While many outdoor activities require little or no equipment, or items you can easily rent or borrow, sometimes it is nice to have your own gear, especially if you plan to do these things more often.
There are of course the big items such as a bicycle, canoe, kayak, stand-up paddle board or skis. These are easily rented and sometimes difficult to store, but frequent users may want to have their own. There are too many options to adequately list here and many things to consider when choosing a specific model. Each of these also has accessories (paddles, helmets, lifejackets, locks, etc.) that are standard as well as many extras that may be useful depending on personal preference. These smaller items also make great gifts.
While some items are specific to the activity, many others can be used any time you are enjoying the outdoors and can improve your experience. The most basic of these is a wate rbottle, which can be very basic or even high tech with fancy filtration systems. Another item you want to have with you on most outings is a headlamp or flashlight. Again, the variety is almost endless. Other useful items are a multi-tool and pocketknife. Now that most people don’t leave home without their phone, a portable or even solar charger can be helpful as can a GPS (cell service is spotty in some parks). For those who like keeping records and meeting challenges, a GPS sports watch or activity tracker might be a good gift.
As seeking out wildlife is often part of the fun, binoculars can make it easier to find elusive critters, and a camera (anywhere from a basic point-and-shoot to professional models, handheld to worn on one’s body) makes it possible to prove that you did indeed see them. A flexible tripod makes it easier to take pictures of yourself on the trail. Having waterproof paper and pen means you can take notes even in the rain.
If the rain doesn’t deter you from venturing outside, a rain poncho is useful, as is a waterproof cover to protect whatever gear you may be carrying.
Many items needed for camping are dictated by personal preference and what type of camping one plans to engage in. (Yes, there are different types of camping.) Camping with a vehicle nearby does not require the concern for bulk and weight that backpacking or traveling by bicycle does (and is considerably less expensive). Camping by boat is somewhere in between, with the added concern of making sure items are waterproof (which can mean purchasing waterproof containers). Some items to consider:
- Sleeping bag/pad
- Camp stove/lightweight backpacking stove
- Dishes/eating utensils/cup/mug
- Cooking pots/utensils
- Leather/fireproof gloves
- Camp stool/chair
- Backpack/waterproof cover
- Waterproof bags/boxes
- Cast Iron Dutch oven
- Lantern (battery or propane)
Hiking needs are minimal. You do need good footwear and socks, but little else in the way of specialized equipment. Trekking poles may be helpful, especially on steep inclines and a waist or day pack means you can hike hands free. A portable first aid kit, including blister treatments, is a good idea to have with you as is a hat to protect from the sun, rain, snow and ticks. A hydration pack is handy on long trips, especially during the winter months and most of these have pockets to hold other gear as well. Baby backpacks make hitting the trails much easier for families with young children.
Safety is an obvious concern when bicycling. This includes a helmet, but other safety items include lights and reflective vests, as well as basic maintenance items such as portable tools and air pumps. Locks are essential when leaving your bike unattended for a length of time. When it comes to carrying other items with you, there are a variety of options to safely do so, from baskets to panniers to cargo racks to hold packages and bags. A water bottle mount puts a water bottle at hands-reach rather than tucked inside a bag.
Those who drive to a destination to ride their bikes might appreciate a bike rack to affix to their vehicle and those with small children might like a trailer or child seat to more easily bring the little ones along.
Like other activities, there are also some items that simply make thing more interesting and fun. There are a variety of bicycle computers available that record things such as speed and distance, both with and without GPS. Other fun items include a horn, a rear-view mirror and a mount for your phone.
Though you don’t need much more than a boat or board, there are some things that can make your experience more enjoyable. Longer trips generally mean bringing a meal along with you. Since a soggy sandwich just isn’t appetizing, a dry sack is particularly useful. This is also a great place to keep your keys and anything else you may want to have with you. Though not needed in the warmer months, a wetsuit or drysuit can extend the paddling season into the cooler months. Paddling jackets are also useful. For those who own their watercraft, carts and carriers make it easier to transport them to and from the water.
This is just a small sampling of what is available. Local organizations can provide additional recommendations. Many outdoor outfitters have knowledgeable staff who can help you choose the best item for your particular needs. Specialty publications often provide detailed buying guides, especially for pricier items. It is wise to take your time and ask questions to ensure the product you purchase meets the need you are looking to fill.
Next up – Holiday Gift Ideas to Get Outside – Gadgets