ROAM’s 2018 Holiday Gift Picks

When it’s time to start holiday shopping, I like to think about the hard-to-buy-for people. And those people are me.

As a traveling dad who needs not much, I pulled together ROAM’s 2018 Holiday Gift Picks with an eye for the things I’d love to see under my tree – and I even threw in a few ideas for the other travelers in my family – because Christmas.

Gift Ideas for Travelers

A Bag for Every Trip Yes, we’ve said it before. But Patagonia knocked it out of the park with their Black Hole duffels. I was just packing for a trip to Baja and I had so much gear set out I didn’t think there was any way it could all fit inside – but it did. I think they cost more because they include magic.

A Backpack Cooler for the Apocalypse The Yeti cooler/backpack looks like the perfect “necessity” for days paddling on the river.  I like bringing beers while paddling. Most sentient beings do. This cooler would also solve so many issues on where to pack keys, phone, wallet, and other beverages.

A Wine Glass for the Apocalypse Let’s please give Hydro more of our money because, man, they can really keep a beverage cold/hot for days, seriously.  This year, we’ve saved up and hope to purchase one Hydro wine flask. After buying a second next Christmas, we will be able to toast to New Year’s 2020!

An Indoor/Outdoor Slipper Damn.  Home, car, travel, plane, out to dinner, work.  I want these SeaVees just because they look 100% comfy.  I love wearing my swim trunks to dinner in summer, and my slippers to dinner in winter. While my trunks pair nicely with a rose or a local pilsner and oyster shucking, these slippers go best with a medium-bodied red or an IPA and some hipster mac-and-cheese and grilled lamb. Ooops, I forgot what I was talking about. Oh, slippers! Yes… And they’re great for the plane and fold up nice when you land. Happy.

A New Lonely Planet My teenager is really sick of me showing him my beaten-up copy of Lonely Planet’s Southeast Asia on a Shoestring. So this year, he’s getting their new A-Z of Wildlife Watching, which appeals to the nature photo/videographers of the world. Fellow travel geeks will want the new LP Travel Atlas, while mini travelers might be interested in Ancient Wonders: Then & Now or their shoestringers-in-training books on strangest or most dangerous places. Way to prep the next generation of backpackers, LP…

A New Dopp Kit – Ever start to pack up some things from the bathroom and realize your toiletries bag is decomposing/filthy/caked with something that exploded from your last adventure? I hear you. In time for traveling last summer, I broke down and bought four great Reisenthel bags for our family: Clear TSA-approved toiletry case, a larger clear bag to hold meds/first aid, a black, bottomless pit of a dopp kit that holds a ton (mine was all black tho) and a teen-sized, hanging, compact personal toiletries bag. I still want more.

A Waterproof Phone Housing The Watershot Pro is rated for 195 feet.  So, my chest cavity will implode, but my iPhone will be fine – and the housing allows me to film the implosion and post it on social media.  Because, otherwise, what’s the point? Plus, this costs a fraction of a full water housing for my Sony a6000. Don loves his fancy Fantasea housing, so if you are a fancy diver like him, that might be a good call.

A Cool New Watch  The Vaer classic is simple. Classy. It’s got a sapphire crystal so won’t scratch, and a 100-meter waterproof rating so I can wear it to watch the time during the above-mentioned implosion. Prior to that, it looks good out at dinner, doesn’t attract attention while traveling, and you can wear it surfing and snorkeling without a worry.   

A Tiny Light  What little kid doesn’t love a flashlight for the first 5 minutes? A BugLit light will hold their interest for at least ten, and when they look away, you can steal it and use it when you’re reading in bed, camping, or otherwise needing of light on the road. For off-the-grid situations, Luci’s solar lanterns are awesome and their string lights make it look like Christmastime at your campsite all year round.

A Seatback Pack   Rather than blocking the aisle, rummaging through your carry-on, pondering the necessity of each and every item, and irritating the people behind you waiting to board the plane [read: me], you can organize your chargers, lip balm, phone, book, and other flight gear in this handy Flight 001 Seat Pak pouch. Thank you.

A Travel/Play Tray Oh, I miss the days of being constrained by a lap belt and damaging my inner organs trying to feel around on the plane floor for my son’s dropped trucks. You parents of today can contain your little one’s traveling fun with the new Go Happy Travel Tray. The raised edges keep toys on the tray table and your kids hands germ-free. Nice.

A New Leatherman Sweet love of Jesus.  These new Leatherman tools have very implement needed to deal with breakdowns or mishaps on a trip.  Would I spend this much on myself? Nope. Would this make a great gift? Yes, yes it would.

A Car-Seat Option  My days of car seat-lugging ended while Bush Jr. was still in office. But if your child weighs more than 35 pounds, buy a Ride Safer Travel Vest and you’ll wave goodbye to the hassle of dragging car/booster seats around town and around the world.

A Travel Blanket  If you get as cold in November as my wife Lynne does in July, you’ll want a Rumpl’s down outdoor blankets. It’s splurgy but it stops the whining in its tracks. Or opt for Kelty’s Shindig blanket which does double-duty as a something warm and something you can sit on at Hardly Strictly without getting a muddy butt.

An Expensive Version of a Useful Accessory  Oooooooohhh tie downs!  Who doesn’t love tie downs.  Can anyone get enough tie downs?  These Wraptie GearTies are nuts. No stupid buckles.  No limitations on length. Perfect.  And they’re expensive, so you know you’ll use them.

A Bike Bell How fun are these Nutcase bells? Just clicking through this gallery makes me smile.

A Portable Purifier  If you’re in the backcountry all the time then you know a LifeStraw is a lifesaver. What I discovered is they’re so small and easy to pack, they work when you’re overseas in an undrinkable-water spot when your son drank the bottle’s last gulp and you still need to brush your teeth and you’re too lazy to get dressed again and walk down to get another bottle of water.

A Wire Manager  This Travelon tech bag organizes the stuff you get sick of packing and unpacking like wires and cords and ear buds and converters and aaaarrrrgh. And it’s small. And you could tape a label on one pocket that says “IS YOUR CHARGER HERE?” in case you’re the kind of person who forgets their’s because I am not. Really, I’m not…

An Archer-Worthy Lighter  OK. There is no guy I know that doesn’t love to set stuff on fire.  Not a one. That’s why the Peanut Lighter is so cool: It’s small, so not reeking of macho BS. But, if you needed to start a fire, this thing can do the job and be sophisticated. Like, you could put down your local, Sonoma County craft bourbon (I’m looking at you, Don), and start the fire. Classy, and awesome.  It’s the lighter that Archer would carry.

A Better Tote  Those packable shopping bags are great, until you have to use one to take 5 kilos out of your bag before checking a bag and then carry it on a multi-day trip home because your wife had to buy spices/etc. to take back to her friends at home. That’s when Lynne breaks out this Lug Puddle Jumper. It’s got some structure and pockets that make it infinitely easier for me to carry for her.

An Easy Chair My camp chair recently ripped out when I sat in it – much to the amusement of my friends. Jerks. But the good news is that REI has these Flexlite Macro Chairs which are way better and will certainly last long enough to be passed down to my grandchildren.

A Power Source What Californian doesn’t need one of these mini Yeti 150 generators? No, I can’t rationalize the expense, myself, but every time I see one in action, I am insanely jealous.

A Link to More Not enough gift ideas for you? Check out ROAM’s 2017 Best Gifts for Traveling Moms & Dads, or the ROAM 2016 Gear & Gift Guide.

And happy holidays – I mean that. I do.



by Paul Puntous, ROAM Gear Editor, November 2018

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