The Best Gifts for Kids (and Parents, Too)
Give them something that will inspire a lifetime of adventure
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Here’s what we’re wishing for this season, from well-made classics that will withstand years of abuse to big-ticket splurges for everyone in the family, including your four-legged children. Let the grandparents spoil them with toys while you outfit them for a new year’s worth of adventures.
Giesswein Boiled-Wool Booties ($45)
Keep the littlest of littles’ tootsies warm this winter with Giesswein boiled-wool booties, made in Austria on the banks of the Inn River by three generations of the same family. The soft, ribbed ankle cuff keeps the slipper secure, and the button animal eyes will keep the kids smiling. A latex-dipped sole means good grip on slippery floors, and they won’t shrink in the washing machine. Perfect for baby’s first hut trip.
Salus Bijoux Infant Life Jacket ($55)
We’re still big fans of the timeless Bijoux infant life jacket from Canadian marine company Salus. The mesh harness fits snugly but comfortably between your baby’s legs while the ample neck cushion ensures she floats face up on her back. The whole package—including a front pacifier pocket—cradles like a high-flotation swaddle, giving you (and your baby) total peace of mind.
Smartwool Mid 250 Pattern Crew ($60)
No self-respecting toddlers ever put “wool long underwear” on their Santa list, so we’ll do it for them. Made from 25-weight merino, Smartwool’s midweight long johns deliver cold-weather coziness all winter long, with zero itch and no shrinkage in the dryer. What’s in it for your kids? Longer days outside building snowpeople and snow forts. Plus, the eye-catching geometric patterns add style (though pink sends a dated gender message).
Kleen Kanteen 12-Ounce Stainless-Steel Sippy ($18)
File under “classic”: Kleen Kanteen’s 12-ounce stainless-steel sippy gives kids a lead-proof, phalate-free bottle just like Mom and Dad’s. The spillproof lid with a loop makes for easy lashing.
Ages 4 to 8
Helinox Camp Chair Mini ($70)
The Helinox Camp Chair Mini may appear dollhouse-sized, but looks are deceiving. This diminutive version of the ultracomfy camp chair is a VW Beetle packed with clowns: It holds up to 200 pounds (three squirmy kids and their s’mores!) but packs down to the size of a baguette for easy stowing. Bonus: It doubles as a backpacking chair. Now your kids will have no reason to steal your seat.
POC POCito Auric Cut Spin Helmet ($180)
The high-tech pads inside the POC POCito Auric Cut Spin Helmet rotate in the event of a fall to cushion the head from impact, reducing trauma to the brain. In a doubly genius move, integrated LED lights on the back boost visibility on socked-in days, making this a must-have for defensive skiing and on-slope safety.
Black Diamond Momentum Full-Body Climbing Harness ($60)
The Black Diamond Momentum Full-Body Climbing Harness gives kids staying power on the crag or in the gym. Padded, adjustable straps grow with them and nix slippage like traditional waist harnesses. Generous top loops enable little fingers to clip into auto belays on their own.
Ages 8 and Up
Gerber Sharkbelly Folding Pocketknife ($39)
According to recent studies, “risky” or challenging outdoor play helps kids build confidence, manage fear, and develop resilience. Going fast, climbing high, and mastering tools top the list of approved activities. The Gerber Sharkbelly Folding Pocketknife is sized small for young whittlers and features a serrated blade and textured, no-slip grip. Plus, the price tag won’t bankrupt you if they accidentally leave it under a log.
Ultimate Direction Half Marathon Vest ($60)
Ultimate Direction Half Marathon Vest is a souped-up hydration vest sized specifically for kids. Pockets galore stash energy bars and other treats/bribes, and the stretch-mesh back pocket is big enough for a 1.5-liter reservoir and a lightweight jacket—perfect for teaching self-sufficiency on the trail. (And no more schlepping their stuff!)
Diamondback Splinter 24-Inch Full-Suspension Mountain Bike ($1,600)
The Diamondback Splinter 24-inch full-suspension mountain bike is the real deal: a dual-suspension aluminum ride with 100 millimeters of travel and Shimano disc brake—a winning choice for transitioning to longer, more technical rides.
Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR GPS Watch ($599)
Time on the trails is the greatest luxury of all. The Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR GPS Watch helps Mom track her miles, pace, elevation gain, and overall badassery with intuitive touchscreen controls, wrist-based heart rate monitor, and mile splits. Simple download to phone and laptop makes it easy to ramp up training for her next ultra.
Fjällräven Abisko Trekking Tights ($175)
As comfy as yoga leggings are for moving fast through the mountains, most aren’t cut out for serious outdoor wear: They snag easily on rocks and lack proper pockets. Not so Fjällräven’s Abisko Trekking Tights. Those sturdy Swedes have added rugged, reinforced fabric at the bum and knees to withstand scrambles over scree and impromptu picnics on the ground. Two ample side pockets stash a phone, food, and dog treats. Best of all, no rips in embarrassing places.
Jack’s Plastic Welding Silverback Paco Pad ($310)
Give Mom the gift that keeps on giving: a good night’s sleep outside. The Silverback Paco Pad from Jack’s Plastic Welding is a four-inch-thick self-inflating sleep pad that’s a staple among river guides and savvy car campers. Dense foam keeps hips and back from sagging into the ground, and the plastic coating makes the pad nearly impervious to leaks. Splurge on the fat one: She’ll have it long after the kids start sleeping through the night and go off to college.
Patagonia Fjord Flannel Jacket ($169)
The insulated Fjord Flannel Jacket from Patagonia is a no-brainer for function and style. The organic cotton flannel exterior screams sexy retro lumberjack, while the recycled Thermogreen lining locks in warmth without bulk. Perfect for cold days chopping firewood or walking the kids to school.
Filson Grab ’N’ Go Field Tote ($150)
This Filson Grab ’N’ Go Field Tote will be his go-to for stowing soccer gear, transporting fishing kit, and hauling in supplies of kale and kombucha. The rugged water-repellent oilcloth exterior, nylon interior, full zipper, and exterior pockets ensure that the bag holds its shape and is equally at home in the landscaper’s pickup and at the market. Because real men do go grocery shopping.
Alpacka Packraft (From $925)
At 5 pounds 10 ounces and just 6 inches wide by 22 inches long, the Alpacka Packraft is the perfect holiday decoy. It packs so small that you can disguise it as a bad Christmas sweater, but watch his expression change when he realizes it’s actually an ultralight nylon raft portable enough for hike-in fly-fishing trips and burly enough for Grand Canyon expeditions. Made to order in Mancos, Colorado.
Rad Dog Release N Run Leash ($40)
Now you don’t need to carry a leash for your well-mannered off-leash dog on trails or in the backcountry. The Rad Dog Release N Run Leash retracts into a Cordura nylon collar when you don’t need it but restrains your adventure pooch when other dogs, animals, people, or cars approach. Made from sturdy climbing webbing, the four-foot lead is strong enough to control 110-pound dogs but not so bulky that it compromises mobility.
Paco Pooch Pad ($TBD)
Remember to keep your dog under voice command when he’s roaming free. While you’re at it, pick him up a custom-sized, practically unpoppable Paco Pooch Pad for your next camping trip.