Great Gift Ideas 1 – 2020

by WenatcheeOutdoors Staff

Editors Note: Check back for next week’s installment of part two of Great Gift Ideas for 2020. 

Whether you’re thinking about the giving or the getting, it’s moved into that time of year to be thinking about the Great Salvation of Capitalism – Christmas. Regardless of what side of the equation you’re pondering – the presenting or the receiving – we’ve got many worthy ideas to pass along. The listing that follows is carefully culled. We’ve refrained from listing items we haven’t put through hard field use to earn our respect. Going from the inexpensive to the ridiculously expensive here’s a list of gifts that we know will please. We’ve even got that traditional staple when you have no idea of what to give someone – that would be socks. But in terms of comfort, warmth, durability, and environmental sustainability, these are the best socks we’ve ever used. They’re gems. But to find them you’re going to need to sift through many other gems. Read on.

Instant Coffees ($4 to $7, Target). Making fancy coffee outdoors by dripping, French pressing, or stovetop espresso-ing adds weight, fuss, preparation time, and clean-up time to multi-day trips. These are all good reasons to put aside java snobbery while adventuring and get juiced each morning with a good instant coffee. The VIA instant coffees from Starbucks come in a variety of roasts (Colombia, French Roast, Italian Roast) and range from $5.30 to $7 for a box with 8 packets (8 servings). Arguably as good and less expensive is Megdalia D’oro Instant Espresso Coffee (roughly $4.50 at Target) which comes in a 2-ounce jar and uses a teaspoon of grounds per cup of coffee. A fun exercise is to bring both brands and perform a blind taste test in the field. Also consider pre-mixing these coffees with instant hot chocolate to create your own Mountain Mocha Mixture.

Some of the all-around best repair items: Seam Grip WP (top left), Seam Grip SIL (bottom left), and two versions of Tenacious Tape (right).

Gear Aid – Seam Grip WP ($7.50, Hooked on Toys). This waterproof sealant and adhesive from Gear Aid has a hundred fix-it applications. The viscous urethane goo squeezed from a tube sticks to most surfaces and cures into a clear, flexible, rubbery solid. Use it to permanently seal leaky or fortify fraying seams in tents, raingear, and packs; repair holes in tent floors, running shoes, air mattresses; or to re-glue delaminating boots. Pro Tip: Once opened, the unused portion of a tube will slowly harden over the course of a year, which can be prevented by storing partially used tubes in the freezer. Read more about the many uses of Seam Grip.

Gear Aid – Seam Grip SIL ($7.50, REI). Siliconized nylon (silnylon) has significantly reduced the weight of waterproof outdoor gear because silicone impregnation of nylon increases the base fabric’s strength rather than weakens it (as is the case with polyurethane coatings). Consequently, silnylon gear uses much lighter base fabrics in the production of tents, tarps, packs, raingear, stuff sacks, and more. On the downside, silnylon is slippery so many adhesives, sealants and tapes don’t stick to it. That makes the sealing of seams and repairing of holes difficult. Enter Seam Grip SIL which is formulated to adhere to silnylon for seam sealing, gluing, and the patching of holes. Pro Tip: The floors of silnylon tents are very slippery but a three-inch grid of paper-thin, dime-sized, Seam-Grip-SIL dots over the surface adds enough traction to keep sleeping pads and pillows from squirting around all night.

A minimalists first-aid kit with a length of Leukotape P rolled over on itself (lower left). In the center is a length of  Stretch-Cover All (also rolled).

Gear Aid – Tenacious Tape ($5.25 – $8, Arlberg Sports). Duct tape is great for quick-and-dirty fixes of gear in the field, but if you really want an instant long-term fix to holes in nylon raingear, tears in tent floors, rips in tarps, punctures in air mattresses, thorn holes in fishing waders and more, use Tenacious Tape. Rub this tape firmly to the dry surface of items made of nylon, silnylon, rubber, plastic, vinyl, canvas, or even metal and you’ve instantly got a waterproof fix with a tape whose adhesive qualities improve with time. The tape comes in different widths and colors but we recommend having a 3” x 20” strip of black tape (which places the adhesive to tear-resistant black nylon fabric) and a 1.5” x 60” roll of clear tape (which places the adhesive on clear vinyl tape). The black tape will strengthen a tear that is danger of propagating while the clear repair tape almost disappears when rubbed over a hole, rip, or gouge that is in less danger of propagating but needs to be made leak proof. Keep about six inches of each tape in your field repair kit and the rest of the tape in your stock of home repair items. Click here to read more.

BSN Medical – Leukotape P ($8.50) and Cover-Roll Stretch ($7). Both of these items made by BSN Medical are must-haves for blister prevention, blister coverage, wound coverage, the making of Band-Aids (stick a piece of gauze or tissue to a length of tape that will cover a wound), and most other first-aid applications requiring tape. The adhesive is what makes these tapes unique — once applied either tape will stick to skin for days even if you’re sweating profusely, swimming, or showering. Whether you’re out on a day trip or a multi-day backpacking trip, eight to ten feet of 1.5”-wide Leukotape P (rolled over on itself to make a small roll for the pack) and three or four feet of 2”-wide Cover-Roll Stretch added to your Ten Essentials bag makes a minimalist but versatile first-aid kit. The Leukotape is arguably the most important single item but we’ve come to greatly appreciate the Cover-Roll Stretch because it breathes better, which keeps the skin below it from softening and wrinkling. It’s surface is also slicker, reducing the shoe and sock friction that frequently causes blisters. More about these tapes.

The Splash Flash.

eGear or UST – Splash Flash ($9). This one-ounce, waterproof light has a blinking mode designed to make kayakers, canoeists, and SUPers visible on the water during the dusky hours. We actually much prefer the constant-light setting of the Splash Flash, which is powered by one AAA battery, for area lighting. Hang this mini light as a lantern from its mini carabiner (included) from the collar of your shirt and the 25-lumens of downward-directed white light provides ample illumination for cooking and camp chores. Hang the lantern from a loop in the ceiling of a tent and the Splash Flash provides just enough light for after-dark games and reading. All of that makes this little lantern a big hit on overnight trips.

The Duracell headlamp (left) vs. the Petzl Zipka headlamp. The Duracell is a best value but the Petzl Zipka is highly functional and also considerably more compact — you won’t hesitate to keep it in your pack (or throw it in your pocket) for possible emergencies.

Duracell – 550-Lumen Headlamp (3-pack for $22, Costco). The current Costco three-pack of Duracell headlights is a steal when it comes to value. Each light costs $7 and change so keep one for yourself and give two away as inexpensive but good-quality gifts. These lights run off three AAA batteries and we recommend using Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) rechargeables if you’re using the light regularly or using Alkalines (which have exceptionally long shelf life), if the light will be packed away for the rare emergency. With batteries and headband each light weighs 3.8 ounces. The Petzl Zipka (reviewed below) is smaller and lighter but we’re still impressed with this light. At its brightest it pours out 550 lumens, providing both excellent distance and peripheral viewing. At its dullest it delivers several lumens of red light, which is adequate for camp chores or walking a good trail at night. The light also has an important feature some moderately expensive headlights lack, a secure locking mode that ensures the light won’t turn on accidentally inside a pack.

Edelrid – Climbing Gear ($11 to $260, Riverfront Rock Gym). While researching and testing gear for an upcoming article focused on helping Alpine climbers shed weight (full article to appear next spring) we’ve been particularly impressed by products manufactured by Edelrid, a leader in producing certified, well-designed, extremely light, and environmentally made climbing gear. Some particularly interesting items that will benefit the mountaineer/Alpine-climber in your midst include:

  • The Nineteen G carabiner ($11) is currently the lightest carabiner in the world (19 grams or 0.67 ounces) and weighs half or even a third of the carabiners most climbers carry. Depending on the severity of the climb, 15 to 30 carabiners might make up an Alpine rack so this a huge place to lighten up. For all its feathery weight, the Nineteen G is a full-strength ‘biner certified to 20 kilonewtons (kn) along the long axis and 7 kilonewtons (kn) along the short axis.  Two of these carabiners attached to a four-inch draw sewn from 11mm Dyneema makes a quickdraw weighing 46 grams (1.6 oz). This is the weight of an average carabiner. The Nineteen G is smaller than the average carabiner so climbers with large or gloved hands may have a harder time manipulating it for difficult clips. In the effort to save energy or to move faster on long routes, most Alpinists will benefit from having the majority of their runners and draws outfitted with the Nineteen G and some of their draws outfitted with a lightweight but full-sized biner like the Mission Carabiner. The Mission ($11) is a normal wire-gate carabiner with a large opening yet it’s only 6 grams heavier than the Nineteen G. That makes it a good 75 to 100 percent lighter than most carabiners while matching the competition in strength (23 kn on the major axis, 8 kn on the minor axis).
  • Either of the above carabiners can be matched with sewn slings folded into draws for clipping protection, or used as runners to thread around chock stones, loop over horns, or hitch around trees. Edelrid’s 8 mm Dyneema sewn slings (certified to 22 kn) meet the load requirements for all these applications yet are 50 to 100 percent lighter than the runners Alpine climbers usually carry. Given that Alpinists often carry a quiver of a half dozen single-length (60 cm) sewn slings (19 grams each, $11) and two or three double-length (120 cm) sewn slings (36 grams, $17), this is another significant weight savings that will be appreciated during each step of an approach and every vertical foot gained.
  • Pure Slider ($19). This carabiner is the weight (45 grams, 1.6oz) of an average non-locking carabiner but gives you the security of an auto-lock. Use it to clip into an anchor, attach the lead rope to a runner needing the added security of not opening, belay from your harness with a device, or give a belay using a Munter Hitch. Despite being much lighter than other locking carabiners, the Pure Slider equals the heavies in its certified strength (23 kn on the long axis, 8 kn on the short axis). Weight is one advantage but what really sets this carabiner apart is the sliding tab on the gate that makes clipping and unclipping it a one-handed operation. Once you’ve used the Slider, you’ll find other auto lockers or manual screwgates utterly clumsy.
  • Canary Pro Dry 8.6mm Rope ($260/60-meter). The competition to produce the lightest rope never ends but when we started testing the Canary (spring of 2020) it was the lightest single rope on the market. The Canary is actually triple certified to be used as a single, twin, or double rope. Weighing in at 51 grams per meter the savings of 10 to 15 grams per meter over the more typical 9.6 mm rope may not seem that significant until you multiply that by 60 meters and realize this rope can trim 1.5 to 2 pounds of fat from the climbing kit. That matters. What also matters is the ProDry finish, keeping this rope light and easy to handle as it gets exposed to snow, wet rock, and inclement weather. Speaking of handling, we very much appreciated the ‘hand’ and the low-level of kinking that occurred as we belayed and rappelled on the Canary. Finally the excellent dynamic elongation of the Canary makes for a soft catch if and when you do fall (something we have avoided in the high mountains but tested at the rock gym). Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell used the Canary to establish their speed record on The Nose of El Cap – that’s a fair endorsement speaking to this rope’s weight and performance advantages.

Altera – Alpaca Socks ($22-24). Are these the socks referenced in the article’s introduction? Could be, but perhaps there other socks to be discussed so you’ll need to keep reading to be sure. What we will say about these socks is that they are beasts (in durability) and beauties (in performance). Made of Alpaca wool, the hollow fibers of Alpaca wick well and, like wool, pack a lot of warmth for their weight. The synthetics blended into the Alpaca wool is what makes the sock extremely hardwearing. Socks using 100 percent natural fiber (whether that’s cotton, wool, or alpaca) don’t last nearly as long as those blending in synthetics for durability and stretch. The Altera alpaca socks come in a few different thicknesses and styles. We love the Explore 6” Crew Lightweight Sock ($22) as a summer hiking sock and the Prevail 9” Crew ($24) as a colder-weather outdoor sock or as a slipper when worn indoors. More about these socks.

Left (green) sock: Our favorite sock, ever — Altera’s midweight sock made of alpaca wool. Right sock (gray) one of the best values going – Kirkland’s Merino Wool Sock.

Granite Gear – eVent Sil Drysacks ($25 to $32). The term dry sack makes one think about water sports, but these lightweight silnylon sacks with taped seams and watertight roll closures are perfect waterproof stuff sacks for backpacking, bike packing, climbing, and backcountry skiing. Use them to protect spare clothing, warm coats, and sleeping bags and these items will stay bone dry in a pack through the wettest of weather. The eVent bottoms of these sacks is especially useful – the fabric is highly waterproof and yet breathable enough to allow air to be pressed out as the roll closure reduces the sack’s volume. This means the dry sacks can be easily compressed to a minimum size for easy packing. The dry sacks come in four different sizes. For three-season use we use two 10-liter sacks ($25 each), one for all our spare clothing, the other to protect a NeoAir sleeping pad (listed in part 2 of Great Gift Ideas) and a light sleeping bag (or quilt –also listed part 2 of this article). For the added clothing and heavier sleeping bags of winter trips, we prefer two 18-liter sacks ($32 each). Ultimately the best size is dependent on the volume and shape of one’s pack so experimenting with an initial purchase of one 10-liter sack and one 18-liter sack is a smart strategy.

Kirkland – Men’s Merino Wool Socks ($20, Costco). You see, we did have more to say about socks! If you’re looking for top value (i.e., high quality at a low cost) this deal delivering six pairs of socks for a twenty spot can’t be beat. These mid-weight socks are the ticket for late-fall and winter outdoor use. And because there is plenty of nylon blended into the yarn, they’re durable enough to wear around the house as slippers. The socks, like many clothing items at Costco, are seasonal so grab them when they roll around in autumn, or order them online. The Women’s Merino Wool Sock is also an excellent mid-weight sock and an excellent value. Because the women’s sock uses a lower percentage of synthetics, they’re not quite as hardwearing as the men’s sock. For the cost (also $20 for a 6-pack), we still give them high marks.

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