Photo Courtesy: Spencer McKee

Spencer McKee on top of Little Beak Peak sporting some of the items mentioned in this article, including the Salomon running vest, Petzl helmet, and Goodr shades. His Garmin inReach is also hard at work in his pack, tracking his position and maintaining a line of communication with those off-mountain. Photo Courtesy: Spencer McKee

Looking for a gift for your favorite outdoorsy person? Here are a few pieces of gear that I love and I'm sure they'll love them, too.

Author's Note: A good sizing fit is essential to getting the maximum benefit from outdoor recreation gear. Keep that in mind as you're browsing for gifts.

1. Garmin inReach

Costing several hundred dollars, the Garmin inReach isn't a product for your average friend. That being said, if you've got someone in your life that loves doing dangerous things and you want to help keep them safe, this is something they should have.

I've only been using the Garmin inReach communication device for a year or so, but it's been a game-changer for me in the mountains. Not only does the safety net it provides help me keep a cool head under pressure or in a scary situation, it also allows me to update friends if I'm running late and need someone to take out the pup.

In short, it's a GPS communication device that allows for texting and SOS messaging. It also tracks a route, allowing you to know where you came from should you get lost. This device also gets a big shout out for its winter performance. I've used it in subzero temperatures and haven't noticed the same battery loss seen with cell phones.

There's a very real reason the inReach is often the first choice of outdoor recreation enthusiasts and professionals, alike.

Garmin also sells a number of other products that offer a similar safety net for outdoor recreation adventurers.

Perhaps your pack is too small or you don't want the extra weight of the full inReach device? Maybe you're in it for the casual mountain run versus and all-out expedition? In that case, something like the Instinct Solar watch might be more up your alley.

Thanks to a tiny solar panel, this watch has a battery life that few will be able to run dry – up to more than 50 days in 'smartwatch' mode. It also connects with training apps to help with pacing and performance on the trail.

Learn more about the Garmin inReach device here and learn about the Instinct Solar watch here.

Messaging and tracking functionality does require a monthly subscription, but it's well worth it. Skip the streaming subscription and opt for this potentially life-saving device instead.

2. The Eddie Bauer First Ascent line & more

I'm not sure how I've missed the Eddie Bauer First Ascent line for this long, but it's quickly become my go-to for a lot of my adventures. I ran the Pikes Peak Ascent (a grueling 13.1-mile race with around 8,000 feet of elevation gain to the top of Pikes Peak) in one of their dry fit tees. Nearly every time I'm rock climbing, I'm wearing these shorts. Their technical pants are great for hiking fourteeners. Their base layers are warm, comfortable, and have a great fit. I have yet to find something from Eddie Bauer that's let me down.

Plus, the Eddie Bauer website is known for having great sales around the holidays, which makes stocking up for the year easy.

3. USWE Backpacks

I was recently turned on to this brand and I already think I'm falling in love – and that's coming from someone that tends to collect backpacks like someone might collect stamps.

The USWE backpack I've used comes from their winter line (and I'm looking forward to using it much more once we actually get some snow in Colorado). What I really love about the USWE POW 25 backpack is that their designers seem to have thought of everything – it's clear they're outdoor recreation enthusiasts themselves.

The water tube is insulated, the backpack is designed not to bounce awkwardly during intense movement, it can hold a helmet and ski gear, it's extremely comfortable, and its got a full back protector made with a memory foam effect. This is one backpack that's well-worth the price tag.

Find out more about this backpack here.

4. The Daehlie winter run jacket

This is an older piece of gear – I think I got it a couple years ago, but it still slaps.

The Bjorn Daehlie Winter Run XC Ski Jacket is perfect for winter jogging and cool mountain runs. It's extremely lightweight and extremely packable – two reasons I love it – plus, it provides reliable warmth thanks to aerogel padding on the chest.

I couldn't find this product on the company website, but it still seems to be available a few places around the web. Get it before it's gone for good.

If this specific jacket is gone by the time you get there, I'd still recommend checking out other Daehlie gear. I've got some running tights and base layers from them, too, and I'm a fan.

5. The Salomon Sense Pro 10 hydration vest

There's a reason so many athletes turn to the Salomon Sense Pro 10 vest for their endurance endeavors – it's just that great.

I've tried a few different running vests that also have a carry compartment and I've found it's difficult to find the perfect no-bounce fit. That's not the case with the Sense Pro 10.

The carry compartment has plenty of space for a few items and the front pocket water bottle holders keep it feeling balanced. Plus, the cinch system on the front really helps when it comes to finding a secure, but comfortable fit throughout the entire run opposed to typical clips found on most packs.

Find more information about this running pack here.

6. The Altra Lone Peaks

You've probably caught on by now, but running tends to be my go-to sport these days, specifically trail running. I have yet to find a shoe that I love more than the Altra Lone Peaks, and they just keep getting better with each new version that's released.

I've found that the zero drop nature of the shoe really helps with rocky, unpredictable terrain. While a lot of running shoes can feel bulky on the trail, these really help your foot connect with the ground.

They're comfortable for long distances, they've got a rock guard to protect your foot, and they've got a wide toe box to really allow for full foot expansion on the downhill runs (opposed to toes just smashing the front of the shoe again and again). When it comes to trail running, Altra Lone Peaks are the way to go in most scenarios.

Find out more about the Altra Lone Peaks here.

A few more shout-outs for gear I love:

Sunglasses: Goodr, all day, every day. Whether you're running or just trying to look cool while you're walking down the street, Goodr gets the job done. From the style to the weight to the way the soft plastic hugs your face, these are hard to beat. Plus, they're only $25-35 a pop, which makes them replaceable if they get lost or damaged and they've got plenty of color options to choose from. Find more information here.

Snowshoes: Crescent Moon snowshoes always deserve a gift guide shout out in my opinion for being truly innovative in the snowshoe world. Their Eva foam snowshoes offer a comfortable fit and deliver a bouncy performance on the snow. Plus, the lack of hole underfoot keeps the snow a little farther away, making steps feel more natural and keeping the foot a little warmer. Find more information on this product here.

Helmet: I've written about the Petzl BOREO rock climbing helmet before and it's still my favorite, so I'm recommending it again this year. It gets the job done, it's comfortable, and it's affordable. Plain and simple. Find out more about this helmet here. (Also, don't wear this helmet for other sports – it's a climbing helmet. Here's why different helmets should be used for different things.)

Climbing shoes: I'm on my fourth pair of La Sportiva Otakis and I've got no plans to switch it up. Looking for a good semi-technical climbing shoe that's great in a variety of situations, the Otaki is worth trying out. Find more info on this shoe here.

Snow boots: I've long been a fan of Danner boots. They're long-lasting, they look good, and they're remarkably warm. Lately, I've been a fan of the Mountain 600 Insulated option.

Hiking spikes: I found the Hillsound Trail Crampons last January and they're now an essential in my winter hiking pack. The spikes are burly, really digging into snow or ice, providing solid footing with every step. Find out more here.

Winter hiking axe: The Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe (with a grip) is a great all-around winter hiking tool. Whether you're using it as a hiking pole, a self-arrest tool, or for bracing against strong winds, it gets the job done. Find out more here (I'd also recommending getting some caps for this sharp tips. This protects the head of the axe and this protects the bottom spike).

Dog carrier: If you're bringing your dog on a strenuous hike, it's important to take care of your beloved pooch by having a plan B for if your dog gets tired or injured. Check out the Ruff Rescue Gear options, with carrying harnesses designed for hiking. Unlike most dog carriers that hold the dog upright, these hold the dog sideways, which is safer for the pup. They've got different options for small dogs and big dogs – I've got a small dog and this is the one I use.

There you have it – my outdoor recreation gear guide picks of 2021. I'll probably add more to this list as the month continues and as I remember other beloved items I've unintentionally skipped over.

Happy holidays.

Director of Content and Operations

Spencer McKee is OutThere Colorado's Director of Content and Operations. In his spare time, Spencer loves to hike, rock climb, and trail run. He's on a mission to summit all 58 of Colorado's fourteeners and has already climbed more than half.


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