This holiday season, spread some cheer and goodwill to an adventure-loving lady in your life (or yourself!) with a gift that inspires travel. We’ve scoured the latest offerings (as well as pulled some tried-and-true favorites from our own stashes) to find adventure and outdoor travel gear for women (plus some gadgets) that's sure to enhance any journey, whether it’s a simple afternoon hike, week-long trek in the backcountry, or even a slog through the security line. Happy shopping, and even happier travels!
First Ascent Alchemist 40L backpack ($189):Finally, a solution to the dilemma of choosing a pack that works as well for hardcore backcountry hauls as it does for breezy day trips. The Alchemist’s clever design features superior versatility, with a top-loading compartment that expands from 40 liter to a more ample 55 liters, and shrinks down by folding the lid into the main bag and cinching via a draw cord. I especially love the vertical dividers that eliminate the dreaded excavation deep into your pack for items. A removable foam frame called the BFF, which doubles as a sleeping pad or camp chair, is a thoughtful extra; leave it behind to make the 4-pound pack even leaner.
Black Diamond Women's Distance FL Trekking Poles ($120): Trekking poles aren’t just for the elderly anymore; they’ve caught on with adventurers of all ages, and for good reason. Poles provide much-needed support on tricky terrain and descents, minimizing wear and tear on joints and helping avoid injuries like twisted ankles. Their design and functionality have improved tremendously as of late, with new models and features coming out all the time, but one standout is Black Diamond, which introduced women-specific poles earlier this year. Made of lightweight aluminum, the adjustable Distance FL poles lock solidly into place, easily fold into a z-shape pattern (kind of like a tent pole) for compact storage, and feature interchangeable tips for various surfaces (though changing them can be a bit of a hassle). They also feature padded grips that help absorb the impact of a long day on the trail.
Patagonia Super Cell Jacket ($250): This beauty is almost guaranteed to make the lucky gal you buy it for start singin’ in the rain. Featuring lightweight Gore-Tex, the aptly named Super Cell doesn’t let a drop of the wet stuff in, whether it’s a downpour on a mountainside or nonstop drizzle on a rainy winter day in the city. It fits a tad roomy, but climbers and hikers will appreciate the extra space for layering (its hood is helmet compatible, too), and its longer length helps keep the rain away (and, somehow, my butt and hips not looking as wide as a Cadillac – huge points for that.). Unlike many waterproof shells, it won’t stifle the wearer, with zippers under the sleeves that help with ventilation. Plus, it weighs a mere 13 ounces – ideal for stuffing into a backpack – and features the classic styling that Patagonia is known for.
Horny Toad Swifty LS Tee ($65): Yes, it’s a little more expensive than the average long-sleeved tee. But this isn’t the average long-sleeved tee, with silky-smooth fabric that moves incredibly well, wicks moisture, and drapes beautifully, making the shirt a stylish option for transitioning from a brisk afternoon hike to casual drinks in the evening (without the hassle of the in-the-car outfit change). I especially love the asymmetrical neckline and diagonal seam across the front – it’s subtly edgier than a typical tee (or, as my husband told me, “It’s very Hunger Games – you look like you’re about to shoot a bow and arrow.”). I haven’t quite figured out a use for the pocket that sits on the left hip – it’s too flimsy for a cell phone or keys, but next time I’m at the airport, I have a feeling it will be the perfect spot to tuck a boarding pass.
Nutcase Helmet ($60): It’s a rare day that I don’t get a compliment on my Nutcase helmet (I’ve got the Rainbow Stripe, shown here) while tooling around San Francisco on my bike. The Portland-based company has been churning out helmets for a while, but every year they add some new offerings to their clever, colorful designs. (I’m also partial to the watermelon and 8-ball versions.) The snug fit somehow doesn’t cause too much helmet hair, and the air holes in the top help keep your noggin cool, too. Helmets are available for all types of activities and terrains, so whatever your preferred adventure, you can keep your head in the game.
Mophie Juice Pack Pro ($130):This case packs some serious power and protection for an iPhone, making it a must-do for ladies who love their smartphones as much as the outdoors. Depending on how low the battery is, the Juice Pack Pro can charge it up to 100 percent within a few hours, helping you get through a weekend in the wilderness without the need for an outlet. Plus, the pack exceeded U.S. military testing standards for impact protection and dust and sand penetration (it’s not fully waterproof, though, so don’t take it swimming). The case does add plenty of extra bulk to the phone, but what good is a skinny bodyguard, after all?
CLEAR Me Membership ($179): Even though it’s only currently available at a handful of airports – Denver, San Francisco, Dallas-Fort Worth, Orlando, and Westchester – CLEAR Me airport security is well worth its yearlong membership fee for frequent flyers in and out of those destinations because it makes the sometimes maddening security process so much more predictable. More often than not, you’ll breeze through the scanners long before travelers in the economy line (and occasionally, first- and business-class, too) have even removed their shoes. (I recently snagged a coupon for a four-month trial for $18, which is going to make bypassing those horrible holiday travel queues that much sweeter.) One caveat: You must enroll and be approved at a TSA center ahead of time, so allow plenty of allowance before your flight.
Check out all of our other 2012 travel gift guides for the holidays.