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The holiday season is about joy, celebration, and togetherness — but it can sometimes turn into a time of stress, guilt, and exhaustion. Often, the pressure to find the perfect holiday gifts can lead to these grinchy feelings. 

Identifying the perfect gifts for your outdoorsy friends is tough. They seem to have every type of outdoor gear imaginable — and they’re extremely particular about the gear they like.

Not only is it difficult to choose the right gifts for your outdoorsy friends, but sometimes it feels wasteful. Getting a gift someone already has — or won’t end up using — just doesn’t feel good. 

Luckily, we’ve got a new idea for you this holiday season: Give more experiences, and fewer things, to the people on your list. 

 

Why Experiences Make Great Gifts

 Friends enjoying the view on a hike

We’ll admit it — there’s something fun about unwrapping a physical gift. A book, a pair of your favorite socks, or a new kitchen gadget all make wonderful gifts. And there’s nothing wrong with physical gifts. But there’s a lot to love about experiential gifts:

  • Experiential gifts can cut down on waste. Eliminate (or at least lessen) the use of wrapping materials, and skip a delivery or trip to the store by opting for an experiential gift.
  • Experiences create lasting memories. Rather than collecting dust in the back of someone’s closet, your gift will create priceless memories that can last a lifetime. 
  • You don’t have to worry about giving a gift someone already has. There’s nothing worse than choosing the “perfect” gift — only to discover the recipient already has it. On the other hand, no experience can be the same twice, so experiential gifts will never be redundant.
  • You can avoid the Black Friday rush and spend more time enjoying the holidays. When you’re giving an experience, you focus more on the thought — and less on the transaction — involved in gift-giving. That means you can spend less time in the checkout line and more time hanging out with friends and family.
  • You can get creative — and spend as little or as much as you want. This goes for physical gifts too, but the truth still stands: Some of the best gifts are free.

If you have a big family or celebrate with a lot of friends, buying gifts — physical gifts — can be tiring. You might even find yourself rotating through the same few gifts every year because you’re exhausted trying to find something new.

But by giving experiences, you’ll be giving gifts that people will actually use, remember, and cherish for years to come.

 

10 Experiential Gifts to Give Your Outdoorsy Friends This Holiday Season

Friends mountain biking

You might be excited about giving your outdoorsy friends experiential gifts — but have no clue where to start. Below, we’ve got you covered with plenty of ideas for all budgets and interests.

 

1. Homemade (or restaurant-made!) meal

Who doesn’t love a great meal? The beauty of a gift like this is that there are lots of ways to do it. If you’re a talented cook, make a delicious meal yourself. If you want to give your presence, too, your gift could be a dinner together — your treat — at a favorite restaurant.

For the die-hard outdoorsy, give them a coupon for a gourmet picnic lunch — and take them on an adventure for a meal with a view.

 

2. Donation

Some people truly prefer to give — not receive. For that friend, a donation made in their name might be the most meaningful gift.

Donate to a cause your friend is passionate about — maybe a local conservancy, a climate action group, or an environmental justice organization. They’ll appreciate the thought and the difference your gift makes in the world.

 

3. Surprise (or choose-you-own) adventure

This gift could go two ways — depending on how the recipient feels about a surprise. 

To make it a surprise: Plan one amazing outdoor adventure for the two of you to do together. Maybe it’s a winter snowshoe hike with hot chocolate to follow or a soak in a nearby hot spring. Give them a “ticket” for an agreed-upon date, and tell them what they’ll need to be prepared. They simply show up ready to go, and you lead the surprise adventure!

Alternatively, you could make this more of a choose-your-own-adventure. Give a “catalog” of different possibilities: skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, paddling — and let them choose. Then you plan the logistics and make it happen.

 

4. Membership or punch pass for their favorite activity

A membership or punch pass is a gift that keeps on giving while encouraging the recipient to do something they love. 

Whether your friend likes yoga, indoor rock climbing, swimming, or cross-country skiing, there’s likely a local membership or pass for their favorite activity. And if you’re on a tighter budget, you can often buy a single session pass rather than a full membership.

 

5. Camping trip

This gift may have to wait for warmer weather to arrive, but sometimes the best things are worth a little bit of a wait.

Give a coupon for a weekend of camping. Let your friend pick the destination — and choose the dates together. Then you make the plans, book the site, pack the meals, and arrange the whole thing. This gift will be fun to look forward to throughout the rest of winter — and when it arrives, will create the best kinds of memories.

 

6. Local guided adventure

When you love outdoor adventures, It's easy to ignore the activities in your own backyard. But often, these hidden gems can help you appreciate nature right outside your door. 

Give your friend the gift of being a tourist in their own area. Find a local, guided outdoor activity that they’ve never done — like snowshoeing, sailing, fishing, or hiking. Then give them a gift card or promise to arrange their guided activity whenever they want to schedule it.

 

7. National park pass

At Cloudline Apparel, we love exploring our national parks — and we bet your outdoorsy friend does, too. A park pass is a thoughtful gift that gives them free admission to one or more parks — which, if they visit them often, will be very handy. 

If they live near a single park they go to all the time, an annual pass for that particular park is a great idea. Or, if they travel often, hitting multiple parks throughout the year, an interagency pass gets them into any national park across the country for a year.

 

8. Gardening starter kit

Gardening can be a fun, soothing, and rewarding activity for those who love the outdoors. But it doesn’t always come naturally. If you have a friend who’s interested in gardening — but doesn’t know much about it — create a “beginner’s kit” to help them get started. Include a variety of seeds, a book to teach them the basics, and a few essential tools — like a watering can, gloves, and trowel.

This gift will require a little shopping on your part — but it could be the beginning of your friend’s new favorite hobby.

 

9. Airbnb or travel gift card

Let’s be real — your outdoorsy friend is always scheming their next adventure. How about giving a fun gift that can help?

Give a unique gift card to help jumpstart their next adventure. Airbnb and other lodging providers, airlines, and even Amtrak all offer gift cards that make a fun, out-of-the-box gift.

 

10. Course or lesson

The pandemic spurred a lot of new hobbies and interests. And it’s highly likely you know someone with a new interest or curiosity — but not the skills to match.

Give them a course or a lesson about a topic they want to learn more about. You can find courses on any topic these days. Gardening, wilderness medicine, camp cooking, permaculture, sewing… the sky’s the limit, and they’ll be a pro in no time.

 

Try something different this holiday season by giving more experiences and fewer things. Your outdoorsy friend will appreciate the thought, and you’ll enjoy giving meaningful, unique gifts.

What’s the best holiday gift you’ve ever received? Let us know in the comments below! 

Emily Batdorf
Emily Batdorf

Emily is a copywriter based in northern Michigan. She's happiest outdoors, whether she's hiking, skiing, paddling, or swimming. As a writer, she loves working with companies that inspire all people to get outside. When she's not writing or playing outdoors, you can find her cooking, reading, or hanging out with family and friends. Find more of her writing here.


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