Help outdoor enthusiasts and fitness freaks train hard and recover better with these athlete-focused gifts.
Whether you know someone who loves hitting the gym, working out at home, or training for backcountry adventures, we have a gift for them. We’ve waded through the enormous and sometimes dubious options (neoprene “altitude mask,” I’m looking at you) to find the best fitness-related gift options.
Happy holidays — here’s to continuing fitness efforts to enhance the enjoyment of the great outdoors.
For the adventure athlete and outdoor fitness buff at the top of your “nice” list, the COROS VERTIX 2 ($699) is hard to beat. Aviation-grade, dual-frequency satellite communication and up to 60 days of battery life ensure that every workout generates super-accurate data, regardless of duration.
Although aimed at climbers, recording and analysis of vertical gain apply to almost all mountain sports. And the VERTIX 2 tracks more data than most will ever need, including heart rate, power, pace, speed, ECG (electrocardiogram) O2 saturation, and HRV (heart-rate variability). The watch connects to a host of exercise devices and machines, including cutting-edge devices like the CORE body temperature sensor.
To top it all off, the navigation, titanium alloy case, coated sapphire glass, and silicone band all proved reliable during my 3-month test run. The only ding is the VERTIX 2 isn’t ANT+ compatible.
Tifosi Sports Glasses: From $25
Sports glasses protect the eyes from potential disasters, like branches in the trail or rocks thrown up by the rider ahead, and style does matter. Glasses from well-known brands can cost hundreds of dollars, some of the inherent value no doubt tied to the brand name.
Tifosi Optics turns a lot of this on its head. Its sports-worthy glasses start at just $25, and the ones I’ve tested for cycling and climbing average $80. I have a drawer full of sports glasses, some costing up to five times as much, and I cannot say that the more expensive ones are worth the price differential after trying Tifosi glasses for the last half-year.
The lenses have all been durable, and I’ve always found a tint perfect for the situation. The adjustable temples and nosepieces on most of my models have made Tifosi glasses the best for my hard-to-fit face (narrow nose bridge, high cheekbones). And there are so many styles and variations that any scrooge can be satisfied.
Theragun Percussion Massagers: From $199
Sore, achy, or tight muscles are all part of the game for any avid outdoor athlete. And working on tissue mobility trends toward the bottom of the list for busy adults. Theragun percussion massagers can address both as a tool of self-care.
Percussion massagers exploded a few years ago, and Theragun was one of the first players. It has stood its ground on pricing, and testing the 4th Generation Theragun PRO showed me why.
Yes, the OLED display is nice — it connects to an app for guided treatments — but what sets the Theragun PRO apart from other massagers is the sheer power of the motor and the adjustable arm and multi-grip. The motor is the most powerful by far of any massager I’ve tried.
And all that power doesn’t mean anything if it’s not applied correctly. The adjustable arm and handle that works in all orientations allow treatment of areas unattainable by other percussion massagers.
Trail and mountain athletes can all use a solid set of lightweight poles. Whether on the training hill or the glacier, poles improve safety, can prevent injury, and add enjoyment to almost anything involving going up and down.
The MSR DynaLock Ascent Carbon Backcountry Poles proved their mettle to me, training on limestone rocks at home in Texas and across vast snowy expanses in Alaska.
The MSR DynaLock Ascent Carbons ($170) are light, at a verified 8.1 ounces (with strap, without basket) per pole, and they proved rigid enough for hurried Alaskan descents with a 40-pound pack. The three connected sections allowed compact storage when my training routes left the hills.
MSR includes snow and dry-land baskets, and the DynaLock tension adjustment works well even with thicker gloves.
We’ve all been there: You’re at the trailhead, ready to ride or run, and you’re squirming in your seat, hoping nobody walks by while you change into your training pants or shorts. Then, when you are sweaty and dirty, you reverse the process, hiding between your doors.
I’ve wrapped towels around me, only to have them come undone at the most comical of times. And, during the summers in Texas, I’ve soaked my seats in salty sweat when I didn’t have a towel. Now I leave the Orange Mud Transition Wrap ($45) in my car at all times.
It’s a stupid-simple concept with added flair. The properly sized microfiber towel has a hook-based closure system to keep it tightly wrapped around your waist or upper chest while you change. Then when you’re ready to drive home, a zipper converts a short edge into a hood that fits your car seat’s headrest to keep it from falling down as it prevents sweat and dirt from soiling your seat.
Busy fitness buffs know the drill: Brush off the dust and chalk and try to slide into happy hour wearing workout pants, hoping it’s all good. Having pants that can go from bike, crag, gym, then to the local pub is a time and laundry saver. But looking like a sports addict all the time might get old.
The LIVSN Ecotrek Trail Pants‘ ($129) gusseted crotch, drawstring waist, roll-up and latch cuff, and stretch fabric make it the “normal” looking pant for cycling, climbing, hiking, and the gym. But then they let you sip brews with the crew, no self-consciousness necessary.
The fully synthetic stretch fabric has proven to dry quickly from both cycling and climbing sessions during my short time using them thus far. And the hidden zipped front pocket that resides in a normal front pocket has kept items secure while bouldering. I cannot comment yet on long-term durability, but LIVSN has a stout warranty program.
Tunes are a requirement for both motivation and distraction during some workouts. And sometimes, headphones or earbuds won’t work, are uncomfortable, or aren’t safe. That’s when a Bluetooth speaker comes in handy. But with so many on the market, it’s hard to decipher the good deals from the bad.
This EarFun Audio UBOOM L speaker ($80) surprised me. At only $80, I didn’t expect much, but the sound, particularly the bass, beat out many speakers that cost much more. Credit the digital signal processing, dual 55mm drivers, and passive radiators for delivering bass that is astonishing for a speaker that is only 8.25 x 3 x 3 inches.
The speaker floats and is IP67 waterproof and dustproof. It uses USB-C to charge quickly, and the built-in microphone lets you answer a call without breaking stride.
Athletic Brewing Co Beers: From $14 (6-Pack)
Post run, bike, hike, climb, workout, etc., beers are a socially conscious tradition to many. But I’ve always found it ironic that much effort gets spent on improving health, only to become at least partially negated by the alcohol in the tasty suds.
Non-alcoholic beers have been around, but I’ve never liked any of them until recently. The new crop of “near beers” opened my mind and taste buds to parking lot or trailhead happy hours. Athletic Brewing Co. is one of the brands that made drinking with the crew enjoyable without any drawbacks.
I’m partial to heavy, dark concoctions in the colder months, and the All Out stout tasted rich, went down smooth, and filled me with the satisfaction that I drank a “real beer.” When the Texas summer hit, I often chose the Run Wild IPA and found the flavors from the five Northwest hops to be refreshing.
Athletic Brewing Co. offers 100% vegan and low-gluten brews as well.
A great alternative to a chest strap monitor, the Wahoo TICKR HR Monitor ($80), which comes with two different-sized straps so you can adjust for fit and comfort, measures heart rate and calorie burn during exercise. The armband has a water-resistant IPX7 rating and a 30-hour runtime.
It also connects via Bluetooth so you can pair it with your Apple Watch; Garmin cycling computer; Strava, Zwift, or Nike Run account; Wahoo Fitness trainer; and more.
Do you have fitness freaks on your list who are always on the go? Help them maintain a civilized level of hygiene with the NEMO Helio Pressure Shower ($130). This shower system packs small in an included stuff sack, so it can stay in the car at all times.
And it delivers 5 to 7 minutes and 11 L of pressurized water via a 7-foot hose and spray nozzle. A foot pump charges the system, which can be filled anywhere without a hose and can heat up in the sun. Perfect for rinsing off after a sweaty or muddy workout, surfing, or paddleboarding. It also works on four-legged training partners.