17 Gift Ideas for the Outdoor Lover
A Northern Outdoors Gift Guide
By: Zoë Clay
Tis the season for gift giving! Which also means it’s the season of spending hours scrolling Amazon and walking through Target in search of gift ideas, hoping inspiration strikes. Ugh.
If you’re looking for the perfect present for the outdoor lover in your life, then look no further. We at Northern Outdoors have compiled the ultimate gift guide for your favorite tree-hugger. Whether you need a present for the Red Bull-sponsored snowboarder in your life, the paddle-boarding yogi, or your gardening-loving grandma, we’ve got you covered.
Our qualifications include: working at an outdoor adventure resort in the middle of Maine. We’ve hiked, biked, rafted, canoed, kayaked, hunted, camped, ATVed, snowboarded, skied, snow-shoed, snowmobiled, fished, swam, boogie-boarded, etc. our way through the great outdoors and want to share some of the more unique items we love and can’t imagine doing life without. From rugged gear that can withstand the toughest of terrains to sweet somethings that make outside time feel a little more like inside, the following list makes the best gifts (and we’ve saved our fav for last!).
Note: This post contains zero affiliate links. Northern Outdoors will not earn any commission from the purchase of these items.
GEAR WE WEAR
1. EYEGLASS RETAINERS
Chums, croakies, you may know them by many names, but eyeglass retainers are an absolute staple for adventurers. There’s nothing more disappointing than watching your favorite sunglasses sink into the oblivion, and Chums solve that problem by keeping your glasses firmly attached to your noggin.
If you’ve ever been rafting with us, you know our guides recommend them before every trip, and you can spot plenty of our staff sporting their own pair. We sell them in our store during the rafting season, but you can also find them online.
2. QUALITY SHADES
Better yet, buy a pair of sunglasses with the retainer built in. Ombraz has made a name for themselves by creating armless sunglasses, which feature a marine-grade cord in lieu of standard arms. Replacing the arms with a cord ensures they stay on your face and you won’t ever get a sunglasses-induced headache from the arms pinching your temples.
Not only are they armless, Ombraz are virtually indestructible. The lenses are resistant to smudges and scratches, and the frames are lightweight and super strong. Plus, you never have to worry about bending the arms out of shape or snapping one on accident.
While we’re on the topic of sunglasses, Pit Vipers are the way to go for ultimate steez, boasting “the optimal blend of style and performance.” Think ‘80s aesthetic with the energy of a 21st birthday party. Furthermore, their signature lenses wrap fully around the face, ensuring the sun is never in your eyes. It’s no surprise Pit Vipers have become so popular with bikers, skiers, runners, and rafters alike. Check out their one-of-a-kind style.
Not to be anyone’s mother, but we are begging you to wear your sunscreen. There’s nothing more delicious than soaking up some Vitamin B, but it is so important to keep your skin safe – AND our waterways safe from harsh chemicals. Pass the message along to your friends and family by giving them a bottle for the holidays.
We’re partial to Badger’s Sport Mineral Sunscreen Cream, which boasts the rigorous reef-friendly Protect Land + Sea Certification, only 4 ingredients, and sustainable packaging. We’ve tried loads of natural sunscreens and this one takes the cake every time.
A staple in every outdoor aficionado’s summer wardrobe is a pair of Chacos. They are durable, secure, and versatile, and come in a million colors and styles. Heck, throw on a pair of socks and make them a multi-season shoe!
To really capture someone’s unique style and pizzazz, customize the design! You may spot one of our guides sporting Chacos with a friend’s face on them (long story short: there was a bartender, an officiant, and a wedding involved).
5. BASE LAYERS
This may sound too simple, but base layers make a great gift. You really can’t have too many if you’re regularly outside in cold or varying temps, and they’re a staple for our staff.
And, because they’re worn under other clothes, you don’t have to worry about matching someone’s personal style as you would with more external clothing.
An old favorite of raft guides everywhere, NRS delivers thermal insulation without sacrificing breathability. Perfect for layering under dry suits, neoprene, or just regular clothes, we also love NRS’s dedication to using recycled materials in the products.
6. QUICK DRY HAT
Quick dry hats are a god-send to the perpetually wet. During rafting season, they fit comfortably under helmets without trapping water against your head. The same principle applies when running, hiking, or generally sweating. We often sell them in our store – but they sell out fast!
Our staff also recommend Cotopaxi’s Tech 5-panel Hat for its fun colors and ultimate breathability. It’s also made from 100% recycled nylon! We’ll always add an extra star for sustainability.
7. SLEEPING BAG ONESIE
We might be late to the game, but we recently discovered sleeping bag onesies and we are loving the upgrade to our personal comfort. The Selk’bag is the first of its kind, made from 100% recycled materials, and oh so cozy. For anyone that was a fan of the Snuggie in the late aughts, the Selk’bag is its outdoorsy cousin. Their motto: stay comfy, stay cozy. We back that 100%.
GEAR WE LOVE
8. GO PRO
You know the age-old adage: if it wasn’t posted on Instagram, did you really do something cool? Just kidding, but it is SO rewarding to be able to relive your wildest moments through photo and video (and be able to share it with others!). Where the average iPhone fails to keep up with the adventurer way of life, GoPro is made for action. Waterproof, high-res, and hypersmooth – you can’t go wrong.
We love our rafting, kayaking, and snowmobiling GoPro footage – it keeps up with us when other cameras can’t. Give the gift of GoPro and you’ll be able to experience the world through your adventurer’s eyes.
11. BEVERAGE SUCTION CUP HOLDER
Lil Sucker is so simple, yet so handy. Lil sucker is a suction cup holder that keeps your drink secure through all sorts of turbulence. They are small, affordable, and crazy convenient. Use Lil Sucker on a paddleboard, an airplane, your ATV, or whatever your next adventure might be!
10. WATERPROOF SPEAKER
We do love nature’s own symphony, and we also love bringing our own tunes into nature. A waterproof speaker brings the party and has the durability to withstand the elements. There’s a wide variety of speakers on the market, so we’ve narrowed it down to 2 that speak to very different price points.
For a smaller, more affordable option, we love the JBL Clip. It’s a small Bluetooth speaker with a built-in carabiner, making it super easy to clip to the outside of, well, just about anything. It’s both waterproof and dustproof, with about 10 hours of play time every charge. This little guy is an easy and lightweight accessory to any outdoor adventure.
For the larger, high-end option, you can’t go wrong with a Demerbox. With some slight variations between DB1 and DB2, you’re guaranteed 40+ hours of play time between charges, dry internal storage, internal charging ports, and hella loud sound, all housed within a crushproof and waterproof Pelican case.
11. HAMMOCK CHAIR
You know hammocks, you know camping chairs, now get ready for the life changing 2-1 hammock chair. It’s super portable, and crazy comfy. As opposed to your standard hammock, these chairs require almost zero setup (nor do you need 2 sturdy trees) and still fold up into a convenient carry bag. They’re the perfect gift for campfire goers, parents of sporty kids, and anyone on the go.
12. KULA CLOTH
“Kula is a pee cloth for anyone who squats when they pee.” Yup. And it’s awesome. The Kula Cloth is a reusable antimicrobial pee cloth, with handy snaps that keep it attached to the exterior of your gear and folded in half. It’s easy to use, easy to wash, and easy to love. It has completely elevated our peeing-outside game, and we recommend it to all of our fellow outdoorswomen. Get it for the lady in your life who hates the drip dry life.
Though the snowmobiles we rent through 201 Powersports come with heated handles, you don’t always have that luxury outdoors. Handwarmers make for an easy stocking stuffer that everyone who ventures outside in the winter will appreciate.
Better yet, HotSnapZ makes reusable handwarmers. A simple snap inside the pouch activates the heat, and once exhausted, you just boil the pouch before next use. Ditch the single-use handwarmers and forever have heated pouches on hand.
JUST FOR FUN
Bring the outdoors in with you with a candle that smells like your favorite parts of Maine’s wilderness. Whether that’s Vitamin Sea, Fireside, or Sexy Flannel Guy, Hallowell Candle Co. has you covered. We sell these bad boys in our retail store and always look forward to new scents.
Made from 100% soy and hand-poured in Hallowell, Maine, this local company is a favorite of folks on staff – one of our international employees even requested one be brought across the pond when we paid a visit (and which scent traveled all that way? Cabin Time).
15. WANDERING GOAT SOAP
Now, just because you love the raft guide life doesn’t mean you have to smell like one. We love Wandering Goat’s goat milk soap for its simple ingredients, sustainability, and light essential-oil based fragrances.
Wandering Goat is another company local to Maine we’re proud to support and sell in our store. All of their goat milk is collected from their own herd and then handcrafted into soap in small batches. Don’t knock it till ya try it – with goat milk being rich in fatty acids and Vitamin A, it’s truly great for the skin and known for its anti-aging qualities.
16. MAINE MAPLE SYRUP
For a tree-loving friend with a sweet tooth, there’s no better gift than MOFGA certified organic, wood-fired maple syrup. Frontier Maple Sugarworks is based out of Jackman, ME, and they deliver the smokey, scrumptious syrup that we sell in our store. Our gift guide wouldn’t be complete without mention of something for the sweet tooth in your life.
17. NORTHERN OUTDOORS GIFT CARD
Alright, time for the shameless self-plug and our personal favorite gift on the list. Give the gift of experiences instead of things with a Northern Outdoors gift card. Our gift cards are good for all adventures and lodging at Northern Outdoors, plus all purchases in retail, and at Kennebec River Brewery. Whether your someone rafts, rides, or relaxes… a gift card gifts it all.