- Buyer's Guide
Staff Picks: Gifts We’d Like to Be Given
The holiday season is fast approaching, which for many means picking gifts for friends and family. But pinpointing great gifts isn’t always easy or quick. So to help you save time in your hunt, we’ve rounded up our top staff picks for gear we’d like to be given, for small budgets and big.
And, because we’re all spoilt and notoriously hard to buy for, these feel like some really solid options!
Get inspired below…
Something special: an audiobook subscription
We live in an age when the world’s greatest ideas can be listened to on demand, ported directly into our ears. While podcasts are wonderful for sampling diverse ideas, it’s the deep-dive that a book allows that takes it to the next level. As carry folks, we tend to journey. And engaging books can enrich the transit times on those journeys, especially when their theme relates to the journey you’re undertaking. Audible and Downpour are two great options.
Tip 1: If you struggle to stay engaged with audio, try speeding it up a little. When we reduce communications to only the audio channel, our minds can wander. Speeding it up a little (or a lot) helps keep you more engaged in the content. And if you hit a tricky passage, you can always skip back and listen to it again.
Tip 2: If you hear a great idea or passage, you can pause the book and use your phone’s assistant to dictate an email to yourself. This lets you review the idea or passage later, helping you build it into your latticework of learning.
Something small: repair kits and patches
While duct tape repairs lend a certain dirtbag credibility, the world of repairs has advanced since the ’70’s. There are now repair tapes, patches, and kits that look better, feel better, and avoid the delamination that most silver tapes suffer. And most folks don’t know they exist. Add one or two as a stocking stuffer, or mix several together as a kit. It should be a gift that not only gets them out of a pickle but also helps the great gear stay in service for longer (so Mother Earth will also thank you).
Something small: Darn Tough Socks
We’ve all been there… socks for presents when you were a kid was the ultimate worst nightmare. Five-year-old Taylor would rip into the wrapped present, imagining all of the wondrous possibilities my creative mind could conjure up. Would this be that awesome robotic Tyrannosaurus Rex figurine with light-up eyes and fully functioning jaw? Maybe the new SEGA console ninja game that I was desperately wanting? Nope. %#€&ing SOCKS. With extreme disappointment, I’d raise my head and force out a “thank you” to my proudly smiling aunt sitting across the room.
Well now… I’ve learned better over my years. I WANT SOCKS. But not just any socks. 100% merino wool socks made in Vermont by Darn Tough. I don’t care what style (Hike/Trek, Run, Lifestyle), what height (Boot, Crew, 1/4), or what level of padding (Cushion, Light Cushion, Full Cushion, Extra Cushion)… I want them all. Offering a lifetime warranty, amazing comfort, moisture wicking, quick-drying properties, and more, they’re a dream to wear. I’ll take a 3-pack, please, and offer a very sincere “thank you” this time around.
Something special: Airline miles
You know, I had a hard time with this one. I’m far from wealthy. Hell, I’m middle class, at best. But I don’t find myself wishing for too many “things” these days. As a full-on gear addict, that might surprise you. But it’s true. I’m lucky to have all of this wonderful quality gear and the stream of products to review never ends… it is my job, after all. I have more bags and packs than a dozen people could properly use in their lifetime. What I’m really into? Experiences.
So, what does that mean for a gift for me? Well, I’d love airline miles gifted to me (via United, as they discontinued their gift card program) or an airline gift card, which I only recently learned about. Through some basic Google research, two of the major airlines that offer them are Southwest and American Airlines. I’m not 100% sure if Japan Airlines or ANA offer them, but I absolutely would not sneeze at those two options either! What’s great is the gifter can decide between various amounts depending on how generous they would like to be.
Another option, single-use access to one of those fancy airline lounges in the airports would be a dream for a traveler with achy bones like myself.
Something special: Snow Peak x Rumpl NanoLoft Takibi Blanket
I love everything that Snow Peak produces, but this blanket stands out. Not only is it extremely cozy with the NanoLoft insulation to keep you warm, but it’s the perfect companion for the campfire due to the fire-resistant recycled FR ripstop fabric. Additionally, this blanket can be worn like a cape or rolled up with the included straps and handle for easy portability. It’s definitely on the pricier side, but this would become a staple item for both my home and travel.
Something small: Outlier Mask 004
If you’re going to wear a mask it might as well use premium materials, feel great on, and of course perform. Outlier as always has produced an awesome option for face wear. The mask is built with Ultrasuede, which filters well and is soft against the skin. They even provide two different adjustment systems to help find the perfect fit for various head and face shapes and sizes.
Something small: Harber London Leather Desk Mat
A leather desk mat feels just like the old times where you’d write letters with a fountain pen on hotel stationery. And this leather desk mat simply exudes style and quality. It’s expertly handcrafted in Spain and uses full-grain vegetable-tanned leather and a choice of a wool felt or microfiber base. This is a great option for protecting your tech devices against scratches, as well as the surfaces they’re resting on. Plus it even comes with a cable pass-through, a thoughtful feature to help keep your workspace decluttered.
Something special: ergonofis The Sway desk
If I could find someone who’d want to spend serious money on me, I’d love the ergonofis The Sway desk. This sit-stand desk is handcrafted in Canada and comes in a choice of solid wood surfaces. It adjusts quietly with an easy touch of a button and its clean, minimalist look is timeless for any work setting.
Something small: WESN The Carabiner (CB)
I’m always looking to keep things organized and tidy and this latest release from Detroit-based knife and EDC maker WESN has me with a big grin on my face. The aptly named Carabiner is milled from a single piece of titanium with no joints or hinge, washers, or screws. You’ll notice an area of carefully machined spacing which acts as a spring mechanism for the CB. This means worry-free opening and closing operations without the hassle of things binding up or lubrication getting gummy. It comes in two colorways: black and titanium, and like all of WESN’s tools, CB comes with a lifetime warranty.
Something special: Okluma DC0
Recently, I treated myself to Jeff Sapp’s latest creation, the DC0 and I could not be more excited to put it in rotation for my EDC. Jeff is a machinist and operates a small manufacturing company called Okluma, located in Oklahoma City. The DC0 is his sophomore release and ironically it’s the smaller brother to Okluma’s first flashlight – the DC1. While the DC1 is an 18350 triple (meaning it has three emitters out front), the DC0 is a smaller affair in all manners. It takes a 14500 lithium ion battery (same size and shape as a AA you may be familiar with) and has just a single Nichia 219C 4000K emitter. This is my favorite LED and I like the high color rendering (CRI) it gives and the temperature is a nice middle ground between yellow incandescent and the cold ice blue you may be used to with LEDs.
I went with the aluminum which is lighter and more affordable than the titanium version; not to mention an excellent conductor. The driver has four modes including Moonlight which might be my most used. And while it has less than half of the output of the DC1, it still puts out a blinding 350 lumens on high which is honestly more than I’ll ever need. Okluma launched the DC0 around the time of their big move to Colorado. Despite the new digs, I’m sure what’ll remain are Jeff’s excellent products and world-class no-questions-asked lifetime warranty.
Something small: Tom Bihn Handy Little Thing
It’s a known fact within my family that I have always been notoriously difficult to buy gifts for; my tastes are incredibly specific and my hobbies tend to be expensive. So as we approach the holiday gifting season I’ve been thinking about what kind of things I would find useful as a gift. The first thing that comes to mind is the Handy Little Thing (HLT) from Tom Bihn.
It’s a clamshell-style organizer pouch that is cleverly designed to fit within their own bags, but it is easily able to fit in just about ANY other bag out there as well. Over the years, I have tried countless tech organizers, and while some of them have been great to use, most have been TOO organized for my liking. The HLT seems to strike just the right balance of capacity, organization, and access which has put it right up there on my want list. At $65-70 (depending on which size you choose) it’s not exactly “cheap”, but Tom Bihn products have a fantastic warranty so you really do get what you pay for.
Something special: Seiko 5 Sports (SRPD91)
If I were to stretch that budget a bit further, you start opening up really interesting possibilities for gifts. There’s a fine line one must walk where what you ask for winds up being a very nice gift, or simply asking for something too unrealistic. In this instance, I would say that I’d appeal to my inner (amateur) watch enthusiast and ask for the Seiko 5 Sports (SRPD91).
I’ve always had a soft spot for Seiko watches for their affordability, clean aesthetics, and reliability, and the newly updated Seiko 5 line has definitely caught my attention. Being a true automatic watch, its mechanical movements won’t require any battery power, and as long as I take care of it, it will more or less last indefinitely. For the $335 price of entry, it’s affordable enough (in watch terms) that I don’t have to be afraid to wear it, so it could accompany me wherever I go in this world.
Something small: NOMAD Rugged Strap
I just got an Apple Watch and this fits my desires for a strap that can handle swimming and surfing, while offering a design that’s both stylish and rugged to handle whatever life throws your way while you’re out and about.
Something small: Tom Bihn V4 Cloth Face Mask
I’m in desperate need of a new mask and plan to get one of these. The ability to hang around your neck while not being in the way is great, alongside the quick drawstring for the perfect fit, every time.
Something special: Samsung The Frame
I want to make the TV less the center of attention in the house, especially the family room. I love the idea of putting up an art wall and having the TV blend into it. If you want to watch a game, great. Catch a show, awesome. Just chat with friends and be present. Even better.
Something special: JIKKO Chef White 2 Carbon Steel Gyuto Japanese knife
Happiness is found in cold steel, specifically, Japanese steel forged into a blade. Home meals have become a COVID key to happiness for me. More meals at home means more time cutting and preparing for the main event.
A great knife is an amazing way to make it so much more enjoyable, paired with an awesome chopping board you can’t go past a Gyuto knife, a fusion of a Western-shaped blade with Japanese construction. I am into JIKKO and their subtle and artistic weapon against those scoundrels, vegetables.
Something small: HAY Salt & Pepper Grinder
I have a small love affair with pepper grinders. They can be quirky, clean, traditional, or heirloom.
A good grinder lasts a long time, but not a lifetime. Tastes change and you can always add more flavors and complex spice mixes to your grinder of choice. I’d love to receive this one by Denmark’s awesome homewares crew HAY. Given the color, I’d be filling it with this Australian pepper with lemon myrtle mix…
Something small: Victorinox Huntsman
I really can’t think of a better Christmas gift for a true outdoorsman than a pocketknife. It’s a gift that has all the aspects of a “perfect gift”. It’s personal, functional, and a companion for life (with proper care and maintenance of course). Plus I don’t know of any hiker, camper, or bushcrafter who’d not be happy with one. Me included!
A pocketknife doesn’t have to be expensive. A quality Swiss Army Knife (or just SAK) starts at about $25. However, if you add another $10 or so you can get one of the best outdoor-specific SAKs ever – Victorinox Huntsman. With a low profile, non-threatening look, and with 15 tools onboard it’s one of my personal favorites. Plus the obvious two-handed and non-locking construction makes it legal in most places around the globe. A sharp blade, surprisingly efficient wood saw (the sharp spine doubles as a firestarter scraper), handy scissors, openers, screwdrivers, awl, etc. all in one compact package.
Choose the red version for a classic look or black for classy. Or one of the special editions, which are usually good investments too, as they mostly go up with price when the limited run is over. Here you can see my latest SAK… yeah, that’s exactly the Huntsman: “Husaria” Polish special edition for 2020. It looks amazing with the 3D print hussars’ wings. And at about $55 it was a steal (considering the limited edition factor).
Something special: GiantMouse ACE Nimbus V2
If you’d be willing to spend a bit more for a serious outdoor edged tool and jump on the $100-$200 bandwagon, things start getting really interesting. Now we enter the territory of such companies as Spyderco, GiantMouse, Zero Tolerance, Benchmade, Emerson, and many more. All of them offering folding knives of very good quality, made of premium materials, scary sharp, tough, and ready for a lifetime of service. A good example is the new Giant Mouse ACE folder model: Nimbus 2.
The main factors: a blade made of Elmax super steel, canvas micarta scales, and a functional design by the Danish team Jens Ansø and Jesper Voxnaes. All that well below $200 and made in good old Europe. In the market for a tough folder for general outdoor use? The Nimbus 2 will surely do the trick on your next adventure. It’s not cheap, but considering the quality and materials, it is priced just right. I’ve had a chance to use the Nimbus 2 on some of my recent day hikes. It’s certainly a hard-working knife but still quite compact and easy to carry. And it slices like a laser thanks to a full flat grind and thin cutting edge.
Something special: Prometheus Design Werx SPD X Terrain 365 – STS-AT
As you can imagine you could spend virtually any amount of money for a knife. So if you’re not too restricted with your budget and you’d like to add a bit of hi-tech and non-obvious materials to your (or someone’s) knife collection, consider the new Terrain 365 knife, model STS-AT. At about $395 it’s not a budget knife, but also this is clearly not your grandpa’s everyday folder. It combines high-grade titanium (handle and pivot) with a Terravantium blade (the newest variant of dendritic Cobalt alloy) to create a fully rust-proof knife, which will never rust, corrode or stain. It also cuts aggressively and holds a sharp ‘micro-toothy’ edge for a long time. Terravantium is a dense network of carbide crystals bonded in a cobalt matrix. It’s really hi-tech stuff, and it works.
The STS-AT is based on a classic ‘Chute’ design, introduced by knifemaking legend Bob Loveless in the ’80s. It has a Bowie style blade in a grooved handle with a minimalistic hilt. This shape is not only functional but also a real joy to look at. I’ve been using my Terrain 365 STS-AT for about three months now and it absolutely lives up to the hype. It’s strong, sleek, and works great in the field. It’s an adventure-ready folder, which could be the best companion for any hiker or camper. Especially in a humid and hot environment and for use around salt water. Sure, with the exotic materials and beautiful classic lines it could be just a collector’s item sitting on a shelf behind glass… and it’d be fine too.
So if you’re looking for a Christmas gift for a knife collector who ‘has everything’, this could be your answer (but not a cheap one). It should be available again before Christmas at the manufacturer’s website and at dealers. So if you want one, keep your eye on it.