One of the best holiday gifts my husband and I have received was a big box of disposable hand warmers. Another one I’ve come to love — trekking poles for walking and hiking.
The secret to choosing great gifts for outdoors enthusiasts and athletes is to think beyond the obvious. Clearly, most of us are not replacing the mountain bike, kayak or skis — or at least, I don’t have it in my budget.
Consider instead gift items to enhance your favorite athlete or outdoors enthusiast’s adventures — things recipients might not think to buy or replace. Here are 23 suggestions to get you started:
1. The ultimate winter gloves
Anyone who likes to sled, snowshoe or winter camp is always trying to find extra-warm, waterproof gloves. The problem is that many gloves marked “waterproof” will leak when worn in a blizzard or other rugged conditions. The solution is to give a pair of waterproof gloves such as the Ridge Glove, above. It’s been “coated with waterproofing Sno-Seal and triple baked by legitimate ski bums in our Colorado glove bakery,” says Flylow, the manufacturer of the $50 gloves. Check FlyLow for other variations on these tough gloves and similar mittens, ranging from $35 to $95. Your recipient will think of you every time they use them.
2. Under desk cycle
Want to help your active person to ditch the guilt when sitting down to work or watch TV? Consider an under desk cycle that lets them concentrate on writing, work, reading or other activities while burning calories and keeping joints flexible. The cost varies, so shop around. This product, the InStride Body Cycle by Stamina, costs less than $65 at Home Depot. Check out related fitness equipment at Stamina Products.
3. Snow and ice grippers
When my husband gave me a pair of these as a gift, I was a bit dismayed. I couldn’t imagine when I’d use them. Now that I’ve used them for a few seasons, I can’t imagine not having them. Snow and ice grippers are easy to transport, so when you return home to an icy driveway, you can slide them on and walk with ease. The pair of YakTrax Pro Traction Cleats pictured above costs under $20, but there is a range of products depending on your needs, running as much as $80 and beyond. You’ll find a selection at retailers including Amazon.
4. Yoga mat
Yes, your favorite yogi likely has one. I did, too, and I hauled it around for years. But a fresh yoga mat is a great gift — perhaps offering a larger size, more thickness or just a fresh, new design. You can buy a yoga mat for anywhere from about $10 to more than $100. The mat pictured above was about $26 at Amazon. There are many choices at retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods, so shop around for deals and variety.
5. Yoga mat with workout guidance
Yes, yoga classes are great, but they’re not always convenient and can be expensive. What to do? If you’re like me, it’s tough to memorize all of the poses for the various types of yoga without constant practice. The Yoga By Numbers Starter Package combines an app and a code-printed mat — think yoga by numbers meets Twister — that helps you get the routine down. The set is about $120 on Amazon. Not cheap, but more affordable than a lot of instructional classes, and handy for beginners. You can see other Yoga By Numbers products here.
6. Yoga mat bag
Instead of buying them a new tote or handbag, consider giving your yoga enthusiasts a mat bag. I thought this was a bit of a splurge when I bought one, but then found it was also practical because I can fit my keys, license and cash in the pockets and not worry they’ll fall off a shelf during public yoga sessions. The prices vary, of course, from about $5.99 for a simple shoulder strap bag to $30-plus for a quilted one. This one costs about $32 on Amazon.
7. Dry bags
The first thing I grab when assembling paddling or hiking gear is a dry bag. These waterproof bags keep everything — from your towels to your sandwiches — dry and safe. They come in a variety of sizes and prices from sporting goods stores and online retailers. One tip — don’t necessarily think bigger is better for a dry bag. Smaller bags are easier to stow in a boat or carry during snowshoeing, hiking and other adventures. Prices start at around $13 for a 1-liter bag. The 20-liter bag pictured is about $24 at Backcountry.
8. Trekking poles
Like the hand warmers mentioned earlier, trekking poles are often overlooked but can be truly valued as a gift. I’ve hiked all over the country and am used to navigating some fairly rigorous terrain. Nothing prepared me for the wet, root-bound areas I hiked in Oahu, Hawaii. Thank goodness I had access to a pair of collapsible trekking poles, or I might still be in those woods. You can buy poles for anywhere from $10 on sale to more than $100. The set pictured above is about $70 on Amazon. Check REI for a wide selection and a buyer’s guide.
9. Roller massager
Every person I know who hikes, bikes, skis or engages in an exercise routine loves foam rollers. A massage therapist recommend the product to me for an aching leg — and it worked! The photo above is of the RumbleRoller Original Soft Full-Size Exercise Roller, which you can find for about $70 at Walmart. You’ll find rollers in many shapes, sizes and prices, including at Amazon and Target.
10. Ear warmers
Anyone who skis cross-country, snowshoes or hikes in the winter can tell you that hats are often too warm — your head sweats! — but your ears get cold without coverage. Even if your sporting person doesn’t go to snowy areas, ear warmers are great in sleet and other cold conditions. The 180’s Men’s Urban Ear Warmers pictured above are about $20 at Dick’s Sporting Goods. But you’ll find ear warmers at prices ranging around $10 to $30 at major retailers.
11. The perfect hat
When it comes to what winter sports fans wear on their heads, there are hats and then there are perfect hats. In my hiking crowd, a favorite is the Salty Dog Hat by The North Face (about $25 at Dick’s Sporting Goods) because of the looser knit that protects ears and head without making them sweaty. If you ask around, you may find other perfect hats for the activities favored by the person on your list — whether it’s snowboarding or power walking.
12. Quick-dry T-shirts
Anyone who questions why they should pay as much for one quick-dry shirt as they pay for a pack of cotton T-shirts has never spent the day in a soggy cotton shirt. Boaters, hikers, skiers, snowshoe enthusiasts — almost anyone who is active — will tell you that the comfort afforded by a quick-drying T-shirt is more than worth the price. Under Armour has them in an array of colors for just under $20. Walmart sells a two-pack, by Athletic Works, for under $12.
13. Bear spray
Bears can be aggressive, especially if they are surprised. If you know someone who likes to foray into the wilderness, consider the gift of bear spray to help keep them safe. (In case you’re wondering, the product is sprayed at a bear or other wild animal if it moves to attack, not worn as a repellant by the owner.) Most people won’t ever need it. But there’s no going back if you do need it and don’t have it. Prices vary at retailers. The Frontiersman Bear Attack Deterrent shown here has a range of roughly 30 feet. It is about $30 on Amazon.
14. Portable shoe dryer
This seems like another splurge, but every time I use a portable shoe dryer it feels like a necessity. I have very rugged hiking boots that are designed to keep out water. But if I don’t lace them properly or I trek through mounds of snow, some moisture may sneak in. These portable shoe dryers take care of any dampness in a hurry. Plus, it’s just nice to slip into warm boots in the morning. The DryGuy product shown in the picture is about $30 on Amazon. Or check out models by Peet, like this one, with a vehicle power adapter, for about $40.
15. Boot/shoe gaiters
One way to stay warm and dry when cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or winter hiking is to attach a pair of gaiters to your boot/shoe and pants to block the wet stuff. They’re simple to wear and easy to transport. Plus they keep that snow off your ankles and feet. You’ll find a large selection at L.L. Bean, Amazon and REI, starting at about $25. REI also offers this handy guide to choosing the right type.
16. Hand warmers
Any outdoors person will celebrate, as I did, if you give them a gift of these disposable hand warmers. They are easy to carry and pack, and they and give you a blast of heat that gloves and mittens just can’t deliver. Buy a few as stocking stuffers or a whole box so they are available when needed. At Amazon, prices range from a couple of dollars for a single pack to $20 and up for bundles of multiple packs.
17. Lighted bocce ball set
Even serious sports enthusiasts like to have fun when they’ve set up their camp for the night. And what child doesn’t still want to play outside in the summer, even after the sun has set? Here’s a lighted bocce ball set that is perfect for both groups. Prices are around $70 to $75 at Playaboule.
18. Camera float
Recording the boating action with your waterproof camera is great, but what do you do if you drop it in the water and it sinks? Invest about $8 to give the photographer on your list a camera float. It won’t keep the camera dry, but it will make it easy to find and grab out of the water. And the bright color ensures you can see it. I use Chums sold by Amazon.
19. Exercise ball
Maybe your fitness friend has a gym membership and just does a few sit-ups or free weights at home. All the more reason to give them the gift of a fitness ball. The easy-to-store and use balls help bump up your exercise intensity. You can find them at most big retailers for $20 and up. The burst-resistant Natural Fitness ball is made of toxic-free, latex-free material. Several sizes are available. The largest, 75 centimeters in diameter, costs about $23 at Amazon.
20. A headband that stays put
All headbands are not equal. Many pop off your head just when you really start to get into a workout. Consider giving a high-quality headband to your favorite outdoor athlete. They are comfortable and stay where she puts them. This handmade headband by JolantaKnit at Etsy would be a welcome gift for an outdoor enthusiast. It comes in white or mustard yellow, at about $30.
21. Wrist sweat bands
Yes, tennis and basketball players wear these, but so do people working out hard in the gym. Sweat bands are simple and affordable and they make great stocking stuffers. The pack of seven pairs of cotton sweatbands from Cosmos, in the picture, costs about $6 at Amazon.
22. FitDeck cards
If you travel, you may be able to stick to your exercise routine if you’re in a hotel with a 24/7 fitness room — but even then it’s not easy. FitDeck Cards are designed to help you stay on track even when you have limited options. But you could also use the cards as a simple way to vary your workouts at home. As the company explains it:
By shuffling the cards, you constantly create new and exciting workouts no matter what type of fitness activities you love.
There are some 40 different decks geared to different sports and types of fitness, as well as specialized cards for women, kids and seniors. They are available for around $18 to $41 a pack at Amazon, and through other retailers.
23. NFL slippers
At the end of the day, sports enthusiasts like to relax. Team slippers and scuffs are perfect for football fans to wear while watching the game. An array of women’s slippers sporting NFL team logos can be found for $20 to $30 at Amazon. Men’s scuffs, also at Amazon, are available for a handful of NFL teams, at a cost of $20 to $35.
What gifts have you spotted for yourself or the active people on your list? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.
Marilyn Lewis contributed to this report.