Shopping for the holidays can be expensive, but not all gifts need to break the bank. In this holiday gift guide, we’ve pulled a few of our favorite pieces of gear that we’ve tested over the past year, ranging from the best $5 stocking stuffer ever to affordable headlamps and premium winter boots. No matter your budget, there’s something for everyone here.
Here it is: this is the best stocking stuffer ever. We’ve used this MSR Scraper to clean dishes while camping in Colorado and road-tripping from Canada to Mexico. Between the stiff bristles, hard plastic scraper, and rubber grip, we reckon it’s the most intelligently designed handheld device since Steve Jobs dropped the iPod. And unlike an iPod, the MSR Scrubber is waterproof, only costs $5, and if you actually drop it, it won’t break. Yes, it is a glorified sponge, which is an admittedly unromantic gift, but the Scraper is practical. And some outdoor enthusiasts might argue that there’s nothing more romantic than listening to your significant other scrape dishes while you’re snuggled up in your sleeping bag.
Whether you’re taking it easy on the couch or camping in the woods, comfy socks make every day better. Cotopaxi’s Libre socks are crafted from a breathable yet warm llama fiber and nylon blend. At the toe, heel, and midfoot, Cotopaxi’s bolstered the Libre with hard-wearing polyester. We’ve been testing the Libre’s for a year now and worn them on countless hikes and chilly trail runs. If we’ve learned anything over the past year of testing, it’s that nothing beats sliding these socks on to warm up after a frosty surf session. Furthermore, after a year of solid use, they’re still in good shape, and they still spark a smile every time they’re pulled out of our sock drawer, backpack, or duffle.
When we first unboxed this rechargeable Bio-Lite headlamp, we were skeptical. The headlamp itself is ultra-thin and low-profile, which is obviously appreciated, but the rear battery is bulky and a wire curves around the strap. We were concerned that the configuration would be more obtrusive than headlamp designs that house the battery in the front, but we were wrong! Bio-Lite’s 330 Headlamp is lightweight and powerful, and the benefits of the inconspicuous front panel far outweigh the cons of the rear battery. In fact, while hiking, we hardly noticed the rear battery. And during sunset climbing sessions, the low-profile front panel never got in the way, and we were stoked on how well the Bio-Lite headlamp integrated with a climbing helmet. There are certainly brighter (and more expensive) options out there, but for the casual outdoor enthusiast, the Bio-Lite 330 Headlamp is a smart pick.
Getting undies for the holidays can be a drag—unless they’re crafted from merino wool, ultra-comfortable, and designed for relentless use in the outdoors. Enter Ortovox. We’ve been testing their Rock-N-Wool Men’s Boxers, Women’s Boxers, and Sports Bras while climbing, hiking, trail running, and fly fishing in the mountains of Colorado this past summer and the deserts of Utah this fall, and we can’t get enough of the plush yet breathable merino fabric. The elastic waistband is stretchy, the fit is snug, and slight compression helps keep everything in place when you’re pounding the trail. What’s more, the anti-stink properties of the merino wool prime the Rock-N-Wool Boxers for extended use scenarios like backpacking, international travel, and more. Oh, and if you’re looking for long underwear, Ortovox has you covered (literally) there, too.
Olukai makes our favorite flip flops on the planet, so naturally, we were excited to test out their winter boots. The Ua Kea Boots are stylistically a bit jarring, but in a good way—they don’t look like every other pair of hipster high-tops on the market. The two-tone waterproof build has a waxed nubuck leather lower, which wraps around a mesh upper. A single-density footbed and a grippy, rubber outsole help make the boot both comfortable and pragmatic. While the style is undoubtedly a bold one, these Olukai’s can fit in both at the office and on easy hiking trails.
Looking for more holiday gift ideas? Check out our Holiday Gift Guide, which is home to gear and gift recommendations brought to you by the Active Junky test team.