Inexpensive hiking gifts available

Posted Dec. 11, 2009, at 10:28 p.m.

If you still haven’t found that perfect gift for the hiker on your list, I have a few ideas that could make your shopping a little easier.

First, head for Epic Sports in downtown Bangor, at 6 Central St. Brad Ryder, the owner, and his sales crew make it effortless in sorting through their selection of outdoor-related products.

The store is well stocked with an array of outdoor goods that vary from paddling, snowshoeing and skiing to mountaineering and backpacking. For hikers, backpackers and campers, the place is a true one-stop shop. They really carry everything from quality tents, backpacks, daypacks, stoves and water purification to every acces-sory you can imagine.

Stopping in the other day, I got a guided tour of some of the hiking products in demand this year.

I wasn’t looking to spend too much. The shopping budget wouldn’t accept the challenge. Instead, I stayed away from the higher-priced goods and concentrated on finding unique accessories and items that would fit in my price range of less than $30. By the time I was done, I found a number of unique gifts that any hiker would welcome on the big day.

The first item I discovered on the rack of headlamps was a headlamp that is the smallest of the bunch. It’s the E+LITE model, made by Petzl, and is the smallest light I’ve seen. Although it only weighs an ounce, including batteries, it’s a five-function LED lamp with two white lights and one red. The on/off switch can easily be operated with gloves on. Petzl claims to get 45 hours of use from the batteries. The light has two flashing modes and is $29.95.

Next, I headed up the stairs to the tents, backpacks and sleeping bags. I know any of those are more than I wanted to spend, so I looked at sleeping pads and accessories and discovered a travel pillow that compacts to one quarter of its size. It’s made by Therma-Rest, and is perfect for backpacking, because it’s light at only 9 ounces with a price of $22.95. It’s not a queen size at 14 by 18 inches, but camping overnight would be a little softer when you rest your head on this cushy pillow.

Over in the camping kitchen area I found a French press coffee maker made by GSI Outdoors for $24.95. It’s an unbreakable BPA-free carafe that makes 30 ounces of coffee. The lid is double-walled insulating plastic. The carafe is lined on the outside with a removable EVA sleeve that provides insulation for the coffee inside and protection for your hands on the outside.

If coffee just isn’t your thing, there’s a stainless steel insulating water bottle that will hold 32 ounces of hot cider or cocoa. It’s made by Guyot Designs, a Maine company. It’s basically a double-walled, wide-mouth bottle with a screw-on lid which is attached to the bottle with a cord leash, so there’s no chance of losing the lid. It’s $22.95.

The budget got a little stretched when I looked at the next couple of products. The first is a hydration pack made by Camelbak. It’s a top-loading pack that’s big enough to hold a few items for a day hike or snowshoe trek, plus a two-liter water bladder with an attached hose. The heat from your back is warm enough to keep the water inside from freezing in winter. The hose that runs from the bottom of the bladder and extends to your lips for drinking is insulated with neoprene so it won’t freeze either. The pack, water bladder and attached hose together are $54.95.

The other item that broke the budget relates to snowshoeing, there’s a pair of telescoping snowshoeing poles that are made by Tubbs for $49.99 for the pair. They’re a typical three-section pole made from 6000 series aluminum, perfect for balance when you’re wandering the trails on snowshoes.

Downstairs in the book section I spied a small guidebook that’s packed with snowshoe and cross country ski trips in Maine, from Bradbury Mountain State Park to Aroostook County State Park and every place in between. The title is “Winter Walks: Maine,” by Marty Basch and is loaded with detailed maps showing contours and routes. It’s a great little book with accurate trail descriptions. It’s $15.95.

I found a neat set of multi-tools that are the smallest of all the multi-tools out there. They’re made by Swiss-Tech. They make several models, but the one I looked at is an eight- function tool that includes four different-sized screwdrivers, a pair of pliers, wire strippers and cutter and a sheet shear. It folds up to a size that’s small enough to keep on a key ring or zipper pull. It weighs 1.6 ounces and is priced at $13.99.

Finally, every hiker loves socks. There is a wall of socks in the store with brands made by Wigwam, Darn Tough and my favorite, Smartwool. They make cushioned sole socks of 80 percent wool blend that are sure to keep the tootsies warm, dry and comfortable on your favorite hiker’s next hike. The model I looked at is for trekking, at $17.95, but they also make hiking or mountaineering models. Give a hiker these and they’ll think of you every time they lace up their boots.

These are just a few ideas I gathered while I was there. Shopping for outdoor products doesn’t have to cost a lot. Most of the gifts I looked at are under $30. The more I saw, though, that budget kept expanding. If I had stayed in the store any longer I could have maxed it out until it burst.

But, then I wouldn’t have had money left to get presents for anyone else except me.

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