Better Get a Big Sleigh

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, December 1996

Better Get a Big Sleigh

Not even the Grinch could make off with this season's bounty
By Bob Howells

Harley-Davidson Limited Edition by GT
Settle into the soft leather saddle, grab those swept-back bars, strap a map onto the fat gas tank, savor the plush, balloon-tire and custom-front-shock ride, and, well, you're on a Harley. That's the clever conceit behind this internal-shifting, seven-speed, chrome-moly cruiser, licensed by Harley and made by GT: It not only looks like America's Motorcycle--it feels like a Hog. It's $2,299, but for only $6,700-more, you can have the real thing. Available through GT Bicycles, 303-417-9040.

Primus 3273 Titanium Stove
Behold the 3.3-ounce Learjet of camp stoves--handmade in Sweden of titanium, with an elegant walnut valve knob. Add a full Primus butane/propane canister (11.6 ounces) and you can get a weekend of cooking for less than a pound in your pack. Too bad the stove has to be sullied with fuel. $250. From Century Tool & Manufacturing, 800-435-4525.

Nike V12 Sunglasses
Nike's up to your eyeballs now, with swooshy new shades for runners. These one-up most sunglasses: They ventilate, keeping brow cool and lenses fog-free. The trick is "floating lenses" that attach to the frame only at the bridge, allowing room for airflow all around. Even the ribbed nosepiece lets a breeze in. The shades block 100 percent of ultraviolet rays (both UVA and UVB) and come in a spiffy hard case called the I-lid. $160. From Nike, 800-352-6453.

A Bag in a Sack That's a Pack
Lowe Alpine's svelte new Attack Summit Pack saves weight and bulk by doing double duty. It quietly pretends it's a compression sack for your sleeping bag, until you're ready to make your summit bid. Then--presto!--it's a daypack, complete with a removable foam back that works as a sit-pad. And it weighs but a pound. $49. From Lowe, 303-465-3706. The Joan of Arc CS serves just one purpose, but women tired of playing the shivering, sleepless martyr have a true friend in this zero-degree sleeping bag. Stuffed with cozy new Polarguard 3D, it's narrower at the shoulders and wider at the hips, comes in womanly lengths (five-foot-five and five-foot-ten), and features extra insulation in the foot box and draft collar. $225. From Sierra Designs, 800-635-0461.

Mountain Hardwear Chill Factor Anorak
Need to pare down that flock of fleece? Here's a piece versatile enough to replace several old nappy garments, and its BiPolar 200 material resists wind and water better than most other fuzzes. Wear it alone (the reinforced elbows and shoulders stand up to stress) or as a middle layer (the underarm zips vent your vapors, and the sculpted hood fits nicely beneath a shell). $140. From Mountain Hardwear, 510-559-6700. Mountain Hardwear Chill Factor Anorak

Rock Shox Indy XC Fork
Lighter, stronger--cheaper! The new Indy suspension fork gives the biker on a budget technology that until now has been reserved for more expensive units. A combination of microcellular urethane elastomers and springs provides uncommon cush when riding over impediments both large and small. It also features a one-piece outer structure, which keeps the legs from moving independently--a problem in previous models. $240. From Rock Shox, 800-404-4843.

Gear for Winter Trekking
Atlas's Summit 33 snowshoes take the best in technology from snowboarding (Burton's patented ratcheting buckles), cycling (a rock-solid TIG welded aluminum frame), whitewater rafting (virtually tearproof hypalon decking), and of course, snowshoeing (Atlas's own spring-loaded binding), to create a gift bomber enough for Saint Nick himself to use if his sled gives out. $300. Add a pair of Atlas's three-section, telescoping BackCountry poles and any winter adventurer will be ready for an off-piste trek. $99. From Atlas Snowshoe Co., 800-645-7463.

If you wanted to get a pickup snow-soccer game together in, say, Newfoundland, the Trukke Wintersport II would be the boot of choice. A sport-utility update of the old winter standard Sorel Caribous, the Trukke provides performance and fit, as well as a minus-30 temperature rating. Inside, a removable liner of dense fleece fits into the neoprene shell; outside, the boot's constructed of 1,200-denier nylon and synthetic leather. The whole package is held snug by a heel-to-toe strap system with glove-friendly pull-tabs, making it a great boot for winter camping, snowshoeing, or just snow romping. $120. From Trukke, 800-449-1116.

Cycling Clothes to Beat the Elements
The Sugoi This Ain't No Average Jersey is a work of sweat-wicking art designed by Vancouver artist Joe Average. $35. Sugoi's Stretch Entrant tights, with a stretchy back panel, fit better than most we've tried. $55. From Sugoi, 800-432-1335. Moonstone's Activent Jacket might be the airiest garment that ever turned back a raindrop. It uses W. L. Gore's way-more-breathable-than-Gore-Tex and nearly waterproof Activent membrane and adds underarm zippers and a mesh back panel. $150. From Moonstone Mountaineering, 800-822-2985.

Books to Adorn the Coffee Table
They're sensual, substantial, and wonderfully impractical--which is exactly why hardcover photo books make such great gifts. Take, for example, Chris Rainier's arresting black-and-white collection, Where Masks Still Dance: New Guinea (Bulfinch Press/Little, Brown, $60), filled with bizarre and beautiful images of one of the world's last nonwesternized cultures. Equally noteworthy is Robert Glenn Ketchum's Northwest Passage (Aperture, $45), a stunning sky-and-ice chronicle of the first single-season, west-to-east journey from Alaska to Greenland by yacht. On the subject of polar landscapes, check out Poles Apart: Parallel Visions of the Arctic and Antarctic, a luminous set of images by renowned explorer-photographer Galen Rowell (University of California Press, $39.95). In another noteworthy collection, Egypt: Antiquities from Above (Bulfinch Press/Little, Brown, $40), Marilyn Bridges turns a familiar sight--black and white aerial photos of the Giza Pyramids, the Great Sphinx, and other ancient monuments--into gripping work. Closer to home, don't miss Hot Spots: America's Volcanic Landscape (Bulfinch Press/Little, Brown, $50), Diane Cook and Len Jenshel's enthralling study of nature at its most violent and unpredictable.

The Field Office
If you need to do paperwork atop El Cap, The North Face's Vertical Brief is the satchel to haul with you. Made of the same 1,050-denier nylon that TNF uses in technical climbing packs, it slots your stuff in five compartments and boasts a padded shoulder strap worthy to tote an overstuffed duffel. $85. From The North Face, 800-447-2333. Take your Extreme Day-Timer, with its zippered, waterproof, suede pigskin case and exercise log, to ensure you stay on schedule. $84. From Day-Timers, 800-225-5005. Jot down your impressions with Swiss Army Brand's pen or pencil, both of which feature a precision twist mechanism and a durable lacquer finish. $95 apiece. From Victorinox, 800-442-2706. And if you decide you want to stay out an extra day, call in sick with Motorola's StarTac Wearable Cellular Telephone, the lightest on the market at 3.1 ounces. $1,995. From Motorola, 888-782-7822.

Perception Dry Top
A dry top is only as dry as its weakest gasket, which is why you'll feel so secure in this one from Perception. Traditional latex seals--notorious for failing when you need them most--have been replaced with neoprene at collar and cuffs. And like all well-made dry tops, it has a double-tunnel waist, which sandwiches your spray skirt to create an impenetrable seal. The urethane-coated nylon top is cut roomy to accommodate insulating layers or the extra bulk from those holiday meals. $174. From Perception, 800-595-2925.

Five Ten Diamond
A jewel in the rough world of rock climbing shoes, the Diamond is designed to fit feminine feet--a first. Narrower at the heel and higher in the instep, it's also lined with thin foam. Best of all, its "slingshot" rand is cut lower in the Achilles area--typically a source of pain for women forced to cross-dress in men's shoes. $146. From Five Ten, 909-798-4222.

Nikon 5x15T
More poetry than power. With polished titanium barrels--and on the Special Edition model, a bridge adorned with Japanese lacquer--these binoculars weigh a scant 7.1 ounces. The magnification isn't for spotting distant elk herds, but it'll crisply dial in nearby birds or butterflies. $830 (Special Edition, $1,130). From Nikon, 800-247-3464.

Merrell M2 Blackwater
Here's a sandal for the river rat who's likely to spend a lot of time portaging or hiking side canyons--or playing Ultimate, for that matter. On shore, you'll notice its aggressive, lugged Vibram sole--the same bottom found on one of Merrell's hiking boots. In churning water, the synthetic leather upper with stretchy neoprene and elasticized laces assures that foot and sandal will never involuntarily part. $85. From Merrell, 802-864-4519.

EQ Attitude Surf Trunks, Ease Top
With wide shoulder straps in the girdered top ($30) and a drawstring waist on the high-rise trunks ($35), this swimsuit is designed for the serious athlete with a taste for fashion. Both spandex pieces are lined for durability, and they're cut full enough to withstand all manner of athletic activity. Perfect for the surf sister in your family--or for the Dennis Rodman wannabe on your list. From EQ, 800-794-7946.

Outfit for Spring
Sure, the Evo2 Pro helmet has 15 vents, a snug fit system, and sleek looks. But what really turned our heads toward Bell's new shell is a feature long in coming: It wicks sweat. Multilayered pads inside soak it up and channel it to the side, so the sweat stream heads for the jet stream--not for your eyes. $99. From Bell, 888-467-0307. The form-fitting stretch mesh Pearl Izumi AirOh! Top ($50) has built-in support, and the soft-fabric Journey Shorts ($40) are short enough to prevent unsightly biker tan. From Pearl Izumi, 800-328-8488. The lightweight Sugoi Versatech Pro Jacket is windproof and water-resistant, and it features a convenient two-way front zipper. $30. From Sugoi, 800-432-1335.

Leica Minilux
It's as if Bentley made a hatchback: Leica has introduced a point-and-shoot camera. Encased in titanium, the Minilux is faster than any other such camera--its 40mm f/2.4 lens shines in low light--and it has the German company's renowned precision optics. It's autofocus (with a manual option), naturally, but you can set the aperture to achieve just the depth of field you want. $945. From Leica, 800-222-0118.

Branching Habit Scarf, Jacket, Roll Neck Sweater
Morally opposed to goat shearing, or just want to give the gift of cashmere for half of what it might fetch on Fifth Avenue? Branching Habit's scarf is made of cashmere recycled from sweaters so ratty that no secondhand store would touch them. $50. The jacket uses more pedestrian wool, also recycled. $160. The sweater is made of virgin organic wool and mohair. $176. Unisex sizing. From Branching Habit, 206-286-9685.

Winston 5-Piece LT Trout Rod
What may seem a minor event to those who don't match wits with wily trout is actually stirring news amid the high traditions of fly-fishing. Introducing the first five-piece handcrafted rod from Winston, one of the most venerable names in the business. The LT is one of those rare rods that can survive the seeming indignity of multiple sectioning with its action intact. It deposits a fly as delicately as a fly deposits itself--yet breaks down to fit inside its 20-inch rigid case. $595. From R. L. Winston Rod Company, 406-684-5674.

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