I must confess, I've found myself humming along with the carols playing in the shops recently. It must be that time of year again!
It's difficult not to get onto the consumerist bandwagon over the holidays, especially when it comes to kids. The children can have the expectation of being spoiled and many adults get a lot of joy out of spoiling the children in their lives. This year might be a bit different with families experiencing changes due to COVID-19. It might be that celebrations will occur in small groups with important people unable to attend or money is a bit tighter due to changes in circumstances.
In New Zealand, the summer school holidays start mid-December and go until the beginning of February. For our family, this has meant a focus on outdoor fun during the festive season. It's my hope that they remember our adventures and not the presents. We have made it a tradition to schedule a tramp over the holidays so the minimal gifts exchanged need to be light and portable.
No matter where you are in the world, it's likely you'll be thinking about the impact of gift-giving on the environment in everything from packaging to product quality and repurposing. Some of the ways we try to lighten our impact is through buying the best quality we can afford from ethical and sustainable sources, taking care of our belongings for re-homing when we are finished with them, and appropriately disposing of products that aren't reusable or recyclable. Supporting local small businesses is also a priority.
In consultation with my partner and junior trampers (10 and 7), here are our top 11 gift suggestions in consideration of the environment, finances, and facilitating a love of the outdoors:
- Pocket knife or multi-tool. Our kids were given these when they were 5 and 3. The most frequently used attachments are the knife, saw, and scissors. The kids use these for sawing branches, whittling, and cutting paper. My daughter's knife also has a spoon and fork, which she uses on all our trips.They have become conscious of pack weight recently and I overheard them discussing the wasted weight of the corkscrew on many multi-tools.
- Puffer jacket. A puffer provides a compact warm layer and doubles as a pillow when not needed. Consider which materials suit you best. Down is generally warmer with less weight, while synthetic provides more warmth even when wet. A puffer jacket goes in the category of 'also used in non-tramping situations' so it's not an extra expense in our family, though it's much more coveted when pitched as tramping gear.
- Hiking poles. We've always preferred to use a found stick, but this isn't always possible when you're tramping through a forest of dropped palm leaves. Don't spill the beans, but there will be new pole for each of my kids
under the treein the hut this year.
- Board games. Good for home and tramping. Current favourites are: Qwirkle, SkipBo, Carcassonne, SushiGo, Forbidden Desert, Mah Jong, and charades. Sometimes you need to take the pieces out of the box so they pack better.
- Waterproof notebook. These are great for writing stories, taking notes, and drawing pictures in damp conditions.
- New shoes. We're not a hiking boot family, instead opting for trail runners, barefoot shoes or bare feet on the trail. My son has his eye on barefoot socks that are becoming more popular. Typically, they are socks made of tough stuff worn to protect your feet, but allow barefoot movement. Some of you might be thinking, "Shoes? My children will not be excited about new shoes!" Make it a movement in your family to facilitate a love for new gear, no matter what the gear. Trampers can get just as excited about new footwear as anyone with a passionate collection of heels!
- Camera. This doesn't need to be a new investment. A retired digital camera or the camera on an old phone is fun for taking pictures.
- Favourite tramping snack. These make great stocking stuffers. Our favourite snacks are gummi bears, bhuja mix, oreos, and chocolate.
- Survival kit items. It's important for the kids to become self-sufficient for survival and first aid as they take on more challenges in the outdoors. You can start them off with a pouch with a few key items and build as they get older. My toddlers carried plasters and a whistle, along with a water bottle and snack. Now that they're older, their packs also contain their pocket knife, emergency blankets, compass, map, hand warmers and additional first aid kit items.
- Walkie Talkies. We invested in a good quality set thinking that they would be fun when the kids were little and quite useful as our outdoor adventures grew more challenging. Warning: They do add quite a lot of noise to a quiet walk in the woods. Not for bird watching.
- Headlamp or head torch. We love our head torches! We use them in the bush and at home for nighttime reading. They are brilliant for power outages and there are attachments to turn them into lamps for ambient lighting in the hut, by the tent, or at your kitchen table.
I hope this list if helpful for you! I'd love to hear your gift ideas for the outdoorsy people in your life!
I have stayed away from specific product recommendations as I haven't tested any products except the ones we have. When purchasing something new, my partner often does a lot of research and generates a spreadsheet for easy comparison. One of my New Year's goals for 2021 will be to share some of these spreadsheets with you.