Some people are impossible to shop for. But the Adventurer/Photographer need not be one of them. To take some strain off your Holiday gift-giving I’ve put together this list of approved gifts for that special someone in your life who also happens to getting outside AND taking photos/videos. Some of these items are near and dear to my heart. More than a couple are with me on almost every trip I take, in order to stay light, fast and connected. I’m not one to give in so readily to the materialism that often runs rampant this time of the year, but I also acknowledge that in this profession/hobby, there are things that are really nice to have and some things that are nice to wish for. You’ll find a little of both below.
Happy Holidays to everyone!
1. Olympus OM-D
Yup, I’m starting off with big-ticket. The Olympus has been in my trusted ally in so many situations that it would be unjust not to include it. When I can’t pack heavy, I pack my OM-D. It’s weather-sealed, super compact (about a 1/3 the size of a DSLR) and yields super nice photos, especially in the right hands.
The mirrorless camera category is really taking off, but despite some recent entries by big players, the OM-D still remains one of the top dogs. A shame you didn’t have it for Christmas Card picture time but I guess there’s always next year. Definitely on the pricier side as this gift list goes, but worth every penny.
2. inReach SE
Do you get nervous when your loved one departs on a trip? Give yourself a little peace of mind by giving the inReach SE satellite communicator. It fills in the cellular coverage gaps (which are enormous) to provide service anywhere on the Earth, from the tallest peaks to deepest canyons.
I’ve highlighted the inReach in a recent post about travel safety and it’s another one that I don’t leave home without. It’s as close to a get out of jail free card as you’re going to get in real life.
3. GoPro Hero 3+
Forget adventure photographer. The GoPro Hero 3+ will make the sweetest stocking stuffer for pretty much anyone in your life. Literally any trip taken can become an awesome visual story by bringing a GoPro along. It’s also great for shooting just about everything else in your life including your baby or kids growing up.
One of the best parts about having one is becoming part of the huge GoPro community of users who share sick edits and vids and constantly push the envelope on what this magical camera can capture.
4. Goal Zero Nomad 7 Solar Panel
There’s a harsh reality we face when heading off the grid for a few days with electronic devices that need to stay charged. You start looking at battery power the way a desert wanderer looks at his water supply. The relatively inexpensive Goal Zero products lessen the harshness of that reality.
We do a fair amount of timelapse shots on the projects I’ve been involved with, and the Goal Zero provide assurance that the batteries aren’t going to quit during the money sunset shot.
5. NOLS Course
I taught for NOLS right out of college in my early twenties. I know personally that NOLS builds an incredible foundation for a life in the outdoors. The best part about NOLS is that they offer courses for all ages and across a spectrum of disciplines, including mountaineering, rock climbing, skiing/snowboarding and backpacking, to name a few.
They’ve got locations all across the world, with a whole slew on the West Coast. There’s nothing like the gift of experience!
6. Black Diamond Headlamp
A nice BD headlamp is always useful for adventure travel or to keep in the hiking backpack, backcountry ski pack, car for emergencies, etc. Having a back-up is never a bad thing, either. I can’t imagine heading out the door without one in my pack.
I didn’t specify a model because they’re all really quite nice and there are a couple features here and there that may work best with the person you have in mind, like waterproofing, running-specific, and so on.
Price: $49.95 (for pictured)
7. Leatherman Wave
No, there is no shortage of multi-tools to choose from. I have tons of experience with the Leatherman Wave, however, so I stand by it. And it has stood by me. 16 tools, one-hand accessibility, compact and light. Remember those “must-haves” I was talking about? Yup, this is one of them.
Between the skis, bindings, camera equipment, climbing gear and various and sundry items that are routinely on my person during an adventure shoot, having one tool that can rule them all is pretty sweet.
8. The North Face Power Guide ABS Vest
Big ticket, I know. But NOT a luxury item. This is a life-saver. I can speak first-hand to the power and unpredictability of an avalanche. The ABS vest not only gives you a great chance of surviving one, it also distributes your backcountry kit weight nicely AND keeps you warm. Looks kinda badass, too.
In all seriousness, I would recommend anyone doing skiing or snowboarding in avalanche-prone areas to have some kind of avalanche airbag system on their person.
9. Dynafit Vulcan TF
I consider the Vulcan the perfect combo / Holy Grail of backcountry ski boots. It’s lightweight, super stiff and manages to be all about both the up and the down. These say “I love you. Period.”
Yes, you’re likely dropping more on a pair of boots than a pair of skis, but no one is going to argue that the boot makes the biggest difference in the backcountry experience. Or at least I’m not going to argue.
10. GoPro Telescoping Pole
POV shots with the GoPro are essential, but since the subject of the video is YOU (or the person you’ve given the GoPro to), the camera has to be turned around from time to time. Enter the telescoping pole. I went with the GoScope® Extreme – GoPro Pole 2X Telescoping pole because they are sturdy, light-weight and durable in saltwarer, freshwater and snow.
Best of all, it may just fit in the stocking when collapsed.
11. DJI Phantom
I wouldn’t call the Phantom a GoPro accessory, but it was designed with the little camera in mind. It may seem like a hefty price tag, but it’s about as budget-friendly as you’re going to get in a drone, and the aerial footage yielded will put any amateur video over the top.
Note that I also wouldn’t call the Phantom a toy. It really is a tool first. Yes, flying it is fun, but it should always be done responsibly, and these control belong in responsible hands.
12. TNF Super Diez Jacket
The Super Diez from The North Face is one of the nicer jackets I’ve ever worn. I love this jacket. Packed with 900-fill down, it’s ultra lightweight, packs down and is sooooo nice to put on. Great Winter coat that will last the years.
If the Super Diez isn’t the right style, check out the Supernatural. 950-fill goose down! It’s the highest fill down in the world. Plus a super weight-to-warmth ratio. Only available in limited supply.
Price: $349 ($449 for Supernatural)
13. TNF Kelvin Glove
The Kelvin was made for mountaineering but makes a great, warm ski glove. It’s what I ski in all winter in super cold Jackson conditions. It’s waterproof and breathable and provides great movement even when things get really frosty. You don’t have to worry about losing grip on your poles, axe, etc.
Despite the abuse I give it, the Kelvin holds up nicely, so though you’re investing a decent amount for a glove, it should last well into next season and beyond.
14. Canon 24-70mm 2.8 USM
If you’re a Canon shooter, Canon’s latest 24-70mm 2.8 is probably one of the nicest zoom lenses I’ve used. Beautiful bokah for a zoom and sharp as shit. I don’t like to admit it but I’ve found that I’ve been shooting with less primes since I got it.
It’s sealed and gasketed against dust and moisture — super important for any adventure photographer heading out into the wilderness. Great for digital and film shooting. Nice, fast AF.
15. Armada JJ skis
The JJ’s might seem like an unlikely ski to consider for backcountry use but they are my favorite because they are light for hiking or skinning and are awesome for shredding pow.
They’ve got great floatation in the soft stuff but still handle great in the crud.