Outdoor gift guide: Local outfitters recommend their faves for this holiday season
By Colby Dunn • Correspondent
Though winter may have you couped up inside, you can dream of sunnier days in the outdoors with The Smoky Mountain News outdoor holiday gift guide, a rundown of the season’s hottest gifts from the region’s top outfitters. So for the budding outdoor enthusiast or seasoned nature lover still on your gift list, we’ve got you covered from head to toe, pretty much literally. Or if you’d like to reward yourself for making it out of the mall alive and not using a waffle iron as a weapon on Black Friday, there’s some options for that, too.
Blackrock Outdoor, Sylva
ENO Doublenest Hammock • $70
This outdoor standby tops the bestseller lists of local outfitters year on year, and for good reason. So we’re bringing it back to you again this Christmas. Whether it’s swinging on your own back porch, sipping Mai Tais on your favorite beach or making camp on the remotest of wilderness trails, this hammock is portable, comfortable (and for those beginner backpackers among us) easy to set up. If you’re travelling with a spouse/child/lover/friend, there’s room enough for two in the Doublenest, and all that space packs up easily into a five-inch sack. Plus, for the locavore on your list, you’ll be glad to know that these hammocks were born right here in Western North Carolina, at Asheville-based Eagle’s Nest Outfitters.
North Face Osito Jacket • $99-$119
For the ladies, this fuzzy companion is a wonderful addition to any wardrobe. Want to stay warm running to the grocery store, check. Base layer for hitting those black diamond slopes this winter, also check. It’s made of incredibly soft silken fleece and feather light, and it’s also built to zip into your North Face outer layers when you need that extra bit of warmth in the deepest winter chills. With 24 colors to choose from, trap warmth and repels wind in the most stylish way possible this season
Patagonia men’s R1
Don’t think we’re giving the ladies all the outdoor fashion love. For the gentlemen, one of the most trusted names in outfitting has revamped one of its most popular styles this year. It’s stretchable, breathable, moisture wicking and insulating – how many more adjectives could you ask for? They’ve shed the bulk on this one, so you can squish it into a rucksack and rock climb into the sunset without any extraneous weight. To top it off, the R1 is made partly from recycled soda bottles, so you can look good while doing your part for our good friend, the earth. If you’re still not convinced, check out the company’s Worn Wear project, where you can read about folks still using their decades-old Patagonia gear.
Outdoor 76, Franklin
Outdoor 76 Sili-pint Glass • $15
For the extra clumsy or safety conscious this Christmas, these unbreakable silicon pint glasses will be the perfect way to toast the new year. They’re insulated to hold both hot and cold beverages, and did we mention they’re unbreakable? Pack it, drop it, kick it, heck, drop kick it if you like, it’ll pull through so you can use it to pull your next pint. It’s also a nice nod to some local brands, with the Outdoor 76 logo on one side and local craft beer favorite, Rock House Lodge, on the other.
Darn Tough Socks • $12-$30
A lifetime warranty on a sock, need we say more? OK, well perhaps just a bit. That lifetime guarantee is for real, and they ask no questions at all. Worn them out? Just send them back and get a brand new pair. They come in a range of colors and designs, from perfectly playful to very, very serious indeed and there are options for men, women and kids alike. They’re merino wool, and with lines for a range of purposes – hunting, skiing, biking, running, hiking, a sort-of catch-all category called lifestyle. You might be thinking the price tag is a little bit high for a pair of socks, but not if they’re the last socks you ever have to buy.
Mast General Store, Waynesville
MPOWERD Luci Solar Light • $15
What’s waterproof, collapsible, floating, solar powered and runs for 12 hours on a single charge? It’s hard to think of any answers to this question other than the Luci Solar Light. The innovative light weighs just four ounces but can light 15 square feet for six to 12 hours and uses only the sun’s rays to power up. It’s not just outdoorsmen (and women) that’ll find this useful, it’s a great light source anywhere electricity’s hard to come by. Car, boat, campsite, picnic table, worksite – because it sits on its own, it’ll replace your favorite lantern and do wonders for your D battery budget. Hang it on a string, use it as a flashlight, you can even charge it under an incandescent light bulb if you’re stuck in sunless winter Iceland. Luci’s makers are also helping you give back this giving season, by offering discounted lamps that you can buy to be donated to those in need of reliable light, from Sudan to the typhoon-struck Philippines.
Osprey Stratos 24 • $70-$100
A backpack can be a hiker’s best friend, but by the time you’ve reached the summit, it can often feel like your back’s taken a trip to the sweat lodge and the rest of your body missed the memo. Enter the Osprey Stratos, a light day pack that’s designed to hold your stuff and ventilate your back, all in one trusty, two-and-a-half pound package. This daypack is a best seller for the boys, that is perfect for an afternoon trek to his favorite overlook, a day on the bike or just to tote his essentials running around town. It’s purpose built for a hydration system, has a multitude of pockets in varying sizes, an integrated rain cover to keep your valuables moisture free, and since it’s winter, the special ice axe holder (yes, really) bears mentioning.
V-sharp Knife Sharpeners • $40-$90
At the heart of an outdoorsman’s gear collection is the knife. Whether you’re a camper, paddler, hunter, hiker or all of the above, a good knife is essential. But when a blade loses its edge, trying to regain that sharpness often requires a lot of skill, time and effort. The V-Sharp makes all that totally unnecessary. Too clumsy to simultaneously hold a knife and move a sharpener against it safely? No problem. Lacking the manual dexterity to hit the blade at the same angle each time? Also not an issue. The V-Sharp collection of sharpeners pretty much look like an erector set exploded – i.e., a hot mess of metal rods. But the authorities have spoken, and with endorsements from folks like the USDA, the NRA, the editors at Knives Illustrated (who really should know about these kinds of things), and hundreds of happy hunters and fishermen, the contraption has proven itself. Plus, it’s portable, so your knives can stay sharp, both at home and in the tree stand. As a bonus, even if there’s no hunters on your list, this one’s a great gift for the butcher, chef or competitive knife thrower in your life.
Nantahala Outdoor Center, Bryson City
Pyranha Burn Kayak • $900-$1,099
When Mike Jones made the first kayak descent of Dudh Kosi, the river that runs off Mount Everest, he did it in a Pyranha boat. So if extreme is what you’re looking for, this company has it in their blood. The Burn – as in, dude, that’s a hot kayak – is one of their flagship models today, and it’s a nice option for the experienced whitewater paddler on down to the class I whitewater novice. With a new update in the pipeline, and a whole rainbow of jaunty tie-dyed colors to choose from, you and your loved ones can take the same seat as many of the paddle greats in this popular whitewater classic.
Salewa Mountain Trainer • $130-$210
Take the lacing from a climbing shoe, the bacteria-killing ions of a precious metal, and a flexible structure taken from nature itself and you get this master of a hiking boot. It’s coated in Gore-Tex to keep your feet dry even in the wettest conditions. It’s got a shock absorption system to keep your feet and ankles cushioned on the longest treks. It comes in colors like limeade and waterfall. Get your hike on in all seasons in this versatile footwear for men and women.
Osprey Ariel Backpack • $249-279
This pack is a great companion for the more serious trekker (or the one who’d like to be). The Ariel is Osprey’s bestselling women’s line, and its lightweight construction and attention to detail – it even has specific sleeping pad straps – make it ideal for hikes on the Appalachian Trail to that around-the-world trip your soon-to-be graduate keeps talking about. It comes in two different sizes, and with features like a heat-moldable hip belt and a structure tailored to the female frame, you can stay comfortable, even with everything you own strapped to your back.