The Gift Guide
Presenting nine foolproof rules to keep in mind when scouting for presents (or just a little swag for yourself), plus 67 great products we couldn't keep under wraps.
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You Can Buy Quality on a Budget
The North Face 88 Blocks Full Zip Hoodie
Exhibit A: The North Face‘s poly-and-cotton 88 Blocks Full Zip Hoodie. It laughs at cold snaps—with thumb loops at the cuffs and a stealthy balaclava sewn inside the hood—and will run you just 75 bucks (thenorthface.com). Need more? Read on and you’ll find 27 more great gifts for less than $75.
Gift Guide: The Classics Always Work
With certain products, the verdict is already in: The quality is proven, or the style is simply timeless—as with the retro-western, 650-fill down Slingshot Vest by Patagonia ($125; patagonia.com; see item 1 in photo). Also unfazed by fads: Woolrich’s crushable, water-resistant Cabin Ridge Hat ($22; woolrich.com), a wool-felt fedora for fly-fishermen and travelers alike. And any cyclist will love Rapha’s old-school, poly-and-wool Winter Hat ($45; rapha.cc), which is just svelte enough to slip under a helmet. For hauling gear, get something that won’t wear out after a few demanding trips, like the North Face’s nearly indestructible Base Camp Duffels (from $110; thenorthface.com).
2. One of our editors has 11 years on his Merrell Wilderness boots. He expects a helluva lot more. $275; merrell.com
3. Lightweight and minimalist, Toshiba‘s energy-sipping NB200 is a wired traveler’s dream. $400; toshiba.com
4. Amazing: Plymouth Gin—exquisitely balanced, versatile enough for any cocktail—is only $25. plymouthgin.com
Gift Guide: Don’t Give Him a Bracelet
A man is allowed two pieces of “jewelry”: a ring and a watch. For straight-up value, you can’t beat Fossil‘s minimalist AM4258 ($75; fossil.com; see item 1 in photo). The bike geek on your list will drool over Festina’s Tour de France ’09 ($425; festinausa.com), with its carbon-fiber dial and yellow markers, while anyone who’s ever gotten lost will appreciate the hidden digital compass on Wenger’s analog Nomad LED Compass watch ($375; wengerna.com). For a more presidential look, we’re coveting the Jorg Gray 6500 ($325; jorggray.com), which Obama has famously worn since he received it as a birthday gift in 2007; it’s also just a really handsome watch at a reasonable price.
2. LG‘s enV3 phone has a three-meg flash camera and a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. $130 with contract; lge.com
3. Apple‘s newest iPod Nano shoots video at 30 frames per second and live-pauses FM radio. From $149; apple.com
Gift Guide: There’s No Excuse for Fruitcake
Luckily, some gifts work even for those folks who are impossible to buy for. Any caffeine junkie will appreciate Innate‘s insulated, stainless-steel Kaze Modular Vacuum Bottle ($24; innate-gear.com; see item 1 in photo), a mug/bottle combo that keeps liquids hot up to ten hours. Or Jetboil’s new Flash Java Kit ($100; jetboil.com), which pairs a French press with the company’s wickedly fast and efficient stove system. Even casual runners will dig Nike’s nifty, water-resistant SportBand ($59; nikeplus.com), which tracks everything from pace to calories burned. And for hikers or travelers: Nemo’s Ditto Backpack holds 1,200 cubic inches when loaded and packs away into its own pocket when it’s not ($49; nemoequipment.com).
2. We’ve tested lots of multitools over the years. Leatherman‘s Wave is still our favorite. $99; leatherman.com
3. Eddie Bauer‘s saddle-leather Ranger Belt works with everything from Carhartts to khakis. $79; eddiebauer.com
4. Two steel shot glasses come hidden in Mulholland‘s ten-ounce Sportman’s Flask. $80; shopmulholland.com
5. Simple and a little retro: That’s why we like Nixon‘s Swiss-made Chronicle wristwatch. $250; nixonnow.com
6. Casio‘s Exilim Mobile: Our favorite shock- and water-resistant camera phone. $275 with contract; casiotoughphones.com
7. The guy who has everything? He probably also has crappy slippers. For him, UGG‘s Ascot. $100; uggaustralia.com
8. Emroidered hand towels? Terrible stocking stuffer. Smartwool socks? Always a winner. From $14; smartwool.com
Gift Guide: Feed the Powder Hound
Spy Optic Trevor Goggle
Those who live for the fresh stuff can never have enough warm clothes or ski gear. Our favorite fourth-season gift this year is Spy Optic‘s Trevor Goggle ($55; spyoptic.com). We’ve tested countless models, and you simply can’t get a better combination of fit, peripheral vision, and sharp optics at this price. But anything that lays a warm foundation—like Ibex’s merino Zepher boxers ($52; ibexwear.com) or the versatile Merino Wool Buff neck gaiter/balaclava ($27; buffwear.com)—also makes a great gift. As do Redfeather’s lightweight, grippy Conquest snowshoes ($70; redfeather.com), a perfect (and well-priced) choice for nonskiers.
Gift Guide: Kids Need Adventure, Too
You just need to set them in the right direction. Teach them to fish with Redington‘s Minnow Kid’s Outfit ($160; redington.com; see item 1 in photo), which includes an eight-foot, 5/6-weight graphite fly rod and casting games. Camping is also a good first step. It’s getting easier to find good kid-specific gear, like Kelty’s new pint-size, 20-degree Little Tree sleeping bag ($55; kelty.com) and Pacific Outdoor’s Kids Mat ($40; summithut.com). Or introduce them to winter hiking with Ecco’s insulated, Gore-Tex-lined Freeride Boots ($85; eccousa.com) and L.L.Bean’s budget-friendly, kid-size Winter Walker snowshoes ($50; llbean.com).
2. Removable liner. A slew of vents. Giro‘s low-profile Revolver has everything but a high price. $70; giro.com
3. BCA‘s Arsenal Shovel With 240 Probe is the best combo we’ve ever tested. $100; backcountryaccess.com
4. Sorel‘s insulated Fairbanks Drift: warm down to single digits but still low-key enough for the bar. $100; sorel.com
5. Fuel your friends’ next margarita party: Patron Silver, Cointreau, fresh lime juice—mixed 2:1:1. $43; patronspirits.com
6. Timex‘s Expedition WS4 has all the info you need (altitude, barometric pressure, temp, etc.) on its oversize face. $199; timex.com
Gift Guide: Raise a Proper Toast
Spirits are the season’s easiest go-to, but make sure you know the recipient’s tastes. If it’s Scotch, we suggest you splurge: The Glenlivet Nàdurra Triumph 1991 is our new favorite ($85; theglenlivet.com; see item 1 in photo). Wine can be tough to nail, so go for a critics’ choice, like the 2005 Adobe Road Syrah ($38; adoberoadwines.com), which Wine Spectator gave 92 points. A fine sipping tequila, like Herradura Añejo ($50; herradura.com), is unbeatable; if you’re mixing, you want a good blanco. Specialty brew is a safe bet as well. BeerOnTheWall.com ships hard-to-find domestic bombers, like Stone Brewing’s Vertical Epic Ale ($10) and Global Brew 12-pack samplers ($33).
2. Eddie Bauer‘s down Quilted Field Vest hits the mark if you want rugged sportsman style. $99; eddiebauer.com
3. L.L. Bean‘s merino-wool-lined Buckskin Chopper Mitts are as tough as they are warm. $49; llbean.com
4. Freestyle‘s Submersion is a burly and well-priced dive watch depth-rated to 200 meters. $125; freestyleusa.com
5. Anyone would be happy to have Victorinox‘s six-tool Soldier Knife in the backcountry. $58; swissarmy.com
6. Go-anywhere winter wear: Mountain Khakis’ Flannel-Lined Original Mountain Pants. $90; mountainkhakis.com
Gift Guide: Everyone Loves a Gadget
Whether it’s for a CNET-surfing father-in-law or a Luddite brother with an ancient flip phone, a shiny new gizmo is sure to please. The season’s must-have: Garmin‘s Nuviphone G60 ($299 with contract; garmin.com; see item 1 in photo), a dashboard-and-trail-ready GPS that doubles as a cell phone to cut your device needs in half. Our other faves? Samsung’s Reclaim smartphone ($49 with contract; samsung.com), which is made from plant-based biodegradable plastics and features a QWERTY keyboard; VHoldR’s ContourHD1080p ($330; vholdr.com), the first lightweight helmet cam to shoot in true hi-def; and Nikon’s 12.1-megapixel S1000pj point-and-shoot, with its built-in projector for slide shows right on the tent wall ($430; nikonusa.com).
2. One nice blade, like Shun‘s Classic Ultimate Utility Knife, beats a dozen so-so ones. $125; shuncutlery.com
3. TAG Heuer‘s 43mm Aquaracer Automatic will still be ticking for your great-grandchildren. $1,800; tagheuer.com
4. What crying baby? Bose‘s new QuietComfort 15 noise-canceling ‘phones boast the richest sound yet. $300; bose.com
5. We don’t know your boss, but we bet he’d enjoy some smoky, peppery Knob Creek bourbon. $30; knobcreek.com
6. We prefer Filson‘s 100 percent wool Mackinaw Cruiser to a preppy peacoat. $280; filson.com
7. Marmot‘s leather-palmed Spring Gloves are perfect for sunny days skiing and chilly nights out. $60; marmot.com
Gift Guide: Make Her Warm and Happy
And if she’s warm and looks cute, even better. A few fail-safe options: Lole‘s wool-and-acrylic Cuddle Sweater ($100; lolewomen.com; see item 1 in photo), which every woman in the office gave a thumbs-up. Or down booties like the North Face’s fuzz-lined NSE Tent Mule Furs ($45; thenorthface.com). Another safe bet is Cloudveil’s Run Don’t Walk Pants ($125; cloudveil.com)—they have a flattering, yoga-pant fit but, because they’re made with a stretchy Polartec material, are much, much toastier. And if you’re already thinking ahead to your next camping trip, go all in with Big Agnes’s Dream Island ($190; bigagnes.com), a 15-degree sleeping bag for two.
2. A classic resurrected: Runners wore ASICS‘s Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 in the ’68 Olympics. $80; asicsamerica.com
3. T-Mobile‘s speedy myTouch 3G syncs seamlessly with the Google universe. $150 with contract; t-mobile.com
4. 5.10‘s boot-cut Yosemite Jeans have Half Dome’s profile stitched on the back pockets. $79; fiveten.com
5. Oris‘s rugged stainless-steel Divers Date has a softer side, too: a subtle wave pattern on the face. $1,550; oris.ch