There's a lot of hype every year around holiday shopping, Black Friday in particular. Shopping blogs urge you to wear bright colors, use whistles, hit the pharmacies early, and even double measure your sizes to save time in the fitting room. What? I wouldn't personally recommend any of those things, or even shopping on Black Friday in the first place. But if you do brave the holiday crowds, it's important to be prepared. You never know when you'll need a hot meal or place to sleep. Hell, you might even need to start a fire. We put a few of our ideas and some great gear to the test in the eye of the storm. Black Friday 2013!
Tip: Elevation is a distinct advantage, practice your approach before the doors actually open.
Don't Stand, When You Can Sit
Following the words of Winston Churchill, never stand when you can be sitting and never sit when you can be lying down. Extreme holiday shopping couldn't be a more fitting activity for this rule to apply. It's intense out there and you need to save your legs. Alite Design Chairs ($90) pack up to the size of thermos and are ideal for waiting in line, whether it is outside the store or even at checkout. Seating shouldn't be a problem ever again.
Earlier the Better
Retailers don't care about family time anymore and are opening right in the middle of your Thanksgiving dinner. So, fire a handful of turkey right back at them. Be there early, and get in and out. Stay the night in the parking lot and make sure you are one of the first in line. Sierra Designs' P.A.W. Bivy ($119) lets you post up right on the sidewalk or the back of the truck. This is a super-light little bivy sack that will keep you dry throughout the night—even outside of a parking lot. Plus, it won't take up too much room in your shopping bag the next morning.
Line of Fire
Starting a fire in a line outside Best Buy probably hasn't crossed your mind this holiday season. Well, we did it, and it let people know we were playing for keeps. Exotac's nanoSTRIKER ($27) fits in your pocket and produces a fair amount of action for such a small package. Bring it anywhere you need to make sparks fly.
Holiday shopping usually comes with harsh and unforgiving cold temperatures, especially when you are waiting in line. There is no better way to fight the winter chill than with a hot meal or some steaming coffee. A compact Jetboil Flash ($100) lets you wait in line with the comforts of home. A hot coffee in fewer than three minutes, and you are back to pre-shopping stretching or scanning the coupon booklet.
Light and Warm
When holiday shopping, there is a fine line between too cold outside and too warm inside. Taking on and off your jacket would be a huge mistake (not to mention a waste of time), which is why wearing Mountain Hardware's Ghost Whisper Down Jacket ($300) is the way to go. This jacket keeps you crazy warm when you're waiting in line but doesn't overheat in the store. Not to mention its unbelievably light and can fit just about anywhere.
Also: See the Men's Thermostatic Jacket ($250) that keeps you heated without weighing you down.
Know Your Surroundings
Some think a full feature watch, including GPS and cutting edge apps, is overkill for holiday shopping. Well we think not. Suunto's Ambit (starting at $400) line of watches is loaded with incredible features that are useful just about anywhere—track your run routes and then customize your timepiece with more than 1,000 apps. Plus, Suunto packs all this into a large but remarkably comfortable watch. We even used the large face to peak around corners, and to always have an eye on store hours.
Speed is Key
As in life, you must look for advantages when holiday shopping. Speed often trumps all in a warzone of dazed, deal-searching shoppers. New Balance's 1400v2's ($99) might not have been made with shopping in mind, but man do they make you feel the need for speed. Ultralight and super comfortable, these shoes will make sure you are the first one to checkout.
It's hard to stay hydrated out there. "I can't carry a water bottle all day", "Some stores don't allow liquids", and "Water is too heavy" are all things you hear when holiday shopping. The solution? Camelbak's Rim Runner ($100), which can hold three liters of water and up to 22 liters worth of gear, will keep you hydrated and moving quickly all day.
Tip: Shop with a friend and take turns driving.
Fuel Up On The Go
Eating while shopping may be the most important tip. Even better: fueling up without sacrificing a hand that could otherwise be grabbing everything in sight. Kit's Organic's ($18 per box) and Mojo ($15 per box) bars from Clif Bar are an awesome way to stay fueled up without overloading on calories. Don't ever let your hunger get in the way of holiday deals.
You never know when things are going south. You might need to hog-tie someone in the electronics section or even string your shopping bags together at the end of the day. A Gerber survival bracelet ($16) is always good to have around. There is no such thing as being over-prepared.
Holiday shopping ironically brings out the worst in people. Nobody will let you jump ahead because you have fewer items, or stop their cart from ramming your ankle. Folks are willing to do anything, and end up getting away with a lot in big crowds. We wore a GoPro Hero 3+ Silver Edition ($300) with a chesty mount turned backwards. We have beautiful HD footage of everyone and everything that happened behind us. Look out, back stabbers and line cutters.
Suck It Up and Pay
Sure, you woke up for the best deals of the year, but you still have to fork over some cash. Stanley's Classic Wide Mouth Flask ($28) is a great addition to any outing. Bring it along while you're holiday shopping and take a shot of liquid courage before the moment of truth. This flask is also great for sharing if you are looking to make friends in line.
Never Miss a Workout
You might have to miss your daily gym session for the best deals. Be resourceful and get in some quick cardio when you're in line, or play soccer with some kids in front of Best Buy like we did. Footwork is critical when the doors open; don't get caught flat-footed.
Next Up: The Art of the Bicycle