One of the best things about Winter is a fresh blanket of pristine snow. And the gear that helps you ride down it. Here are some gifts for the powderhounds in your life.
1. Helmet/Sport Cameras: There are two cameras that are top of the line when it comes to capturing the essence of your kinetics, GoPro and Contour. Both offer many different mounts for many different sports, from snow, to water, to motor. Both do HD and 60 frame per second mode and have long lasting batteries. But the profile of the Contour—and its GPS and its zero-confusion slide switch—make it better for helmet mounted activities, while the GoPro's shape and case make it better for underwater and chest mounted shots as well as the snow. $179 to $349 [GoPro and Contour, Gizmodo GoPro HD Review]
2. Waterproof Cameras: My favorite waterproof cameras come from Panasonic/Lumix by virtue of a great combination of ruggedness and photo quality. The Pentax cameras are rated similarly in terms of freeze resistance down to 14 degrees, but the Lumix is rated to 33 feet underwater, too, for summer adventure at the beach. The Pentax is more pocketable and lighter, for what it's worth. Roughly $200 to $220, discounted. [Pentax/Amazon, Lumix/Amazon]
3. Gloves: There are a lot of wonderful gloves on the market this year. My hands get cold—probably because I take my gloves off all the time to check my phone—and my favorite from last year was the Black Diamond Guide Glove. It's not the dryest glove I've worn but it's got wool liners, so your hands stay warm no matter how damp they get. The outdoor mags are going nuts over these Arcteryx Alpha gloves, which are Gore Pro shell. But I've never tried them. And they cost $275! Hestra makes a pair of gloves with Gore Tex XCR tech (which bonds the outer and inner layers together for a better feel) and really beefy wrist straps. Neat. I'll probably keep using the Guides, myself. $155 to $275. [BD, Arcteryx, Hestra]
4. Base Layers: Patagonia's Capilene base layer system is my gold standard. I use R2s when its in the high 30s and R3s on colder days, and this year they've updated their R4 (the beefiest base layer) to be warmer and quicker drying, by going towards an ultrafine fleece material. Decent for days in single digit temps. I also like Patagonia's Merino base layers, which don't wick quite as well but are even warmer than the synthetic stuff. $45 to $200. [Patagonia]
5. Fleece: Patagonia's high loft R3 fleece is their warmest fleece meant to be layered under a shell, and is made with Polartec Thermal Pro polyester yarn with Polartec stretch materials under the pits and arms. I have an orange one. Love it. $180. [Patagonia]
6. Snowboard: I fell in love with a K2 board last year with a flat profile called the Slayblade. I'll probably keep riding that board, but I'm very interested in local big mountain hero Jeremy Jones' new line of boards with magnetraction (serrated edges good for gripping ice) and blunt noses for shorter profiles and lower swing weight, with a lot of effective carving edge length. There's the Hovercraft, which is 156cm long but by way of width, has the float of a 176cm long board. And then there's the flagship, which is a good all around board for charging hard. $499. [Jones]
7. Hand Warmer: A little something I can imagine would be nice close to your chest on worse days. I could wrap my hands around one when my fingers got cold, too. The best way to stay warm is to stay dry and keep your core insulated nicely, but a little electronic or gas heater can't hurt either. $15 to $28. [Zippo and Sanyo]
8. Skis: When my backcountry ski nerd friend was asked what gear they'd get if they were shopping, he responded by bringing up Black Diamond's Efficient series of touring gear that's designed for lightness and use in "high consequence" ski areas where falling isn't an option. The Quadrant AT Ski Boot has a boa cable tightened liner, four buckles for stiffness, and yet, 40 degrees of ankle movement in touring mode. The Drift skis are wide at 100mm at the waist, for powder, and rockered up front for additional float. $620 and $660. [BD, BD]
9. Solar: Whether charging up gadgets in the backcountry or in a car, I'd prefer the Joos Orange solar battery/solar charger for several reasons: It's tough enough—bulletproof, actually—has 5400 MAh of storage, and is sensitive enough to light to charge in indirect light. And it's only $100. [Joos]
10. Headlamp: For early hikes up the hill or in the glove box in case of roadside emergency, I'd choose a Petzl Tikka2 XP2 Core for its full feature set. Each has red and four white LEDs, and can be programmed by computer to adjust output for the best combination of battery life and brightness, depending on your task. The rechargeable batteries can also be swapped out for AAA cells, too. And each has an emergency whistle on it. $115. [Petzl]
11. Fifty Classic Ski Descents of North America: A coffee table book, of America's best ass-puckering downhill runs, as told by some of the country's best skiers. $60. [Wolverine Publishing]
12. Goggles: The big tech goggle this year is the GPS Zeal optics model with a heads up display that shows temperature, altitude/descent changes, speed and elapsed distance, along with time per run. It's neat, even if the goggles are a little heavy. For a simpler piece of eyewear, I prefer Smith Goggles with the low light appropriate "sensor" lenses because I enjoy riding storms. Of course, goggles need to fit your face and nose ahead of almost any other measure, so its worth trying on the right kind for your face, in a store. $90 to $400 [Zeal and Smith]
13. Apps: There's really only one app for snow these days, and it's The North Face's free ski report app. It's free, so it's not even a good stocking stuffer. But every powder hound needs a good weather app, and The Weather Channel's Max app is my pick for great push alerts, radar, weekend and 10 day forecasts. I love it. The other must is Motion X GPS, because you can load up backcountry maps and save them locally, as well as track your daily runs. Free, $1 [iTunes, iTunes]
14. Winter Tires: If you love someone who spends a lot of time in the snow, and they don't have snow tires, get them some. They'll enjoy driving in the snow more and you'll enjoy feeling like they're a bit safer with snow shoes on their car. [TireRack]
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