Find the perfect coupling
Gear generally makes a lovely gift for your adventurous guy or gal, but better to pair it with an experience where they can actually put it to use. Here are five ways to bring some of our favorite tools on your date.
Igloo Daytripper Cooler ($74) for a Picnic Hike
I tested the Igloo Daytripper backpack last year, and while it’s a bomber cooler in its own right, the pouches for stowing cutting utensils, a corkscrew, and a Kindle-size cutting board (all of which come included) really stole my heart. It carries just enough food for a full meal and is plenty comfortable for sporty full-day hikes if you so choose. Stuff the Daytripper with your partner’s favorite bottle of wine and ask a cheese specialist what to pair it with. (Splurge. It is Valentine’s Day, after all.) Ideally, prescout your hike and pick a perfect landing spot for your picnic. Make sure to time it with a spectacular sunset, or at least check what the weather is doing so you don’t end up getting caught in the rain.
Leus Towel ($32) and Falcon Guides Hiking Hot Springs Book ($20) for a Soak in the Hot Springs
Despite the occasionally farty sulfuric smell and potentially colorful (read: dirtbaggy) locals, nature’s hot tubs are infinitely more romantic than their man-made chlorinated counterparts. They’re also prime relaxation spots after climbing, skiing, or backpacking trips. For this gift, keep the hot springs in the forefront and plan a trip specifically to hit one or a few in a weekend. Get one of Falcon Guides’ solid regional hot springs guides—I love this one for the Pacific Northwest—and put a bookmark in a few spots and the date you plan to visit. Couple it with a big towel, like one from SoCal company Leus, in a fun print.
Black Diamond Apollo Lantern ($60) and Fugoo Tough XL Speaker ($200) for a Weekend of Car Camping
The difference between a romantic car-camping trip and one that reminds your partner of the forced family fun trips of their childhood can be summed up in one word: ambience. In the past, I’ve used Ticla’s Good Love lantern to set the mood, because it can dim to a sultry seven lumens. But since Ticla’s gone under, I recommend the BD Apollo for its frosted lens that produces a nice soft light. Pair it with the Fugoo Tough XL Bluetooth speaker that can deliver the depth of Barry White’s lovely voice, making your tent feel like a French chalet.
The North Face Base Camp Duffel ($169) for a Flight to Belize
Anticipating your partner’s needs can make or break Valentine’s Day. Say your boyfriend or girlfriend wants to get away from it all for a vacation. Preempt their impending burnout with a round-trip ticket to a Caribbean country (or somewhere else that’s warm in February). But you have to make sure all their precious stuff survives the trip, too. The Base Camp Duffel is the most-used carry-on by Outside’s staff, thanks to its perfect mixture of durability and heavy-packer friendliness.
Smartwool PhD Seamless Boy Shorts ($40) and Darn Tough Merino Crew Cushion Socks ($21) for a Backpacking Trip
Though lingerie is an extremely popular Valentine’s Day gift, buck the trend and go for merino wool underwear and socks for your partner, along with a plan for a nice long backpacking trip. While they may not fit the traditional romantic aesthetic, Smartwool’s Boy Shorts and Darn Tough’s Merino Crew Cushion Socks are a lot better at mitigating odor than whatever they’re making fancy underwear out of these days—and they still look good, to boot. They’ll make both of you much more desirable tent mates after a long day of hiking something like the Mountains to Sea Trail in North Carolina (a good route for hitting those romantic vistas).