Do you have a jet setting family member who doesn’t return texts when you ask what to get them for their birthday or holidays? We know all about that daughter, or brother, or grandson… because we are guilty as charged. Geeze, Mom, stop texting! It’s hard to think of gift ideas when I’m building fires or climbing trees with the kids! If you or a family member need holiday gift ideas for outdoor families read along. We’ve done some asking for ya!
In addition to having a personal bias, we posted to several adventure travel message boards to see what other families either really want or just can’t live without. Below are the top results of our survey along with a few things that we either own and love or want.
Gifts for Outdoor Adventurers
We do a mix of backpacking and car camping but lean more heavily on car camping with the kids. When we first started out, we were hanging hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire pit with sticks we found in the woods. We’ve since leveled up from there.
Portable Power Bank – We try to stay unplugged while outdoors, but we do love a good photo of our kids with epic landscapes in the background. If we’re away from power for more than 24 hours, the power bank becomes a must. Even when camping, we’ve done awkward things like take the car for a short drive just to charge the phone before we owned one of these. Any outdoor family would love one of these, even if they already have one.
Car Camping Stove ($50-100) – Great for those car camping adventures either when a fire is not allowed, or when you just don’t feel like waiting around for your fire to burn out before moving on to your next adventure.
Helinox Chair Zero ($120) – Almost every backpacker carries a luxury item, and for Mike, this item is his camp chair. It is ideal for back country treks, but the size is also convenient when you have limited trunk space on those car camping adventures.
REI Co-op Camp Roll Table ($70) – Even if you car camp at a site that has a picnic table, it’s nice to use something like this as a food prep and serving station nearby so you can sit around and eat snacks or play cards with the sometimes messy food prep out of the way.
Outdoor Cookset ($75-100) – For car camping, we usually go with cast iron, but if weight and space are a concern, we turn to an outdoor cook set like this one.
Outdoor Blanket ($50-75) – Another useful gift idea for outdoor families uses sleeping bag technology, as a blanket! These are so versatile as either a comfy blanket to wrap up in next to the fire at night or as a picnic blanket with the kids. They’re warm, water-resistant, and pack nice and tidy in a stuff sack.
Foam Roller ($30-50) – My mind was blown when I discovered the foam roller. These are great for getting rid of those leg knots after a long day of hiking, especially if you’re carrying a pack… or a kid on your shoulders, oof.
Leatherman Multitool ($100) – A lot of people patch together random knives and can openers, but nothing beats the real thing. You’d be surprised how many outdoor families cludge together pliers, knives, bottle openers, and screw drivers rather than fork over the $100 for an all-in-one tool like these.
Carabiners ($40) – Great for backpacking or snapping water bottles onto the stroller, baby carrier, or diaper bag. Once you start using them, you can’t have enough of them.
Waterproof Clip Speakers ($40-70) – Hangin out is just more enjoyable with some nice tunes. It’s great to hang one of these from the tent or a tree branch and enjoy the company of your buds.
Bocce Ball – ($40) – Now this isn’t a great gift idea for the outdoor family backpacking trip, but car camping, beach vacations, etc, are always better with some lawn games.
Outdoor Cookbook ($25) – If you’re outdoors a lot, a good cookbook comes in handy if you want to level up your game from the simple burrito and potato wraps and hot dogs.
Gifts for Dad
Moisture-wicking underwear ($30-$35) – Undies involve a lot of personal preference, but when training for a big outdoor adventure this past summer, we switched from traditional cotton knickers to moisture-wicking undies and the difference has been fantastic. No more swamp ass!
Smartwool Socks ($25) – If you’re in the market for underwear, you may as well buy socks too, and if you’re buying socks, get quick-dry, performance smart wool socks that are great for outdoor adventures.
Metal Wallet ($75) – Trim your rear and get rid of that oversized leather monstrosity. Protect your cash and credit with a metal wallet that doesn’t risk getting soggy if it rains. RFID blocking technology also helps protect your credit cards when traveling to less savory locations abroad.
Gifts for Photographers
Joby Gorilla Pod for DSLR Cameras ($75-$200) – Feel free to substitute in a lightweight traditional tripod, but the Joby Gorilla pod is our preferred multi-purpose travel-pod. It’s rugged enough to sit on rocks and wrap around trees, and the maneuverable legs actually work well as a (rather large) selfie stick. Just be sure to buy a model that will support your camera. Our first purchase was rated for a lightweight DSLR, so when we put a heavy lens on our camera, it tipped over.
GoPro! – GoPro’s are so versatile. It’s always amazing to see great photos from the paddleboard, video from a bike ride, or really cool selfies that you just can’t get from a phone or a DSLR.
Camera Clip for a Backpack ($70) – I have this thing and love it. When you’re walking long distances, it’s annoying to either have to put your pack down to dig out your camera or have your camera swinging around on a strap. A clip like this is really nice to have.
Gifts for Mom
Chaco Sandals – Comfort in the outdoors starts with the feet. Chacos are comfortable walking sandals that can be worn with socks around the campfire at night, in the water, or even just hiking around. These suckers are super versatile and are the perfect gift for an outdoor mom (or dad, or kids… heck the whole family).
Travel Pillow – Once you get mom’s feet comfortable for daytime activities, give her something comfortable to rest her head on at night. It’s not always possible to bring along that pillow from home so a good inflatable pillow will do the trick.
Instant Coffee – Let’s be honest, camping or backpacking is no time to give up that caffeine habit. If you drink coffee at home, make a plan to get your day going with some on the road as well. You can try a french press or something fancy, but instant coffee in single-serve packets is really the best way to go. We like Mount Hagen because, in addition to tasting great, it’s organic with no preservatives.
Osprey Day Pack – Having a good day pack is a huge bonus for anyone who likes a good hike. We’ve tried to re-purpose book bags, but having a pack that is fit for purpose is great. This Osprey pack comes with a back panel for comfort and support, a hydration pocket for your hydration system, and is attachable so you can strap it to a larger pack for more serious adventures.
Gifts for the Kids
Our kids have a long wish list every year but we try to focus on family gift ideas that best that combine city and outdoor life.
Magnetic Building Blocks– Our kids have the large PicassoTiles set at home, but love this smaller collection for travel. Once they are a bit older I imagine we can travel with legos but for airport delays or rainy camp days, this set is perfect for keeping their little hands and minds busy and working together!
Adventure Kit – Now this thing is really cool. We bought one of these before our trip to Costa Rica. It was a great way to get the kids energized about the trip ahead of time. They also tend to play with this stuff all the time rather than limit playtime to outdoor adventures. I mean, what five-year-old doesn’t like shining a flashlight or playing with a mini fan?
Walkie-Talkies – Tell me what’s more awesome than a walkie-talkie to a 5-year-old? How cool is it to go exploring with mom and check back in with dad back at the tent. Speaking of, these do come in handy if you have to split up for real, like say you have a sleeping baby and need to take the older kids away because they’re being too loud.
Dry-Erase Boards– We have purchased more expensive brands with a frame and magnets and the works, but all kids end up needing is a simple board they can take in the car, on the plane, or work on in the tent and these are perfect for just that! No frills, super cheap!
Dry-Erase Pens– Especially as our oldest gets older and is doing more actual writing a fine-point pen allows him to get more on the board. If you are looking for younger kiddos, stick with fat dry-erase markers!
Toy Car with Family– Our kids are getting older but they still love to play pretend. This car complete with a little family is on their list this year and will be great for plane and car trips!