Got folks on your gift list who would much rather be outside exploring the great outdoors than pretty much anything else? Here’s a little gift guide to get your idea juices flowing. There are so many stripes of outdoor enthusiast that we can’t possibly cover them all, but here’s a little sampling. And since knowledge is essential in the woods, we’ll get started with a list of books.
Made for the Outdoors: Over 40 Do-It-Yourself Projects for the Great Outdoors By Len McDougall (starting at $17)
McDougall offers one of the cornerstone backcountry DIY books, with clear and simple instructions on how to make anything from fires to snowshoes.
Don’t Forget the Duct Tape: Tips and Tricks for Repairing Outdoor and Travel Gear By Kristin Hostetter ($8)
I was first introduced to this book by our own Arwen O’Reilly Griffith, who reviewed it for MAKE’s Toolbox section, and I’ve kept it handy ever since. Kristin Hostetter is the gear editor for Backpacker magazine, so you’re guaranteed she knows what she’s talking about. She tells you what to carry in your hiking repair kit and what not to use duct tape for. Bonus point if you gift this bundled with a roll of duct tape.
Sew and Repair Your Outdoor Gear By Louise Lindgren (from $13)
Although this book first came out 20 years ago, you’ll still see it on every recommended reading list for making and repairing gear. Lindgren extensively covers sewing technique for technical fabrics, and provides a great resource, even if you don’t take her instruction verbatim. After all, she did write it in 1989, but it still contains some gems.
The Essential Outdoor Gear Manual: Equipment Care, Repair, and Selection By Annie Getchell ($20)
Another cornerstone title, in this book Getchell helps make you a gear doctor, by breaking down techniques, including seamsealing, and then teaches you all about various technical fabrics and materials. She covers soft goods and hardware alike, repair and DIY.
Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain By Bruce Tremper ($14)
This one is strictly for snow addicts like myself. Tis the season. My friend Ben gifted me with this bible of the snowy backcountry this year, and the knowledge therein may very well save my life. Tremper is a bona fide snow expert who breaks down what you need to know into layman’s terms. Originally, I wondered why he repeated certain things over and over and then I realized it was because your survival is on the line.
Illustrated Guide to Astronomical Wonders By Robert Bruce Thompson and Barbara Fritchman Thompson ($30)
I would venture to say there’s not a person out there who enjoys the outdoors and doesn’t love gazing at the night sky. This awesome book is the only resource you need on your bookshelf to get you started becoming an amateur astronomer. The authors details the best equipment to get and what to do with it.
Animal Hats by raucousgoods ($25)
These amazing handmade animal hats will be certain to tickle the outdoor enthusiast on your list. (For clarification, the hats are of animals, not meant to be worn by animals, though I couldn’t resist putting it on one of my canine homies, Huckleberry, for the picture above.) Choose from a number of different animals, from polar bears to rabbits to raccoons, and more. I bought myself one and am absolutely in love with it. It’s well-made, fleece-lined, super warm and toasty, and a homage to my brown bear friends in the backcountry. I made sure to wear it on opening day at my favorite ski area.
Dog Boots by Pooch Booties ($30)
Is the outdoor enthusiast on your list a canine by chance? These dog boots are insulated, waterproof, and even have traction. Best of all, they’re handmade. Sold in a set of four, of course.
Wrap Cap from consciouslyaltered ($40)
I love the concept behind this useful cap with a built in scarf wrap. Not being a fan of wind, I realize the main reason is because it uncomfortably blows my hair all around when I’m on hikes. What a neat solution. You can wrap it around your ears or your neck to stay warm.
From Our Friends at MAKE
Our sister publication MAKE has no shortage of awesome ideas for outdoor enthusiasts. Here are just a couple.
Voile Split Decision Kit ($160)
For the snowboard junkie who thrives in the backcountry (ahem!), this kit enables you to take an existing snowboard and make it into a backcountry splitboard that separates into two halves for touring mode and then clicks back into a snowboard for the sweet ride down. Damien Scogin offers clear instructions on the pages of MAKE Volume 20, so you might want to get one of those to go with it.
Greenlight Deluxe Eco-Friendly Surfboard Starter Kit ($395)
If your outdoor enthusiast is of the wave-riding variety (and you love them enough to drop a chunk of change), consider getting the Greenlight DIY Surfboard kit. MAKE’s copy chief Keith Hammond (pictured above) made his own for an article that appeared in MAKE Volume 19, and it was awesome seeing how much joy he got from the build (and riding his handmade board).
MintyBoost USB Charger Kit v2.0 ($20)
This little iPod charger is super handy in the back woods, and is really fun to build. Yes, you can really charge your iPod with a mint tin!
Resources and More Ideas
Seeing as this is a subject near and dear to my heart, I really could go on and on. Instead, I’ll arm you with some resources to check out and some more quick suggestions.
There are a number of great websites that cover DIY outdoor gear. Check these out for tons of information, from sewing techniques to where to buy technical fabrics and tons of other outdoor gear how-tos.
1. Specialty Outdoors: Tips and techniques for sewing your own outdoor gear.
2. Trail Divas: List of DIY gear websites.
3. Backpacking.net: Instructions for homemade backpacking gear.
4. The RuckSack: A primer on how to create, sew, and repair your own wilderness gear.
5. Jason Klass: Homemade backpacking gear tutorials.
One idea would be to choose a tutorial from one of the fine sites listed above, gather the materials needed, print out the how-to, and make your own gift kit.
Another idea is to buy your outdoor enthusiast a National Parks Pass or Wilderness Permit to their favorite wilderness. I got an annual pass to my favorite, Desolation Wilderness in the Lake Tahoe area, for a mere $20.
Don’t forget to search CRAFT for other things that you might want to make as a gift. Search scarves, hats, sweaters, what-have-you, and I guarantee you’ll end up with an inspirational step-by-step.