Don't know what gear your outdoorsy friends or family members need? Give trail food. Everyone's got to eat, especially if they'll be out there snowshoeing up a trail, climbing ice, or skiing a mountain.
And the gift of food is practical, fits in any budget, and can be as creative as you like. It might be as simple as giving your hiking partner a box of his favorite energy bars. Or you could make and package homemade snacks and meals for your daughter's next mountaineering trip.
Here are a few ideas to get you thinking.
Go for the faves. Give him a whole box of his favorite gels, bars, or chews, or a sample of flavors from her favorite brand. They'll think of you on every trail run or hike (especially if you add a message on each package). Just find out what she likes most or would like to try. For example, I'm partial to Honey Stinger's gels and protein bars. Olympic Granola bars are yummy, if you don't mind the calories. And Salazon Chocolate bars with sea salt are delicious.
Stock the camp kitchen with non-perishable meals and snacks, so the recipient is ready to get out anytime. Include items like powdered milk and oatmeal, along with favorite dinners. Try new flavors or brands (keep dietary preferences in mind). You can buy dehydrated meals (I like MaryJanesFarm) or get staples like couscous and dried fruits and veggies at the local supermarket. Just don't forget the dessert. This is a gift. Be a bit decadent.
's seasonal bars come in pumpkin pie, cranberry orange nut bread, and gingerbread flavors.
Want seasonal flavor? Just for December, Clif has bars in iced gingerbread (my favorite), spiced pumpkin pie, and cranberry orange nut bread flavors. (Clif will donate 1 percent of sales of seasonal bars to Winter Wildlands Alliance, of which Trailspace is also a supporter.) Gu has a vanilla gingerbread gel.
Make your own. If you're a wiz with your dehydrator, you can prepare trail meals from scratch and give them to all of your backcountry friends. (And if you do, how can I get on your list?)
Even if you're not that ambitious, anyone can throw together hot cocoa, granola, or trail mix. You can even make your own bars (share recipes and ideas). Kids can help. Package your homemade creations in a zip-lock with directions. Decorate with a homemade label. Then the recipient can't help but think of you and your thoughtfulness on her next adventure. Bask in the thanks.
Have a theme. If you can't resist buying some gear, think small and light and stick to a theme. Buy a coffee drinker a lightweight insulated mug or coffee press, along with their favorite coffee. Pair backpacking meals with a long titanium spork. Give the aspiring camp chef a cutting board, spices, and a cookbook. Select something he might not buy for himself, but that he's been eyeing. Keep it useful and practical.
Give kids their own bowls and utensils, like this Squishy Bowl set from Guyot Designs
Don't forget the kids. If you get outside with kids, you know the importance of snacks and what gets cooked on the stove. So, give backcountry kids their own favorite trail snacks and meals. S'mores makings are always popular, but switch things up with different chocolate bars.
Provide each kid with a squishy bowl or spork (also in little for toddlers) in her favorite color. For 2010, Light My Fire has a limited edition Glowing Spork.
Gift giving needn't cost much money, just some thought about the recipient. Help get a special someone out into the backcountry and that homemade trail mix or favorite meal will taste all the better.
Share your own favorite food and gifts below.