At GearJunkie, we test a lot of outdoor gear. But that doesn't mean our staff don't have a vacation wishlist like everyone else.
The world is full of endless gear and gift options for the holidays. So we asked our staff to choose the item they would like to receive or give as a gift this year. Feel free to steal a few of these items for your own wishlist, or get one as a gift for someone in your life who loves the outdoors.
Need more ideas? Discover our gift guides, where you can find more of our top gear picks and shop by activity or price.
Stephen Regenold, Founder: Leatherman Skeletool Topo Multitool
“One of the most iconic multi-tools on the market is getting an upgrade (which we'd love to receive) with a topo motif. I have the original Skeletool from years ago, and its streamlined tool set, stainless steel blade, and carabiner clip have served me a million times outdoors and at home. Bonus: The Skeletool Topo is made in the USA. "
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Adam Ruggiero, editor-in-chief: REI Co-op Big Haul 28 Recycled Duffel
“It is virtually impossible to choose just one piece of equipment that I would recommend. So how about something to carry all the material to go on an adventure? A good travel bag is almost as important as a good friend to get by.
"While anything that stands up to the elements and contains what you need will do, I use the REI Long Haul 28L Heavy Duty Small Travel Bag as my personal travel bag. It's a surprisingly sturdy, versatile and durable travel bag that has all the staples I need for a weekend (or week) adventure.
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Jake Ferguson, Director of Digital Marketing: SAXX Ultra Boxer Briefs
“I've been wearing SAXX underwear for several years, and it's a favorite. There is always a pair on my wish list because the BallPark pouch is so comfortable. TMI! Plus, there's a style that matches what I'm doing that day, whether it's physical activity, travel, or just everyday things.
"I am a big fan of Ultra Boxer Briefs and Quest 2.0, but honestly, they're all amazing. Guys, if you haven't tried them, it's worth every penny. And ladies, this is a perfect gift for any man in your life. "
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Nicole Qualtieri, Hunt & Fish Editor-in-Chief: BioLite HeadLamp 330
"My choice is the BioLite 330 headlamp. For months, it's been tucked away in the center console of my truck and ready when I need it. Last week I forgot to bring it to a hunting camp and kicked myself all the time. The annoyance feeling from my old fashioned headlamp (which isn't even that old) was proof that I had been changed.
“Having the headlamp center of gravity at the back of your head rather than above your eyes is liberating. The charge lasts forever. And at $ 60, its price is competitive. Honestly, I don't want to wear anything else at this point.
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Mary Murphy, reporter: Patagonia Nano Puff Vest
“I love the Patagonia Nano Puff line. And while you really only need a limited number of jackets, you can never get enough. This gilet is a high quality, versatile item and the synthetic insulation provides plenty of warmth. I also like the slim fit and torso length of this vest, which is long enough for us slightly taller women. It's one of my must-haves in my outdoor wardrobe.
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Alex Kirk, Associate Editor: Purist collective Union Top Founder 32 oz Bottle
“I highly recommend this water bottle for its Union spout and tasteless glass interior. The spout stays in place when I drink and stays closed at all other times. Whether stuffed in carry-on luggage or thrown on a rocky hill, this water bottle never leaked or accidentally opened. And there is no aftertaste.
“This water bottle keeps ice all day in sunny Florida; it keeps drinks hot for snowy day outings. And after more than a year of use, the only signs of wear are chips in the paint and a dent in the steel exterior where it hit the sidewalk. (The brand's claim to the 'shatterproof' glass interior seems to hold up well!) "
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Sean McCoy, Editorial Director: Benchmade 551-S30V Griptilian Fine-Edge Knife
“One of Benchmade's most popular knives, the Griptilian is a great entry into the world of quality knives. Packing excellent S30V steel, a wonderful AXIS locking mechanism, and a glass-filled nylon handle, it's just about perfect for everything from EDC to hiking to fishing. The 3.45 inch blade is long enough to be useful but short enough not to be scary. Overall, this is just a great, reasonably priced knife for quality blades made in the USA. "
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Mike Santi, CFO: MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes
“With miles of lakes and snow-covered trails outside my door this year, I'm going to hit them all. I had an eye on this lightweight pair of snowshoes a respectable brand for some time.
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Kurt Barclay, Digital Marketing Manager: GSI Outdoors Ultralight Java Drip Coffee Maker
“I use this filter for camping, biking, adventure coffee and even at home. This little thing is super portable, lightweight, and super compressible. And that makes a solid cup of Joe wherever you take it.
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Kyle Nossaman, Sales Manager: Helinox Chair Zero
"I would be more than happy to add an extra pound to my bag if that meant being able to relax a comfortable chair at the end of a 20 km day hike. The Helinox Chair Zero comes at a price that many find hard to justify. So this is a perfect gift to receive and for which my legs and feet would be forever grateful.
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Jenny Hansen, Affiliate Marketing Manager: Osprey Dyna 15 for women
“I've been a long-time fan of Osprey backpacks - they are super comfortable and durable. My sister backpacked the John Muir trail for 30 days with an osprey and had no complaints. This hydration pack is on my wishlist this year.
“It's the perfect size to fit a water tank and a few other trail essentials. Plus, I love the front panel pockets for easy access to my phone and snacks. "
(And don't worry - it also comes in a men's / unisex version.)
Check the price at REI
Zach Burton, Sales Manager: Sea to Summit Spark SpII 28 Sleeping Bag
“Winter camping is a magical experience that's both epic and a must have if you want to spend time outside your home year round in Minnesota. This bag is light, compact and so warm. “No winter camping? Check out the Spark 40 degree bag.
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Julie Robichaud, Sales Associate: Cotopaxi Bataan 3L waist bag
“Cotopaxi has been spinning in my gear cabinet for a long time. I love the company's wellness philosophy and the design of sustainable products. This year, I traded much of my adventure travel and backpacking gear for items more suited to day trips and local hikes.
“I keep a hook near my front door for the Bataan fanny pack, perfect for the everyday adventurer. It is durable, light, adjustable and adapts to the essentials. In addition, it is made from scraps of fabric from the larger productions of other companies. Definitely a gift that you can feel good about receiving. "
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Katie Jedlicka Sieve, Project Manager: Tracksmith Turnover Tights
“Tracksmith is a brand that I have followed for years now, and I love them! Not only do I like their classic look, but the quality is solid. The Turnover Tights have become my cold weather running pants. They make running at 30 degrees much easier! "
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Rock climbing is everywhere these days. From the Dawn Wall to your Instagram feed to the new gym going up in town, climbing is no longer the fringe sport it once was. Kids are starting to climb almost before they can walk, and now more than ever, there’s no reason for you not to give it a try as well. However, climbing can be one of those intimidating hobbies to begin. Many ask, “How do I get started ? ” citing fear and feeling overwhelmed with gear and safety as huge barriers to entry. We get it, and so what follows is everything you need to know to get out on the rock'n'roll.
The term “rock climbing” encompasses a great number of disciplines, from bouldering to big wall climbing, to mountain climbing and mountaineering. Before you begin, it might be important to first identify what style of climbing you are interested in, or perhaps to ask, “Why do I want to climb ? ” Do you want to summit peaks, boulder at your local gym, or perhaps learn to lead climb at the local crag ? Do you want to make friends, be outdoors, or get in shape ( or all three ) ? Once these questions are answered, you can work out the potential steps you’ll need to take to get there. Below ( in the Sport vs. trad vs. bouldering section ) we attempt to inform this decision by breaking down the various types of climbing; each has its own specific culture, gear, and learning curve.
Climbing is a complex sport : it’s potentially expensive to get into, difficult to find mentors, and can be dangerous if not done correctly. With the evolution of climbing gyms, however, it’s easier than ever to give climbing a try : just grab a friend and head to the nearest gym, rent a pair of shoes and a harness, and jump on the bouldering wall. However, if and when your progression leads you to climbing on ropes and outside, technical skills become essential to safety. Many choose to learn from friends; however, safety is so important that we recommend enrolling in a formal class. The easiest and best way to learn the essential skills, which include belaying and tying proper knots, is by taking an introductory course at your local gym. Or, if you’re interested in climbing outside or even more specifically climbing in the mountains, seek out a chic either through your gym or a local guide.
The first indoor climbing gym opened in Seattle in 1987. Now just 30 years later, there are 430 gyms across the nation, with over 50 more in construction at the time of writing. Areas like the Denver metropolis have as many as 10 gyms, all stuffed to capacity each day. Whereas climbers used to be a tiny community of mostly adult men with access to the wilderness, the climbing gym revolution has brought climbing to the masses. It’s safe to say that more people now climb indoors than outdoors. The climbing gym has developed its own culture, and climbing inside - “pulling on plastic, ” as climbers often say - is vastly different from climbing outdoors. It is arguably safer, much more convenient to access, and far more social; for these reasons, the gym is an super place to begin climbing. Gym passes cost anywhere from $6 to $30/day, with monthly memberships being the best option for those who go regularly. Outdoor climbing takes place on boulders, on cliff bands, and in mountains - anywhere where there is solid rock, climbers can be found. Some of the most popular genres of rock to climb include granite, sandstone, limestone, basalt, and conglomerate blends. Each of these kinds of rock has its own style of climbing, from overhanging jugs much like gym climbs, to technical slabs, to splitter cracks. Climbing outdoors demands a higher level of expertise than climbing in the gym, as there are more variables and risques on real rock'n'roll. Weather can be a factor, as well as rock'n'roll fall. Climbers will also need to possess a great deal more gear to climb outside, including their own rope and harness, quickdraws or other protection, a personal anchor and locking carabiner, and a helmet. Although many climbers begin in the gym, some learn to climb immediately outside, most commonly with the help of a guide or an instructional course.
Rock climbing is generally broken down into three categories : sport climbing, traditional ( trad ) climbing, and bouldering. Climbers tend to specialize in or prefer one discipline over the others, though many climbers participate in all three. Sport climbing is a style of climbing where the leader attaches quickdraws to pre-existing bolts, looping the rope through the quickdraws for protection while ascending the cliff. Sport climbs are often one-pitch climbs where the leader then comes back to the ground after fixing the rope to the anchor, though in some cases these climbs might continue up larger faces for multiple pitches. As a discipline, sport climbing focuses on difficult movement, résistance, learning to face fears, and risking a fall ( and being caught by the rope, oui ! ). Trad climbing is the most rootsy and historical form of climbing, in which the leader climbs weaknesses in the rock ( generally, cracks ) and places gear in these weaknesses that will hold the rope in the case of a fall. Although trad climbs can be single-pitch routes like the majority of sport climbs, they often ascend features that are more than one rope length and end at a summit ( these are called “multi-pitch climbs” ). Trad climbers generally love long and adventurous days of climbing in wilderness areas, focusing on movement, logistics, technical rope and gear skills, and partnership. Bouldering is perhaps the most modern form of climbing, and certainly the fastest-growing. Boulderers ascend boulders or short cliffs ( generally 20 feet and under ), using pads and spotters at the base for protection instead of ropes. Bouldering is a form of climbing that focuses on difficult movement and problem solving, and is more social than the other techniques. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention a few other forms of climbing : aid climbing, alpine rock'n'roll climbing, speed climbing, and deep water soloing. Pick your poison ( or shall we say passion ) : each has its own set of joys and challenges !
One of the first things you’ll learn when starting to climb is how to choose a route that suits your ability level. In the gym, climbs generally are labeled with a difficulty rating; outside, climbers use guidebooks and often a phone application called Mountain Project to identify the difficulty of climbs. In the U. S., climbs are rated using the Yosemite Decimal System; in bermuda, 5. 3 is a very beginner climb, and 5. 15 is an expert-level route. These ratings do not denote danger, only difficulty. As a beginner, you’ll most likely be choosing routes 5. 7 and under, and often routes that can be top-roped. Top-roping means that the climber establishes an anchor from the top of the climb so that the rope is already in place, rather than leading the route from the bottom. Many routes in the gym are set up with top ropes; outside, climbers can often hike to the top of the cliff or feature to drop a rope down over the climb.
Each discipline of climbing necessitates a different set of gear. For all genres of climbing, however, a beginner will need a pair of climbing shoes. For just starting out in the sport, we recommend finding a comfortable pair of climbing shoes ( don’t be persuaded by the salesperson at your local gear site to purchase painfully tight shoes ). Delicate footwork will come later in your climbing career; for now you will just be developing an ability to stand on your feet and trust the rubber of your new shoes. All climbers will generally want to carry a chalk bag and chalk as well, which they will either wear around their waist or keep on the ground ( sometimes the case while bouldering ). Climbers dip their hands into chalk to dry off sweat and keep them from slipping off the rock'n'roll. Boulderers will need the above two pieces of gear, in addition to a bouldering pad ( and friends with bouldering pads ! ). Bouldering pads are placed in the fall zone of a boulder problem, and the more the merrier ( and safer ! ). tera climb on ropes both in a gym or outside, climbers will need a climbing harness. Climbing harnesses come in a range of weights and specifications - some for sport climbing in particular, some with larger gear loops or more padding for trad climbing. Harnesses need to be replaced every few years for safety reasons, so we again recommend purchasing an affordable harness and replacing it when you have a better understanding of your needs. Along with a climbing harness, it is essential to own a belay device and locking carabiner. This equipment will enable you to belay your partner in the gym or outside, and rappel if needed. If climbing outside, a helmet is extremely important in case of rock'n'roll fall. The above-mentioned gear provides the basics for personal gear needed for a day of climbing or bouldering, either in the gym or with an experienced and well-equipped partner. If you are looking to buy gear so that you can be fully self-sufficient ( and not need a partner or a group with shared gear ) you’ll want to also purchase a climbing-specific rope ( 60-70 meters, 9-10mm in diameter, dynamic ), a personal anchor ( PAC ) or daisy chain, extra locking carabiners, cams, nuts, quickdraws, and slings. It is extremely important to buy new gear or to know the history and age of the gear if acquiring used. Both soft materials and metals degrade over time and with wear and should be carefully assessed before using.
We wholeheartedly recommend taking a course taught by professionals before attempting to climb or belay on your own. Climbing is inherently dangerous, though when done correctly can be very safe. After all of the proper skills have been learned, it is still incredibly important to stay on top of safety at every moment. Before leaving the ground, or transitioning from climbing to lowering/rappelling, there are a number of safety checks that must be completed.