Nobody knows their way around the gear section of an outfitter store better than the people who work in them every day. The purveyors of serious outdoor clothing and equipment are almost always addicted to their own product. The Smoky Mountain News has capitalized on the expertise of three of the region’s premier outdoor retailers–– Mast General Store in Waynesville; Blackrock Outdoors in Sylva; and Nantahala Outdoor Center in Bryson City –– by asking their staff to recommend the best outdoor gear gifts this season.
In every generation there’s a technology or a design that’s so good it never changes. If you check out what the gear gurus are wearing in their free time, you get a feel for what the items are.
Blackrock Outdoor Company • Patagonia Down Sweater $200
Patagonia sets the standard for quality gear manufactured with environmentally responsible processes. Their answer to the polyfill puffy coat is this quilted sweater that will keep you snug while you’re cruising or provide warmth under a waterproof outer layer in cold conditions.
Nantahala Outdoor Center • Kleen Kanteen $19.99
Coming in just under $20 and made of BPA-free stainless steel, Kleen Kanteen water bottles are a great gift for almost anyone. Kleen Kanteen formed in 2004 and put BPA-free stainless steel technology into the mix as an alternative to plastic water bottles. The company is part of the 1% For the Planet partnership that donates a portion of its profits to environmental causes.
Mast General Store • Mountain Hardware Flip Jacket $180
Polyfill down puffy coats are a perfect example of a classic design. They’re comfortable, stylish, and retain heat even when they’re soaking wet. The Flip jacket might cost a bit more than a polyfill puffy from another manufacturer, but Schoon says you’ll notice the difference as soon as you snuggle into one.
If you have a gear head in your family, then the chances are slim you can walk into one of these outfitter stores and find something they don’t already have. All of the experts in the field will tell you the simplest solution is to buy a gift certificate of $100 or more, but they also offered up some unique gift options that might tickle the fancy of the person who has everything.
Nantahala Outdoor Center • NOC Belt Buckle $22
We guarantee you won’t find this stylish buckle anywhere else!
The Stick $42.50
It’s like a toothbrush for muscles, erasing soreness and tension after a tough weekend workout!
Mast General Store • EGear solar pull light $19.99
This handy little outfitter light features both solar charge and pull charge features so you’ll never run out of light in the backcountry.
Wedderlings hand-forged Swedish steel hatchet $60.99
Designed to last a lifetime, this hatchet is sure to push its way into your gear head’s backcountry setup.
Blackrock Outdoor Company • Innova Disc Catcher Sport $199
Disc golf is Western North Carolina’s fastest-growing past-time and Blackrock carries everything you need to get started. Buy a friend a disc basket and set them loose on a lifetime of low-flying fun.
Stockings are arguably the most fun part of Christmas morning, in part because filling a giant sock full of little gifts tickles the creative instinct of holiday shoppers. All three of our featured local outfitter stores have a whole slew of neat stocking stuffers, but we’ll highlight a few really choice picks.
Blackrock Outdoor Company • Columbia River Knife and Tool M-16 Series $59.99
These hardy river knives are lightweight and built to stay sharp.
Cliff Bar minis $.75
Cliff Bar now makes little tidbits that are perfect for stuffing stockings or the inside of your ski parka for a long day on the hill.
Nantahala Outdoor Center • Foamie Boater Kit $20
Kids and adults love building miniature foamy boaters to float or to race in small creeks and streams.
Kayaking Santa Ornament $10.95
Let’s face it, Santa just looks cooler in a kayak than in that clunky old sleigh. We hope Santa’s got a high-volume stern!
Mast General Store • Green Guru Billboard Series wallet $25
These stylish, sleek, bifold wallets are manufactured from recycled billboards. They’ll impress the most demanding fashionistas and enviro activistas in one fell swoop.
Mast General lip balm $2.99
Manufactured by Joshua Tree, an environmentally friendly independent supplier in Michigan, the Mast store line of lip balm is top quality and eco-friendly.
Every year, outdoor clothing and equipment companies come out with new products and new materials. Hot new items make good gifts because your loved ones can hit the streets (or rapids) knowing they’re trendsetters.
Nantahala Outdoor Center • Astral Greenjacket Limited Edition $240
Asheville’s Astral Buoyancy — founded by NOC alum Phil Curry — has once again put out the most sought-after PFD for paddlers. Loaded with features, the Greenjacket rescue vest provides paddlers with unmatched freedom of movement. The LE has a small-batch design that looks as good as it performs.
Mast General Store • Mountain Hardware Monkey Woman Jacket $150
Mountain Hardware was started by the people who put The North Face and Sierra Designs on the map. The Monkey Woman Jacket is a thermic fleece jacket that combines incredible warmth and a lightweight design. Thermic fleece isn’t brand new –– it’s the shaggy kind –– but Jay Schoon and Jim Taylor at Mast in Waynesville say its popularity is still on the ascent.
Blackrock Outdoor Company • Under Armour Hundo fleece pullover $69.99
Under Armour has been a staple for high school and college jocks for a number of years, but now their gear line is penetrating the outdoor marketplace. Blackrock now carries a full line of men’s and women’s base and outer layers.