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14 useful gifts for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts

Illustration by Patrick Hruby / Los Angeles Times; animation by Li Anne Liew / For The Times

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This is part of the L.A. Times 2022 Gift Guide. See the full guide here. If you make a purchase using some of our links, the L.A. Times may be compensated.

Since the start of the pandemic, some of your friends and family have probably upped their outdoor game. These gifts are for those who love to hike, camp and trail run — or for those who just want to picnic on a nice blanket or take a joy ride with their dog.

Grayl UltraPress purifier

The UltraPress purifier - Nature Edition by Grayl
(Geo Jenkins)

Ever wish you’d brought more water? We took this lightweight purifier up with us to Millard Canyon and drank from a shallow pool of water far from the falls. It quenched our thirst, and we weren’t sick later that day — or the next. You just fill the reservoir, insert the filter and press it downward for a few seconds. (No more waiting 30 minutes for a water purification tablet to kick in.) It eliminates waterborne pathogens for 300 presses (then you replace the cartridge). Use it for camping trips, foraging journeys, long hikes and any other time you’ve emptied your Hydro Flasks or cooking jugs.

$89.95 at Grayl

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Hyperlite Mountain Gear Versa fanny pack

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Versa Fanny Pack
(George Benington / Hyperlite Mountain Gear)

A hiking fanny pack doesn’t have to be cute, but it helps. The white version of this one is chic enough to wear to your post-hike brunch, and, as the name claims, light enough to barely be felt on long hikes. It’s surprisingly spacious, expanding enough to fit a massive wallet, or a large water bottle, keys and a phone. Made by a company that designs waterproof gear for camera equipment, the stuff inside stays dry on any hike, even if it’s just your granola bar and bear spray. A downside is that the waist strap isn’t inclusive to larger hikers, but some may be able to wear it crossbody or attached to a daypack.

$79 at Hyperlite

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Janji 5” AFO middle short

5" AFO middle short by Janji
(Janji)

Those seeking a sleek pair of shorts for trail-running jaunts: look no further. These five-inchers are a nice length for a serious trail runner, but not so short that you’d feel awkward grabbing a bite to eat post-run. They’re super lightweight with a sweat-wicking brief liner, but it’s the recycled poly material that’s the real draw here. The shorts are so smooth and soft, you could wear them as lounging boxers — and probably will. A practical back zip pocket holds your phone, and an internal pocket protects your key or card. (If you prefer hiking to running, try the 7” Transit Tech Short or the Atlas Tech Pant.) A five-year guarantee makes the staple worth the hefty price tag.

Starting at $64 at Janji

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Hoka Speedgoat 5 running shoes

The Speedgoat 5 shoe by Hoka
(Hoka)

We tried on more than a dozen pairs of trail running shoes, and the truth is, the best shoe for you depends on your foot type. But for many, the Hoka Speedgoat 5 will be a fit, with a cushioned fit and some of the best traction in the game, thanks to a Vibram Megagrip sole. This workbeast sole can handle technical trails, traversing mud, water, rocks, loose soil and steep inclines with aplomb. Mt. Baldy Run-to-the-Top, anyone?

$155 at Hoka

WrightSock Double Layer Coolmesh II Tab Anti-Blister System Sock

Double Layer Coolmesh II Tab Anti-Blister System sock by WrightSock
(Martin Evans / WrightSock)

This trusty anti-blister sock is an easy stocking stuffer. A dual layer is the formula for no blisters, with a thin, snug inner sock that won’t chafe, and a thick outer sock that absorbs any movement and minimizes rubbing. Designed to feel like it’s almost nonexistent, the WrightSock is lightweight enough for SoCal heat. Your feet can breathe through them for longer walks, biking trips, runs and hikes — and speaking of which, this sock is best for lighter hikes (grab a pair of Darn Tough Hiker Boot Full-Cushion Socks for longer hauls and the PCT).

$15 at WrightSock

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Yeti Hopper Flip 12 soft cooler

Hopper Flip 12 Soft Cooler by Yeti
(Yeti)

The king of coolers is back with a flyweight (3-pound) contender for best leakproof insulator. So why would you get a soft cooler? It’s pliable for mashing into a backseat floor or overstuffed trunk and easier to carry against your body, with a padded shoulder strap. The mid-sized 12-incher works for both work and play. We toted it across the city for a beach picnic, to the woods for camping and to the office as a glorified lunchbox. The results? Still-cold watermelon, refreshing salads and sandos, crisp celery for ants on a log, and even palatable ice cream and popsicles after a couple hours in the sun — with an ice pack within. Plus, it has spots to hitch side bags, water bottles and carabiners, and even the zipper is leakproof.

$250 at Yeti

Trango Rock Prodigy Training Center

The Rock Prodigy Training Center by Trango
(Trango)

If someone you love wants to be a more serious rock climber, this home training center can help them up their game without hitting the gym. Conditioning goes a long way in climbing, and this is the best little tool we’ve seen for improving the very specific needs of climbers. The most obviously cool facet is that this trainer is split into two parts, so you can cater its spacing to the width of your arms. The edge rails have variable depths with index bump marks to help you calibrate your daily improvement. And pinch grips help target thumb flexors, helping you to increase grip strength.

$159.95 at Trango

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Rex Specs dog goggles

A dog wearing V2 for Rex Specs goggles in the snow
(Rex Specs)

We know a few L.A. dogs who live to pop their heads out of the window or sunroof, and these goggles are a stylish way to protect their eyes from outdoor gunk, including bugs and/or excess of sun. They’re UVA/UVB protective, impact-resistant if your dog tends to crash into things, and have an adjustable strap. Should your dog agree to wear them (treats, please!), she’ll be ready for hardcore outdoor adventures, not just a cruise down Sunset. Pop doggo in the sidecar of your motorcycle and head for a deep woods hike, where she can leap through sand, mud and brush without damaging her eyes. The lenses are replaceable too. They’re even good for swimming, with quick-draining lenses designed to allow air flow so they don’t fog too much.

$84.95 at Rex Specs

Nemo Victory Patio blanket

The Victory Patio Blanket by Nemo
(William Kramer / Nemo)

Nemo’s clever, attractive blankets roll up neatly and fit perfectly in their tents. The compact Patio Blanket feels luxurious for what it is: a tent floor and picnic blanket. You’ll want to stow it in your trunk for concerts, camping, hiking and park days. The carrying handle makes it easy to latch onto a backpack or tote to the beach. The bottom is waterproof, and there are lots of little thoughtful details: corner loops that can be staked into the ground, a mesh pocket to store extras and a closing latch that doubles as a bottle-opener.

$139.95 at Nemo

Nikon Aculon A211 8 x 42 binoculars

Birdwatching Binoculars for the hiking guide for the LA Times Gift Guide 2022.
(Nikon)
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The bright green, red-crowned parrots you see (or rather, hear) across L.A. aren’t the only fascinating fowl around, and a pair of binoculars can help you hone in on Costa’s hummingbirds, California scrub jays and hooded orioles flitting through your oaks and palms. This starter pair available at REI will kick-start your study of our avian friends during walks and hikes, without too steep of a learning curve or too much weight on your wallet. They’re powerful enough to spy a bird or mountain lion up the hillside and work in lower light. They’re also comfy on the face and the eyecups adjust to work both with glasses and without.

$109.95 at Nikon

Patagonia Torrentshell 3L jacket

The Torrent Shell by Patagonia
(Patagonia)

Our winters can bring moist hikes, from morning dew to outright downpours. The recycled nylon Torrentshell offers rain protection but also looks good doing it, in a wide variety of colors and a sleek silhouette. It’s a jacket that transitions easily from coffee runs to adventures, from a misty morning Palos Verdes hike to a sweaty summer vacation in Vietnam. The pockets are watertight and hand-warming, and generous pit zips help vent your steam as you hike. The stiff brim on the hood lets you keep looking ahead as you hike. You’ll need layers underneath if you’re going cold, so size up so your arms can move. One caveat: This crinkly affair is not a quiet jacket, but the level of protection is worth it at this price point.

$149 at Patagonia

Barebones Hori Hori Ultimate Knife

Hori Hori Knife (for foraging, camping) by Barebones
(Barebones)
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Your favorite gardener, camper and forager will love this Japanese-inspired Hori Hori knife. Though the sharp blade may look a little scary, you can order it with a sheath that protects you from accidents. With a serrated edge and a smooth edge, this knife is seriously multipurpose. Cut garden twine, root out dandelions, harvest greens, dig holes for planting and trim back overgrown chamomile or asparagus. We use it to harvest plants on foraging forays and on camping trips to gather kindling, saw thin branches, pound tent stakes and even to slice up veggies for the campfire. The walnut handle is so sturdy you could even use it as a pestle, crushing garlic cloves, chiles and spices for camp dinner. Perhaps the most satisfying feature? The twine cutter doubles to crack open a beer at the end of the day.

$69.99 at Barebones

Uco Eco mess kit

Eco Mess Kit by Uco
(Uco)

This is a simple, nifty little two-in-one camping or picnic plate. It’s actually a bowl and a plate, opening like a Tupperware when you take off the secure band and undo two sliding snaps. Inside is a spork and knife combo that slides together. The inventive design allows you to combine them into a long utensil for deeper containers. When you want to save the last of the roasted sweet potatoes at camp for your next morning’s hike, just tuck them inside this travelware and into your cooler or bear container. You can also attach it to the outside of a backpack using the tether to save precious space.

$29.99 at Uco Gear

GSI Selkirk 540 2-burner camp stove

Selkirk 540 2-Burner Camp Stove by GSI
(GSI Outdoors)
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This two-burner propane stove can handle a winter hotpot party or a humble camp stew, thanks to its 10,000-BTU-per-burner firepower. Besides being gloriously orange and hard to miss amid any camp mess, it’s easy to fire up with a button push. The controls are precise — something that’s not always a guarantee with a camp stove. Hot water boils at the speed you need for 6 a.m. coffee, while making oatmeal on the other burner. Its wraparound windscreens keep out dust (and detach if you need to use a bigger pot for, say, popcorn). The stainless steel cooking plane cleans easily and a handle helps you carry it back to the car, a full and happy camper.

$139.95 at Amazon

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