A shorter version of this article first appeared in Elevation Outdoors, on 12 June, 2020
How will you help Dad pull his family through the End Times? With one of the following gifts, of course. These are all items for the burly, active Dad, even in his new pandemic-enhanced reality. Maybe he’ll hunt and gut a rabbit with that that tactical knife you buy him—or maybe he’ll use it to (savagely) slice open frozen pizzas and Amazon boxes. Either way, he’s covered, plus we’ve given some thought to Dad’s workout and work-from-home gear, as well as new camping gear and a few stylish masks. Enjoy.
Knife: 8551BK Mediator ($295) is a blade from Oregon-based Benchmade Knife Company. The Mediator is a nicely weighted (2.89 oz.), palm-fitting everyday knife with a black blade that pops out with a super-quick push-button opening mechanism. The 3.3-inch blade is suitable for a variety of tasks, and it can clip onto any pocket or boot-top. Sure, the Mediator is designed for badass police and military work, but it’s also perfect for unsealing cardboard boxes. Stand back, everyone! Dad’s about to slice into a box of coffee filters. You can also customize this knife with a laser engraved message, name, or initials.
Headlamp: BioLite HeadLamp 200 ($44.95) is lightweight (200g), bright (200 lumens), and most important, comfortable. The BioLite has only the settings I need, including red light for late-night, quarantine kitchen operations and ‘lock’ mode to conserve the battery during travel and hiking. I love the simplicity of this lamp and it’s understated design; it slips into any shirt pocket or backpack and fits children’s heads too. Another option is the Radiant 170 Rechargeable Headlamp ($24.99) from Nite-Ize; it puts out a reasonable 170 lumens of flood lighting, and also red-light mode, adjustable tilt, and a detachable body that converts to a hand-held light with a comfortable, flat design.
Nite-Ize also makes a fun line of light-up dog leashes and this NiteDog Rechargeable LED Collar ($24.99) with belt-buckle style closure and end-to-end illumination in either glow or flash mode. One more idea: the SiteLight Mini ($19.95) is a string of four 150-lumen ambient lights that are dimmable and rechargeable by USB. The SiteLIght would be nice for pathways, campsites, or even inside the tent or campervan; they are strung on 10 feet of cord and weigh only 2.5oz.
Sleeping bag and pad: Whether Dad is camping out on the back deck, the couch, or the mountains, hook him up with this bag-pad combo from ThermaRest. The Questar Sleeping Bag ($329.95) is a high-performance, three-season bag, rated to -18 degrees C, and 0 degrees Fahrenheit, with 650 fill down, and is designed for all weather. It also has a modified mummy shape and comes in a few different lengths, for different members of your family. Of course, that’s only half the equation for a solid’s night sleep—for the mattress, the Topo Luxe Pad ($144.95) is four inches thick(!), and folds up very small. (That’s NOT the Topo Luxe in the photo here, that’s on older RidgeRest, which I make the kids sleep on until their backs deserve four inches of air.)
Fitness: Brute Force Athlete Kit Sandbags (from $109.95) can help shift Dad’s workouts to home, if his gym is still closed. I’ve been bench pressing my daughters, but they either shift around in the laundry basket, or they can’t stop giggling no matter how many times I shout “stiff as a board!” So a non-wiggling solution was a welcome addition to my home gym. These sandbags are reportedly used in CrossFit and US Navy workouts “and will humble most athletes right out of the gate.” Weight is adjustable from 25lbs to 75lbs.
Running: When my gym closed in March, I took up running for the first time in years. I started off in stiff, chafing cotton, but soon upgraded to high-performance, lightweight, quick-drying gear from Maloja (pronounced “mah-low-yah”), a German brand named after a region in the Swiss Alps. Specifically, their LagsM shorts ($139.99) are silky, stretchy, reflective, and have a built-in inner that keeps everything in place. The small elastic mesh pockets are so hidden, it took me two uses to even find them, but they fit everything I needed to carry. On top, Maloja’s multi-sport GuaudM multisport shirt ($99) is made of a light, perforated polyester material treated with Polygiene, an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal agent. So far, I’ve worn this shirt-short combo three mornings in a row and it’s true, they barely smell. I’ll report back after two more weeks. More affordable, this Men’s Short Sleeve Performance Americana T-Shirt ($24, enter code 4DAD for discount) is made out of four recycled plastic bottles; it’s lightweight for running, has a crew neck collar, and is perfect for that Memorial Day 10k which will be rescheduled for next year.
Earbuds: SOUL’s ST-XS2 ($79.99) is probably the best fitting, most discreet, low-profile wireless earbud I’ve tried. These things are full-on Secret Service, including a single-tap play-pause button. They have a unique little ergonomic C-shaped ear hook which keeps them in place without any uncomfortable pressure; the IPX7 weatherproof protection keeps them working even when covered with sweat, rain, or snow. They’re small and truly wireless, which can make them easy to lose, the only real drawback, but they do come with a charging case that plugs in and can hook onto a keychain or fit in a pocket.
Pants: Dad keeps getting older and his jeans keep getting stretchier. Could be time to upgrade Dad’s old blue jeans to the Boulder Denim 2.0 ($109), made of organic cotton blended with recycled polyester for breathability and Cordura for durability. And the stretch? Boulder Denim boasts “proprietary 360-degree Extreme Diagonal Stretch (EDS) technology”—put that in your pipe and smoke it. These jeans also have extra deep pockets, reinforced stitching and loops, and come in black for stealth mode; they’re also 100% vegan—the faux-leather patch is made from corn. For something a bit lighter and more versatile, these Mountain Khakis Waterrock Pants ($99.95) are equally appropriate for hiking, traveling, or at the office—especially the home office, where their comfy casual vibe is still totally professional if your webcam accidentally pans down.
Shells & Jacket: For drizzly, snowy morning runs, Beyond Clothing’s Motus Jacket ($140) is a lightweight hooded jacket for warmer temperatures that sheds water like it’s not even wet. It’s made from a 4-way stretch, double-faced nylon polyester with an inner face of bamboo charcoal yarn fabric, which is naturally antibacterial, antifungal, moisture wicking, and insulating. For higher elevations and colder temps, Elevenate Motion Down Jacket ($250) is a lightweight but super-warm insulated jacket stuffed with 750-fill, 95/5 white goose down; its shaped sleeves are a nice fit and I like the insulated hand pockets and Lycra finish to cinch up the sleeves and bottom. Another shell option is the LurinM ($199), very effective against wind and rain, and with a tight waist cinch and storm hood.
Sock: For running, I’m rocking these low-rider Swiftwick Flite XT socks ($23.99), which are made with all kinds of technical zones and fancy stitch-work, specifically for running or workouts. They have breathable uppers for ventilation, more padding on the sole, and wick-and-dry magic. Swiftwick makes a large range of outdoor/active-oriented socks, including a Colorado-flag mountain-scape. If Dad is a professional healthcare worker or service worker, maybe get him a pair of ASPIRE Twelve compression socks ($29.99); they “reduce fatigue and swelling from long days on their feet, promote increased blood flow, and prevent blisters.”
Shoes: Danner’s Trail 2650 ($149.95) is a lightweight hiking shoe that is breathable, waterproof, and as durable as ever (my first pair of Danner’s was my wildland firefighter boots 17 summers ago). The Trail 2650 is as casual and comfy as a sneaker, but will be at home as soon as it’s time to test it on the trails.
Pack: Whether Dad is a photographer or not (Peak Design typically targets professional shooters), this Everyday Backpack ($259.95) would be handy for all kinds of other activities, even if that’s just toting your portable office from room to room. This is a slick, low-profile, but high-capacity bag with quick access to cameras, lenses, tripods, or other gear and with stiff, velcro-sticking adjustable dividers and compartments. The newer ones have MagLatch hardware for quick opening, dual side access, dedicated sleeves for laptops, tablets, or documents, plus other internal slip pockets. These weatherproof packs come in 20L and 30L sizes and both the sling and messenger bag versions are handy too, for when you need your kit hanging right in front of you.
Work from Home: FluidStance Balance Board (from $189) is one of the few items I’ve checked out recently which has been a literal game changer for my home office. First, it incentivizes me to mix standing up with sitting while I’m working on my laptop, and then it makes me move various parts of my body that would otherwise be totally still atrophying away. The “micro movements” necessary to adjust your feet, ankles, legs, and hips as you stay balanced on the board add up in a very healthy way and even burn calories. The balance board has two heights to work from and a few stylish deck options; all boards are made with a die-cast, military-grade aluminum base topped with a half inch of either maple or bamboo. The same company makes The Slope ($59), an old-school metal whiteboard, but with a sleek white design that fits on your desk between your keyboard and screen, so you can take notes or doodle during all those Zoom meetings.
Alcohol: Order a delivery that Dad won’t soon forget; or, maybe he will, doesn’t matter. Jose Cuervo launched its first añejo tequila this past spring—Tradicional Añejo ($32.99 per 750ml, order via Drizly or Reservebar) a premium tequila matured for more than one year in American oak barrels, and then finished for up to four months in single malt Irish whiskey barrels from the world’s oldest licensed whiskey distillery. including and more for a suggested retail price of. For wine, grab Dad a gift package from Elway’s Reserve, like this 7Cellars Farm Collection ($30, but you’ll get 20% off and free shipping on all online orders using the code WINE4DAD), which was just released in March, 2020. With every purchase, 7Cellars makes a donation to Team Rubicon, a nonprofit organization that supports, trains, and deploys U.S. veterans on disaster relief missions around the world.
Coffee: If you know me, you know I’m a huge fan of Nicaraguan Arabica coffee. The Nicaraguan highlands have healthy volcanic soil, ample shade from cloud forest cover, and ideal altitudes at which to grow it. They also process more of the bean there, adding to the flavor, IMHO. There are a few ways to get some Nica coffee in Dad’s mug, starting with Twin Engines Coffee, a socially conscious company that offers a range of single-origin beans in various gift sizes. I love the Traveler—Nicaraguan Specialty Coffee Sampler ($19.99), which includes 10 different 2.11-oz. whole bean samplers, each telling you the region and altitude where it was grown; the whole thing comes wrapped in brown paper, making it feel like you’re getting some secret package. Twin Fin Coffee just started shipping Nicaraguan beans, in addition to their other Central American blends; they plant a tree in Central American for every bag sold and also support a non-profit organization that helps Nicaraguan-Costa Rican relations and Nicaraguans in exile. Get a 12-oz. bag of The Boom ($14.99), which gathers the best beans of Nicaragua’s Dipilto highlands, via the PRODECOOP coffee cooperative.
Another option is to sign Dad up with Mostra Coffee (prices vary). This “2020 Roaster of the Year” winner offers a subscription program for single origin beans from around the world, including products like their popular Guatemala Bella Carmona Peaberry Instant Coffee. Get Dad a gift card, a bag, or a subscription and watch him sit back and make profound comments on the caramel, toasted almond, or pear notes in his cup.
Sleep: One more item to end the night right—how about a Nodpod Weighted Sleep Therapy Mask ($39) to drape over your eyes and forehead? Chill it in the freezer for warm nights, or just enjoy the subtle weight of the bags atop your face.
Mask: It wouldn’t be fashionable to not include a fashionable mask section in a 2020 Father’s Day piece, so here it is. This 3-layer Gray Chambray (on sale for $7.99, pictured here) from SwaddleDesigns (they now manufacture masks alongside baby blankets) was designed by a nurse, is made of 100% cotton (180 thread count), and has a bendable nose piece and soft ear straps. Or perhaps Dad prefers something in a dark camo or other design? Check out the Independence Mask ($16) selection, from Indie Source; these are tightly woven 100% cotton masks with pockets to insert changeable filters, including N-95s. Plus, for every unit sold, they’re donating one mask to a service industry or health care professional in need.
Denver-based Sheets & Giggles, a bedsheet company, just partnered with Designed By Us, a nonprofit organization “on a mission to make the world work for 100 percent of humanity by investing in under-represented voices in science, technology, engineering, arts, math and design (S.T.E.A.M.D.)” to create this amazing line of haute couture protective cloth, hypoallergenic face masks ($44 each). These masks are made from sustainable, eucalyptus lyocell sheets, which are softer than cotton and, they report, use up to 96 percent less water than most cotton sheet production. Designed By Us has a “Design Corps of changemakers” which actively “promotes diversity and inclusion amongst the LatinX, Black, LGBTQ+, Indigenous, Filipino, Indian, Asian, women, disabled, aging, and veteran populations.” Plus, when you buy one mask at store.designedbyus.org, two units of PPE (e.g.masks, face shields) are donated to essential professionals on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.
One more: German-based Maloja clothing, mentioned above, just launched a new line of protective unisex face masks ($12-15) with Polygiene’s Viraloff technology. They are 3-layer reusable masks made of breathable, stretchy polyester fabric with a fleece insert that acts as a droplet filter. Instead of ear straps, this mask has elastic bands for a comfortable position around the head and neck, and it’s nice to be able to drop the top strap and let it hang down, in between times when it’s necessary.
T-shirt: Finally, because, why the hell not? A “twin with your mini” combo gift for Dad and one of the kids: matching “Keep on Truckin” T-shirts ($30 adult, $25 kids) from Sawyer, also available in long sleeve crew-neck sweaters. They’re a 60/40 cotton/poly blend with retro style for the whole family. You’re welcome: