Holiday Gear Guide 2012: The Big List

Holiday Gear Guide 2012: The Big List

Stylish and life-saving. Plus, it’s cheap. You need: At least 10 feet of 550 paracord, an internet connection and time. Backpacker has easy-to-follow directions here. Don't have time? Then you can always plonk down some cash to get one from Survival Straps.

Enjoy a little luxury in the backcountry with this handmade, vegan, biodegradable, small-batch soap. Maple Rowe soaps come in many different scents, including oatmeal stout, cedar flax, lychee red tea and white tea ginger. The company, run by a health-conscious Chicago couple, use organic ingredients whenever possible.

Wine in the backcountry? You bet. The ultra-durable PlatyPreserve not only is easy to pack then stash, but also protects your wine from oxygen—making it last for days to weeks.

Vanilla? Clean linen? Who are we kidding—it all ends up smelling like your grandmother’s potpourri. Smell better by bringing the outdoors in with these “man-scented” candles that range from bacon to cigar to “new mitt” (aka leather). Our favorite? Campfire.

Immortalize your favorite local ski resort with one of artist James Niehues' prints. After flying over each resort and taking aerial photographs, Nieheus works with topographic maps and hand paints each map with a realistic, detailed, breathtaking result. Some national park hiking trails also available.

Do you have a friend with a fantastic beard and tons of flannel? This could be the gift for him. Campfire Cologne lets you bring the backwoods to your home or office in a few simple steps detailed in the website’s hilarious video.

Handmade from recycled materials in the United States, each Practical Climbing sari chalk bag is one-of-a-kind. The company purchases the fabric from a woman who buys un-wearable saris at Indian flea markets and the fleece is made from recycled polyester.

Who likes folding maps? No one! Screw neatness, and crumple these maps into handy carrying bags. Available for a variety of cities.

In light of recent events, French scholars (or the scholars at The Onion, anyway) thought it necessary to retranslate "Le Tour de France" into its true meaning—and put it on a tee. Bonus: the dyes used are "EPO dispersing," so throw on your shirt and you, too, can pedal—or, hell, just sit—your way to your own yellow jersey.

If chia seeds are nutritious enough to fuel the Tarahumara ultrarunners (of Born to Run fame), they’re good enough for us! Chia seeds are a complete protein and a one-ounce serving boasts 9 grams of fat, 11 grams of dietary fiber and a solid dose of calcium, phosphorus and manganese.

Think arm and leg warmers went away with the '80s? Wrong. They're back—and they're both cuter and more technical than ever. With UPF 50 and odor-resistant fabric, you can help your favorite runner keep her training outside all winter and spring long.

Most outdoorsy dads have a few tricks—shadow puppets on tent walls, whittling sticks, starting a fire with a lens—for keeping the kiddos entertained on nature trips. But there's always more to learn, and this handy little volume from Todd Davis has 35 how-tos—collect water from trees! build a solar shower! compass treasure hunt!—that will help you and your family find wonder in the wild.

Your friends will feel great about wearing this charm, as proceeds from BEYONDgear go to the CEU Urban Climbing School in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where founders Andrew Lenz and Asa Firestone hope to build a climbing wall for children in one of South America’s largest slums.

A hat, headband and neck gaiter in one, this beanie provides a range of cold-weather protection. The open-top option also makes it a great gift for anyone on your list with dreadlocks.

Warm up your next backcountry trip with a few pulls of your favorite spirit from this tough, stainless steel classic by Stanley. Its wide-mouth opening is easy-fill (and, yes, easy-empty), and a slim profile is perfect for stashing in an outer backpack or jacket pocket.

Based on a Grylls family heirloom, this throwback knife—armed with a single blade, corkscrew, screwdrivers, bottle opener and file—demonstrates the simple, timeless utility of a good knife.

For athletes who can’t afford daily professional rub-downs (read: most of them), the foam roller offers many of the same benefits of massage without recurring fees. This hollow model is lightweight, making it great for travel, plus it’s also firmer than a basic foam roller, so it will hold up over the long run (pun intended).

Energy bars are a backcountry staple, and now Element Bars lets you customize your fuel. Choose your core, fruits, nuts, sweets and boosts on the interactive website to create your ideal mix. As you go, it tracks the nutrition—or lack thereof. To make sure your bar taste great, the virtual “bar tender” alerts you if it thinks a combination needs adjustment (maybe that banana mint popcorn bar won't be so tasty, after all).

No tying required. This reclaimed-wood tie is perfect for dressing up his favorite flannel. Bonus: It pairs perfectly with a pair of hiking boots.

For that freak in the family who runs all winter long, get the first footwear traction device designed specifically for runners. With removable spikes placed at key strike points and steel coils over the heel for additional traction on the end strike, they’ll pound packed snow and ice like it’s pavement.

Multipurpose pedals are a great gift for the cyclist who uses his bike for commuting and long weekend rides. With one side for street shoes and the other an SPD, the pedals allow you to use both cycling and regular shoes without adjustment. Find them cheapest ($41) at Nashbar. For a more high-tech, lighter-weight version, upgrade to the Shimano PD-A530.

This comfy, two-legged camp chair is more stable than it looks (hint: the other two legs are attached to the sitter). Its innovative, space- and weight-saving design makes it as fitting for a backcountry trip as it is for a picnic at a local park.

True gym-to-wherever wear, these capris are perfect for any active stylista. With a thick waistband that will hide any extra winter pudge and an adjustable calf, she’ll never want to take them off.

Once merely a scratchy, scraggly chin-warmer, a dab of this spicy, woodsy, all-natural scent conditions his beard, giving it a sexy, irresistible lumberjack smell and feel.

Need an excuse to get close? (S)he won’t be able to resist jumping into the Rolls-Royce of camping hammocks when you string the DoubleNest between the trees. And since it compresses into a bag the size of a softball, go ahead and pack it along any time you think that special someone might show.

Over the past seven years, Sender Films has become the gold standard in extreme climbing films, thanks in large part to its Reel Rock film festival. This collection is a highlight reel of the past three years in superhuman ascents—Sasha on Pure Imagination, Honnold triple-soloing Yosemite and Ueli literally running up the Alps’ wildest faces. It’s inspiration in a box.

Classic flannel styling meets technical, quick-dry and wicking performance in a single, hip-looking package. Lumberjack it up with axe and flask.

This is a VIP pass to the wildest, most rugged and jaw-droppingly beautiful lands in the nation (and, some would argue, the world) from the red rock hoodoos of Bryce Canyon to the lush Hoh Rain Forest of Olympic and the Technicolor shallows of Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring. Give it to someone close: It covers admission for a carload of people.

This beast of a headlamp presents hikers with a real challenge: Try not to blind your hiking partners with its 200-lumen daylight-bright beam. To help, there are other modes, such as night-vision-preserving red and the more diffuse, I’m-not-blinding-you proximity and, finally, save-my-ass strobe. And should your friends go vigilante, fear not—the Icon is rugged enough to take a ding and waterproof, to boot.

It’s all in the name here. This super-rugged Apple-centric smartphone and tablet case really is life-proof—or at least dirt-proof, snow-proof, shockproof and, yes, waterproof. While managing all of that, it still looks good, maintaining a sleeker profile than its chunky competition. Surf, ski, mountain bike, climb, snorkel—take your iPhone on any adventure, worry-free.

Practical camp lighting takes a flight of fancy with this 100-lumen lantern. Its unique candle mode—the light gently flickers in response to sound and wind—allows for safe, flame-free mood lighting in the tent.

This unique design from Aussie bike accessory maker Knog sports 13mm rubberized steel that withstood hacksaw and bolt cutter attacks in an independent test by Men’s Journal. Fairly lightweight for the protection it offers, at only three pounds the Strongman is easy to carry and sports pick-proof double deadbolts. The only drawback? It’s going to be tricky to secure frame and wheel, unless you find a lonely post.

This no-brain cook system is as practical as it is attractive. Two pots, two plates, two insulated mugs and a pot handle all nest together into one easy-to-pack trail kitchen.

The Chrome Lower Southside Pro is a stylish and comfortable alternative to clunky cycling shoes (and, for commuters, to hauling extra shoes back and forth). A hip street shoe made from full-grain leather and polyester, but with the added bonus of clip-in performance.

This tiny, lightweight water purifier uses ultraviolet light to destroy 99.9 percent of protozoa (including Giardia), bacteria and viruses. The smallest renewable purifier on the market, it’s a great gift for ultralight backpackers. In the spring, SteriPEN's adding a small Freedom-specific solar recharger to its line, so they'll be able to keep going as long as the sun shines.

Globetrotters will love this lightweight travel pack transformer that can be shouldered like a full-featured backcountry bag, but morphs into a structured, carry-on-compliant duffel. With zip-away shoulder straps and hip belt, and inner and outer compression straps for stabilizing your load, this is the pack of choice for fast, light travel. Just stuff, smoosh secure and go.

Nearly $150 seems like a hefty price tag for a light—until you realize that this 250-lumen contraption can function as a headlamp, bike lamp and helmet/miner light all in one. Five settings allow you to pick the strength of your light—or conserve battery (on the “reading” setting, it will stay strong for 100 hours). Plus, with a fast-recharging battery, think of how much you’ll save on AAs.

This wrap is the ideal for lounging around the ski lodge. It’s made with a combination of Merino wool, pure mulberry silk and, here’s the kicker, possum fur. The fur of the Brushtail Possum—an invasive species in New Zealand—is known to be softer and an even better insulator than wool.

Rare is the winter boot that's both warm and easy to pack, but Teva managed this combination with its Jordanelle (women’s) and Chair 5 (men’s) boots. The lightweight winter walkers fold down to the size of normal shoes while touting the benefits—rubber soles, waterproof uppers and sealed seams—of bulkier boots. Bonus: The removable boot liner makes a comfy slipper for fireside lounging.

No, these ski specs don’t display your stats Terminator-style on the inside of the lens while you schuss (no self-respecting ski bum would drop $600 on goggles, after all), but they do boast better anti-fog technology than any other goggles on the market. They do it by using tiny Christmas elves a chemical dip to etch microscopic texture onto the lens, vastly increasing the surface area and, thus, moisture evaporation. Unlike a gimmicky heads-up display, this tech actually helps you see where you're headed.

This headlamp doesn’t just shine where you look. It knows. Knows if you’re looking far down the trail or right down at your untied bootlace—and adjusts the brightness and pattern of its beam accordingly. Brilliant.

—catharine fleury

Where are you going? Wait—it doesn’t matter! From that party that your wife is dragging you to, to the office, to the slopes, to sitting on your front porch with a cold one, the Hardscrabble is your jacket. Insulated without bulk and stretchy enough to allow movement but durable enough not to stretch out, it’s always time to zip up—you’ll be glad you did.

Nothing dolls up a bike quite like a buttery, honey-colored English leather racing saddle. Brooks has been handcrafting them for more than 140 years—it started as a saddle company—and the Swift is, in many ways, the culmination of all those years of tinkering. It’s sleek, lightweight (drop a quarter-pound by upgrading to the titanium version, $350) and, above all, gorgeous.

The 11-liter Pilchuck is a nice starter kit for backcountry novices. Big enough to hold snacks, skins and extra layers, it comes equipped with solid life-saving avalanche gear including a metal-scoop shovel and 230cm rescue probe. Throw in a beacon to round out the set.

This alchemist may not turn your liquids to gold, but this pack is a chameleon worth its weight of it. A comfy 40-liter daypack for short trips, it expands to easily hold up to 55 liters—and it's durable enough for your heaviest loads, to boot. Pair that with its own lightweight construction, wide-mouth opening, water-resistant construction and included BFF (bivi, frame and first aid pad), and you might never find an occasion it's not suited for.

These boots were made for lounging—specifically in a big armchair, next to a fire, with a spiked hot cocoa in hand. Sure, you could take them into the powder outside—the waterproof rubber foot, full-grain leather upper and bungee top closure means your feet will stay toasty and dry—but when you look this good, we suggest just pulling up an ottoman and basking in fellow après-goers’ boot envy.

One of the biggest innovations of 2012 is water-resistant down—and Sierra Designs is leading the way with its DriDown feather, which stays dry 10 times longer than untreated down and dries 33 percent faster. The Gnar Lite DriDown Jacket doubles as an outer layer for brisk days and a cozy, insulating mid-layer for when winter blows in.

—catharine fleury

Running with the Pear is like having a personal coach whisper into your ear, only much cheaper and way less creepy. The pedometer and heart rate monitor interacts with an online fitness tracking portal, but raises the bar on the competition by coaching you in real-time. Free, downloadable, heart rate-based workouts and plans are automatically adapted to your fitness level and goals, helping you PR in everything from a 5K up to a marathon. It’s technical training made accessible. Just press play and go—the rest is taken care of.

It’s made from merino wool, but feels like soft, cuddly fleece. (How’d they do it?!) Toss up the hood in the rain or snow and head out for a muddy trail run—an eco-friendly treatment makes this jacket resistant to any liquid you throw at it.

Danner’s new American-made Crater Rim trail boot is all you’d want in an all-round hiker: a tough, high-traction Vibram outsole; full-wrap Vibram rand for protection against scuffing and mud; classic styling with a Nubuc leather upper; Gore-Tex lining; soft fit with little break-in required. Troops in Afghanistan loved it, Outside gave it a Gear of the Year Award, and we agree: It’ll be your recipient’s versatile footwear centerpiece for years.

An axe is a beautiful tool to begin with, but NYC-based designer Peter Buchanan-Smith is in the habit of turning them into high art at his Best Made Co. Starting with hand-forged and tempered steel heads from one of Americas oldest axe companies, Smith pairs them with 36-inch American hardwood handles, which he hand-paints and polishes. Functional and friggin gorgeous.

Go big or go home with the newest, most-advanced model from GoPro. The Black Edition is 30 percent smaller, 25 percent lighter and twice as powerful as any previous model. Also, the camera has built-in WiFi and includes a control for setting up shots remotely. Your adventures—no matter how big or small—are about to look more epic than ever before.

The Fenix combines Garmin’s industry-leading GPS technology and all the ABC (Altimeter, Barometer, Compass) functions of other models into one sleek, rugged package. Whether you’re tracking preset waypoints or blazing your own trail, the Fenix will help you get there.

Let’s get this out of the way—the Switch ain’t cheap. But it’s also one of the only truly year-round, virtually bombproof shells we’ve come across. Heavy ripstop nylon and stronger-than-average stitching keeps this jacket looking like new, no matter how much you abuse it. The fairly lightweight (jacket weighs in under a pound) Polartec NeoShell fabric sloughs off snow as easily as it deflects mid-summer gully-washers, yet remains highly breathable because of its fibrous membrane. Just pair it with a puff jacket when the snow flies, and this summertime shell instantly becomes a cold weather go-to.

Mammut's new R.A.S. (removable airbag system) isn't just a safety device—it's a convenience. Unlike most avalanche pack setups, the 150-liter balloon in this one only displaces about two liters of volume, leaving you the space you need for a comfortable backcountry load. Convenience #2: The entire system can be removed and transferred into a larger or smaller compatible pack (choose from 11 sizes).
*30-liter pack with balloon ($175 air cylinder not included)

—catharine fleury

Ramp skis are handmade in Park City, Utah and come in a variety of sweet, natural-looking designs. The cheaper skis are for kids, but their adult models are also affordable, too (in fact, affordability is a company priority!), thanks to a direct-to-consumer model and a revolutionary manufacturing process. Ramp is also committed to good environmental practices, using sustainable forestry bamboo for the core of its skis.