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SBM Holiday Outdoor Gift Ideas

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Let SBM ease some of the burden of the season with our outdoor gift ideas.  Tis the season for REI gift cards and boxes of Clif Bars you say?  We here at SBM say Bah Humbug – Tis the season to rock the outdoor gift ideas and let that special outdoor someone know just how much you care!

With Black Friday and the even more ominous Cyber Monday just around the corner, it is time to make your list and check it twice.  This year we thought we would let you in on a little outdoor adventurer secret…we like gifts, actual gifts, not just the kind used at the checkout.  For the first time in the history of Seattle Backpackers Magazine, the somewhat skeptical, always creative, super knowledgeable contributors of SBM have come together to give you some hints on great holiday outdoor gift ideas to stuff in your special someone’s stocking this year.

Holiday Outdoor Gift Ideas Under $$

Gifts for your outdoor enthusiast don’t have to break the bank.  Here are some amazing outdoor gift ideas that will show your adventurers you know what makes their blood rush while still leaving you cash to buy groceries.

Nuun Hydration

outdoor gift ideasWhen you are adventuring, hydration is important business.  Nuun makes great tasting electrolyte replacement tablets that are light weight and easily packed on short or long expeditions.  Electrolytes play a key function in maintaining fluid balance, preventing muscle cramping, and aids in muscle contractions and movement.  Most electrolyte powders or pre-made drinks are packed with sugar, the innovative effervescent technology, plant-based ingredients, and lack of sugar in nuun makes it a great choice for your outdoor enthusiast.  Single containers or variety box sets are available.

SOL Survival Kits

outdoor gift ideaHere is a hint; most outdoor enthusiasts skimp on first aid and survival gear – boneheads! Survive Outdoors Longer (SOL) makes compact inexpensive excellent survival gear that experienced adventurers can use.  Check out one of the many emergency blankets, survival kits, or compact first aid kits all under $25.  These kits are packed full of items that are absolute necessities in emergency situations and just plain nice to have when you are exploring the outdoors.  These are the items your loved ones will not buy for themselves, do them a favor and show you understand their outdoor itch and want them to come back safe.

Recover Brand Eco-Friendly Performance Wear

outdoor gift ideasWhat do eight empty plastic bottles get you?  A great looking performance Tee!  This is the perfect gift for the eco-concerned person on your list…or anyone that needs an awesome performance Tee.  Recover apparel uses 100% recycled materials (post consumer PET and post industrial cotton).  The shirts are awesome moisture-wicking performance wear that can go from the woods to the gym and everywhere in between.

Cairn Outdoor Gift Box

outdoor gift ideaCairn makes it easy to give the gift of the outdoors to the adventurers on your list.  This is a subscription program, so you gift a Cairn box to someone and each month a box arrives packed with personalized outdoor gear or themed products.  A questionnaire is used to tailor the products to the interests of the recipient.  The products are high quality and useful…and who doesn’t like getting a package every month!

Holiday Outdoor Gift Ideas for $$$

So you have a few extra dollars in the budget this year, or maybe this is the year you eat Ramen for a month so you can buy cool holiday gifts for your friends and loved ones.  Whatever your situation, these gifts may cost a few extra ducats, but the smiles will be worth it.

Tentsile Tree Tent

outdoor gift ideaThis may be one of the coolest outdoor products currently made.  Tentsiles are hanging tents, yes awesome hanging tents like something out of a Sci-Fi movie.  Tentsile Tree Tents were conceived as treehouses that you can take anywhere. The Tentsile tent has an attaching system that makes the floor semi-ridged even when suspended by tress.  It is simply something you have to experience to believe.  Models come in several sizes and are not for the ultra-light crowd.  If you decide to gift a Tentsile, order early, these popular tents go fast.

ThermaCELL Heated Insole

outdoor gift ideaHeated wearable technology has increased in function and comfort in recent years.  ThermaCELL makes a rugged heated insole for those on frigid outdoor adventures.  The insole will keep your feet warm with a rechargeable heater housed in a durable flexible polyurethane insole.  Control the temperature with a remote to keep your feet comfortable in changing temperatures and levels of exertion.  The insoles can be customized to fit different boot sizes and individual preference.  This is a great gift idea that many outdoor adventurers would not think to buy.  Nothing says “love” like warm feet!

Casio Expedition Watch

outdoor gift ideaCasio has long been known for making bombproof watches.  The new ProTrek line combines that indestructible construction with expedition features that are a must for extended adventures into wild places.  Most adventurers hesitate to spend a lot of money on a watch, but they will be over joyed that you cared enough to gift them the very best in outdoor technology.  One of the best features of this watch is the incredible solar battery that lasts for seven months on a single full charge and can be charged with everything from sunlight to a headlamp.  The watch is packed full of features you need on an expedition; barometer, altimeter, compass, thermometer, stopwatch, sunrise/sunset data, world time, and multi-band atomic timekeeping.

Contributor’s Top Picks

These experienced adventures have racked their collective brains to offer you unique outdoor gift ideas.  Find out what these outdoor experts think you should put under the tree this year.

Liz Forster:  Glacier Stainless Nesting Wine Glass

outdoor gift idea

One of my favorite drinks during the holiday season is mulled wine. It combines the citrus and spice of a great cranberry sauce and the comfort of a hot drink. What better place to drink mulled wine then the backcountry? With the Glacier Stainless Nesting Wine Glass, you and your loved ones will never have to make that compromise.

outdoor gift ideaSarah Vaughn:  ENO Twilights LED String Lights

outdoor gift idea

I don’t know about you, but I love to decorate. So when I learned I could be jazzing up my campsites with a set of string lights, I was ecstatic. ENO offers a variety of colored lights that are battery powered, 120 inches long, and packable into a tiny pouch perfect for creating that unique ambiance in any outdoor situation. Coming in at under $20, they are easy on the wallet and would make a great gift for practically anyone on your shopping list.

outdoor gift idea


dutch franz:  Outdoor Books

outdoor gift ideas

You never know when the winter weather will keep you couch or tent bound.  For times when you can’t get into the wild, my outdoor gift ideas include amazing adventure themed books for all abilities and interests.

Hiking Washington’s Pacific Crest Trail guidebook breaks down Washington’s portion of the PCT into sections and legs that renowned guidebook writer Tami Asars took years to document.  Each leg is illustrated with a detailed relief map that will tell you much of what you need to know at a quick glance; mileage, water source, trail numbers, camp sites, and elevation gain/loss are all at your fingertips.  Sections itineraries are also suggested to help you plan your time on the trail.

Woman’s guide to the wild.  As the outdoors increasingly becomes a mystery to our screen bound society, Ruby McConnel writes a practical guide to all the secrets of the wild that beginners need to know.  This woman’s outdoor guide is humorous, conversational, and packed with vital outdoor skills and tips.  Reading it is like having a lively chat with your best friend at your favorite coffee shop.  Everything from how to start a fire, to how to handle hygiene on the trail, Ruby covers it all with humor and humility.

Good food for outdoor adventures.  Food is important, especially in the outdoors where weather and exertion can put the body in a diminished capacity to perform.  Beyond the physical need to fuel the body, food is also an important aspect of positive mental attitude and resiliency in the wild.  Tanya Krezevska understands the importance good food in outdoor adventures and has written a wonderful and informative trail recipe book for the rest of us.

outdoor gift idea


Kristin Wuhrman:  The Perfect Survival Kit & Fun Necessities for the Backcountry Female


Dark Chocolate Varieties
A cute hiking skirt
FUD (Female Urination Device) like GoGirl or SheWee
Feminine Disposable Wipes (urine issues solved)Action Wipes (no need to shower)
Body Glide for Her for Chafed Areas
A cute Buff! Create a head scarf! It works great for hiding dirty hair, preventing food contamination, and keeping the bugs at bay while preparing or cleaning up a meal.


Jonathan Burnham:  Kickr Snap Bike Trainer

outdoor gift ideaDon’t let rainy Seattle stop you from riding! The new Kickr Snap Bike Trainer from Wahoo Fitness is ready to take your indoor training to another world, literally. This smart trainer allows you to ride in virtual locations with programs like Zwift and Bkool. These virtual programs automatically adjust the tension to simulate hills, weather and even drafting! Some of the important features are ANT+ connection for reliable power measurements, electromagnetic resistance for a super quiet ride, ultra-stable stand, wireless updates to continue to bring you the best performance and compatibility with iOS, Andriod, PC (Mac & Windows). The SNAP’s legendary flywheel also gives you that real road feeling, making it a much more realistic experience when you’re cranking out the watts. The Kickr Snap is a real game-changer for your training, don’t let this winter’s goals slip away due to soggy weather and get after it.

outdoor gift idea


Stocking Stuffer Bonus:

Muscle Roller/Trigger Stick: Show your beloved fitness gurus that you really care by helping them recover faster and stronger. Trigger point sticks are great for working out all the knots and tight spots after a long day of charging and you can easily find one for under $20 on Amazon.


Melissa Farage:  Umbrella Hat – Seriously

outdoor gift idea

In the great Pacific Northwest, we spend a disproportional amount of time trying to figure out how to stay dry in the lovely liquid sunshine. In our efforts to stay dry, there are always trade-offs. If you wear a raincoat, you’ll soak through from condensation. If you hike with an umbrella, you’re stuck holding it for hours on end. Make your loved one’s day by giving them the option to stay dry – hands free! With an umbrella hat they can enjoy all the benefits of the umbrella – superb ventilation, superior coverage and exceptional style – without the hassle of having to carry it all day. Why wait? Take a new spin on an old staple with the umbrella hat today. Give your loved one an unforgettable gift this holiday season!

outdoor gift idea

Breaking News – Puget Sound Open Water Swim Record Set

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Puget Sound Open Water Swim Record
Erika Norris with safety boat in trail sets the Puget Sound open water swim record from Bremerton to Alki Point. Photo Source: West Seattle Blog.

A Puget Sound open water swim record was set Sunday when swimmer Erika Norris set a new record for the 10.4 mile Amy Hiland Swim from Bremerton to Alki Point, Wash.  According to the Northwest Open Water Swimming Association, the swim took Norris 4:09:20.  The previous record was set in 1959 by Amy Hiland, Hiland completed the swim in 5:59.  The attempt by Norris is only the second record swim of the Bremerton to Alki Point route.

While setting the Puget Sound open water swim record, Norris endured chilly Puget Sound water temperatures.  The temperature during the weekend hovered around 62 degrees and was considered too cold for water sports without a wetsuit.  Norris is a six-time NCAA All-American, three-time Honorable All-American, and a member of the New York University Department of Athletics Hall of Fame.

USAF 50 Summits Challenge – Honoring Those That Give So Much

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USAF 50 Summit Challenge
The USAF 50 Summits Challenge members practicing rope team skills on Camp Muir, Mount Rainier.   Photo courtesy of USAF 50 Summits Challenge.

Forget the tiny man-made Space Needle.  When it comes to the Washington State icon, one that can be seen from well over 100 miles away, we’re talking about Mt. Rainier.  For the 24,000 service members and employees on Joint Base Lewis McChord, which is less than 20 miles from the park, it appears bigger than life and is a dominating, perhaps even scary, monolith seemingly just outside the base fence line.  A perfect place for the USAF 50 Summits Challenge.

We couldn’t have a more perfect peak to look upon, for it not only encourages military members to dream and appreciate the beauty of nature, but it also represents a powerful metaphor we use to teach critical life skills: that daunting obstacles can be overcome with fitness, teamwork, and tenacity.

In light of the 22 veterans who commit suicide a day, the 15 years of continuous combat operations our military has provided, and the enhanced difficulties of a life serving the nation in uniform, I knew something more than our well-intentioned, but ineffective, computer based health training needed to be done to keep our service-members resilient.  So a group of military climbers and I turned to one tool we personally use to maintain our sanity and energy –  nature.  It is from this belief, that mountains and nature provide the perfect setting to practice resiliency, that the USAF 50 Summits Challenge was created.

The purpose of the project is to boost the mental, physical, social, and spiritual health of our service members through climbs of each American state’s highest geographical point.  Hikes and climbs offer a chance to interact with other service members, expand one’s comfort zone, and tackle a peak that often looks too big to climb- just like big life problems we each face from time to time.  Rather than wait for tragedy to strike and then reactively help a military member recover, we aim to “inoculate” participants through outdoor experiences so they are better prepared to cope with tragedy when it inevitably strikes.

USAF 50 Summits Challenge
USAF 50 Summits Challenge teaches positive mental health skills and resiliency through experience learning in nature. Photo courtesy of USAF 50 Summits Challenge.

That is why on a rainy July afternoon ten Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps members and veterans gathered at Paradise to carry the American Flag to the summit of Mt. Rainier as part of the USAF 50 Summits Challenge climbing team.  For many in the group, it was their first time climbing a snowfield or glaciated peak, which invited a hint of trepidation.  But the vision of standing together atop Rainier’s summit pushed them beyond their comfort zones and into a life affirming adventure.

I reminded the team that like life’s big problems, it’s best to break this climb down into smaller parts.  “Don’t get overwhelmed by the size of the mountain in front of us” I say as we gather.  “We’re taking it one step at a time, as a team, and we’ve got each others’ backs.”

Soon the group is making steady progress up the Muir snowfield.  And just as quickly as the sweat begins to form, so do the personal stories about life, the successes, and the on-going struggles.  On every peak I’ve taken military teams, I have seen how the combination of physical exertion, nature-based setting, and relaxed atmosphere leads even the toughest, most tight-lipped military vets to open up and share difficult, intimate stories of loss, hurt, love, and dreams.

Perhaps the openness comes from sharing a common goal that involves some level of risk or challenge, much like they felt during combat missions, that causes them to open up.  Maybe it is simply the spiritually engaged feeling of being among great beauty that does it.  Regardless of exactly why, I smile knowing those miles of hiking and climbing is a proven alternative to pharmaceuticals in many cases.

I’m a lucky climber to have a broad network of outdoor contacts that want to help get military members into the outdoors.  On this climb of Rainier, I was fortunate to have two members of Seattle Mountain Rescue join us, both of whom are also military veterans.  As a volunteer on Seattle’s specialized rescue team, I knew the addition of their technical expertise and calm demeanor would help ensure that our other climbers felt comfortable.   Little did I know that they’d be such great teachers, taking on the role of instructing our military climbers on how to self arrest, travel on a rope team, and use tools such as ice axes and crampons.  It gave me the time needed to melt snow and cook dinner for a dozen hungry climbers!

With full bellies, the safety skills necessary to function on a rope team, and a calm clear night, we left Camp Muir with eight climbers.  Two of our active duty participants made the choice to stay at Muir due to health concerns, which is a wise choice, since symptoms of altitude sickness or other problems only worsen with an ascent.  We teach that part of being resilient is to know when to turn around, recoup, and live to fight another day.

When we reached the summit, we took time for a military tradition: pushups to honor the fallen and to highlight the importance of physical fitness. But the one thing I will remember most is the look on our 63-year-old veteran’s face when he looked across Washington from the true summit.  I surprised him with a sip of Rainier beer- a little treat I packed up from the car.  He soaked in the accomplishment of overcoming this huge obstacle and then tears welled up in his eyes.  “This is one I’ll never forget.  A true highlight in my life.  So allow an old guy like me a few tears of happiness.”

USAF 50 Summits Challenge
Members of the USAF 50 Summits Challenge share an emotional celebration on top of Mount Rainier. Photo courtesy of USAF 50 Summits Challenge.

It’s moments like this I thrive on.  Even if it’s just one veteran; one service member at a time- it is making a positive difference.  Connecting people to nature, to a community they can turn to when the going gets tough, is a win for everyone.  And how lucky we are to have the perfect resiliency classroom towering 14,416 feet above us all.

If you’d like to learn more about the USAF 50 Summits Challenge, visit them social media or at their website  Learn more about the all-volunteer, non-profit Seattle Mountain Rescue at their website.

About the Author

Rob is a Queen Anne Hill and Mercer Island native.  He commissioned from the Air Force Academy in 2001 and served for 14 years as an Air Force Special Operations pilot, during which he flew the infamous CV-22 Osprey and other aircraft on a myriad of combat, humanitarian and clandestine missions throughout the world. In 2005, Rob created the first American military high-altitude mountaineering team.  His goal: get service members into the outdoors and promote healthy lives by climbing the famed 7 Summits- a feat no team had succeed in accomplishing.  His mission came to a successful end in 2013 when he led the team to the summit of Mt. Everest, where he set a world record for pushups on the top of the world.  Rob has traveled to over 41 countries seeking unique adventures and perspectives and speaks about the importance of taking smart risks, accepting challenges, and overcoming enormous obstacles with teamwork.  He now directs the USAF 50 Summits Challenge out of Issaquah, volunteers for Seattle Mountain Rescue and flies part-time for the Air Force Reserve as a C-17 Globemaster III pilot.

Grizzly Bear Kills Man in Glacier National Park

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grizzly bear kills man
Grizzly bear kills man in Glacier National Park. Photo Source:

Grizzly bear kills man in Glacier National Park.  Brad Treat, 38, of Montana was killed Wednesday in a grizzly bear attack in Glacier National Park.  According to the Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry, Treat, was attacked at 2 p.m. while riding his mountain bike with another adult male rider.  The attack occurred on U.S. Forest land in the Halfmoon Lakes area near West Glacier National Park.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, the men likely surprised the bear.  During the attack, the bear charged and took Treat off his bike.  The second rider escaped the scene unhurt and rode for help. Treat was pronounced dead at the scene.

The bear attack in Glacier is under investigation by the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks, the U.S Forest Service, and the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office.  According to wildlife officials, this grizzly bear attack in Glacier is unusual because the victim was riding a bike and was with another adult.  The attack is also unusual because of the proximity to a popular camping area in the park.

This is the second year in a row that there has been a fatal grizzly bear attack of a park employee.  Last year a park employee was killed in Yellowstone National Park.  The employee had been exercising in an area near the Lake Village area of the park when he was fatally attacked by a mother bear.  Wildlife biologists are concerned that both attacks occurred so close to popular and inhabited areas of the parks.

Ecotourism – Pacific Northwest Climbers Making a Difference in Nepal

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Ecotourism is taking off and this summer a group of intrepid climbers are hoping to raise money and awareness on Mount Rainier that will help bring electricity to Nepalese schools devastated by last year’s earthquake.  Photo by Johnny Lai

Ecotourism is becoming a popular travel option, and the Pacific Northwest has a special relationship with the people of Nepal.  The volcanic peaks that dominate our landscape have been providing the training grounds for climbers and expeditions seeking out the highest mountains in the Himalayan Range since the first U.S. expeditions to Mount Everest.

On April 25, 2015, a massive 7.8 earthquake rocked Nepal destroying nearly a million homes and more than 10,000 schools. Though the tragedy is no longer in the headlines, the need for rebuilding is still vast.  Last year, Seattle Backpackers Magazine covered the public/private collaboration of individuals and organizations bringing much needed resources to the people of Nepal.  Last year’s efforts led to the rebuilding of homes in Nepal using sustainable methods designed to better withstand the stresses of earthquakes in the future.

This year, the rebuilding effort continues with a project to bring sustainable electricity to the villages left without reliable power and Seattle Backpackers Magazine is once again committed to covering this important humanitarian story.  Seattle based Wildland Adventures is partnering with 3 Summits for Nepal to help bring solar panels and hope to four village schools that were devastated by the earthquake.  While the rebuilding is nearly completed, the schools are still without power.

Volunteers help rebuild a house using earthquake resistant methods in 2015. Funding for the rebuilding effort was supported by a public/private partnership. Photo courtesy of Pam Perry

If you are interested in supporting the solar panel project or actually getting your hands dirty in Nepal, there are many ways to participate.

  1. Nepal Night. Wildland Adventures will host Nepal Night at the Himalayan Sherpa House in Seattle. Ang Sherpa, veteran of several expeditions to Everest, will share his climbing stories and speakers will update the struggles and conditions in remote Himalayan villages. Drinks, Nepalese appetizers, and lessons in how to make those delicious momos will be provided. Also take part in a fun silent auction. This event is limited to 50 guests and is sure to be a memorable evening.

         When: Monday, July 11 from 6:30 – 8:30pm

         Where:  Himalayan Sherpa House – 2227 North 56th Street, Seattle, WA 98103

         Tickets: $15 in advance ($20 at the door)

  1. Climb for Nepal. A team of Wildland staff and friends will attempt to summit Mt. Rainier beginning on July 28, 2016. This effort will help raise awareness of the ongoing need to support the rebuilding of Nepal. “This will be no easy task, but well worth the effort.” says Wildland’s Jonathan Burnham, one of the climbers. “I’m looking forward to photos of the school lit up by solar power more than I am of the summit of Mt. Rainier. When businesses are able to collaborate to help solve social causes, the world is a better place.”
  1. Get your Hands Dirty.  Consider taking an ecotourism trip to Nepal and help install the solar panels yourself. The solar panels will be delivered by Wildland travelers in November 2016 as part of a 15-day journey through Bhutan and Nepal.
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