With only about six weeks left before the end of the year, it’s time to look ahead to 2013 and the promise of new outdoor adventures. If you haven't started yet, it's also probably time to think about the outdoorsman on your holiday gift list. The trouble is, there's a lot of stuff out there vying for your hard-earned money. Almost every season, new equipment ranging from the essential to the incidental appears in stores and online, and it can be tough to keep up with every new development in outerwear, boots, and backpacks. But since a few pieces of outdoor equipment always help to inspire travel and recreation, I've spent some time narrowing down the field. And so for the adventure-seeker you always have trouble shopping for, here's a short list of gift-worthy gear they'll be thrilled to unwrap this year.ECCO Mens BIOM Hike 1.2 ($225.00): Cold, sore, or wet feet will ruin a trip, so in my opinion, comfortable, reliable footwear is the most important thing an outdoorsy guy can buy. On a test run in New York’s Shawangunks, these boots provided cushioning, ankle support, and ample traction over more than seven miles of muddy, rocky terrain. Plus, a Gore-Tex lining kept me dry, and the chunky rubber outsoles never slowed me down — in fact, I was surprised by the lightness of these versatile hikers.
OnTip Softshell Glove ($49.50): Similarly, good gloves are something else you don’t fully appreciate until you don’t have them. Since it’s hard to predict when the temperature is going to dip, chilling your extremities, I almost always carry a pair in my daypack. Wind resistant and lined with wicking micro fleece, these gloves feature raised, superconductive fabric on the tips of the thumb and index finger that enable you to use a touch screen device without ever exposing your hands to the elements.
Hydrapak Laguna ($119.99): With your hands and feet taken care of, it’s time to think about other essentials, like water. I don’t always drink a lot of water on short hikes in the Catskills or the Lower Hudson Valley, but I always bring plenty of H20. That's is why I like the thoughtfully designed Laguna. It’s got room for a three-liter water reservoir and close to 10 liters of gear divided between five pockets. A magnetic clip keeps the drinking tube from flapping around when you’re not using it, while a sternum strap, a removable waist belt, and side compression straps take the hassle out of adjustments.
SteriPEN Freedom Water Purifier ($119.95): If your trip includes an overnight or two, carrying enough water for cooking and drinking might be a challenge. And even in remote parks, far from the danger of contaminants introduced by humans, you never want to take a risk with your health. This is where the small, 2.6 ounce Freedom comes in handy. Using ultraviolet light, it destroys over 99.9% of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa in under a minute and a half. Better still, you can recharge this purifier with a laptop or an AC adapter.
BioLite CampStove ($129.00): The other way to render suspicious water safe for drinking is to boil it, something that can be done quickly and easily with a portable camp stove. One of the coolest (and cleanest) models out there is the BioLite, a compact and convenient stove that doesn’t require a fuel canister, relying instead on a thermoelectric generator and a fan to make a small, old-school wood fire ultra-efficient. Not only that, this 8.25 x 5-inch unit converts surplus heat into electricity for USB-chargeable devices.
EMS Mountain Light 15° Sleeping Bag ($369.00): And finally, at the end of any activity-filled day, the last piece of gear you’re likely to need is a warm sleeping bag. Fortunately, choice is not something you’ll to have to compromise on. Three season campers eager to take the guesswork out of deciding should consider the Mountain Light, a bag that will keep you toasty with 800-fill water repellant DownTek goose down, but weights a mere two pounds. Vertical baffles are designed to eliminate cold spots and the ripstop nylon shell resists wind.
Check out all of our other 2012 travel gift guides for the holidays.