Gear Reviews

2019 Holiday Gift Guide

Full disclosure: this post includes products that I received for free in partnership with different brands. That being said, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

It’s that time of year again: blatant consumerism in the name of the holidays!

Yikes. Too soon?

I’ll rein it in a little – to be honest, I have nothing against the holiday season. I love the twinkly decorations, heavenly smells, and the overall sense of compassion that overwhelms people during November and December. It’s especially hard to not enjoy this time of year when you sprinkle in some time spent with loved ones and a lot of really delicious food (Nochebuena is my favorite day of the year)!

For better or for worse, gift giving plays a significant role in most people’s holiday traditions, which puts figuring out what to buy at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Today I’ll be sharing some of my favorite products with y’all in the hopes that you’ll find inspiration for what to buy your loved ones.

A cute new chalk bag.

Let’s face it, chalk bags are more than just a piece of climbing gear – they’re an opportunity to express yourself. Dirt Chalk Bags is a woman-owned company that makes eco-friendly chalk bags, toiletry bags, and blankets for adventurous lifestyles in the most gorgeous prints. My tree and mountain covered chalk bag has been the perfect accessory to my climbing for several years now, and I can’t imagine ever going back to a boring, bland, and purely functional chalk bag ever again.

My favorite part about the company is the fact that the owner Julianne partners with artists from every range of the spectrum: professionals like Rachel Pohl to local painters. She’s also one hell of a human being, so if the prospect of a custom chalk bag isn’t enticing enough, the fact that you’re supporting a lovely person is a pretty compelling reason to buy one.

A piece of gear they shouldn’t live without!

Climbers are a pretty diverse group of people for the most part, but one thing that is typically true across the board is the fact that they’re cheap. That being said, if there’s a special climber in your life odds are they haven’t bought a piece of gear that they need simply because it’s expensive. If you’re always out at the crag with one of your climber friends and are constantly loaning out your gear to share, this is the perfect opportunity to treat them to items of their own.

Two incredibly useful yet significantly under-purchased climbing products are personal anchor systems (or PAS) and third hands. PAS are great for people who are into sport or traditional lead climbing, and is an essential piece of equipment for removing all of the gear from a route so that it can be “cleaned.” In laymen’s terms, this is how a climber can go up a wall and protect themselves at the top so they can rearrange the rope and gear in a way that allows them to safely rappel down and walk away with everything, as opposed to having to leave items at the top of the wall because they aren’t able to safely get down without them.

PAS should be a top priority for outdoor climbers, but it tends to fall to the wayside when people get distracted by flashing quickdraws or pretty harnesses. There is a huge variety of personal anchor systems on the market, with prices ranging from $15 to $50, so if you aren’t familiar with the specific type of climbing that your friend does it can be hard to pick out the right one. I personally have used an 11mm Metolius sling with 7mm cordelette tied into a purcell prusik for the past three years. If I were to buy a new combination of PAS now, I would probably buy either the Petzl connect adjust lanyard or the Metolius anchor chain.

Third hands are another category of equipment that is all too often overlooked by climbers who are building up their racks. Third hands are most often used during rappels, but I have also used them in rescue scenarios; basically, it’s a small piece of cord that is tied in a way that bites into the rope the climber is attached to, thus stopping their descent. This piece of gear has earned a permanent spot on my harness ever since I started extending my rappels and guiding rock climbing. As with the PAS, there are a variety of third hands on the market, but it’s less likely that you’ll buy someone one that they don’t want because they all do virtually the same thing. I use the Sterling auto block, but the Sterling hollowblock and Beal prusik cord are both comparable pieces of gear.

Photo by Nancy Alfonso.
Help a friend get started.

Know someone who recently discovered climbing but is hesitant to leap into the money-sucking-black-hole that is rock climbing? Or have a friend who you think would absolutely crush it but they aren’t able to commit? Give them a gentle nudge into the climbing community by gifting them a membership at a local gym! Most gyms have a punch card system, where you can pay up front for a certain number of visits, or have options for a single month membership. You could also get them a gift card that covers their first few visits by loading it with the amount of a few day passes. Show your friend that you care about them (even though you secretly just want another belay partner) by helping them foster a love for the sport.

The best beauty products are bamboo beauty products.

A quick and easy small present for someone on your list is a bamboo or wooden beauty essential to replace their old plastic one. I had been waiting for so long for my plastic comb to finally kick the bucket so I could upgrade to a wooden one, and I’m so glad I did. You can easily find wooden products like brushes, combs, and loofa brushes on Amazon or Etsy. One of my go-to shops for sustainable home and beauty items is Wild Minimalist – they have everything from zero waste starter kits to plastic-free cleaning supplies!

A totally un-sucky gift.

We all know by now that single-use plastics are contributing to the degradation of our planet, and one of the most villainized offenders is the plastic straw. I try to keep my metal straw on me whenever I go out to eat, but it can be hard to casually bring a large straight metal straw into a restaurant, especially if you frequently go without a purse like I do. That’s where the Final Straw comes in. Their collapsable metal straw folds down into a 7cm carrying case that easily fits on your keychain or in your pocket, which makes it easy to make sustainable choices wherever you are.

Photo by Dennis Alfonso.

I was sent a beautiful rainbow straw by the lovely humans at Final Straw, and it completely changed how I view the plastic-free movement; I realized that it’s great to have fancy glass containers or a big hand woven grocery basket, but the only way to make sustainability the norm is to make it accessible. If your metal straw fits in the palm of your hand and can easily be thrown onto your keychain so you don’t have to think about grabbing it before you head out, then you’re always able to do right by the planet. With so many fun colors to choose from, the Final Straw collapsible straw is the perfect stocking stuffer for everyone on your list.

Keep your friends looking fabulous.

You can still look great without hurting the environment, so try gifting some zero-waste beauty products for your makeup savvy friends. There are plenty of sustainable brands out there that make gorgeous salves and shades that perfectly compliment any palette. Some of my favorites are Fat and the Moon, Keeping it Natural, Moonrise Creek, Wild Nettle Apothecary, Butter Me Up Organics, and Lush.

Clean energy!

A few Christmases ago my parents gifted me a personal solar panel from REI and it is one of my favorite pieces of guilty-pleasure-gear, or gear that I wouldn’t buy myself but I’m more than happy to use. Solar panels can add up quickly – especially when you go up in size and input levels – but Lumi makes a great packable solar lantern that can also charge small devices. My brother got me the PackLite Nova USB solar lantern and it is the perfect lightweight addition to my camping gear.

Ditch food waste.

One simple solution to the environmental crisis is composting. It might not seem like separating your food waste from your trash has that big of an impact, but I read recently that it’s the millions of unknown tributaries and streams that lead to the the river of change. Following that line of thinking, every single action that we take towards reducing our footprint on the planet adds up in the long run.

Keeping a composting bucket by your sink is a great reminder to save your scraps, and I’ve noticed that after thinking more intentionally about where my food waste goes I put more effort into wasting less. For the squeamish people out there, don’t worry – there are plenty of ways to deal with food waste without actively breaking everything down yourself. Most big cities have some sort of free composting collection program in place, and cheap monthly subscription plans for compost collection are becoming more popular in areas where the local government doesn’t supply it.

For the yogi:

The perfect gift for your yoga-loving bestie is a mat that is good for the environment. Suga makes 100% recycled and recyclable mats that are made out of old wetsuits, which gives new life to non-biodegradable neoprene and keeps it out of our landfills. Now when your friend is relaxing in Shavasana they can rest easy knowing that they’re making a positive impact on our planet.

Your camera’s new best friend.

For the longest time I never brought my camera with me when I went outside because I simply didn’t have room for it – or on the rare occasion that it did fit in my bag I was worried about it breaking. When WANDRD sent me their PRVKE backpack it completely changed everything. Their camera backpacks were designed specifically with the adventurer in mind, which means it’s easier than ever to take great photos in the outdoors without sacrificing style or comfort.

Photo by John Miller.

The photography bundle paired with the pack keeps your camera gear safe and secure in an easy-to-access pouch, while still leaving plenty of room for snacks and layers. With a waterproof exterior and plenty of pockets, this pack is the perfect gift for the avid photographer on your list! If you want to read more about my recent adventures with the WANDRD pack, check out my post about hiking in the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.

Something they wouldn’t buy – but they really need.

We all have that one friend who is constantly chatting on their Instagram or Facebook stories – and if you can’t think of anyone, then you’re probably that friend. One way to keep social media more accessible is to include captions in your videos for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, and I learned from Erin Outdoors that a simple way to do that is through the app Clipomatic. The app itself is $4.99 and allows you to create captions in 40 different languages and export your video directly to Instagram or Facebook. Get your friend a $5 iTunes gift card and help them spread inclusivity on the ‘gram!

Something warm for their noggin.

I can’t talk about my favorite holiday gifts without plugging Westward and Woven. For those who don’t know, I make unique and handcrafted knit beanies, scarves, mittens, and more and sell them on Etsy. I constantly find inspiration for items from the natural world around me, and I love making knit apparel that represents places that I love.

I’m excited to announce that Westward and Woven is expanding to include macrame wall art, crochet home accessories, and crochet bralettes and tops! Follow my shop’s Instagram to stay updated on new product releases and special sales!

Photo by John Miller.
The brand that has it all!

I’ve been raving about SugarSky products ever since I bought my first bandana while living in Tallahassee, and for good reason too. This brand genuinely puts so much love and care into everything they produce, and each item is built to keep up with an adventurous lifestyle. They sell everything from headbands to fanny packs to scrunchies, all in gorgeous patterns and durable material. I’m the proud owner of several headbands, one tube, and one amazing swimsuit, and I know my SugarSky collection won’t stop there. Regardless of who is on your list, SugarSky has something perfect for them!

Boots made for walking (and so much more!)

I have always been a boot lover, but after moving to Utah at the start of winter I quickly came to the realization that all of my old boots wouldn’t cut it. That’s where the Blundstone boots came in. These trusty slip on boots are perfect for all weather and any adventure, with excellent tread on the bottom perfect for biking or walking on icy sidewalks, and soft leather that repels water and snow. Blundstone makes boots for women and men in a variety of styles and colors, and while they are relatively pricey they are an extremely versatile pair of shoes that are just as at home out on the town as they are in the middle of nowhere.

Photo by Dennis Alfonso.

Another great brand of boots is Redback. These boots have the same overall look and price point as Blundstones, but they were crafted with the worker in mind. With unique options like a steel toe, slip resistant outsoles, heel reinforcement, and an insulated footbed, this pair of shoes is perfect for people who live rugged lifestyles or are hard on their gear.

Something handmade… just not by your hands.

In case you haven’t picked up on it this far in the post, handmade gifts are my favorite type of gifts; that being said, you don’t necessarily have to give someone something made by your hands. I love supporting local makers and artists, and odds are there are some people in your area that are creating beautiful things. I’ll make a list below of my favorite handmade gifts:

  • Mugs. We all have one (or two, maybe even three) special mug that we always reach for in the mornings. I recently bought a mug from Callahan Ceramics with the most gorgeous desert scene on it, and I’m looking forward to drinking my coffee out of it during camping trips. Some other amazing potters are Coco Chispa, Angela Chvarak, and Amanda of Blumme Pottery.
  • Art. Supporting a local artist is such an amazing feeling. Lately I’ve been inspired to shop in Salt Lake City for artwork to decorate my new home, and in the process I’ve connected with some amazing women who are creating beautiful images. Here are my go-to SLC artists: Ash of Moonflowermtn paints the most stunning desert scenes and flowers; Laura Sommer sells gorgeous tiny watercolor original pieces; Lizzie combines colors and shapes on huge canvases; Parker of National Parker draws intricate landscapes; and Jenna paints amazing sunsets. Outside of Utah, Erin Vaughan is one of my favorite artists who sells prints and calendars.
Give them that fresh hands/body/face feeling.

In my humble opinion, there is nothing more indulgent than nice beauty products; I don’t splurge often, but I can’t resist a luxurious face mask or body wash every now and again. Whether it’s a handmade CBD-infused bath bomb or some nourishing lotion, quality skincare products are a great gift for anyone on your list. I’m a huge fan of Ursa Major and their plant-based face washes, Origins’ clear improvement charcoal and honey face mask, and Yellow Yarrow Apothocary’s local Salt Lake City CBD salves.

Something for their furry friend.

As a dog mom myself, I can attest to the fact that the greatest gift you can give a pet owner is something for their best bud. Some of my favorite presents I’ve received from friends in the past were toys and treats for Koda, mainly because I am quick to buy gear that I need but try to restrain from splurging on my dog – if I gave in and bought him things I would never stop!

Ruffwear is where I constantly go to get adventure supplies for Koda because they put time and effort into making gear that can withstand anything a dog comes across. I bought the Approach dog backpack for Koda when we hiked part of the Appalachian trail in 2017, and it’s gone on many adventures since! Some gear that I’ve been eyeing from Ruffwear is the Roamer running leash, the Float Coat life jacket, and the Beacon safety light.

A good read to get them through the winter.

Books have been my go-to Christmas gift since I was in elementary school. Something about the physical sensation of holding a heavy book and flipping through the thin pages brings a sense of calm and nostalgia that is hard to replicate elsewhere. I’ve written two blog posts about some favorites from my shelf – books every woman should read, and books I read in the summer of 2019 – and I highly recommend all of the books listed there.

Get your friend jewelry that’s as unique as they are!

I’m a firm believer that a quality piece of jewelry can elevate any outfit, especially if it’s handmade by a local maker. I bought my favorite pair of earrings at a farmers market in Salt Lake City, and every time I wear them I feel glamorous and unstoppable. Some of my favorite crafters are Zoe of Wander Fuel, Sophia of Cerulean and Silver, Linda of Linda Hart Designs, and Nova Vita Co.

Sometimes the perfect gift isn’t a material object – it’s a statement. Show someone how much you love them by donating to an organization they’re passionate about in their name, or by making a contribution to save a public space that means a lot to both of you. Below are some common outdoor advocacy organizations that you can donate to in order to show the environmentalist in your life that you care – about them, and about the planet:

  • National Parks Conservation Association. This organization has one goal: to protect and enhance the National Parks in the United States. The NPCA wants to ensure that our beloved outdoor spaces are around for future generations to enjoy, and works hard on issues regarding the air, water, wildlife, and visitor experience at the parks.
  • Sierra Club. The Sierra Club is one of the most well known environmental organizations, and for good reason. This grassroots organization has fought to protect our planet’s natural resources since the days of John Muir, and they show no sign of stopping anytime soon.
  • Environmental Defense Fund. The EDF’s main focus is climate change – they support scientists who are researching it, pressure large corporations to acknowledge it and change their business practices, and unite professionals around the world in order to combat this issue.

If you live in Salt Lake City like I do, consider donating to these local organizations:

  • Save Our Canyons. This Utah nonprofit fights everyday to protect the beloved Wasatch range. Save Our Canyons aims to protect the watersheds surrounding SLC, protect public land outside the city, and minimize the impact of ski areas on the Wasatch.
  • Heal Utah. Heal Utah is tackling huge issues that threaten the beehive state – matters like radioactive waste, air pollution, and carbon emissions.
  • Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. The SUWA is a group of concerned citizens who are dedicated to protecting Utah’s wild lands, specifically near the Colorado Plateau.

Not in Utah? You can still get involved by donating to a group in your area! Check out Patagonia’s advocacy-focused website, Patagonia Action Works, to find groups that are located near you or near the person you’re donating for. Not only can you give the gift of activism by purchasing a membership or giving money in your friend’s name, you can also inspire them to get involved by volunteering their time with a local organization.


Want more gift ideas for the special people in your life? I still wholeheartedly stand by the products that I talked about in my 2017 gift guide – check out that post for more inspiration!

At the end of the day y’all, it doesn’t matter what you give or what you get, as long as you spend time with the people you love and let them know that they matter to you. This year I won’t be able to go to Florida for the holidays, so if you’re like me and are feeling the blues because you’re far from home this year remember that you aren’t alone. Try looking into what events are going on in your community, or organize a holiday get together with your friends!

Lastly, before you get sucked in by the flashiest deals take a minute to think about where your money is going when you shop for presents and what you kind of company you’re contributing to. Consider spending more on a product that funds a brand with admirable values as a little gift to your conscience – after all, you’ve got to treat yourself too. Being able to exercise your voice through how you spend your money is a privilege that not everyone has, so on the other end of the spectrum try not to feel shame or guilt if the only way you can get gifts for the people you love is through capitalistic holidays like Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

Happy holidays y’all!


What products are on your holiday wish list? Let me know in the comments, or shoot me an email at indiaclaire.ft@gmail.com. All photos in this post were taken by me unless otherwise specified in the caption.


 

I'm a climber, dog mom, and a hater of plastic. I like seeking wild adventures and sharing them with people.

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