Holiday Gift Guide


My favorite gear of 2021

Gear I bought this last year and have loved. These are my top gear and clothing picks for the year.

La Sportiva - Karacal

There's no doubt that I love La Sportiva's shoes and clothing. They colors are fun and make me want to go fast. But beyond that, the aggressive focus on mountain running gives these shoes the perfect blend of support, tread, weight, and balance. I've long looked for an upgrade to my beloved Bushidos for longer ultras and the Karacal are it.

Salomon Outrack waterproof 2.5L jacket

When my Euro race (UTMR) asked for a rain jacket for mountain weather I knew my Patagonia Houdini wouldn't cut it. And Gore Tex jackets aren't just pricey but for runners they are also huge sweat boxes. This jacket is rugged but still feels light and the pink sleeves are a perfect bonus.

Nathan - Pinnacle 12L Hydration Race Vest

My first vest was over-researched as I was trying to find the running vest that could do it all. Now, years later, I have many vests for many different occasions but this Nathan Pinnacle could just become the vest to do it all. Lightweight material that hugs your body. Easy to adjust, no-frill straps, and still plenty of space in the back and lots of pockets up front in all the right places. Only downside are the missing pole straps.

Balega - Hidden Comfort

Sock makers will tell you that socks are just as important as shoes, and while this is certainly hyperbole having shitty socks can really mess things up on a long run or during a tough race. My preferred socks have a good amount of cushion. I like ankle socks so they can be easily taken on or off at an aid station sock exchange. These Balegas are the ones I run in.

  • Featured on episode: #197
La Sportiva - Triumph Tight

Shorts that are tights with pockets to hold my phone. Brilliant! Really well made concept of a pair of running shorts in the style of a biker short. Sturdy, breathable, comfortable, European. Love them!

Tailwind Nutrition - Naked

My favorite non-caffeinated endurance fuel flavor. Yes, there are others with fancier names, but this flavor I don't get sick off. It's not unflavored, just slightly sweet, without being too opinionated, so very unlike me. Doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement, but when drinking it all day you need something that goes down easy, like Naked Tailwind.

  • Featured on episode: #197
IBEX - Woolies Baselayer

Baselayers, oh baselayers.
Folks heading outdoors are often concerned with their most outer shell to protect them from the elements. And while a good baselayer won't protect you from a torrential downpour it most certainly will keep you warm, wick moisture away from your body and can prevent any chafing or hot spots. Ibex makes some of the best baselayers I've come across. The merino wool blend is super comfy and the biodegradable. Two big wins. If you're out in the elements chasing glory or on the couch dreaming of adventure.

  • Featured on episode: #206
La Sportiva - Limitless T-shirt

My favorite running shirt has a quarter zip on the front to let me adjust the temperature easily. This one does and it's from La Sportiva, so I love it. My go to shirt for races and other runs that count.

  • Featured on episode: #197
Salomon - Agile Long Tights

When it gets really cold out you need some tights for physical and emotional warmth when heading out for a run. These are stretchable, keep you warm, and offer a small zip pocket in the back for a car keys.

Apple - iPhone 12 mini

Man, rumors have it that the mini isn't selling well and Apple is already planning on discontinuing this size. This would be a huge bummer as I love this full-featured phone with a brilliant camera that fits really super well into my pocket. On the trail the perfect phone.

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More great gift ideas

Looking for something special for someone special. Here a great gifts that made it across my desk this last year I found useful and have incorporated into my life in some form or the other.

Rumpl - Blanket

THE blanket for nature fans who love to bring the outdoors indoors. Rumpl makes beautiful blankets for watching TV or sitting by a campfire on the beach. Stylish designs, great lightweight feel and super cozy warmth. Everyone needs one.

Sea to Summit - Alto TR 1 Tent

I'm not much of a backcountry camper. I like being home for dinner and sleep in my own bed. Perhaps I'm unadventurous. Maybe I am European and I am used to backcountry huts. But in a big part it's because I don't have the gear that makes backcountry travel possible, and possibly even enjoyable. For this year's holiday gift guide Sea to Summit graciously send me their brand new Alto TR 1 Tent - One Person Ultralight Tent. It's $400 and that explains in some ways why I don't go into the backcountry. There are cheaper ultralight tents on the market. Some aren't full tents, but bivys or shelters requiring you to use your trekking poles or hammocks to create a full solution. The Alto is a full tent and a damn light and easy to pack one.

So here I am, finding myself with this incredible piece of gear, something I never scouted out and researched and I wonder how I should approach reviewing it. It's late fall. There's no chance to take it into the actual backcountry. So, I put the thing up in my house, carefully following the instructions. There's actually a very good video posted by the company here. You should watch it to get a feel for the tent. And you will definitely want to watch it when you buy the tent to figure out how to use it. Don't wait until you're on a mountain top to try to figure out how to set it up for the first time. Which is good advice for any piece of gear you want to rely on in the wilderness. The only tent I ever owned are car camping tents so I can't compare this tent to other ultralight tents on the market. But here is what I can tell you. This tent packs down super small. It's super light, shockingly so. Once you figure out how to put it up, it's actually quite straightforward. The construction and materials used feel premium. For a one person tent it feels roomy, with a nice high ceiling height and enough space for you and your gear. The tent requires you to stake it down to ensure the rainfly to properly do its job. There are vents to help with airflow and a vestibule to give you a small space to stash your dirty shoes.

My most important rule for gift giving is that whatever you give (or ask for) should inspire you to do, to go, to reach higher. Mindless consumer gifts are worthless, but gifts that challenge you to live life more fully are the best gifts. And while the ALTO™ TR1 is not cheap, it is exactly that. A piece of gear that inspires, that challenges you to explore more, adventure further, and experience more of this incredible world we get to walk in every day. Seeing this tent put up in my living room makes me, for the first time, consider exploring the backcountry on a multi-day trip. Well done Sea to Summit, well done.

  • Featured on episode: #205
Bee's Wrap - Food Storage Wraps

Ditch the plastic cling wrap and get yourself some reusable, washable, long lasting wrappers dipped in bees wax for all your storage needs. The planet thanks you!

Opinel - Knives

If you're looking for a knife that doesn't make you feel like you're getting ready for the zombie Need a knife that doesn't make you feel like you're preparing for the zombie apocalypse? These sophisticated French knives with long history rooted in the Alps are beautiful and simple. Take them camping, cut some cheese and open that bottle of wine.

Jack Wolfskin - Lakeside Jacket (mens & womens)

After having been to Europe for 3 weeks you look at fashion differently. Over here, especially on the West Coast, men usually wear hoodies and sometimes pants. I kid of course. But, the question on how a German outdoor company positions itself here in the US market continues to fascinate me. This question was part of my conversation with Roberto Gutiérrez, Director of Brand Marketing Jack Wolfskin North America on an episode of Singletrack a few months ago. Case in point, for this year's gift guide Jack Wolfskin send me the Lakeside jacket. This slick designed, urban jacket boasts tons of pockets, comes in a couple of muted colors and is, as my son says the perfect jacket for bike commuting in New York City. But it's multifunctional and is also great to hike around a bug infested alpine lake. You know how much I love those.

So here's the thing with Jack Wolfskin products. The jacket is only $200 but the materials used in it make it seem like it should be twice as much. It's a water-resistant, 100% windproof softshell. The jacket offers chemical-free protection from UVA and UVB rays. The material is a breathable, water-repellent, abrasion-resistant organic cotton blend. The biocide-free fabric construction protects against mosquito bites and it does not contain perfluorocarbons, a long-lasting greenhouse gas. So, you still with me? A great looking "jacket for all trades" for just $200? That's the Jack Wolfskin brand in a nutshell for you.

  • Featured on episode: #205
Orange Mud - Transition Wrap

We already knew from Hitchhiker's Guide how important towels are. And this is more than a towel. The perfect after-a-long-and-muddy-run transition wrap to allow you to get changed at the trailhead and keep sweat and dirt off your carseat. Could've been designed by me, but it's from Orange Mud, so get it there.

Sea to Summit - Lightweight Dry Sack

It doesn't matter if you travel for vacation with family or get ready for a trail race, you always have to pack dozens of little things in dozens of little bags. And these dry sacks are great for aid station drop bags or keep all your electronics in one place in your duffel bag. Oh and they also store dirty smelly running clothes pretty effectively.

Swiftwick - Socks

Socks are the perfect stocking stuffer. Swiftwick makes quality socks for every day and for training runs. I especially love the National Park Collection socks with their great designs. What a great gift for your national park lover.

HydraPak - soft flask

What runner doesn't use soft flasks to carry water and Tailwind on short and long runs. And well, those flask sadly don't last as long as one wishes. Which makes these flasks the perfect gift for any runner anytime. This one fits great into various front pockets of most vests.

  • Featured on episode: #197
Nathan - Summit polarized sunglasses

Unboxing the brand new Nathan sunglasses, I received to review I can't help but being reminded of the popular sunglasses for trail runners that are.. pretty alright... like good... get it? The packaging and presentation looks almost identical. And the frames in shape and style could easily be mistaken for the competition with the silly flamingo as mascot.

But, Nathan's are different, and not just in price. They are $50, which definitely raises the expectations. They come in a few cool colors and offer the usual bells and whistles. The frame is light and flexible, the lenses are polarized and offer 100% UV protection. They also are have nice soft grip cushioned nose pads and temple ends which make them very comfortable and will be great for those long runs in the summer sun. I'm excited about them. They seem to be a solid upgrade and still not at a price point that you'd cry bitter tears if they'd get dinged up while scree surfing in the alpine. So, while the wintertimes can feel dark and gloomy these Nathan sunglasses can help you look forward to your next summertime adventures.

  • Featured on episode: #207
B Great - Hemp Skincare

Do you ever think about upgrading your after shave or other skin care products? How do you decide on what to get? Sure, the smell is an important factor, the other is always price. Get the cheapest and hope you don't break out in hives. But. If you ever are considering to upgrade what do you look for? More expensive is not always better. Often more perfume-y or in any other way 'enhanced' which often feels like a rip off. That's been my thinking until I tried CBD infused lotions, after shave and lip balms.
B Great makes hemp-based products which don't make you high. But the products give you the upgrade you're looking for. Get some gifts for friends and gifts for your own face. Take care of yourself.

  • Featured on episode: #206

A note:
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