Squirrel Away Your Dollars A Low-cost and local holiday gift guide for outdoor nuts

Outdoor folks can seem somewhat nutty at times. They talk a lot about gear, GPS waypoints, and the wild things they’ve done or seen in the woods. They wear a lot of fleece clothing, carry around a 32-ounce BPA-free water bottle, and always seem ready for a hike. They adore organic food, recycling, bike racks, sleeping bags and tents.

And they tell crazy stories about their adventures: getting lost on a trail in the dark, bear and moose encounters, monster mosquitoes, crevasses, avalanches, wet socks, flat tires, muddy faces, bloodied knees.

Friends and family on the outside—those who would never pack toilet paper and need a comfortable bed and cell phone coverage at all times —may not quite understand the primordial urge to worship Mother Nature.

So Out There Monthly is here to help you. If you’re the nut, embrace your passion for all things related to earth, wind and fire. And to help you enjoy the gift-giving spirit of this holiday season and shop for the other nuts in your life, here are some ideas.

For The Rustic Adventurer

A firestarting tool and new pair of wool socks might be all that an experienced rustic adventurer needs to re-stock his or her pack of gear. But for novices who desire rugged, back-to-basics excursions, be sure they have a good first-aid kit. Adventure Medical Kits come in various sizes – from a 3.5 oz. first-aid kit good for a one to two-day solo trip ($17), to a weekender kit suitable for groups up to six people on a one to seven-day trip ($59.95).
While a rustic adventurer will want to hunt or fish for his sustenance, his meals still need to be hearty and hot. Forget the pine needle tea and dandelions. To make sure he’s eating more than a can of pork and beans, give the gift of recipes. Various websites provide them at no cost. Or you can buy Campfire Cooking, a handy cookbook distributed by CQ Products ($10, cqproducts.com). It contains over 100 recipes for unique meals such as Cowboy Casserole, Hobo Stew, Campsketti and Beer Can Chicken—all made over a campfire using rustic techniques: on a grill; in a Dutch Oven, skillet or pie iron; wrapped in foil or on a stick.

Besides, just cooking with a Dutch Oven will make anyone feel like a pioneer or mountain man from long ago. The newest versions are made of cast iron or lightweight aluminum, and range in size from four to eight ounces ($50-$110). Other “kitchen” supplies to give can include a Snow Peak Titanium Spork ($8.95); GSI Baked Enamelware bowl ($4.95), plate ($6.95) and 12-oz. cup ($3.95); and Open Country Coffee Perk ($17.95, 2-5 cup).

Perhaps more important is to ensure your beloved rustic adventurer returns safely from a trip. So give the gift of “tuition” for a wilderness survival class. Bushcraft Northwest, in Goldendale, Washington, offers 2.5-hour and weekend workshops ($50-100, bushcraftnorthwest.com) on topics such as edged tools, wild foods, fire, shelter, navigation, and traps and snares. Twin Eagles Wilderness School (twineagles.org), in Sandpoint, Idaho, is a family-based awareness nature school that provides similar education opportunities. West of the Cascade Mountains, more intensive multi-day courses are provided by Alderleaf Wilderness College in Monroe, Wash.—animal tracking, edible and medicinal plants, survival fire-making, and more ($95-$200, wildernesscollege.com).

For The Mountaineer

Local climber and Out There Monthly contributor Jon Jonckers, who climbs peaks with his seven-year-old daughter, recommends three must-have gear items for the mountaineer on your gift-shopping list.

• A good helmet -“Essentially, as a gift, a helmet is an investment in your loved-one’s safety. They are not a one-time purchase—they do wear out and need to be replaced,” Jonckers says. “Climbing helmets make a great gift and a great gesture to show you care about mountaineering safety.” He recommends the Petzl® Ecrin Roc Helmet ($94.95) – a one-size fits all that is guaranteed for three years.

• The Black Diamond Orbit Lantern ($29.95) is another gear item that every outdoorsman—or woman—should have. “Although it doesn’t replace a decent headlamp, this is a genius light source,” according to Jonckers. “Its collapsible design saves space in your pack and protects the on/off button. And the unique double-hook hanging system on top provides a simple and secure thread-through or clip-in attachment point for string, fabric loops or branches.”

• GSI Outdoors, a Spokane-based gear company, makes a water bottle they call Dukjug ($8.95, one-liter size). What makes this bottle different than a Nalgene® is its cam-shaped lid that makes it easier to open, a tether cord (instead of one made of plastic), and, most interestingly, what GSI calls a “duct tape dogbone” that can protect and store a duct tape roll around the bottle (up to two meters). The Dukjug is also dishwasher safe, BPA-free and lighter than comparable plastics.

For The Nature & Pet Lover

More simplistic nature lovers do not need fancy gear or Gore-Tex jackets. They just need time and a destination. The Mountaineers Books is a non-profit publisher in Seattle, affiliated with The Mountaineers Club, and have produced a number of excellent books over the past year, including Camping Washington ($18.95). Author Ron C. Judd rates and reviews the best public campgrounds for tents and RVs, including 51 that are located in either the northeast or southeast areas of the state. A beautiful full-color, coffee-table book is Columbia Highlands: Exploring Washington’s Last Frontier ($19.95), written by Craig Romano with photography by James Johnston, Paul Bannick and others. This book highlights Conservation Northwest’s Columbia Highlands Initiative. (Browse more titles at mountaineersbooks.org.)

While books are useful, nature lovers also want to ensure regional landscapes, public forests, and waterways are protected and preserved. To support this goal, you could give the gift of a Lands Council membership to an individual ($40) or an entire family ($55). Or you could donate to Conservation Northwest and even purchase some of their “gear,” such as a one-liter SIGG coated aluminum water bottle ($20, suggested minimum donation) or an organic cotton t-shirt ($12). Both feature the Conservation Northwest logo and motto, “Keeping the Northwest Wild.” To browse their online store, go to: conservationnw.org/donate/conservation-northwest-gear.

Those who love nature often love their pets with devoted fervor. Forget the dog or cat sweater and kitschy Santa hat. Outdoor people want their pets to look ready to play. Planet Dog sells an array of eco-friendly products, including naturally dyed pure hemp adjustable dog collars and five-foot leashes ($17.95-$21.95) and non-toxic toys like Orbee-Tuff® RecycleBALLS® ($11.95 each) made from reused materials.

And those who would not dare leave their dog at home when exploring the outdoors may need some “cleaning supplies.” Two that I recommend are: Planet Dog’s absorbent, rugged shammy ($21.95) made from 100% viscose containing recycled wood chips; and the microfiber, six-fingered, reversible Spotless Paw® Dog Paw Cleaning Glove ($19.95). Both are compact and machine-washable, and eliminate the need for bulky cloth or paper towels to dry off my dogs when they are done playing in the snow or hiking on a muddy trail.

For The Eco-Chick (Or Dude)

For your green-minded friends, consider ways to assist with the transformation to a more sustainable lifestyle. It’s Easy Being Green: A Handbook for Earth-Friendly Living by Spokane-based author and green living advisor Crissy Trask ($12.95, published by Gibbs Smith) and Easy Green Living by Renée Loux ($25, published by Rodale) are both user-friendly, straightforward books.

Giving food is also a practical, earth-friendly option. Healthy soup and bread mixes ($3-$7, christkitchen.org/store/shop), and much more, are sold by Christ Kitchen, a non-profit organization in Spokane that provides jobs and skills training to local women living in poverty. The meals are flavorful and easy to prepare (most just require hot water), and are sold in attractive yet simple packaging.

Jan Martinez, who founded Christ Kitchen eleven years ago, says she “always had campers and backpackers in mind” with her mix ideas. You can buy directly from Christ Kitchen – either in person at 2410 N. Monroe Street in Spokane or online at christkitchen.org. You can also visit their booth at Riverpark Square, which will be open on the second floor during all of December. In addition, local Rosauers and Yokes grocery stores have recently started selling Christ Kitchen products.

Other fun gifts for an eco-chick or dude would be anything from Kizuri, in downtown Spokane, which specializes in fair-trade, earth friendly, and locally produced goods. Owner Kim Harmson suggests a number of unique items, including: over-the-knee socks made from recycled cotton ($11-$15/pair, in funky stripes and colors); a hand-knit sweater from Nepal ($85-$115); messenger bag ($38), wallet ($13), or bin ($26) made out of recycled rice bags; purses ($17.50) and wallets ($10) made in Nepal from recycled tires; and hand-crafted soaps (3 for $15) and organic, fair-trade shea butter and body butters ($10-$14.50) made locally.

However, shopping for those who are 100% committed to a green lifestyle can be the antithesis to sustainability. “More stuff?” your eco-chick might ask. So consider giving a monetary donation to a local non-profit organization in the name of your earth-loving, low carbon footprint friend. Make it even more personalized by choosing a local charity or non-profit organization that you know she already admires —whether it is a food bank or an animal rescue.

There are also ways to give that help to solve the world’s most pressing problems. For example, World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization based in Federal Way, Washington, works globally to tackle the causes of poverty and injustice. Their online gift giving catalog (donate.worldvision.org) offers over 15 different categories—such as Clean Water, Education, Environment, and Hunger—in which to select a tangible donation that will go to someone living in a Third World country. Some examples of gift-donations are: $75 for a goat for a family in Africa; $16 for two soccer balls for a boy or girl who would otherwise use a rounded wad of trash or homemade banana leaf ball; $18 for bed nets for a family to prevent malaria; and $85 for a bicycle for a girl in Cambodia or India so she can safely travel to school. This is creative, sustainable gift giving at its best.

For The Bike Commuter

Experienced bike commuter and Out There Monthly columnist John Speare recommends these three key essentials for the bike commuter on your list:

• Planet Bike’s Superflash ($29.99) – provides visibility up to one mile with its ?-watt Blaze™ LED plus two eXtreme LEDs. Two AAA batteries make this light run for up to 100 hours.

• Rainlegs™ ($50) – these will make any cyclist happy. Made to protect the upper legs from rain, wind and cold, Speare says, “On the surface, these are super nerdy, but for cyclists who commute in the rain they are the bomb!”

• Ortlieb bags ($66-$225, various types and sizes) – Speare describes the Ortlieb brand as “the standard that all panniers are measured against.”

For The Armchair Adventurer

These outdoor nuts aren’t lazy. They just prefer to enjoy the outdoors vicariously through others or by reflecting on their own memories from younger, more agile days. Or they’re fair weather folks. Or they have “retired” from their extreme outdoor sports because of an injury. Or they simply no longer have sufficient time (or the budget) to indulge in their outdoor dreams.

Doesn’t matter. What matters is that they’re not forgotten. Stan Miller, OTM book reviewer and four-season outdoor recreationist, recommends these five books:

• Nature Exploring in Eastern Washington and North Idaho by Rich Leon ($10, available at local bookstores and outdoor equipment suppliers). Miller describes this guidebook as “the perfect stocking stuffer for the outdoor enthusiast new to the Inland Northwest. The 34 ‘explorations’ and their several permutations can provide a full year’s worth of weekend outings within a three-hour drive of Spokane, and most are within an hour. In addition to the outings themselves, Leon provides the reader with a list of references that will enhance the nature experience.”

• Flakes, Jugs, and Splitters: A Rock Climber’s Guide to Geology by Sarah Garlick ($17.95, Falcon Guide published by Globe Pequot Press). “At the 2009 Banff Mountain Book Festival, Sarah Garlick confessed that she is a geologist with a climbing problem,” Miller says. “Her expert use of language to explain the complexities of geology makes the information accessible to even the most geologically naïve reader.”

• Deep Snow and Steep Rock by Chic Scott (self-published, $60 from ChicScott.com – includes shipping to Spokane). “This biography of Hans Gmoser, one of Canada’s most noted and successful entrepreneurs, is a good gift for your backcountry skiing friends,” Miller says. A 51-minute DVD featuring three of Gmoser’s early self-narrated film lectures comes with the book.

• Extreme Ice Now—Vanishing Glaciers and Changing Climate: A Progress Report by James Balog, author and photographer ($24, Random House). This book documents Balog’s conversion from skeptic to believer regarding human-impacted climate change, and accompanies the DVD of the NOVA presentation by the same name ($24.99).

• Beyond the Mountains by Steve House ($29.95, Patagonia Books). Both Stan Miller and Jon Jonckers recommend this autobiography of one of the world’s best high-altitude climbers. As the 2009 Winner of the Mountain Literature award at the Banff Book Festival, it will entertain both the active climber and the armchair adventurer.

Whether you’re one of these outdoor personalities or have a few in your family, and no matter what your budget and gift-giving style, may you discover unique ways to express love and thankfulness to your loved ones this holiday season.

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