Everything Else Outdoors Mike's Meanderings My 2-Cents-Worth

Gifts to Put Under the Outdoor Enthusiast’s Indoor Tree

Ask any Outdoor Enthusiast what they want for Christmas this year and the likely response will be, “MORE TIME OUTDOORS!” But unless you are CEO or head of HR for their employer, that’s a gift that not even Santa Claus could deliver. Lucky for you that we, as fellow nature geeks, just may be able to help you out with a couple of gift ideas to stuff under that indoor tree for that outdoor lover this year. Since the 12 Days of Christmas seems to be playing on a continuous loop lately, I guess for starters I’ll list 12 ideas!

For 80 bucks you’re giving the recipient free admission to an extensive system of beautiful national areas. The pass is valid for one year and provides that special someone on your list (plus up to 3 individuals ages 16 and older), entry to all per-person fee National sites. It also admits the pass holder and any accompanying passengers in a private, noncommercial vehicle to all per-vehicle fee National sites. Basically, you’re getting them (and the people they’re traveling with) into any National Park Service, Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation recreation sites without paying. Not just once, but for the entire next year. If experiences truly are much more valuable than material things, as this quote suggests:
“Fill your life with adventures, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show”,  then this gift hits the jackpot! Pre-order the 2020 pass at this link and it will be valid until January 31st of 2021. Plus, they have a gift letter you can wrap up and put under the tree.

Perfect for the campfire bug! It’s a fast, easy and safe way to turn big, fat, tough burning logs into quick-burning firewood. Just put the log inside the 6.5” safety ring, smack it with a mallet and the built-in cast iron cutting wedge does the rest. No axe to swing, no razor-sharp blades to worry about. You just end up with smaller chunks that help you get that bonfire blazing faster. Check out the video under the product photo on this web page.  

Christmas Gift Ideas for Outdoor Enthusiasts
Most outdoor enthusiasts would LOVE to find any of these gifts under their tree this holiday season!

My favorite way of cooking over the fire. These are on the cheaper end of this gift guide, usually falling around $15 apiece. But when you get the campfire munchies, some nights they seem like they’re worth millions! To add a little extra flare to the gift I’d suggest adding a recipe book (Rome sells one of those, too), some pie filling and other ingredients, then print out these Caramel Apple Pie and Campfire Pizza recipes to get them started.

Any outdoor-loving Tycoon would be thrilled to have a shot at purchasing their own National Park or three! The deeds to Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Acadia, Denali, Glacier … can all be yours if the dice roll your way and you have enough funny money! Place campsites in your park and charge visitors every time they stop by. Playing this Monopoly version is just like the original, only you swap Boardwalk, Park Place, Pennsylvania Avenue, Reading Railroad and Water Works for much more enticing properties. You also give that cannon, wheelbarrow, dog, thimble and classic shoe the boot, replacing them with a tent, ranger hat, canoe, bison, hiking boot and camera pieces. Not really a big fan of Monopoly? Try another outdoor themed board game instead. Here are a few more up-to-date options: Trekking the National Parks, National Parks Trivia, or how about a cribbage board shaped like a fish or the state you live in, or some other outdoorsy shape (then complete the package with a deck of National Park cards!)

5) STATE PARK GIFT CARD:     You Choose the $$
Many of the State Parks systems in the U.S. offer Gift Cards for sale online or in the park offices. These cards are like hitting pay dirt to me, as they usually can be used in a variety of ways. Purchase an annual parks pass with it. Pay for in-park camping with it. Or buy anything from souvenirs to firewood with it in the park gift shops. I’ve received these quite a few different times and believe me, they’ve NEVER gone unused!

6) HANDHELD GPS:     $$$ to $$$$
More accurate than a handheld compass. More reliable than a smartphone down deep in a canyon or under heavy tree cover. Cheaper than a search party. Just sayin’. A handheld GPS constantly receives data being transmitted from satellites, so most are pretty reliable no matter where you are. Plus the units that have a barometer/altimeter feature provide pretty accurate elevation readings by taking that barometric data into consideration. Best of all, they save waypoints, so you can find that secret spot again a year from now (or find your way back to any marked spot – like the parking lot – a few hours from now.) Here are some quality units from Garmin to check out.

Shivering from the cold, panting while you’re out of breath from trudging up to that 8,000 ft. overlook, trying to stay still for too long so you don’t spook the wildlife … all of these situations can cause a shakiness that makes it difficult to hold a camera still. But set up a tripod, activate the shutter via Bluetooth remote, and that tremor in your fingers, arms or body that feels like it registers 6.0 on the Richter Scale will go completely unnoticed in your photo. In other words, a tripod is great at taking away your photographer shakes. Compact tripods are perfect for stuffing in suitcases and backpacks, and when each leg is infinitely bendable, you can form it to be level on just about any terrain. Here’s a super reasonable one!

Yes, there really is such a thing. The price changes with age, but it’s a great idea for grandpa to give a newborn/toddler future fishing buddy (At the time of this writing in Minnesota it costs $344* for a child under the age of 3 and they’ll NEVER have to purchase a Minnesota fishing license in their lifetime!) Depending on mom, dad, grandma, or grandpa’s age, they might really like one, too! Just show your driver’s license at any fishing license distributor once a year and they’ll give you your new yearly license – no extra out-of-pocket charge! *(*Note: A resident lifetime license may be issued to a person who is a resident of the state for at least one year or who is under age 21 and the child of a person who is a resident of the state for at least one year prior to the application. If proof of residency cannot be verified, the license application will be denied. A resident lifetime license remains valid, even if the licensee moves out of state.) Find out more about the Minnesota lifetime license here.

Battered bird feeder
A very hungry squirrel found a faster way to extract feed from my obviously NOT squirrel-resistant bird feeder — chewing his way right through the roof!

9) BIRD FEEDERS:     $ to $$
Whether it’s a squirrel-resistant metal model like I need (see photo), a hummingbird feeder, a hopper feeder, a suet feeder or a thistle feeder, these things can bring hours of enjoyment to everyone from the casual birder to the hard-core feather watcher to an ornithologist (o.k. I admit, I had to look up the name for a person that studies up on, or is an expert on birds.) Toss in a bag of seed or two with their gift. That way they’ll be more inclined to hang that feeder right away.

10) GoPro/Trail Cam:     $$ to $$$$
Two opposites that can be used in entirely different ways to capture the best of the outdoors. GoPro cameras are basically action cameras that can record video when in the moment of the action. Take it on the trail or even wear it on your body while you hike, ski, fish … to catch footage that otherwise would just exist in your mind. Trail Cams are a more permanent-mount option and make a great choice for birders or wildlife lovers. Hook the trail cam up on a tree or mount it near the bird feeder to get some very candid (although somewhat lower quality) shots – it may even feel a little bit like you’re spying on those animals!

Let’s face it outdoor peeps, we ALWAYS need more gear! And sometimes we can be quite picky (maybe even a little bit snobbish) about the gear we take out there with us. But have no fear, a gift card to any of these places is sure to cut the mustard: REI, Midwest Mountaineering, Cabelas, Gander Outdoors, Fleet Farm, Bass Pro Shops, L.L. Bean (just to name a few.)

12) BOOKS:    $
For some odd reason many park enthusiasts seem to love books. Maybe it’s because electronics often don’t work in the midst of a forest or mountain range. Perhaps it’s because paper comes from trees, and trees remind them of nature. It could even be as simple as having a printed copy of the beautiful pictures in their possession. But whatever the cause, travel guides, map books and journals (for keeping track of everything from your fishing successes to great campsites, to favorite sites in the park, etc.) are quite often a big hit. Even great fiction novels by any of the numerous authors that thrive with some form of nature emphasis (C.J Box, Nevada Barr, Keith McCafferty, Louise Penny, Paul Doiron, Christine Carbo, William Kent Krueger, Randy Wayne White, just to name a few) find a way to the shelves of outdoor enthusiasts. Here’s one of my favorites!

Didn’t find anything you liked on the first list of 12? Here’s a few more quick and easy ideas: Wall Art — I like making wall hangable canvas prints from my vacation photos, and also love my wooden travel maps to track where I’ve been. Or, if your area has an Arboretum, a year membership is a great idea for flower and nature lovers!


Stocking stuffer ideas for outdoor enthusiasts
These stocking stuffers will not only come in handy on their next trip, they’re sure to bring a smile to the face of almost any outdoor enthusiast you gnome!
    Lyme’s disease is no laughing matter. Anyone who spends time trudging through grass and weeds should have one of these for removing deer ticks and wood ticks the best way possible (without having to actually touch those creepy crawly things!)
    It sucks to be in a place of complete beauty but being forced to skimp on smartphone photos just to save your battery. Unfortunately, pine trees don’t have outlets to recharge your electronics. But this pocket power bank sure does! Charge it up before you go, and then transfer a charge to your phone or other USB rechargeable units while you’re out in the field. It’s shock-resistant and water-resistant to handle the most extreme conditions.  I like these!
    Great for anglers that struggle to see the line (that would be me), are losing dexterity in their fingers (also me), or just want an easier way to consistently make clean strong fishing knots or nail knots (guess I earned the trifecta on this one!) P.S. – Don’t skimp, get the one that includes a line clipper built right in.
    If you fly often, one of these scales can more than pay for itself in one use. Just hook it to the handle of your luggage, lift, and check the dial to make sure your suitcase falls within the airline’s allowable weight limits. When you’re cramming all of those extra travel souvenirs in at the end of a trip, the added bulk can rack up some extra fees fast! Make sure you allocate the weight properly with this handy, compact scale.

What are YOU hoping for under the tree or in your stocking this year? Share your wish list with us in the comments box below or shoot us an email at [email protected]. Then stop by again after Christmas and let us know how those significant others did gift scratching your outdoor itch!

Wondering where Meandering Mike and Parker Flatly are going to park themselves next? Find out as soon as their latest post hits the Web by signing up for email notifications here!

2 Comment

  1. And if one is 65 or older the National Park Pass can be purchased as a lifetime pass. Cost is $80 and is good for one senior with up to 3 passengers in their car for free admittance to National Parks and more!

    1. Good Point Mary! And one of the best parts about that is at 65, one often has more time available for travel and so you can really get your money’s worth out of that park pass (not that the spectacular National Park system isn’t already worth way more than the yearly fee!)

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