When I was a kid, I don't remember every buying my dad a gift that wasn't a fanciful tie bought at a department store under fluorescent lights or a shiny pen that cost somewhere in the double-digits. I wasn't even sure why someone needed a pen like that--my BIC pens had always worked just fine. To be honest, I probably wouldn't be able to recognize the ties among my dad's tie rack, nor could I tell you where those pens went once they were unwrapped.
What I can tell you is that my childhood memories are filled with my dad setting up tents in Sequoia National Forest, underneath a canopy of giant trees that, at the time, reminded me of Jack and the Beanstalk. I remember him lagging behind on day-long hikes because he had to photograph this or that wildflower just so.
So, instead of buying him another gift denoted as "Father's Day appropriate," this year, I'd like to get him something that makes him smell campfire again. Here are my top picks:
My dad just bought a sailboat. He's been a boat-less sailor for years (he sold his first boat pre-children) and now that he finally has his ultimate toy again, I get to accessorize it for him, including with this waterproof, breathable, bombproof sailing jacket. Besides being practically indestructible, it also has a quite a few bells and whistles like fleece in the pockets and on the collar, a waterproof pocket, reflective details and a high-visibility (aka neon) hood. If your dad's not a sailor, but digs the nautical style, check out the prepfully plaid, and less expensive at $150, Transat Snug Jacket.
New dads should be especially psyched because Kelty came out with a new child carrier for 2010. The key here is adjustability, not just for the child in the carrier, but for the pack-wearer as well. Both the kids' harness and the pack's waistbelt can be adjusted, meaning the carrier can ride low on the hips making it more comfortable for mom or dad. Storage space, a changing pad, and sun shade are all just cherries on top.
If your dad's like mine, sometimes he needs a little kick in the behind to get him to go for a run or a bike ride. And, if you're dad's also like mine, he really, really likes gadgets. Thus the perfect motivator to get him in motion: a sports watch that measures speed, distance, calories burned and time. It even has a ten-week memory so your dad can keep track of his, ahem, progress.
Jetboil Flash, $100
I don't remember if my family ever cooked more than hot dogs, cans of beans, and s'mores over an open fire when we went camping. But maybe that's because this bad boy wasn't around. Within this one-liter "vessel," as Jetboil calls it, you can store your fuel, base, and stove. Then, when it's time to cook, pop it all together, push the button, and whoosh, your water's boiling in a couple of minutes for tea, coffee, noodles, or, something the kids love, Jell-O.
When I said my dad likes to take pictures of flowers, I should've prefaced it with his likelihood to break the camera mid-trip. That's why something like the waterproof, dustproof, shatterproof, freezeproof TX5 should really be re-labeled "dad-proof." With 10.2 megapixels and the ability to take hi-def video, my dad would probably take even longer on the trail than he already does. I know, I know, Dad, it's tough to capture those tiny hairs on the flower's stem.
And what better to top it off with than a photo printer. He can send images straight from his cell phone to the printer, via e-mail. It has a 4.3-inch touch screen for printing online documents, like boarding passes, movie tickets, and even newspaper stories. And, of course, all the pictures he wants from family camping trips.