04 Dec Gift ideas for hikers and national park lovers
Looking for a gift for the hiker or national park lover on your list? Or perhaps you’ve been especially good this year and want to treat yourself? Here are some of our favorites for hitting the trail or enjoying our national parks. We have more ideas in “Best gifts to make travel more fun, comfy and safe.”
I consider myself frugal, except when it comes to sunglasses. I value good eye protection, which means polarization and a great lens. There are a lot of high-end brands on the market, but I’ve been wearing Oakley for the past 40 years. I bought my first pair when I took up cross-country skiing and needed to dull the snow glare. But now I wear them for casual activities as well as for hiking. I’ve purchased Oakleys from a retail store where they are sometimes on sale. However, my guilty pleasure is making my own custom pair online. You can choose frame type and color, lens type and color, a personal icon for your frame and a micro storage bag. Plus at Oakley.com, you can see how the different lens tints affect the colors you see in the outdoors. My favorite is the Fuel Cell line. They make me look 10 years younger (yah, sure they do!).
We’ve long used AllTrails as a hike research and planning tool. Just search the area you are traveling and a list of hikes ranked by difficulty pops up on a map. Click into hikes you wish to learn more about and you’ll get mileage, elevation gain, trail description and most valuable for us, reviews from other trail users. After using the free version for years, we upgraded to AllTrails Pro in 2018 ($29.99 annually) for the ability to download maps for offline use and print trail maps as a backup. This is especially helpful when we combine parts of different trails (which usually renders the trail signage not applicable). We often do hike planning on our laptop, and then drive to the trailhead and navigate our hike by phone. AllTrails synchs information across all your devices so current info is always at your fingertips.
Author, photographer and waterfaller Kevin Adams nailed this third edition of Waterfalls of North Carolina. With 1,000 waterfalls in western North Carolina, his guide is a great gift for the outdoor enthusiast. Adams provides driving directions, step-by-step trail details, photos and very candid descriptions, such as “it’s extremely dangerous” or “it’s really cool” and “the most pristine I’ve seen.” He rates each waterfall for beauty, photography, hiking distance and difficulty. Some falls are easy to reach, others more challenging, but Kevin’s your trusty guide who’s taken my family to some spectacular new destinations.
We play it at home and on the road. National Parks Trivial Pursuit contains 100 cards with 600 questions in six categories: natural wonders, battlefields and historic sites, cultural heritage, science and nature, wildlife and wildcard. We love learning about our national park system and the environment. The game is challenging but not pull-your-hair-out difficult. It’s a nice stocking stuffer that more than one person can enjoy.
What does the annual $80 fee for a National Park Pass get you? Admission all U.S. National Parks of course, but also entry to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites across the country. The pass covers the holder, plus all passengers in a personal vehicle (capped at four adults at some sites). There’s no better bang for the buck in our opinion. And the news gets better. If you’re 62 or older, as many of our active baby boomer readers are, $80 gets you a lifetime pass. Don’t tell B, but she’s getting one for Christmas. Annual passes are online from REI and others. Senior annual passes are available online through the National Park Service, but include a $10 processing fee. Ordering by mail or in person at one of hundreds of federal recreation offices saves the $10 processing fee.
We discovered LifeStraw from ToTravelToo bloggers Jane and Duncan Dempster-Smith, who spend their life globetrotting. The water filter system gives peace of mind to international travelers by removing bacteria, parasites (including Salmonella, E. coli, Giardia) and chemicals. Traveling stateside? LifeStraw’s carbon filter removes odor and chlorine taste. And we love it for hiking. We used to carry extra water (heavy) or a filter pump (pain in the rear) on long hikes or overnight trips. Now we can drink water straight from the nearest stream, puddle or pond. Ready for the best part? Each purchase helps provide water filters to children internationally where clean water is a challenge. Already have your own favorite water bottle? LifeStraw Universal adds the same protection to your current bottle. From $30
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