2021 Gift Guide for Mountaineers

Gear

Are you planning to meet your mates from that trek to Everest Base Camp to discuss future adventures? Pre-holiday or Christmas dinner at the local mountain club? All are great occasions to exchange some gifts, without hitting the budget too hard.

Top holiday gifts for mountaineers

Let us help you choose. Below, some of our ideas for a mountaineer’s gift exchange. Except for one case, we’ve kept all the items at or below $50.

Nervana Tibetan Prayer Flag, $12

Best For: Hanging at home, inside or outside, or in a special gathering outdoor place

  • Size: 25.4 x 25.4cm
  • Materials: Cotton
  • Colors: Five shades (red, green, yellow, blue, white)
  • Details: Large 7-metre-long strand featuring 25 flags

The Buddhist Lungta (wind-horses) are the Tibetan prayer flags seen all around the Himalaya. They are meant to be placed outdoors, in order to let the wind take the prayers printed on them up to heaven. The sacred texts, the drawings, the colors and even the flapping sound is all about promoting peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom.

They come in the classical five bright colors, representing the five pure lights and the Five Elements: Blue for Sky, White for Air, Red for Fire, Green for Water, and Yellow for Earth. These are hand-made in Nepal and are 25cm (10in) square. The 25-flag set measure about seven metres when stretched out.

See the Nervana Tibetan Prayer Flag

Petzl Sm’D Locking Carabiner, $19

Best For: Climbers, alpinists, and mountaineers year-round

  • Size: Mid-size with a 20mm gate
  • Materials: Aluminum
  • Colors: Yellow
  • Details: Lightweight construction at 46 or 51g

One of Petzl’s most versatile locking carabiners. Its “D” shape is easy to handle and the “H” frame grips easily with the gloves on. It’s a mid-size carabiner (20mm gate), extremely light (46 or 51gm, depending on style) but impressively reliable.

It has a major axis strength of 23kN. It can connect to other devices, including belays, lanyards, a Grigri, etc. The twist-lock system (here) worked well for us with a Grigri while sport climbing. It is also available with a screw lock.

Finally, it includes Petzl’s Keylock system that helps avoid accidentally snagging on your gear. Moreover, there is something symbolic about giving a carabiner as a present, something so durable, safe and reliable — an image of true friendship.

See the Petzl Sm’D Locking Carabiner

CTJ Chalk Bag, $21

Best For: Indoor gym climbers and outdoor climbers from sport and trad to boulders

  • Size: 13 x 13 x 18cm
  • Materials: Water-resistant, durable polyester exterior and fleece interior liner
  • Colors: United States National Park prints including Zion, Joshua Tree, Monument Valley, and Yosemite
  • Details: 114g with a drawstring top closure and dual attachment points

A nice touch of art to wear at the climbing gym or outside, for those based in currently warm places. Its medium size and classic shape makes it excellent for bouldering but it also fits for all rock-climbing disciplines.

It’s well-built and sturdy, with a fluffy fleece interior, a drawstring closure to prevent chalk spilling all over your bag (and you) when not in use, and double belt-loops to keep it from swinging on overhangs and bouldering moves.

What makes these bags special, however, is their colorful design. They depict iconic U.S. climbing spots.  The one above features Yosemite’s granite giants, Half Dome and El Cap. Other models show Zion’s Angel’s Landing, Joshua Tree National Park, and the sandstone towers of Utah’s Monument Valley.

See the CTJ Chalk Bag

Darn Tough Vermont Midweight Hiking Sock, $26 

Best For: Everyday boot-wearers, day hikers, and long-distance trekkers  

  • Size: Small (35-38 EU women’s), Medium (38-40 EU women’s), Large (41-42 EU women’s)
  • Materials: 69% Merino Wool, 27% nylon, 4% lycra spandex
  • Colors: Four unique color-blocked variations including Slate, Denim, Plum Heather (pictured here), and Moss Heather
  • Details: A midweight, boot-high sock with a 360-degree full cushion option or cushion option that wraps around the calf, shin, heel, toe box, and beneath the foot

We know, we know, socks are the worst present ever…but these are different. Many hikers and skiers still think that nearly any sock will do, as long as you wear good boots. Surely, they also think that blisters and cold toes is also part of the game.

I personally am a fan of merino, and these midweight socks are 69% merino and the rest, bombproof material that holds it all together. They feel soft but don’t shift or wrinkle. They are seamless, with a soft, cushioned sole and ribbed support that stays up but doesn’t impair circulation.

This time, we have chosen a women’s model (love the colors!) for not-so-extreme conditions, but the company makes thicknesses, lengths, and colors for everyone and every activity. Last but not least, the U.S. company that makes these socks, Darn Tough out of Vermont, guarantees them for life. The minute you wear a hole, you get a new pair of socks.

See the Darn Tough Vermont Midweight Hiking Sock

Dream28 Ice Cleats, $26 

Best For: Non-technical hikes and everyday use from shoveling to walking down the driveway or around town  

  • Size (insulated boots): Medium (40-41 EU men’s), Large (42-42 EU men’s), Extra-large (44-46 EU men’s)
  • Materials: Stainless steel and silicone
  • Colors: Black or orange
  • Details: 28 spikes and double-chain

These stainless steel spikes feature a chain system and a silicone frame. They attach easily and quickly to all kind of outdoor shoes and boots for sure footing on icy trails.

Please note the word “trails”: They are for non-technical terrain. They are NOT proper climbing crampons for hazardously steep terrain or hard ice. But they do shine on winter approach treks. The mini-teeth bite in better than those models with small carbon studs. Finally, they are unisex, light, and packable.

See the Dream28 Ice Cleats

Dr. Prepare Boot Dryer, $29

Best For: Drying out the interior of gloves and boots after exercise or travel in snow

  • Size: 28 x 9 x 17.5cm
  • Materials: Unavailable
  • Colors: Black
  • Details: Heat circulation at 40-50°C for up to 99 minutes per cycle with a 90-degree folding design and a portable weight of 1225g

A boot dryer is always a good idea, and there are endless options on the market. We liked this one because it has an ozone option to eliminate odors (and follows FDA guidelines).

The two poles are great for insert shoes, boots, and other garments such as gloves and hats. When not in use, both poles fold into the side of the base, making this boot dryer easily portable.

See the Dr. Prepare Boot Dryer

Craft Glove and Mitten Combo, $35

Best For: Cyclists, runners, and skiers

  • Sizes: XXS to XXL
  • Materials: Polyester exterior and brushed elastane interior
  • Colors: Silver and black or flumino and silver (pictured here)
  • Details: Five-finger gloves with attached mitten cover that’s waterproof and wind-resistant with reflective details

Gloves are a must in cold weather, but it’s hard to balance warmth and breathability in high-intensity sports. Contrary to what most people think, the problem is not temperature when you’re exercising hard, but the wind. Too thin a glove may not be warm enough and too thick will get our hands sweaty, which is worse.

A pair of medium-thin gloves plus a lightweight shell mitten are ideal. I fell in love with these while randonnée racing, but they are also excellent for normal ski touring, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, winter trail running, and cycling. This pair comes from Sweden, where they know a thing or two about both cold and cross-country skiing. The stretchy inner glove combines with a light, waterproof outer mitten. It covers the back of the hand and the four fingers, shielding them from the wind, while leaving the thumb free.

See the Craft Glove and Mitten Combo

Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain High Gaiters, $49

Best For: Hikers traversing muddy, snowy, buggy, or debris-dense terrain

  • Size: Small (35-40 EU men), Medium (38-42 EU men), Large (41-45 EU men), Extra-large (43-47 EU men)
  • Materials: 420-denier nylon
  • Colors: Black
  • Details: Fabric is breathable and gaiters are secured via a buckled strap that reaches beneath the boot plus an upper lace hook

Gaiters are a must for mountaineers who refuse to stay at home in rough weather. The ones featured here sacrifice the Gore-Tex layer for economy but offer enough protection against water, snow, mud, and dirt.

Materials are waterproof and durable, thanks to a Hypalon instep strap, reinforced boot lace hooks, and a buckle top closure with a hook and loop front closure.

They are the best and simplest way to keep your feet dry when part or all of the way is covered in snow. To clean, just give them a quick rinse and throw them in the washing machine.

See the Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain High Gaiters

Black Diamond Alpine Bod Harness, $50

Best For: Ice climbers and alpine climbers alike

  • Size: Extra-small (56-68cm waist) through extra-large (89-99cm waist)
  • Materials: Quick-dry nylon webbing
  • Colors: Black
  • Details: Traditional buckle closure around waist, quick-release buckle leg loops, four gear loops, and a 12kN-rated haul loop

Is your in-law bragging again about being ready for Mont Blanc, Mt. Rainier, or even the Seven Summits? Black Diamond’s BOD Alpine Harness is an absolute classic for both expeditions and climbs. It is light and easily packable, which is great because part of the time, it rests in your backpack.

Once you’re about to climb or reach crevassed terrain, you can put it on without having to sit down or take off your crampons, thanks to its quick-release leg loops. Its four gear loops hold a belay lanyard, carabiners, rappeling device, ice screws if needed, or that essential item for commercial high-altitude mountaineers — the jumar.

We have chosen the non-padded model in order to save some grams. Waist padding is not as essential as it is in rock climbing, because this harness is usually over layers of clothing on flat, glacial terrain or for rappelling. In case of crevasse rescue, its 17kN-resistant haul loop make it more reliable than some other ultralight — but scary — models.

See the Black Diamond Alpine Bod Harness

Kailas Selma II Climbing Helmet, $108

Best For: Rock or ice climbers, mountaineers, spelunking, and tree climbing

  • Size: Extra-small to medium (48-57cm), or medium to extra-large (53-61cm)
  • Materials: Super lightweight EPS foam with a polycarbonate shell
  • Colors: Yellow, bright blue, or flame red
  • Details: Eight vents including two with stainless steel mesh covers plus four clips to attach goggles or headlamp

We have chosen this final item for a good reason. Winter hikers and climbers are often hesitant to wear helmet on “easy” ascents and traverses. The fact is, that there is no easy ascent in winter.

Accidents multiply and a helmet can make the difference between a scare and a serious injury. There are many options for helmets in the market, but most of them over $100.

In our search for a relatively inexpensive yet safe option, we have chosen this one by Kailas, the (Chinese) company ever-present in Nepal’s expeditions. Its design might be not so cutting-edge, but it is certified UIAA/CE/EN certified (UIAA106 EN12492 CE1015). It looks comfortable and light enough (220gr) while offering protection for ascents and climbs in alpine, mixed, or snow-ice conditions.

And sure, you can tell everyone you got it before climbing Manaslu in October: Just make sure you have an explanation ready about how far you reached.

See the Kailas Selma II Climbing Helmet

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About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Senior journalist, published author and communication consultant. Specialized on high-altitude mountaineering, with an interest for everything around the mountains: from economics to geopolitics. After five years exploring distant professional ranges, I returned to ExWeb BC in 2018. Feeling right at home since then!

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