When shopping for that special someone who loves the great outdoors, it's easy to be overwhelmed. There are so many companies and so many items with so many different features that it's hard to know where to start. That's why we thought we'd kickstart this party with some of our favourite camping gear. We hope H.D. Thoreau would be down.
Gerber Sport Axe II
Saws might be lighter, but when you've got to cut some serious driftwood logs down to size there's just no substitute for an axe. I found the Gerber's Sport Axe II to be the perfect balance of size/weight to cutting power. It was extremely packable, and after cutting through more logs than I can count over a weeklong trip, it was still sharp and ready for duty. Great deal, too! [$38]
Platypus GravityWorks 4L
This thing is genius! After a lifetime of hand-pumping to purify water in the backcountry the GravityWorks is a revelation. You just scoop up some water in the “dirty” bag, hang it from a tree, and let gravity do all the work for you, pulling it through the filter and into the clean bag. It's super light, compact, and has a flow rate of 1.75 liters per minute. It was the group favorite piece of gear on my Lost Coast trip a couple years ago. $110 and worth it.
Suunto M-3D Leader
The Suunto M-3D Leader is a terrific choice. Its scales and rulers are well defined, and it has a magnifying glass to help you see the tiny details on a topo map. The banner feature, though, is its adjustable declination scale, so you can account for the difference between magnetic and true north. The 360 degree scale is easy to turn, and it's solidly built. $35
This is, without question, the comfiest sleeping pad I've ever slept on. It rolls up to the size of a Nalgene, it's 2.5 inches thick, and it offers excellent insulation from the cold, cold ground. I sleep on my side and my shoulder and hip never dig in with this thing. It weighs just over a pound. $115
MSR Dragonfly Stove
It's by no means new, but for supreme adjustability on a liquid fuel stove, the Dragonfly is still tops. Why? Not only does it fold down nice and small, but this thing can actually simmer and do it really well. I made a huge load of backcountry pancakes without burning a one of them, a feat that is all but impossible with most liquid fuel stoves. $110 [Clear]
GSI Outdoors H2JO! Percolator
Caffeine is a hell of a drug. I have friends who cannot go backpacking without bringing instant coffee or they get splitting headaches in the morning. There's a better way. The H2JO! is basically a little basket you screw onto your Nalgene (or other wide-mouth, heat-proof) water bottle. Toss the grounds in, fill with hot water, invert, and enjoy. Nothing better on a cold day. $13
Nemo Nocturne 15F
You know who backpacking sucks for? Side-sleepers. You want the warmth and packability of a mummy bag, but they don't move with you. The Nemo Nocture is the best thing to happen to backcountry side-sleepers in a very long time. The "spoon" shape makes in comfortable no matter what position you sleep in, and the goose down will keep you toasty warm. $370
Iridium Extreme Satellite Phone
By no means the cheapest option out there—especially when you factor in subscription costs—but you might think of this phone as your backcountry life insurance policy. It enables you to make phone calls, send SMS, and distress signals from anywhere in the world. It has built-in GPS for tracking, and it's jet-water, shock, and dust resistant. Pretty compact and light-weight, too.
REI Passage 2 Tent
This may not be the lightest or fanciest tent out there, but for the price, it can't be beat. It offers quick setup, high-grade materials, excellent ventilation, and ample vestibule space for cooking and gear storage. Has plenty of interior pockets, too, and it's light enough for backpacking. Nice tent for a killer price. $160