With the Holidays fast approaching I thought I’d do a series of posts about gift ideas for outdoor enthusiasts. Here are five gift ideas for kids based on my personal experiences with my own outdoor loving kids.
#1. Kids Hiking Backpack
Deuter Junior Pack $39
There’s something about kids and backpacks. I think they just feel a little more grown up carrying some of their own stuff, plus it can help make a parents life considerably easier by allowing them to carry a few of their own things. Of course you need to keep the weight reasonable for your child’s age, but even a young child (like my 3 1/2 year old), can carry her own lightweight jacket or fleece, a few snacks and a small water bottle. If your thinking, well my kid already has a Spiderman backpack for school that they can use, your probably correct, but I’m recommending that you get a separate one and one that is a specifically designed with hiking in mind. The reason I’m recommending you get a separate one is it helps separate hiking from everyday activities (like school) and gives the bag a little special meaning. I know that sounds cheesy, but believe me, if you get a different one and keep it packed with stuff, pretty much ready to go, they get really excited when you tell them to go get it, and check to make sure everything is there for your trip. The main reason I believe you want a backpack that is designed for kids and hiking is because it will have many features a school book bag will not. The Deuter one above is top loading and is fairly compress-able with the cinch straps and buckle closures. It has padded shoulder straps which make it more comfortable if there is some weight in it. It has sternum straps that buckle. This is a very important feature to help keep the pack in place and keep it from sliding off of their shoulders. There are multiple small pockets to store things in, plastic rings to clip things onto and mesh side pockets. The side pockets are super handy for stashing water bottles or small, stuffed animal friends that must be able to see! There are really a lot of good kids backpacks to choose from, and it gets more complicated as your child gets older, so really think about what you do most often and what will best fit your hiking or backpacking needs and budget.
Petzel Tikka 2 LED Headlamp $29
Another one of those things that really gets my oldest daughter excited when we go camping is her headlamp. She loves to wear it around and look at things in the dark, plus it frees up her hands for other things… like drawing in her sketch book or poking at things with sticks. This headlamp has 4 LED’s. The lamp tilts light up or down and has 3 light modes (high, low and blinking) Any adult that has used a headlamp knows how handy they are. Heck, I find uses for my headlamp just around the house all the time, and your kids will learn this too. That’s why, even with the advertised 90-120 hours of light, it’s almost a necessity that you purchase 3 AAA rechargeable batteries. It will save you money, and you won’t feel so guilty or upset if your kid accidentally leaves it on in their bag.
#3. Camping or Hiking Journal
Rite in the Rain $10
We are an artistic family and we enjoy drawing and journaling about our trips. Especially my daughters. Emma has been keeping camping journals since she was very young. She draws pictures and writes about things that we do on our trips. I think it’s a fantastic way for her to take a little extra time to look at what’s around her and to remember all that we did. I believe that even if you think you or your child are not very artistic or creative, that a journal or an “Adventure Notebook” are a great activity for any kid that enjoys the outdoors. If they don’t like to draw, they can make a scrapbook of their outing or adventure. Get pictures from postcards or photos they have taken on their own and glue or tape them onto pages. Fill it with leaf rubbings or simply words that express something that they saw and how they felt seeing it. An example might be if they see a unique flower, have them just describe the color, how it feels or smells… all of these things really make everyone take a step back and observe things differently, and documenting them is something that when you all look back on it, you will find to be very special. Don’t forget to date and note the location. This Rite in the Rain, All-weather Journal is cool. The pages are all weather and won’t get destroyed if they get wet, and I like the bright yellow plastic cover. Really though, this gift idea is more about giving your kids a gift that allows them to document their excursions, and is also very age dependent. My 3 year old can fill a 50 page small notebook in about 15 minutes if we’d let her at it with a few colored pencils, so we buy her small 4×6 spiral bound unlined notebooks for something like $3-$4 each. Emma, my 8 year old has graduated to “real” 5.5 x 8.5 Canson sketch books. Go to any art store (Michaels has a good selection) and check out all of the different sizes, paper types, binding options cover possibilities, and price ranges. Don’t let it overwhelm you, just remember, its not what’s on the outside, it’s what’s on the inside! I think this is a gift idea that the whole family could participate in creating and enjoy looking back upon…I know we do.
#4. Whistle & Compass
Coghlans Six Function Whistle, Compas Combo $12
Few things scream the outdoors morer than a compass or a whistle, so how about a six function combo? I think giving a kid a compass is an education in science and observation. Have them line up and face North and observe where the sun is at different times of the day. Take an old fashioned map of where your hiking. Heck, so many hikes have downloadable and printable maps on the internet now, print one on your inkjet printer just to take along to use with the compass. As your hiking, ask your child what direction do you think we are heading? Then check to see. This doesn’t look like the worlds most accurate compass and at $12 with all the other small things you get, It probably isn’t but it would be a great introduction to the cardinal directions and orienting yourself with a map. It is my opinion that a safety whistle is just one of those things any young kid (or adult for that matter) should have on them when hiking in the outdoors. You can explain when and why you would need a whistle and get them used to the idea of being prepared with a map, compass and whistle when they go out hiking. The LED Light could come in handy at times and the thermometer is a neat feature is it’s fairly accurate. The signal mirror and magnifying glass are great additions and allow you to teach lessons on being rescued if lost. All of these items are important items themselves, but to find them in 1 gadget that a kid could clip onto their jacket and keep close at hand in a pocket is a super cool idea. I think I will need to be buying 2 of these this Christmas.
5-10 Times Magnification $15-$40
Binoculars are another one of those things that make any kid feel just more grown up. They are also an amazing tool for observing pretty much anything outdoors. Binoculars are great to get a closer look at Wildlife such as deer that are a little too far to see real well or to help see the color variations or markings on birds. Really quickly, when looking for binoculars, There are a few things you should understand and look for. First of all, since I’m recommending this as a gift for a child (or even a young adult) You want something that is fairly durable. I think you definitely want to get “real” binoculars if your going to do it. I don’t think I would even get my 3 year old daughter the Fisher Price ones, especially at the $25 they want. If you search on Amazon you will find all price ranges and a huge assortment but you will also find a lot in the $15-$40 Range. I recommend any of the ones with a brightly colored rubber outer body. The rubber outer is just more “grippy” and the rubber does have some shock absorbing capability. A bright color will help you to more easily find them if your child sets them down somewhere while they eat a handful of trail mix. Secondly, Make sure they come with a neck strap, or at least a way to attach one. That will also help them to not get left behind.
Here is a quick lesson on what the numbers mean when your researching and trying to select binoculars. the brown text below the picture is the Amazon product description. “Barska 10×25 Compact Waterproof Binoculars”. Now it would be an easy to assume that the binoculars magnify 10-25 times, but that would be incorrect. The first number is the magnification…10. That means things will appear 10 times closer than they actually are. The number after the X (in this case 25) is the diameter of the objective lense or the opening size of the binoculars, in Milimeters. The larger the opening the more light is allowed in and the better you will be able to see in lower light conditions. Also, the tighter the field of view will be within the binoculars. For the general uses you’ll be wanting to get from these, the 25 mm diameter of the objective lense is just fine. They are a good, all around binocular. You will see most of them in the 5-10 magnification will all be in about the same sized diameter range. Now one last thing… More magnification isn’t always better. The more magnified something is, the smaller the field of view is. Let us compare a 5 to a 10 times magnification in respect to the field of view. At 5 times magnification the object will appear to be half as near as the 10 times BUT… you will be able to see about 2 times more of whats around it. This becomes important with kids (or adults), because although the magnification is greater, it is often times more difficult to locate what your looking at through the binocular. For many it can be frustrating or at the very least, time consuming to locate what your trying to see more closely. Next time your at a dept store that sells binoculars go and look through them. don’t just look through them, try to locate certain objects with the different magnifications. That should help give you an idea of how much magnification you think will work for your child. I hope that the above information is helpful. Don’t let it scare you away from this as a gift idea, any kid would be ecstatic to get a set of binoculars as a gift, and I think you would enjoy them too! If your kids share…
So those are 5 gift ideas I have come up with for kids that enjoy hiking or camping or pretty much any outdoor-nature activity. As you can see, although I highlighted some specific products, I’m not necessarily recommending them, just more of the idea of them. Choosing the right gift for your child within each category is specific to your child’s age, ability to act responsibly and possibly their varied experience levels. What I do know from my personal experience, is that each of these recommendations teaches them a skill or helps them to more thoroughly enjoy the time you spend together in Nature.