Unusual, uncommon, cool – and most of all – useful. These useful Christmas gifts will not feature on the generic Christmas gift buying guides you see in the mass media – these are uniquely curated, quality gadgets, outdoor adventure gear, books and apparel handpicked by our editors at Trail & Kale – many of which we have owned, tried, tested and reviewed ourselves.
Whether the lucky gift recipient is your husband, wife, best friend, dad, mom, brother, sister, young adult or dog in your life, there’s something for every active, nature-loving person and dog in our guide to this year’s most useful Christmas gifts for hikers, travelers, photographers, readers, and people who simply love spending time outdoors. Most of the Christmas gifts on this list are also unisex, as well as making great gifts no matter what the recipient’s age may be.
Looking for eco friendly gift ideas? Visit our Sustainable Gift Guide for adventure enthusiasts.
- Trail & Kale spotlight gifts that anyone will enjoy
- Gifts for hikers, trail runners & people who enjoy camping
- Gifts for travel lovers
- Gifts for your dog
- Gifts for photographers
- Gifts for music lovers
- Digital gift ideas (ideal for last-minute Christmas gifts)
Trail & Kale spotlight gifts
Before we get into our Christmas gift guides for people (and pets) with specific interests, here are our top picks for Christmas gifts that anyone will enjoy! These would all make great gifts for the ‘hard to buy for’ friend or family member, especially if they enjoy being active.
On Cloud Shoes
These lightweight, slip-on, ultra-comfortable On Cloud shoes are perfect for everyday wear (ranked No.1 in our Best On Running shoes guide for ‘everyday wear’) – in fact, many people who spend much of their day on their feet or traveling (whether for work or for fun) swear by them – including myself. Oh, and as you can see in the photo, they look awesome, thanks to that Swiss design flair!
The men’s and women’s On Cloud shoes are available in a frequently changing range of unique colorways and designs at the On Running store.
The Larq Bottle
The LARQ Bottle PureVis, and LARQ Bottle Movement PureVis, will purify water and neutralize any stinky bottle-odors, completely autonomously. These high-tech self-cleaning bottles can fill up from almost anywhere, even on the trails, and will purify your water, and make it drinkable at the tap of a button. The bottles themselves have all been designed beautifully and make fantastic holiday season gifts for loved ones.
lululemon ‘All Night’ Micro Festival Bag
The perfect small cross-body bag for every day, as well as festivals and nights out, this bag keeps small items secure, with zippered and magnetic pocket closures, and water-repellent fabric. We love how versatile it is – it can also be worn as a hip pack or simply over the shoulder – plus, it’s available in several fabulous color options to choose from.
The Biolite Alpenglow Lantern
We’re loving these USB-chargeable lanterns from Biolite. They deliver both ambient and task-based lighting, offering warm, natural light and a variety of colors and features, such as a relaxing candle flicker mode that you activate by simply shaking the lantern.
One of these would make a great gift for kids as well as someone who loves to travel! Read my in-depth BioLite Lantern review to learn why it won an Editor’s Choice Award.
Caldera + Lab Men’s Organic Skincare
If a man in your life spends a lot of time outside in the elements, like I do, then check out Caldera + Lab – a premium vegan organic skincare company with a difference. I never realized I needed these products until I tried their flagship product ‘The Good’ for 30 days. I now use their full 3 stage regimen daily – this consists of a facial cleanser, moisturizer, and multifunctional serum. You can buy their products as one-offs, or treat a loved one to a subscription to get regular re-supplies.
lululemon reversible 5mm yoga mat
Perfect for yoga as well as any kind of floor workout or post-workout stretching, these natural rubber yoga mats from lululemon have a soft-yet-grippy top layer to help maintain that balance and form, and at 5mm thick they provide support and protection from the ground during yoga practice and workouts. This is the gold standard when it comes to workout-worthy mats!
Chirp Wheel Back Roller
A Chirp Wheel is exactly what your lucky gift recipient needs if you think they’d benefit from doing some relaxing back stretches after long days exploring new trails, or sitting down at work!
This back roller wheel has been featured on Shark Tank and is infinitely better than using a foam roller to attempt something similar. Whether after a long day at work, standing, sitting, driving or doing something more fun and adventurous like hiking with a heavy pack on your back, it’s immensely satisfying to have a more relaxed, less tense back after a couple of minutes of using it.
Christmas gifts for hikers, trail runners & people who enjoy camping
For the people in your life who love to use the outdoors as their gym, or have an innate passion for spending time in nature, whether they’re hiking, backpacking, trail running, or camping.
Somewear Global Hotspot
If your outdoor-loving friend or family member tends to spend time on trails and out in the backcountry, consider spoiling them with the Somewear Satellite Messenger device to help them stay in touch, even when there’s no phone signal at their current location. It also acts as a personal locator beacon in case a rescue attempt is required. This is one of those devices that could literally save their life one day. The Somewear Global Hotspot deservedly topped our list of the best satellite communicators this year.
Carhartt was founded in the US in 1889, originally to supply durable, rugged overalls, and still sells overalls and workwear bibs to this day! Their product range is much more diverse these days, though – it still includes rugged workwear, but also a wide range of men’s and women’s outdoor-ready lifestyle apparel – and many of these items are made in the USA.
For $24.99 you can’t go wrong with a cosy Carhartt beanie for the winter months – they make a great affordable Christmas gift.
Fox River Socks
We love how committed Fox Sox is to sustainable manufacturing processes and to remaining American-made in Iowa. Their mill is also 100% powered by renewable energy, and their socks use sustainable fibers including Merino wool and recycled cotton. These Highland MX2 hiking socks are made to deliver performance across the board. The MX series uses a special blend of yarn to give you the benefits of durable and odor free merino wool along with quick-drying CoolMax® to keep you on the trail. Fox Sox also have some great running socks if you’re looking for shorter socks to give as Christmas gifts.
Jackery Portable Power Station
These Jackery power stations can run or charge your USB or AC (mains) gear while out camping, on road trips, or at home during a power cut. With one of these you can keep all your gear charged, from smartphones, laptops, to CPAP and appliances like mini coolers, electric grill and coffee makers.
Princeton Tec Alloy-X Torch
Princeton Tec’s Alloy-X pen torch offers dual-fuel rechargeable technology and a powerful 400 lumens in a sleek and compact design. With its attached clip, the pen light can be secured to your pocket, belt, or pack for quick and easy access to light when camping, hiking, or countless other outdoor activities. With its 28 hour burn time on low, Alloy-X is ideal for use as a back-up light if others become drained on a longer adventure. We use our Alloy-X for evening walks around our neighborhood with Kepler.
On CloudUltra Trail Shoes
One of this year’s top-rated trail shoes, featured on our best trail running shoes buyer’s guide, the On Cloudultra trail running shoes are excellent long distance running shoes for trails and mixed terrain, including hard surfaces like roads. They also ranked as the #1 trail shoe in our Best On Running Shoes Guide.
100 Hikes of a Lifetime
This National Geographic hardback coffee-table-worthy book will inspire countless adventures. It features the ultimate hiker’s bucket list, from the celebrated Appalachian Trail to Micronesia’s off-the-beaten-path Six Waterfalls Hike, treks through 100 energizing experiences for all levels, together with stunning photography.
The North Face ThermoBall Traction Mule V
Slippers always make a great Christmas gift, right? But these down slipper booties from The North Face – well, they’re that much cooler (well, warmer), while still being budget-friendly! And the beauty of a pair of down (or synthetic alternative) camping booties is that they’re just as useful at home in the colder months as they are at a campsite or in a camper van or RV.
Helinox Chair Zero
The Helinox Chair Zero is the lightest, most compact folding camping chair you can get. At a weight of 1lb and no frills to add weight, this ultralight chair also folds down small and will fit in any backpack or duffel bag for ultimate portability. It’s perfect for travelers, backpackers and people who enjoy festivals and camping.
Osprey Stratos (Men’s) and Sirrus (Women’s) Daypacks
These men’s and women’s Osprey backpacks offer plenty of space for carrying everything that one may need for day hikes, and this sweet-spot size (24 liter) combined with all the pockets and features make them all-round great daypacks for hiking with if you’re looking for a high quality backpack that should last your Christmas gift recipient many years and miles of adventure.
Christmas gifts for travelers
Lightweight, packable, comfortable, and practical gifts for those who love to travel, or always be on the move exploring everything that life has to offer.
How about some mental workouts this Christmas? This is not your average Rubik’s Cube. This smart cube will train you to solve it. Plus, apparently learning to solve the cube also helps with improving memory, concentration, problem-solving abilities… and patience! If family get-togethers are known to try a loved one’s patience, then this could make for a very useful Christmas gift for them, on many levels! It’s also a great way to help the time pass quicker while traveling!
Qalo silicone rings & wedding bands
These men’s and women silicone rings are designed specifically so you can wear a ring(s) 24/7 while reducing the risk of hurting your hands – ideal for people who enjoy sports such as sailing, scuba diving, rock climbing, or work with materials such as metal, welding, wood-working and love their DIY projects. They’re also a good idea for travelers who are concerned about security while traveling with metal jewelry. A great, affordable Christmas gift for an outdoors-loving husband, wife or fiancee.
Rumpl Nanoloft Puffy Scarf
The NanoLoft Puffy Scarf from Rumpl is water-resistant, super warm, and stuffs into a mini stuff sack. What more do you need for traveling and winter? These versatile puffy scarfs make great gifts for travelers or anyone who likes to get wrapped up and spend time outdoors in cold weather.
USA-Made Randolph Aviator Sunglasses
The Amelia, pictured, is Randolph’s bestselling women’s style, perfect for many face shapes. Made with jewelry-quality metals, and scratch-resistant customizable lenses, these shades capture an authentic aviator style dating back generations. For men’s styles, check out their military aviators for a classic look (reviewed here). These customizable USA-made sunglasses make awesome gifts for a style and adventure-loving person in your life.
Kora Neema Crew Baselayer
For a high-quality set of baselayers, check out Kora’s Neema, Yushu and Shola ranges, which are super-warm and made from eco-friendly Merino and yak wool blends. We absolutely love Kora Outdoor clothing!
Slowtide quick-dry travel towel
Once you’ve traveled with a quick-dry pack towel rather than a stink-prone regular cotton towel, there’s no looking back. Equally useful for traveling as for backpacking, beach days, surfing or post-workout sweat-mopping, these Slowtide towels pack down small to fit easily in a backpack, suitcase or gym bag, and come in a wide range of funky designs.
A customized Leatherman multi-tool
A Leatherman multi-tool is the ultimate useful Christmas gift for handy camping and DIY-loving friends and family members. They’re even cooler if you get them customized to your Christmas gift recipient’s style. For example, my ‘Trail & Kale’ customized Leatherman is a Stars & Stripes / Trail & Kale special and looks, in my opinion, amazing!
To customize a Leatherman Surge as a gift click here – or if you also love the look of my custom Leatherman then you can buy the exact design here.
Christmas gifts for your dog
Because dogs are as much a part of the family as the kids. 😄
Kurgo K9 Core Dog Sweater & Loft Jacket
Who doesn’t like it when their dog wears a sweater? The K9 Core Sweater from Kurgo is made from knitted fleece and features an athletic cut for full freedom of motion when on. It’s great on its own, but also pairs so well with the popular Loft Jacket, as modeled by our trail dog Kepler in the picture), that you may just need to get your both for Christmas! Both the sweater and jacket are available in a range of great colors with reflective details.
The Toby & Ace Buddy Dog Bed
The washable Buddy Bed from Toby & Ace is made with orthopedic memory foam and features sturdy bolsters – ideal for chin resting and stopping your dog from rolling off the bed when they fall asleep.
If you decide to buy this bed as a Christmas gift for your dog, make sure you get 20% off that price when you use our code TRAILANDKALE20 at checkout using the button below.
The Fi GPS Dog Tracking Collar
This is just as much a Christmas gift for you pet lovers as it is for your pet! The Fi Dog Collar is the smartest smart GPS Tracking collar for dogs. This collar is chew-proof, water-proof (even the ocean), and Bluetooth enabled to track walks and activity, and to keep your dog in good shape. To learn more about the Fi Collar, if you’re interested in buying the collar as a Christmas gift for your dog, read Kepler’s review.
Christmas gifts for photographers
Being content creators with a passion for exploring wild places means we need the best photography and videography gear to capture moments to share with our readers, friends and family. This gear will help you spot wildlife and new trails, and then capture those moments to video or still images.
Nocs Waterproof Compact Binoculars
These Nocs Binoculars are waterproof, rugged, have high-quality optics and come with a lifetime warranty – while still coming in at a great budget-friendly price point. They come in a range of delightful colors, which is not only a refreshing difference from other binoculars (which usually come in black only), but makes them easier to find in a dark, or a packed backpack when you need them in a hurry! Use these binoculars to spot wildlife or new angles for photography.
Hex Photographer’s Backpack
This is the camera backpack that I take with me everywhere. I love how it can store all my essential photography gear, including my DSLR camera, GoPro, Insta360 cameras, Mini Drone, and accessories. This camera bag is made with premium, water resistant materials, and features a fleece-lined multi-use main compartment with configurable and removable partitions to store all of your camera gear. A top zipper provides quick and easy access to your camera without the need to open main compartment. Click the link below to see more photos of how versatile this camera bag is.
Insta 360 Go 2 Mini Action Camera
You have to see this mini action camera in action to really believe just how small and versatile it is – I recommend scrolling through the Insta360 Instagram feed for that. Check out their website for the full list of features, which includes being waterproof up to 13ft, slow motion and hyperlapse modes, and a remote control function.
‘There and Back’ by Jimmy Chin
The Academy Award–winning director of Free Solo and National Geographic photographer presents the first collection of his iconic adventure photography, featuring some of the greatest moments of the most accomplished climbers and outdoor athletes in the world, and including more than 200 extraordinary photographs. This book will inspire anyone with a penchant for beautiful outdoor photography.
Christmas gifts for music lovers
I’m pretty sure we are all music lovers at heart, but some more so than others! If your loved one is a music fanatic, one of these gifts will be the perfect solution to your gift choosing troubles.
KLH Fusion True Wireless Earbuds
With noise-canceling technology, high-definition sound, 28 hours of playtime from one case charge and an IPX5 water-resistant rating, the KLH Fusion wireless earbuds are a great Christmas gift for music lovers, as well as anyone who enjoys listening to music, podcasts or audiobooks, or spends a lot of time talking on the phone!
Sonos Roam portable smart speaker
You won’t believe the sound quality that comes out of this Sonos portable speaker! Plus, it’s waterproof (IP67), drop-resistant, and has a 10+ hour battery life. Activate it with your voice, and send music to it from your Apple devices easily using AirPlay.
Digital gift ideas [Great last minute Gifts]
These digital holiday gifts cards and subscriptions can be the best last-minute Christmas gifts, and are also a great choice where you don’t know the recipient all that well but perhaps you know they enjoy spending time working out, traveling or spending time outdoors:
- REI Gift Card – any active person of any age or gender can find themselves something cool at outdoor recreation specialists REI. From camping and hiking to skiing, running, climbing or cycling, there’s something for everyone.
- lululemon Gift Card – so you know your Christmas gift recipients likes to work out, whether that’s yoga, running, spin class or something else – well, they’ll be delighted at the opportunity to buy something special from you with a lululemon gift card.
- On-Running Gift Card – if you’re not sure of their size but know your loved one would LOVE a new pair of On Cloud running shoes, then this digital gift card is bound to be well received!
- Audible e-book subscription – if you want to buy a useful gift for someone who enjoys reading and may love listening to audiobooks while working out or in the car, then an Audible subscription makes a great instant digital Christmas gift.
- Strava Premium subscription – a Strava subscription provides a valuable upgrade to the fitness enthusiast in your life who would love the extra metrics, tools and data they’ll get access to with this year-long upgrade to their Strava account! You can gift a Strava Premium membership to anyone, whether or not they’re already using Strava. Currently they also have an offer which gives you two months yourself, as well as the 12 months for your lucky Christmas gift recipient.