Go OutsideSecret Santa

Secret Santa

It’s that time of year again. It’s time to think about what to stuff into the stockings of your tent partner and outdoor buddies. Sure, fruitcake provides some needed energy on a winter’s hike, but here are a few ideas that satisfy better than walnuts, candied cherries, and gooey cake dough.

What better gift than one that lightens the load and provides a good night’s sleep? Those clever innovators at Therm-A-Rest keep finding ways to make their sleeping pads lighter and lighter. My first pad from them weighed about 2 pounds. By tapering the pad from top to bottom, and using die-cut foam and stretching it to form air pockets, the latest Prolite three-quarter length pad ($79.95) is only 11 ounces (My scales said 10.4 ounces!) An even lighter gift is the Therm-A-Rest Neo-Air ($129.95). At 9 ounces, it is the lightest air mattress I’ve ever heard of and it provides great insulation from the cold winter ground. I’ve used both pads and, though they may be light, they retain the brand’s well-known comfort.

Socks may sound like a boring gift, but remember, the feet are the foundation for hiking, and your gift of socks may help your hiking partner have a much better outing. Thorlos Light Hikers ($13.99-$15.99) were the only socks I wore on my last two Appalachian Trail thru-hikes. I never got a blister nor wore an inner sock, making my feet feel lighter and less encumbered. Light Hikers come in earth tones for those who what to blend in, or in some pretty snazzy colors for the extroverts among your friends. Give the CoolMax fabric for summer and Wool/Silk for cooler weather. And, guess what? Thorlos are not made in a foreign country, but right here in our own Blue Ridge region in Statesville, NC.

Speaking of feet, I was pretty skeptical when I first heard about Skechers Shape-Ups shoes ($100-$130). The claim is that they will help burn more calories, improve posture, reduce stress on back and legs, and tone muscles. I was given a pair of the XT model and, having worn them about four months for my morning walks, I have to say they definitely made me stand up straighter and helped give more definition to my calf muscles (I didn’t lose any weight). I think they’re great for walking around town to get in shape for your backwoods outings, but I found their design to be a bit awkward out on the trails.

In a couple of weeks, I’ll share my picks for outdoors books to give for the holiday season.

Places to Go, Things to See: