Ask me what I want to most add to my life, and my answer will likely be some sort of experience. A big trip, a better daily habit, or an improvement in my ability at something hard…like reeling in fish.
However, to make the best stuff happen, we often need gear. That’s the spirit of this year’s gift guide — a selection of coveted things to outfit you for something big.
Gifts for Cyclists
In my book, there aren’t many gifts that amplify quality of life more than enabling a guy to ride a bike every day. Sometimes in the face of crappy weather, a busy schedule — or losing sight of our priorities — we might not get on the bike as frequently as we should.
When I lived in Portland, OR and would ride home from work, I remember that daily moment when I would pass over the peak of the Hawthorne bridge — after which I would never think of work again. Here are my picks for the best bicycle gifts for cyclists to help get your guy back on the road.
Left to right: Beryl Pixel Lights, Closca Collapsible Helmet, and the Showers Pass Jacket (that I actually wore in our first Kickstarter video).
- Showers Pass Jacket - If you go way back to 2012, the first video I ever made for Bluffworks shows me in my Showers Pass Jacket. Born from suffering in the rain in Portland, Showers Pass does rain wear right. As I sit here and type at my computer, I can imagine the feel of the jacket on my torso; it fits that well. For enabling a guy to get as many possible days on his bike, a Showers Pass Jacket is damn near the best gift you can give. They’re also known for their waterproof socks. (from $259)
- Topeak Alien II - This is like a tiny toolbox for the bike. It even has tire levers included and a serrated knife that comes in handy. ($50)
- Closca Collapsible Bike Helmet - With all the gear shoved in my bag, saving space is key. I look like a sherpa, lugging so much around NYC. The Closca helmet saves space by collapsing when not in use. Helmets have saved my noodle more than once in my life. So having it with you is key. ($137)
- Beryl Pixel Lights - I’ve been a fan of Beryl, originally called Blaze, since their first launch on Kickstarter 5 years ago. One of the things I find that holds me back most with lights is not having one on me. That’s why I’m excited they’ve released the Pixel; it’s a small, weatherproof, exceedingly bright light that comes with mounting straps that allow you to attach it to anything in a pinch. Shipping from England is smooth, but make sure you order it in time. ($29.99 - check out their Black Friday deals which go live on November 23rd through Cyber Monday.)
- A Map (Paper or Google) - I love this gift. Mark the best / safest route to work, with points of interest like cafes, bike parking, water, etc. (Free / cost of map)
- The Gift of Time - Give someone a gift card to a great coffee shop. Encourage them to leave a little bit early, grab a cup of coffee, read or write in a journal for 20 minutes. It’s permission to have a great day. It’s a reminder to take that moment to slow down and enjoy. (Free / cost of the gift card), Actually, this might be my favorite, as stealing a moment like that before work is pure gold.
Best Gifts for Travelers
There are two approaches to buying travel gifts for a loved one: First, gear, which if they are a big traveler, they may already have. And second, a trip itself.
A little of both? What a lucky dog...
Left to right: Taskin Packing Cubes, our Horizon Quilted Vest, and the Setout Backpack by Tortuga.
- Setout Backpack - Tortuga makes amazing functional and stylish travel bags. The 45L Setout is the ideal maximum size carry on for travel with thoughtful design and all the features you need. A Tortuga bag may be one of the perfect gifts for people who travel far. ($199)
- Taskin Packing Cubes - Lots of people I know love packing cubes — and depending on the trip, me too. These cubes by Taskin compress to make the best use of space in your bag, particularly for things like workout gear, socks, underwear. I say squish ‘em. ($27) Currently running a 20% off holiday sale.
- Our Quilted Vest - As I write this, I’m thinking about what I am enjoying the most right now when traveling. And our 100g PrimaLoft vest is one of them. I’m often cold — like on airplanes — and while on the road, I'm looking for pockets to organize all of my gear. Possibly my favorite feature is our exterior chest pocket, which makes my phone accessible on a bike, without unzipping. Over a blazer, this vest is amazing. ($155)
- Digital Nomad Survival Guide - Hold onto your hat… there are people who live and work as full time travelers. With the rise of the internet, this lifestyle has become more possible. It’s called being a digital nomad. Anyone approaching a life on the road is apt to have a lot of questions… and fears. Enter the Digital Nomad Survival guide. Written by a member of my team, this guide answers everything you need to know for taking your life on the road. ($4.99)
- Give A Trip - I will probably now and probably forever believe that the best travel gift ideas are things that make a trip happen with someone you love. If I were to do this for my wife, it would go something like this —
- Find a destination that is meaningful for her. Maybe like England or Hungary, where her ancestors are from.
- I’d make her an amazing card that shows photos of the place and includes a special message.
- Ooh wait... even better is to package the whole thing in one big box, where the top layer presents the messages and photos, and travel gifts below.
- Then, reveal an itinerary. You don't actually have to have booked anything. Just show an imaginary itinerary “we leave from JFK 10PM on April 4th, arriving Budapest….Three nights in the Grand Opera Hotel…” you get the idea.
- Then add spice beyond the itinerary. Like a great restaurant review, or a myth about a castle.
- If cost is a problem — keeping in mind her reaction might be “we can’t afford this” — part of the gift could be presenting a budget, and maybe what you’ll personally cut from spending to make it happen. The message is intended to be: traveling to this place with you is important to me.
- At the bottom of the box, you can pile in some maps and guidebooks.
(That’s got to be the best travel gift ever. If you do it, be sure to let me know.)
Gifts for Outdoorsmen
You can probably divide a group of middle aged guys like me into two camps: those who get out camping, and those for whom life gets in the way. Ugh.
As I live in the city, there are currently two ways we get out of town: 1) a rental car or 2) flying to a big destination — like southern Utah — to truly get off the grid. This list is all about helping your guy — and your family — make that trip happen with some of my favorite camping gifts.
Left to right: Escape Campervans, an Aeropress, and a Solo Stove.
- Solo Stove — I have something to tell you: it’s not that hard to camp by airplane. I’ve done it with just two checked bags, including tent, sleeping bag, gear, the whole nine yards. When we do, the biggest hurdle is carrying a stove, because you can’t carry fuel on the plane. This is the answer. The Solo makes stoves that are durable, ultra light, and turn a handful of kindling and twigs into a fire hot enough to cook on. Pick the Solo Stove Lite for an ultralight backpacking trip, or the Titan when you’re cooking for the family. When you think of your dream camping trips, don’t let an airplane get in the way. All you need to do is get past TSA. ($69.99–$109.99, and for Black Friday they're offering a Campfire Stove for free with purchase of a Bonfire Fire Pit.)
- Motorola T605 Walkie Talkies - Whether you’re with kids or on a trip that involves complex route finding, nothing beats old-school walkie talkies. When I’m in the outdoors, I like to handle my phone as little as possible. Walkie talkies are the answer when you don’t have a signal or you just want to feel like a kid again. It’s worth going for good ones, like these from Motorola. ($149.99)
- Aeropress - I know how you feel about a good cup of coffee. And when you’re out in the elements, that cup is all the more special. The Aeropress is the way to do that. Just add ground coffee and boiling water. ($34.99)
- Kammock Hammock - Kammock has been a smash hit on Kickstarter since the day they launched. Personally, I use one in New York, strung up in a park, after I’m exhausted from miles on a scooter and hours of hide and seek. It’s tough to get a little guy to slow down, but if I read him a book in a hammock I can steal a few minutes of rest and recovery before part two of the afternoon. At home, in the outdoors, lying in a hammock is pure bliss. ($69–$99)
- Escape Campervans - Years ago my best friend spent time in New Zealand in a campervan. At the time I was like WHAT? You’re going soft. (He was.) But, fast forward a few years and my wife and I ended up there ourselves. Six weeks in New Zealand, was amazing. A van opens up a different type of trip. For one, you will sleep well. If you don’t own one, Escape has you covered with locations across the country — including NYC — so you can live your best #vanlife dreams for a weekend, while they take care of the details. (rates vary)
- Planning / Permission for that great adventure - It’s winter and summer is six months away. Give someone special the gift of planning a trip for next summer. Find back issues of Outside magazine’s “10 Best Summer Trips”; give a National Parks Pass that enables you to visit as many as you can; and then make it happen. Despite all my efforts on this gift guide, an adventure with someone you love is probably the best thing you can give.
If you don’t fish, let me explain… It’s one of those things that is both therapeutic and ambitious. It’s like combining painting with kickboxing. Part exhale, part roar. That’s why so many people are absolute bonkers over it. It adds meaning to their lives.
I was fortunate enough to have a number of incredible fishing experiences this year. I am pleased to speak from experience that the best possible place to clean a fish is sitting on a paddleboard, by headlamp, as the sun goes down.
Below are some of my fishing gift ideas to encourage someone you love to chase that special time.
Left to right: Tenkara Fishing Rod, Smith Optics Sunglasses, and the Curtis Creek Manifesto.
- Tenkara Rod - Among the best gifts for fishermen, this Japanese fly fishing method uses just a rod, a line, and a fly — nothing more. This means it’s simpler and less expensive to get into the sport. Perfect for adding a little bit of fishing to a trip that is supposed to be about something else. ($157)
- Curtis Creek Manifesto: A Fully Illustrated Guide to the Strategy, Finesse, Tactics, and Paraphernalia of Fly Fishing - You’ve got your gear... now what? This illustrated guide takes the pain out of learning to fly fish. Really good at helping you understand the basics, written in comic book style. No exclusive fishing talk here. ($9.84)
- Smith Optics Techlite Polarized Sunglasses - With many outdoor pursuits, I find the last thing people think about is eyewear. Polarized sunglasses are a must on the water — especially when stalking fish. My eyes are very sensitive, and once you wear sunglasses as good as these Smiths, it’s hard to go back. Get a leash to keep them out of the drink. ($209)
- Scientific Anglers Groove Practice Rod - Practice casting in your office, and then show up everyone on your spring trip. It’s a win-win. Your office is a happier place and you’re building your skills. ($39.95)
Watermaster Kick Boat - One thing that makes fishing so much better is being on the water. But when handling a boat, your hands aren't free to fish. Except with a Watermaster. It's an inflatable raft that has a hole in the floor that your legs dangle through. Put on a pair of flippers, and you can change the position of the boat, while casting at fish (or, just standup to stop the movement of the boat down a river.) I ran the Blackfoot in Montana on one, camping for a few nights and it was transformative. (Just don't ask how many fish I caught...) This year, they released a two person, which means you can float with family. This is a very special gift, and will allow your guy to run rivers far and wide. ($1,595)
Making Their Office A Happy Place
Give a guy a gift that he’ll use in the office, and you’ll both improve the place he spends so much of his day and provide something that will remind him of you. Personally, the best stuff in my office has always been about fun: shooting rubber bands and bouncing basketballs. But here are a few things for the more responsible executive in your life, plus a few for someone more like me to keep them happy during the daily grind.
Left to right: "Atomic Habits" by James Clear, Jabra Earbuds, and a Happy Light.
- Atomic Habits by James Clear - OK, this is important… Your guy is going to feel happiest in the office when he feels like his life is under control. I’ve been following James Clear for years, and he’s been sending little emails that included sections of this book, and boy did I get excited. It’s my view that humans are basically machines that need proper care and feeding; and James wrote the authoritative text on how to improve the habits of your life. News flash: small things have a huge impact over time. This book can make a difference. ($16)
- Graze Snacks - I run on snacks, and having something handy makes a huge difference to my productivity and wellbeing at work. Graze snacks are both delicious and healthy. Good to power him through the grind, until he can get on his bike to ride home. ($14 a box)
- Happy Light - If your guy is anything like me, he’d rather be outside… Instead, when he’s in the office, getting stuff done, he’s probably bombarded by bad lighting. I used to live in the Pacific Northwest where seasonal issues are a big deal, and a Happy Light can make a difference. ($45)
- Jabra Elite 65t Earbuds - Finally, I found THE ONES. My Jabra earbuds are far and away my favorites for both working out and conference calls. I won’t tell you how many other brands I went through. These Jabras come with a charging case, and I often use just one — like when riding a bike — to remain exposed to the outside world. They pair better with my phone than any other bluetooth device I’ve owned. Highly recommended. (from $159)
That’s the list. I’m adamant that, while there’s a lot of cool stuff in the world, the most special gifts are those that will have an ongoing effect on your life. So, I’ll leave you with this final angle: If you really want to make somebody jump out of their footie pajamas this holiday season, check this post on how to give a life-changing gift.
As we slow down, and celebrate the end of the year, I wish you the best this holiday season.