Thursday, December 18, 2014

Just in case you're stumped ... 10 Christmas gift ideas for outdoorsy men and women

Hi all,

The Christmas season is upon us, and perhaps you're struggling just a little in figuring out what kind of gift to get your outdoorsy lover, family members or friends?

It's amazing how many options exist these days ... new types of backpack stoves, super lightweight hammocks, solar chargers for mobile electronics, GPS units, mapping software, guided outdoor trips, high-tech comfy under garments and so much more! Just remember, when you're shopping for these items, look for opportunities to buy gifts from our locally owned outdoor retailers when possible.

My recommendations: 

1. The LifeStraw personal water filter is a valuable gift for a very affordable price, about $20. This nifty little unit works great as an emergency water filter that folks can carry in their backpack or Camelback. You drink directly from the stream through the LifeStraw to filter your water. The filter is supposed to remove 99.99% of bacteria, 99.9% of protozoa down to .2 microns in size.

A more robust water filter is still needed for filling water bottles and such, but the LifeStraw would be handy to have in a pinch when you forgot to bring your regular water filter. Or, if you're on an ultra lightweight adventure and don't want to pack a heavier filter. See this review for limitations of the Lifestraw.

2. The ENO SingleNest Hammock is light and folds up into a compact size, about the size of a softball. For about $60, you can snag one of these for your sweetheart. It has a capacity of up to 400 pounds, so perhaps it could be shared by two (if your combined weight is less than that) on a lazy afternoon in the forest, swaying in the breeze. It comes in 7 different colors. It comes with a built-in stuff sack.

3. How about a new headlamp for your honey? I'm probably not the only one who always seems to come up empty when it's time to go camping. Where's my headlamp? I might have loaned it to one of my kids, maybe it got stuffed in the kitchen box or it's broken and dead. You never can have too many headlamps, I'd say. I bought the Black Diamond Storm headlamp last year for $60, and now I see the price has dropped to $45. It takes four AAA batteries, so it has a really bright light that illuminates to a distance of 230 feet. It has special red lights for improved night vision. Very versatile headlamp for all conditions. It comes in gray and orange.

4. Winter gloves are another item that seem to disappear or the left-hand glove goes missing or the right-hand glove disappears ... you need to have several pairs so you're ready to go cross-country skiing, biking, hiking, snowshoeing, whatever. The North Face Canyonwall Etip Glove for women looks perfect for active outdoor activities. They cost $39.95 at Check out your local outdoor retailers such as Idaho Mountain Touring, REI Boise and Sierra Trading Post for lightweight gloves. If you want to find the most inexpensive pair, try your local hardware store or Thriftway in Boise. They sell nice lightweight leather gloves for $10, and they have cheap wool gloves, too.

5. Long underwear garments are another nice gift idea for him or her. You could add lightweight tights for men and women in this category as well. I purchased a pair of Patagonia women's tights for Wendy several years ago, and they've held up really well. She looks great in them. Cost: about $69. They're good for hiking, snow-shoeing, biking, xc skiing and lounging around the cabin.

There are many options available for long underwear. It's hard to beat REI brand polyester/spandex long undies for the price ($39-$49), but you can go whole hog and buy smart wool for deluxe warmth and comfort for $95. D&B Supply has a lot of great options for long undies, too, including the old-school full body undies.

6. Solar chargers for mobile electronics. I wouldn't be the first one in line for one of these units personally because I prefer to leave my iphone in the truck when I head off into the backcountry where there is no cell service. But a lot of people like to use their phones as cameras or for other features, so a solar charger is a must to keep your devices charged and ready to go. Amazon's best sellers range in price from $20-$80.

7. Stand up Paddleboards (SUPs) are the fastest-growing outdoor activity in America, so if you're thinking about splurging on a major gift for your honey, this would be a good bet. Here's a review of the many models available. Your best bet to shop for SUPs is go see a big variety at Idaho River Sports in Boise and learn about the pros and cons of inflatable SUPs vs. non-inflatable models, what length of board would be best for a person's height and weight, what style of board would be best for flatwater or whitewater, surfing, etc. Plus, you could sign up your honey for SUP yoga classes.

8. How about a handy camping knife for your lover? My personal preference is a ingle-blade fold-up knife for light and easy handling. There are many models to choose from. Buck knives are classic, dependable and long-lasting. Swiss Army knives are nice as well with their many blades, scissors, cork screw, toothpick, mini-saw and more. Knives are kind of like headlamps for me ... they tend to disappear. So it's nice to have several around the house or in the backpack or Camelback so you have one when you need one. Just like Grandpa, who always has a little single-blade knife in his pocket at the ready at anytime.

9. Winter cycling is very doable around the Boise area, and there are a number of accessories that are absolutely essential for this activity. No. 1 is to get a lightweight skull cap. There are many different types available for him and her. Some women's skull caps have a handy hole for the pony tail. You also need a nice pair of lightweight gloves. A form-fitting, wind-proof and waterproof shell is important, as are the under layers inside. Long underwear and tights are crucial for the lower body. And then some overboots for your riding shoes completes the winter cycling wardrobe. Check with your favorite local bike shop for these accessories, such as George's, World Cycle, Idaho Mountain Touring, Bob's Bicycles, Ken's Bicycle Warehouse, Meridian Cycle, McU Sports and Eastside Cycles.

10. Last but not least, how about buying an outdoor trip for your sweetie? Try to find a yurt or cabin rental at one of many Idaho State Parks or in the Idaho City Park n' Ski System. Look to rent a yurt at Sun Valley Trekking to access backcountry huts in the Smoky Mountains and the Sawtooth Mountains. Galena Lodge also has yurts for rent adjacent to their extensive cross-country ski trails. You also might want to consider a guided fishing trip, river trip, summer pack trip and more from Idaho outftitters. Check the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association for more information.

Oh, and don't forgot, Steve's guidebooks make for great stocking stuffers! You can contact me at to make arrangements for me to sign them.
One more thing! My friend Jimmy Halliburton of the Boise Bicycle Project needs more bikes for their Christmas Kids Bike Giveaway on Saturday. They are short on bikes with 20-inch wheels and BMX boys bikes. Please share this news with your friends on Facebook (see a post you can share on my page) and help BBP cross the finish line for the kids in need!

If you'd like to sponsor a child for the Christmas Kids Bike Giveaway, see this link for more details. Many thanks!

Have a great holiday!
- SS

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Head for high country for best snow or try Eagle Greenbelt loop; plus, book-signing

Mark Lisk and I are having a book-signing event
at Lisk Gallery on Thursday, Dec. 11. See more
details below. 
Tom Hadzor of Wide Eye Productions also
will participate in our book-signing event.
If you like fishing, you'll love this movie. 
Hi all,

It's December, so it's time to crank up the outdoor tips for the winter season.

Did someone say, Winter? Yes, it's winter in parts of Idaho, but down here in the Boise Valley, it's been a pretty yucky combination of rain, inversion and gray days. Anyone tired of that yet?

If you'd like to find some good snow to play in this weekend, I'd recommend going for a ski or snowshoe tour at Mores Creek Summit near Idaho City. According to the Mores Creek snowtel site, there are 22 inches of snow at the parking lot, and more at higher elevations on Pilot Peak or Sunset Mountain. Temperatures were in the mid-30s today.

The Idaho City Park n' Ski Areas have about 18 inches of snow. The IDPR groomer is beginning to groom the trails for xc skiing, according to Leo Hennessy with Idaho Parks and Recreation. It'll be early-season conditions, but at least you can get out and play in the snow.

Better yet, if you don't mind driving over to the Sun Valley area, Galena Lodge has great conditions for xc skiing and snowshoeing with 50 kilometers of ski trails open right now, and 25 K's of snowshoe trails. Basically, the whole trail system is open.

"We have been so lucky to get over 2 feet of snow in the last week or so," says Erin Zell of Galena Lodge. "The conditions are fantastic. Some trails are still a little soft since they have just been groomed for the first time this week, but it is skiing like the middle of January right now!!"

The downhill skiing at Grand Targhee has been pretty solid, I hear from some friends of mine who skied there four days this week. There is a 38-inch base with 4 of 5 lifts operating. They have some great early-season lodging deals -- lodging and lift ticket for $65 per person.  
Eagle Greenbelt Loop - Try it, you'll like it. 
If you'd like to do an outing close to home this weekend, consider hiking, biking or running a loop on the Eagle Greenbelt, west of Glenwood. Now that the blockade has been removed on the south side of the Boise River, it's possible to do a complete loop on both sides of the river on the Eagle Greenbelt. You can start and finish by Bardenay near Eagle Road or by the Greenbelt parking area on Glenwood near Hawks Stadium. The full loop is about 10 miles. Mountain bikes would be best for biking because portions of the Eagle Greenbelt pathway have a dirt or gravel surface. Bikes will need to follow the bypass route around the Riverside walking pathway on the north side of the river.

Next week, on Thursday, Dec. 11, I'm teaming up with Mark Lisk of Lisk StudioTom Hadzor of Wide Eye Productions, and Three Rivers Ranch to host a book- and movie-signing party at Lisk Studio in Boise. The location is 518 Americana. Party starts at 5:30 p.m. and runs to 8 p.m.

Mark and I just reprinted our Owyhee Canyonlands guidebook after selling out our first print run of 2,000 books in one year. Last Christmas, the Owyhee Canyonlands books were flying off the shelf, and we hope our loyal readers will steer their friends and families to the book-signing event so they can buy the popular book for Christmas gifts.

To sweeten the deal, we're going to offer our Owyhee Canyonlands books at a discounted price of $15. That's about 25% off the retail price of $19.95. I will have all of my other guidebooks at the event, and I'll offer them at a discounted price as well.  

Hadzor will be selling Wide Eye's brand new hour-long fishing movie, The Rocky Mountain Fly Highway. Three Rivers Ranch opened a fly fishing shop in Eagle recently, and they'll be at our event with some fishing-related gifts. 

I watched the movie premier of The Rocky Mountain Fly Highway on KTVB-TV Channel 7 last night, and it was absolutely spellbinding with spectacular fly fishing footage of all of your favorite fishing rivers, from the Yellowstone to the Henrys Fork, South Fork Snake, Silver Creek, South Fork Boise, Owyhee River and more. It would be a great Christmas gift. The movie retails for $19.95, and for this event, Wide Eye will sell it for $14.99.

We'll serve free appetizers and beer and wine at the event. Come party with us and pick up some great gifts for your friends and family. Hope to see you there!