It’s that time of year again — you’re trying to both find the perfect holiday gift for a friend or loved one or communicate what it is you’re hoping to receive. You’re scratching around for ideas. You’re lost in the gift giving woods.
If you’re trying to create or maintain a daily outdoor habit, you’re probably interested in gear or gifts that can improve your time in nature. The good news? I ask almost every one of my Humans Outside podcast guests for their favorite or most essential gear recommendations.
That means I have a whole host of gift recommendations ranging from the super simple to the larger ticket with a variety of price points. Better yet, some of these help both the inside and outside life at the same time.
I’ve also included links to specific product recommendations, focusing on brands guests have specifically recommended or my personal favorites (some of these are affiliate links).
This isn’t a complete list of all of our guests’ favorite outdoor items — instead I selected the ones that I think make the most sense as gifts.
For a great adventure
Gear is one thing, but sometimes what you need is practical in a different way. Here’s some ideas.
Humans Outside 365 Challenge kit. Want to commit to building that outdoor habit? Our kits give you everything you need to make your outdoor habit a success. From exclusive guides and advice to finisher decals, a finisher medal or a fun and functional Humans Outside neck gaiter, these kits make fantastic gifts. Learn more about the Challenge now!
Park passes. One of our favorite gifts in my house are park passes. From National Parks annual passes to parking passes for your state and local parks, this is a great way to give an experience. Find the National Parks pass here and give your state or locality pass a quick Google search.
Sometimes it’s the little things. These accessories have low price tags but big impact.
Water bottles. What kind of water bottle you love really depends on who you are. Multiple guests have recommended Nalgene bottles, which are plastic, and a few instead prefer Hydro Flask, which is metal. I have and use both and probably would die without one of them. No matter which you go with, you simply can’t go wrong with this practical and affordable gift.
Water bottle stickers. I’d be remiss to not recommend this, too. Decals or stickers are a great way to brag about where you’ve been or things you love. I’m obviously partial to the Humans Outside decal, which you can buy in a two-pack, or the Humans Outside Challenge finisher sticker, available through one of our Challenge kits.
Kula Cloth. I had never heard of a “pee cloth” or this specific product in my life before guest and nature therapist Judith Sadora recommended it. Kula has since become one of my favorite pieces of gear to the point that I’ve even had the founder join me on the Podcast. A square of fabric with one absorptive side and one water resistant side, the Kula snaps to your bag or kit so it can dry after use. It’s particularly useful for the ladies who don’t want to drip dry. Rinse it out every now and then, and launder it when you get home! Bonus: they come in fun designs and their social media is hilarious. Buy it directly from Kula to support this women-owned small business.
Carabiners. These clips are used for climbers as they scale rock walls, but I’m recommending them as a great way to keep track of gear, just like Yvonne Manske, one of our guests, does. Get them on REI.
Sunglasses. Several guests have recommended this as their favorite gear, and I have to agree. A fun and functional pair of sunglasses is key. I love Goodr because are colorful and affordable.
Neck gaiter. You may hear this referred to as a Buff, which is one brand name. Neck gaiters are a long tube of fabric you can wear around your neck, as a face covering, over your head and ears (my favorite!) or around your wrist. I’m partial to the Humans Outside gaiter, which is available in our store or as part of our Sky-Level Challenge kit (coming soon!).
Socks. This isn’t just something lame your mother gets you when she’s out of ideas. A great pair of socks can make all the difference on any adventure and several of our guests have agreed. For winter socks, I love Smartwool. For summer and regular wear, Balega is my favorite because they are so cushy.
“Leave no trace” bag. This idea came from guest Karla Amador, who carries a small dry bag with her on her hikes to stash trash she finds along the trail. That way she can leave the space better than she found it. What a great idea. Here’s an example of such a bag.
Gloves or mittens. Keeping your hands warm makes a big difference when you’re spending time outside. Multiple guests mentioned gloves as being something they don’t leave home without any time between October and March, and I use mine through April. The warmth or “fill” on what you buy depends on how cold the weather is where you’re using them. REI is a great place to find them.
Coffee tools. You know how much I love my coffee. An aeropress or french press made for outdoor use are great gifts. Pair it with a travel mug (I like Hydroflask for those) and you’re set! (If you want to know more about making coffee outside, listen to this podcast episode.) Find options here.
Here are two things guests mentioned over and over again.
Base layers. A base layer is the clothing closest to your body. For this wool or wool blends is often the name of the game. My favorite is SmartWool, but REI’s in-house brand is a great option, too (here’s an example).
Hiking pants. If you must wear pants they should be comfortable. And I have to agree with multiple guests that a comfortable, moveable pair of hiking pants make a huge difference. My guests didn’t mention specific brands, but I personally love the ones from Athleta and my husband Luke loves anything from Outdoor Research.
If staying warm and dry is what you need, this is for you.
THE PANTS. If you haven’t heard me rave about what I lovingly call “The Pants,” well, I’m not sure where you’ve been since I talk about them a lot. Maybe more than I should. These puffy pants are definitely an investment (which is code for “they’re expensive”) but they should last you a long, long, LONG time. They are big enough to slip over whatever you have on, and I wear mine hanging out at campsites on cool mornings or evenings and if I’m standing around outside or going for an easy walk in the winter. I literally don’t leave home without them (and they are currently in my car). Multiple brands make them, and we own two pairs – one from Mountain Hardwear and one from Black Diamond. We picked those brands because they were cheapest at the time.
Rainwear. Waterproof or nearly waterproof rain gear is a game-changer if you live somewhere wet. REI’s line of rainwear is a favorite in our house, with a variety of weights (which keep you warm or breathe, based on which one you choose).
For the trail and campground
These tools are must-haves and great gifts for people who love to hit the trail.
Packs, bags and pack vests. Several guests noted their favorite outdoor item is a daypack, running vest, fanny pack, sling purse or bag. For daybacks and backpacks, I recommend Osprey. Whether you want a daypack or backpack depends on how much stuff you’re trying to haul. For daily adventure wear, I love my Salomon running vest. And if you’re looking for a great sling bag or fanny pack, check out Kavu. I use mine every day.
Jetboil. A Jetboil is a fast-cooking stove perfect for the trail or on the go. A favorite among backpackers, we also use ours in the van and even out of the back of my car for a hot drink on a cold day. A Jetboil would make a wonderful, practical gift.
Water filtration tools. From the drops and tablets to an actual filtration system, these water tools are absolute must-haves for long days on the trail or overnight adventures. We love our Platypus gravity bag system because it’s so incredibly easy to use. And I used these water tabs on my 100-mile trail race.
Books and Ways to Read
I can’t put out a gift list without recommending the books written by some of our guests. These make great gifts — and let your recipient know to listen to the author’s episode on the Humans Outside Podcast!
The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store by Cait Flanders. All about Cait’s journey over a no-shopping year. I found this very inspirational. Listen to Cait’s episode.
The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams. When I first started my outdoor time, I read Florence’s book. It is packed with interesting info told in a compelling story. Listen to Florence’s episode.
Walk Through This: Harness the Healing Power of Nature and Travel the Road to Forgiveness by Sarah Schulting Kranz. I didn’t expect to love this book — but I did. Sarah’s journey to using nature to learn to forgive is something we can all use. Listen to Sarah’s episode.
The Habit Trip, a Fill-in-the-Blank Journey to a Live on Purpose by Sarah Hays Coomer. Sarah offered us such good advice for building and keeping an outdoor habit. This book is where she lays it all out. Listen to Sarah’s episode.
Amazon Woman: Facing Fears, Chasing Dreams, and a Quest to Kayak the World’s Largest River from Source to Sea by Darcy Gaechter. Get ready to be incredibly inspired by Darcy’s journey to be the first woman to travel the entirety of the Amazon River. I loved this story. Listen to Darcy’s episode.
Kindle. This is a bigger ticket item, but it’s how I always read when we are traveling or hanging outside. It’s a lightweight way to carry all the books I can want. And if there’s one thing you learn as a homeschooled nerd who loves classic literature, it’s that books are really heavy. The Kindle solves that problem.
Audible subscription. Sometimes you just need something to listen to on the trail or during your road trip to your adventure. I love hearing the birds and nature sounds, but a good book through my Audible subscription is key, too. A subscription would make an awesome gift. Bonus: playing something out loud while hiking keeps the bears away if you’ve run out of things to talk about or are hiking solo.
Big ticket items
If you have gift money just burning a hole in your pocket, send it to me. But if you really want to spend it on someone else, think about one of these gifts.
Hot tub. I have yet to regret owning my hot tub. Yes, it was pricey and it costs money each month to run and maintain. But it was totally worth it to me.
Tent. Tents are expensive, especially lightweight ones. If you’re looking for a really nice gift to give someone, a tent would be a great start. Find a whole parade of tents at REI.
Firepit. These Solo stoves are all the rage for a reason. They offer a portable fire pit that you can use even in a small outdoor space. Find them on REI.