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Have an active family on your gift list? Check out our outdoor gift guide. It’s packed full of some of the best outdoor gear gifts for kids and families. The writers and editors who sweat, scramble, swim and ski while on vacation have convened to create this list of the best outdoor gear for active family travelers. These items are always present in our backpacks and compact carry-ons when we’re getting out there off-grid and into nature.
Updated November 2020
Are you making your list and checking it twice? Well, if your list includes outdoor enthusiasts we’re going to make that shopping a little bit smoother. Our outdoor gift guide covers some of the best outdoor gear gifts on the market. We start out with the pricey items for people you REALLY like but feel free to scroll down for some budget friendly gifts for active travelers.
Best Splurge-Worthy Outdoor Gifts ($100+)
A Good Knife – SOG Tomcat 3.0
A good knife in your pocket can save your tail in an outdoor emergency. It can slice an apple after a gnarly hike as you rest lakeside. It can even be a reminder of how much you adore that certain someone each time they flick it open. SOG Knives are known for durability and offer an engraving option on many of their blades for a few extra dollars. Costing just over $100 to around $500, knives can get expensive, but are a gift which can be both practical and personal. One of the best outdoor gear gift ideas for those who enjoy trekking through trails, camping trips and just the all-around outdoor lovers!
This little device keeps you connected in the backcountry wilderness using others to extend your reach. While you may not WANT to be reached while on vacation, it’s reassuring to know you CAN be if you want to. Don’t be that rookie recreationist–plan ahead, go big, but go safe with goTenna Mesh (from Amazon). The colorful little device can connect you to loved ones nearby and give you peace of mind while you go wild. Starting at $179 for a pair; set up a small network with more devices.
Go Sun Sport Solar Stove
Cook up something with the suns rays in minutes! Neat and much easier than schlepping burners, fuel, and pots when you’re heading out for an adventure, the Go Sun Sport Stove (from REI) is perfect for cooking a small meal or just a hot snack for the family. The company is socially solid as well. They’re doing great things in developing nations with this solar subsistence stove. It can make hot dogs, heat burgers, steamed vegetables and so much more. The kids will love to cook trailside, even on an overcast day. Campers need this handy tool in their life and it makes the best gifts!
Rumpl Puffy Blanket
Keep warm or picnic with a puffy under you with a Rumpl Original Puffy Blanket. Stylish and comfortable, the blanket packs up quite small, making it an easy addition in the back of the car for a road trip or as a welcome part of your new van life! With down or synthetic fill, there’s a blanket for your activity level and need. The Old Growth Puffy is particularly appealing to the eye. A buttery soft blanket can be under the tree for around $129.00.
Ice Mule Backpack Cooler
It’s tough to trek with a boxy cooler. However, there are few things better than cooling off from a long hike with an adult beverage (or even a cold soda or juice box if you have the whole tribe). Carry your drinks with this handy backpack cooler to ensure a properly chill atmosphere apres activities! Just over $100 will get you a cooler you and an active traveling buddy can use to enjoy a whole weekend of cool refreshments. Other sizes offer versatility for length of trip and price points. The hikers in your life need this!
Thule Motion XT XL Rooftop Storage Box
This Thule Rooftop Storage Box might make some travelers truly swoon. Yes, it’s a big ticket item, but one you will surely be thankful for when you have a little more leg-room during your next road trip. Heck, it’s even going to help you on the way to grandma’s house if you’re a savvy packer. This can be under your tree for around $750.00. One of the top reasons for car break-ins while traveling is leaving a car full of stuff. If you plan to stop off multiple places on your trip, hiking and exploring, be sure that your stuff stays out of sight in this.
TravelingMom Nasreen Stump attests to why she lobbied to add this to the outdoor gift guide:
“I never thought we’d get a car topper but with a family of 6 and a cross-country trip it happened. This Thule is super easy to open and close. It installs quickly and isn’t that large to store when it’s off. But mostly I was thankful that it was low-clearance. My biggest concern about a car topper was that it would limit my ability to park in parking garages but I still can with this one!”
There is no piece of equipment more important to backpackers, travelers, or moms than a good backpack. And this Patagonia backpack hits all of the high notes — it’s tailored for a woman’s torso and has three pockets to keep everything organized. It’s also adjustable so that you can tweak it to get your best fit.
At around $370 this isn’t the cheapest option on the market but it is super durable and you’re paying for the quality. TravelingMom Nasreen Stump purchased the Marmot Limestone 4 person tent for her family. It can sleep 4 adults comfortably and although it’s a bit “cozy” they can sleep their 6 person family in it.
“We did a TON of research on tents. Living in Texas we knew we wanted one with great airflow and the Marmot Limestone offered that. But the real clincher for us was their warranty. If anything does go wrong with the tent we’re covered.”
Mid-Range Ideas ($50-$100)
Bending Branches Paddles – Arrow
This beginning/intermediate paddle is a great way to not only encourage healthy outdoor excursions but also show some thought and care when gift-giving! Your lake and river paddler will love the versatility and craftsmanship of the Arrow (and what a pretty new paddle it is!) and you’ll be happy with the reasonable price tag. Bonus points for supporting Bending Branches, a small USA business in your holiday shopping!
Trayvax Tough Wallet
Sometimes you don’t need a giant backpack or even a messenger bag to enjoy an outdoor adventure. For those trips to the local outdoor market, a festival al fresco, or even a stroll through an urban park, you want to keep your cards and cash close. This slim, tactical wallet is perfect for the active traveler who needs a dapper solution to the pocket bulge common to many trifold traditional wallets. The Trayvax Element is a beautifully crafted gift-worthy wallet for any traveling man.
Grayl Water Bottle Filter
Fill. Press. Drink. This is perhaps one of the most intimate ways to gift a useful item to an outdoorsy companion. One of the best outdoor gear gifts is one that says “I love you too much to let you get Giardia”. This compact, light bottle is an easy and cost-effective way to make sure your water is safe to drink with no fuss of tablets or drops when you’re far from a tap. Get the Grayl for $69.95 and drink with confidence no matter your coordinates. This is one of our favorite gift ideas, especially for someone who loves backcountry excursions!
The Ultimate Camp Chair – Helinox
Sure, a folding lawn chair will work for campers, but this is the Cadillac of camping when it comes to lounging around the fire pit! The Helinox brand is coveted in the camping world for packability and comfort. So this can be the gift which makes your cozy camper cry out in delight this year. The Camp One is a luxe chair, sure, but that campfire time is an elevated experience when you sit in style!
Outdoor Gift Guide – Best Outdoor Gear Gifts for Everyday Adventurers (Under $50)
Stormy Kromer – Beanie & Classic Cap
A legendary brand in the Midwest, Stormy Kromer’s classic cap was a team effort between a husband and wife seeking a cap which would stay on and keep your ears warm! Stormy Kromer is a household name in adventure families and a comfortable way to enjoy those crisp days without worrying about frostbite. They even have styles to keep the tykes toastie. From wool vests to caps and beanies, these practical gift ideas are both durable and adorable.
HydroFlask water bottle
For road trips, short runs, or to throw in the pack for a quick front country foray, this tough water bottle has been a favorite of our Rural (and very outdoorsy) TravelingMom for years. Her dented and dinged blue bottle has seen many miles and still keeps water cold and refreshing for hours on end! This mini-investment will make any adventure better for active travelers on everyone’s list. You can even customize your colors for a very cool canteen.
Best Outdoor Gear Gifts: Odds and Ends and Stocking Stuffers
Puffy jackets and vests are a staple in winter warrior wish lists. However, no one wants to leave a fluffy trail of feathers after a hike in the woods. It happens to the best of gear; punctures mean leaking insulation and ultimately less loft. NoSo patches are an easy way to minimize damage. Bonus: they look better my old Duct tape patch job! Wear it like statement jewelry for your winter warmies. It makes great gifts for active travelers and are fantastic stocking stuffers too, for around $4.99!
Eagle Creek Pack-It shoe sac
When you’re active in your travels, good soles are a must. Which means packing a few pairs of shoes, at times. If you’re really outdoorsy in your travels, there’s a really good chance your shoes are trashed or at least not worthy of mingling with your delicates on the inside of your suitcase. Eagle Creek makes great packing solutions and the shoe sac is a favorite for solving this very problem. The ultra light weight sac won’t add much to your manifest weight while keeping all of the proof of your last adventure contained.
You can really never go wrong with gifting a good pair of wool socks to a loved one. Outdoorsy travelers know the feeling of setting off with fresh, new socks is one of the best in the world! This rural TravelingMom has been a Smartwool diehard since 2004 and has since passed the gearhead gene to her kids, who also love great socks. With arguably the best size range on the market, infants to grown-ups can have cozy toes. These are great for backpacking, cold weather day hikes and many other outdoor activities. With your Smartwool socks and your favorite hiking boots, you can go anywhere!
Rite in the Rain Notebook
TravelingMoms always have thoughts and stories spinning in their heads. Many of us carry a notebook (old school!) or at the very least make notes on our phones when we travel. The only journal which has held up to white water rafting, mountain climbing, and hiking in a rainforest has been the Rite in the Rain variety. These little rugged books, although not much to look at, will keep your words from smearing into oblivion and make a great stocking stuffer!
A hammock as an outdoor gift? Yes, says veteran camper and uber outdoorsman, TravelingDad Tim Jones. He recommends foregoing the tent and sleeping bag and opting for a hammock instead. They’re dryer, comfier, and more portable. And, he says, you can always hang bug nets and tarps for added protection. Not a fan of the great outdoors? Hang one in the backyard for a lazy Sunday afternoon spent reading a good book!
You don’t even have to be an avid outdoors person to covet one of these gadgets! We want one to keep in the kitchen junk drawer just because it can do so many things. This 18-function stainless steel multitool has a needle nose plier, mini saw, pipe grip plier, cable cutter, screwdriver, wrench, scale, file and the all-important bottle opener.
Travel Sleeping Bag
Sleeping under the stars is one of those romantic ideas about camping. Sleeping on top of rocks? Not so much — unless you add a cushy sleeping pad under the sleeping bag! This sleeping pad is tough, water-resistant, and inflates with just a few breaths. The next morning, deflate it and roll it up to the size of a water bottle, tuck it into its carrying bag and hike on!
We love, love, love our Yeti everything! This 20-ounce Rambler is sure to keep your morning coffee hot for a full day of hiking — or sitting around the campfire.
This headlamp isn’t just great for lighting the way from your tent to the bathroom during a camping trip. TravelingMom founder Kim Orlando has one she uses for reading in a hotel room after the rest of the family falls asleep. And, she notes, this less-than-sexy set up works great as birth control, too!
Black Diamond Carabiners
Honestly, you can never have enough carabiners! It has nothing to do with being outdoorsy. We hang them from kids’ backpacks, strollers, suitcases, you name it. This Black Diamond carabiner has a twist lock that makes it extra secure.
This Merino wool buff can be worn as a neckerchief, balaclava or scarf! In a pinch, it can even be used as a face mask. We love it because it helps us stay toasty warm, is odor-resistant and moisture-wicking.
Outdoor Gift Guide – Best Outdoor Gear Gifts for Kids
Yukon Charlie’s Snowshoe Youth Kit
Get the kids into the outdoors at an early age! This awesome starter kid for younger kids will ensure the snow babies can keep up with mom and dad in the future, by letting them find their snow legs early. Fresh powder during Christmas break will never look so good as it does to the kids that have a little extra motivation to get out and play. The kit includes aluminum snowshoes from Yukon Charlies along with poles for extra confidence and ease. The set retails for around $79.00 but will last much longer than the hard plastic variety and looks a lot like mom and dads!
Slackline Industries Playline
This packable piece of equipment fits well into any car and will make your campsite the most popular in the park! Kids (and grown ups) will love testing their balance and skill on a slackline. Hours of fun and friendly competition will get you moving. To get the kids excited, check out some YouTube videos of slackline athletes doing crazy tricks. Add this element of excitement to the campsite or the backyard for around $95.00, depending on the kit you choose. Grab your insect repellent, a snack and plan to spend some time playing in the outdoors!
686 Winter duds
One of the best outdoor gear gifts? Clothing that grows with you! The 686 Youth Evolution Multiple Sizing System allows you to get a little extra mileage out of your gear. It’s time to upgrade those t-shirts and hoodies! Any of the experienced outdoorsy moms in the crew will tell you: warm kids are happy(er) kids! 686 makes kids and adult performance gear perfect for days on the slopes skiing or snowboarding, with options rated to outlast the coldest days on the mountain. The audio pocket is a nice addition, making tunes easily accessed for extra motivation. Some models have a pocket for ski and lift passes.
Ultimate Experience Outdoor Gifts
National Park / America the Beautiful Annual Pass
For $80 (at the time of publication), give the gift of our nation’s great outdoors. Make sure to check the government website, as the rules can change about the number of vehicles, people, and other regulations which are covered, depending on the agency and site. It’s certain, though, a National Parks pass is a rad gift for those active travelers and outdoors lovers in the family!
Cloud 9 Living Experiences
This company is devoted entirely to giving the gift of experience. Some experiences are as simple as a massage; others include race car driving or white water rafting. Check out the website and see if there is something you’d love to see a friend or family member experience this season instead of contributing to their clutter!
Folks like to get after the powder. If your friend or relative is a ski bum, you can’t go wrong by purchasing them a ski-related gift. Lift tickets, season passes, or some other gesture to get them access to their favorite runs are sure to please! Perhaps you’ll get them into a new valley to try some fresh routes they’ve been meaning to conquer. If you’re an adventurous grandparent, ski lodges sometimes have promotions for grand kid/grandparent combos which are worth looking for when you’re gifting ski fun.
So, there you have it. Since you’ve been outside playing, your shopping list is probably about half complete. Take advantage of a rainy day or the lack of snow in your area. It’s not too late to find the perfect gifts for the active travelers close to your heart.