Great gift ideas for outdoor families

Do you have an outdoors-loving or jet-setting family member who doesn’t return texts when you ask for ideas for an upcoming birthday or the 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 we’re building fires, climbing trees, or planning our next global adventure! If you or a family member need holiday gift ideas for travelers of all kinds, read along.

We are first and foremost advocates of giving experiences over material gifts. From concert tickets to passes to National Parks, experiences always make the best gifts. But even minimalist families need a few things to support their adventures. These great gift ideas for travelers are our favorite items and items on our wish list this holiday season. We also posted to several adventure travel message boards to see what other families just can’t live without. Below are the top results of our survey combined with our favorite items!

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Gifts for the Kids

Headlamps– Originally purchased for camping but we use these for reading “lamps”, looking for lost toys under couches at home, etc. Our kids are always borrowing ours and have the kids model of our favorite brand on their wishlist this year.


Kids Headphones– Essential for plane travel. Even car travel if your kiddos don’t get carsick and can use screens on long car rides! There are more budget-friendly options on the market but we like this wireless and Bluetooth ready set that adheres to WHO recommendations to limit volume protecting little ears!


Kindle Fire-Kids Edition– Screen time rules are tossed out the window when our kids are trapped on a plane. We always start out with the puzzles, crafts, and educational games, but before too long, here come the tablets and headphones! It’s such a treat and they will space into educational games and videos for hours. We love the Kindle Fire for kids and will be getting a second one before our next international flight for sure!


Illuminated Kids Globe– Our well-loved globe has been a center and starting point for every big and small trip. We assess the distance, the plane or car route, and have a long educational discussion around our travel and the surrounding states or countries. Often mistaken for a ball by our toddler, our globe has served us well for 5 years and its time for a new one!


Deuter Schmusebar Kid’s Backpack– This adorable kids backpack is perfect for hiking or international globe-trotting. Perfect fit for kiddos 2-6 to carry a change of clothes, a few snacks, lovely and a bottle of water!


Picasso Tiles Building Blocks– Our kids have the large Picasso Tiles 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! The same quality as the other big-name version of the same blocks!


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 – What is more awesome to a 5-year-old than a walkie-talkie? How cool is it to go exploring with mom and check back in with dad back at the tent? Beyond the fun and games, 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 big kids for a walk because they’re being too loud but don’t have cell reception?


Puffy Reusable Stickers – These are fun in the apartment and on car rides or on the plane! We toss them into a reusable baggie for our next adventure between trips and uses. Pro-tip if they are having trouble sticking which they do sometimes on planes, lightly dampen them with a wet tissue or baby wipe and you are back in action!


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 have amazing imaginations and 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!


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 with sticks. We’ve since leveled up from there and are trying to do more cooking that doesn’t require building a fire.

Car Camping Stove – 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.


Portable Power Bank – We try to stay unplugged while outdoors and traveling but we also like taking lots of photos and feel better knowing we have access to GPS. Like when we realized we might have missed a trail marker or made a wrong turn in a city center with the kids. For any traveler, an extra power bank or two is an essential travel buddy. This one while a bit heavy will charge both our phones for 2 days and has outlasted several smaller cheaper models.


Helinox Chair Zero – Almost every backpacker carries a luxury item, and for Mike, this item is his camp chair. It is ideal for backcountry treks, but the size is also convenient when you have limited trunk space on those car-camping or beach vacation adventures.


REI Co-op Camp Roll Table – 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 Blanket – 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 in a park or on a beach. They’re warm on a cold day, water-resistant, and pack nice and tidy in a stuff sack for any adventure. We love ours.


Foam Roller – My mind was blown when I discovered the foam roller. These are great for getting rid of leg knots after a long day of hiking, especially if you’re carrying a pack… or that knot in the middle of your shoulder blades after carrying a kid on your shoulders, oof.

Leatherman Multitool – You’d be surprised how many outdoor families cludge together pliers, knives, bottle openers, and screwdrivers rather than fork over the cash for an all-in-one tool like these. Not that we know anyone personally who did that for a few years…


Carabiners – 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, but make sure you don’t get the cheapest ones you can find, they cause more trouble than help!


Waterproof Clip Speakers – 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 – 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.


Yeti Tumbler– This travel coffee tumbler is a powerhouse keeping beverages hot all day long. We have used it for warm water for bottles as well, just be careful it will keep the water as hot as it goes in! Its too heavy for any serious back-packing but for car camping and car trips its a perfect companion!


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 Photographers

Joby Gorilla Pod for DSLR Cameras – 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– Great for your daypack or a larger hiking backpack. When you’re walking long distances and definitely when hiking, 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.