 degrees and turns blue, kind of like a Coors Light can I guess. Sideshows aside, this boot performs and will empower those who stomp around outside all day.

MSR Lightening Ascent Snowshoes 

The MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes with Paragon Bindings.

No conversation about walking on snow would be complete without the mention of snowshoes. The MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoe ($319.95) combines ultralight weight with an aggressive performance design, targeted to those who feel the call of the wild in winter. The frame features 360-degree traction for a secure grip on inclines and traverses, and each shoe weighs less than five pounds (exact weight depends on the size). When climbing uphill, one can utilize the Ergo Televator feature – which is basically a bar that lifts your heel to keep your foot level when climbing uphill – to reduce the strain and fatigue on leg muscles. The Paragon binding is unique in its one-piece mesh design, taking away much of the rigidity found in snowshoe bindings of the past, giving the user a better fit with a simpler entry, free of pressure points. These latter comforts make the Lightning Ascent very accessible, while the former specs keep it in the upper-echelon of performance – perfect for someone looking to dive head first into the sport.

Pants for All Occasions

Adamson Winter Pants from prAna.

prAna has a solid lineup of pants fit for a variety of seasons. Right now, the Adamson Winter Pant is appealing for its dual-purpose nature, a pair of good-looking pants that perform on the trail. Soft and stretchy, the water resistant pants are great for everyday winter wear, but also have the specs to do what they need to do on the trail: Cargo pockets for storage, mesh pockets, and ventilated inseams. Although, you might not like the idea of banging them up once you see how they nicely they fit into your practical wardrobe. The price tag of $119 also means that the Adamson’s are probably better suited for a walk than a hike in terms of how much wear and tear you’ll want to put on them.

But “practical” seems to be a theme with prAna at the moment (and really across the industry as a whole). Two of its other products, the Axiom ($89) and Creek ($99) jeans, have laid-back, go-with-the-flow types covered. Both are designed with activity in mind, specifically climbing. The Creek has a double-layer knee patch to help in that regard, and the Axiom uses gusseted inseams for added flexibility. For the active jean wearer in your life, these models will get a lot of use, especially in the shoulder seasons, fall and spring.

Smartwool Ski and Snowboard Socks

Socks are easy to overlook, but as any skier or snowboarder knows, they make all the difference on the slopes. That said, socks are something I personally hate buying, which makes them a great gift in my mind (last thing you want to do in life is go out and buy socks, am I right?). Smartwool Ski Socks ($30.95) have always been reputable, and they just released a couple new designs in a partnership with Vans for a sharp-looking, performance-based ski and snow sock.

Mutant 38 pack from Osprey.

A Winter Backpack Fit for All Seasons

If you’re only going to own one backpack (doubtful!), you’ll want something that can work in all seasons. If that’s the case, it needs to handle winter first and foremost – no sense buying something designed for summer and watching it fall short in the winter.

The Osprey Mutant fits well into a middle ground, winter-worthy but lightweight and summer-friendly. It has helmet and tool carry features, including a hip belt with gear loops and a backpanel for harnesses.

When it comes time for summer hiking and you have less gear, you can remove the top lid to cut weight.

As far as packs go it’s reasonably priced – the 38-liter goes for $170 – and you can upgrade to the 52-liter ($200) if you want something that can handle multiple nights.

MSR New Edition PocketRockets

The classic PocketRocket has been a favorite amongst backpackers for what seems like forever.  It’s something you don’t even realize you have in your pack (2.6 ounces), yet its performance in the backcountry cannot be overstated.

Pocket Rocket Deluxe version from MSR.

Reliable and with the ability to boil a liter of water in less than four minutes, its claim to fame is the combination of small size and high functionality.

MSR recently released a second-edition ($44.95) of the PocketRocket with upgraded parts and folding supports, new windbreak tech, and an even smaller size, as well as a Deluxe version that has a click starter and a little bit broader burner.

If the adventurer in your life isn’t using the PocketRocket, then do them a favor and introduce them to it. If they have the old version, give them an upgrade this holiday season.


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