Gift ideas for the traveler on your list

Best gifts to make active travel more fun, comfy and safe

It’s holiday time. Here are some travel favorites from B, Thorny and Jim. We hope these inspire gift ideas to keep the traveler on your list (and maybe yourself) safe, comfy and with less worry.

Darn tough sock

Darn Tough socks

Darn Tough is their brand name, not my description of their wearability. But the name fits. This family-owned company makes its socks from merino wool in a Vermont factory and backs every pair with a lifetime guarantee. B loves these for travel, whether she’s trekking a glacier or walking crowded London streets. Her favorite style, Light Hiker Micro Crew, has lighter padding and performs well year-round. All Darn Tough socks wick moisture well and wash easily in the sink so you can take just 3-4 pair no matter how long the trip. Options for every activity and shoe type. Starting at $18

Nat Geo travel book

NatGeo book, Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the World’s Most Amazing Places

I bought this book as a Christmas gift — and found myself looking at almost every page before wrapping it up. Don’t worry. I flipped carefully so the book still appears new. In Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the World’s Most Amazing Places, NatGeo takes you on a photographic tour of the world’s most spectacular destinations, inspiring travel ideas for your next trip. The book is more than just pretty; it’s loaded with useful info for each locale, including when to go, where to eat/stay and what to do. We recommend the hard cover version because it’s a perfect coffee table book, but there is also a Kindle version if you prefer. From $16.99

AdirChef personal coffee maker

Travel coffee maker

We’re coffee snobs. The prepackaged coffee in most hotel rooms does not do it for us. Problem solved with the AdirChef Grab N’ Go Coffee Maker with Travel Mug. Compact and light enough to pack in a carry-on, it includes a travel mug (for our second mug we use a stainless steel water bottle). The washable filter basket allows us to drink the type and strength we prefer. When biking or hiking we make double strength coffee so we don’t have to pee as much. Since we use bulk coffee, it is cheaper and more environmentally sound than single-use pods. When not filling our caffeine needs, it’s great for making hot water for breakfast cereal, soups or ramen noodles. Perfect for those times you stay in a cozy national park cabin. $22.09

Olympus tough camera

Olympus Tough TG-5 camera

I own the TG-4 and hope Santa or Mrs. Claus will drop the newest model down my chimney – the camera can handle the impact. I have an unhealthy relationship with this camera and always store it in my backpack or travel luggage. Yes, I have a more expensive camera, but this one is fun. It’s waterproof up to a 50-foot depth, great for snorkeling and playing at the beach. And because I’m clumsy, I’ve tested its toughness without really trying. The Olympus Tough camera is my first option for macro close-up work of wildflowers and bugs. The camera also features a lot of easy-to-use presets for situations such as sunsets, landscapes, portraits, sports and snow. I’m not crazy about the zoom function, but everything else makes me happy. It also has good video, GPS and Wi-Fi sharing to your phone. $449

LifeStraw filter water bottle

LifeStraw filtered water bottle

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

Travel power strip with USB

This is a repeat favorite from 2018. Seems we travel with more electronics than ever, which all need charging at the same time. Camera batteries, bike lights, phones and tablets used to mean pulling out hotel furniture to find all available wall outlets, leaving a hazardous maze of wires and chargers. Now things are neat and easy. Our UPWADE power strip with two AC and four USB ports is compact, lightweight and dual voltage for travel abroad. $15.99

Travel undies

We advocate buying travel underwear wholeheartedly. Why do that when you have a drawer full of perfectly good undies, you ask? Who wants to carry around a suitcase full of dirty underwear? Yuck. And why carry 10 pairs when you can carry two? We’re fans of the ExOfficio brand. They’ve given us years of great performance; wash easy in the sink and air-dry overnight. Two pair is plenty. From $18

REI folding hat

Quick-dry folding travel hat

Another repeat from last year, but still list-worthy. This folding hat packs easily and fits in my back pocket when not in use. The moisture-wicking material and side vents keep my head cooler and drier than other hats. UPF 30 sun protection and sunglass loops are added benefits. $24.95

Eagle Creek packing cubes garment folder

Packing cubes and garment folder

If you have not discovered these already, your suitcase is about to be transformed. We use small and medium size cubes to pack undies, socks, tee shirts, bike clothes, etc. When we need something from the suitcase we grab out that cube instead of tearing up the entire suitcase to reach the socks we stuck on the bottom. The compression option saves room. Handy when we are trying to avoid checking bags. Nicer shirts and pants go in a garment folder and arrive at our destination wrinkle-free. Eagle Creek is our brand preference. $49.42+ for set (two cubes, one folder)

Black diamond head lamp


No, we’re not miners and we’ve never been spelunking, but we do believe a headlamp is an essential piece of travel gear. It could save your life if you had to exit your building at night in the dark. It will help you find that sock that got under the bed. And you’ll take it stargazing or night hiking. Headlamp wins over flashlight because they are so small and lightweight. And navigating in the dark is safer with two hands free. Black Diamond is Thorny’s favorite from his backpacking nights for its durability and waterproofing. B loves her PETZL, which, at half the price, is a better value for general use. $20

portable power bank

Portable power bank

When traveling, our phones are constantly in use taking photos, running GPS navigation, and researching places to see and eat. We can’t make it through the day without a recharge. We’ve carried a portable power bank for years to recharge our phones anywhere. But our old model was heavy, so we were thrilled to discover a new style charger at a fraction of the weight and size. With charging cords built into the housing, there’s no cord clutter. The unit charges the average phone twice. At $25, we each carry one for plenty of juice to get us through even the longest travel day. Spoiler alert: All our family members should expect one of these – except Grandma, her old school phone flip phone is not compatible. $25

Buff half-height headwear

Multifunction headwear

Think scarf, headband, hat, neck gaiter, bandana and more! You may know it by the brand name, Buff. This takes up no room in our suitcase and performs in more ways than we can count. Winter or summer. Our microfiber headwear wicks moisture and dries quickly. B tried one in wool but it was too warm. She prefers the half height, but also has a full height. Ways that we use it include: breath warmer, hair band, pony tail holder, neck warmer, sun protector, liner under bike helmet and others we’ve forgotten. For men and women. Thorny’s is boring gray. B’s is more of a fun accessory. From $11

Disclaimer: If you purchase products from the links on this page, we receive a small commission. This helps offset the cost of producing the blog, and allows Wandering Rose Travels to donate to charities who support affordable housing, public lands and veterans. Prices were correct at the time of writing, but are subject to change.