Fly fishing at sunset.
Fly fishing at sunset. (Photo: Photographer: H. Michael Miley)
Indefinitely Wild

Experiences, Not Things: The Ultimate Last-Minute Gifts

Three epic adventures you can give any outdoorsperson


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We all know that it’s experiences, not material things, that make us happy. This week, it’s probably also a good thing that experiences don’t need to be shipped. Here are three legitimately amazing outdoor experiences you can give anyone, regardless of their experience level.

A Backpacking Trip

Backpacking is the fundamental outdoor adventure and the one with the lowest barrier to entry. But if you don’t already have all of it, obtaining the gear you need all at once get’s really expensive, really fast. Adding to the challenge, the quality of that gear is hugely important to your overall experience—take stuff that’s too heavy or isn’t comfortable, and the trip will turn into a sufferfest. And light, comfortable gear tends to be pricey.

If you’re an experienced backpacker and want to give someone the ability to join you on a trip, or if both of you are going for the first time (or for the first time in a long time), then renting gear is probably the easiest and cheapest solution. Camp Crate can ship you a comprehensive kit containing every single thing you need (tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, backpack, camping stove, water filter, headlamp), or whichever item from that list you might need to fill in a gap in your gear collection. I’ve used these kits to outfit some of my group trips and can report that the gear arrives in good condition and is well-chosen. It’s the stuff I’d recommend you’d buy.

If it really is your first time, then Camp Crate can help even more by delivering an entirely turn-key trip, including food, permits, local transportation, and maps, and can even reserve your backcountry campsites for you. They offer this service at destinations across the country, from Yosemite to the Smokey Mountains. If you’ve ever wanted to enjoy a true wilderness experience, these trips will be the easiest way to get there.

How to Make It Special: Hiking up a mountain with weight on your back can be hard. Aside from using quality gear, the secret for making the experience enjoyable is to bring the right attitude. Be a good backpacking buddy by remaining positive and encouraging, even if it rains.

A Summit

Standing atop a challenging peak is the ultimate outdoor achievement. Climbing big mountains is challenging—and can be dangerous—but the reward matches the effort. Climbing big mountains can also expensive, so a guided trip to a new peak is something even very experienced outdoorsy types will appreciate.

Is there a mountain looming above your hometown? One you’ve heard someone talk about forever or just a summit you know they haven’t climbed? Washington offers two incredible—and also incredibly accessible—peaks. Mount Baker is a great choice for beginners or those with limited time, while Rainier can be as challenging as you want to make it, depending on the route you chose, but it takes at least another day to climb. Start with one of those.

How to Make It Special: Guided trips are all about the quality of the guides. Legendary mountaineer Craig Van Hoy can take you up anything from Baker ($800) to Everest ($70,000) and anything in between. And he’ll keep you safe and entertained throughout. Just getting to climb with him should be considered an achievement.

A Fishing Trip

Need something with a little lower barrier to entry, for someone a little older, your entire family, or just someone who likes being more mellow? Well, you don’t need to make that any less epic. Bring them to Montana and take them on a multi-day river trip in paradise.

You can make that literal. Floating the Yellowstone River through Paradise Valley or hitting any of the other rivers in southwest Montana is the trip of a lifetime for anyone who enjoys fly fishing. And it’s a trip you can do self-guided and at a reasonable price.

Hatch Adventures will rent you a camper-equipped Jeep Wrangler or Toyota Tacoma for $95 per day, and a four-person fishing raft you tow behind it for $165 per day. Split that cost four ways, and a three-day weekend comes out to less than $200 a person. Flying into Bozeman is cheap and easy, and you won’t be paying for accommodations, since you can either camp in the vehicle, or on river islands you use the raft to access. Non-resident fishing license are $25 a day.

How to Make It Special: Hatch Adventures can help you plan routes and destinations. Call them up, describe the type of trip you’d like to have, and listen to their advice. Camping out of a raft is as easy as camping out of a truck and you’ll have both. So bring good food, some booze, and just enjoy yourself. Download the On X app before you visit, as it’ll help you navigate the borders between public and private land so you can find those good campsites.

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