If you know someone who wants to venture way off the beaten path but doesn’t want to lose contact entirely, consider the Guide 10 Plus Solar Kit from Goal Zero. The kit’s small solar panel stores energy from the sun to power smartphones, laptops and other portable devices.
Where: Most outdoor recreation stores or goalzero.com
America the Beautiful annual pass
Could there be any better way to cap off the centennial year of the National Parks Service than by giving a gift that literally gives all year long? This pass provides access to more than 2,000 national parks and wildlife refuges, and covers standard amenity fees at national forests, grasslands, and lands and waters managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers. It’s valid for one year from the month of purchase. Through 2016, REI will donate 10 percent of the proceeds from all passes it sells to the National Park Foundation. Special passes, including those for military members, individuals with disabilities and U.S. residents over age 62, also are available.
Where: REI, 7483 West Towne Way, or nps.gov
Scuba diving classes
The Try Scuba program by MadisonScuba Snorkeling and Dive Center is designed for curious kids and adults who aren’t quite ready to commit to an open-water environment. The center’s trained and certified instructors guide students through basic scuba skills via pool games and underwater activities at the Sun Prairie High School swimming pool (where lifeguards are on duty). Snorkeling classes also are available.
Where: MadisonScuba Snorkeling and Dive Center,
686 Progress Way, Sun Prairie, or madisonscuba.com
The BioLite CampStove generates power for charging LED lights, phones and other devices by burning only wood. But this “smokeless campfire” also doubles as a stove that can cook meals and boil water. The company
says the flame performance is on par with white gas stoves.
Where: REI, 7483 West Towne Way,
Personal water filter
LifeStraw is a popular water-purification device that allows hikers, backpackers, campers and other adventurers to safely drink directly from streams, lakes and other natural bodies of water. The company says LifeStraw removes “99.9999 percent of waterborne bacteria, including E. coli, and 99.9 percent of waterborne protozoa, including giardia and cryptosporidium.” Since the product hit the market more than a decade ago, LifeStraw has developed several related products and generously distributes its product in Kenya, Haiti, India, Ecuador and other countries in which water is often not safe for drinking.
What good is camping or hiking if you don’t look (and feel) cool doing it? The versatile accessory known as a buff — you know, like the ones contestants wear on Survivor — offers protection from the sun, minimizes moisture loss and helps regulate body temperature. The odor-resistant material also blocks harmful UV rays, and the buff can be worn as a headband, hood, neckerchief or even balaclava. The buffs are one-size-fits-all and come in a variety of designs.
Where: Orvis, 1650 Deming Way, Middleton, or Orvis.com
Speaking of looking cool, we’re not sure how the “world’s first airbag for cyclists” — from the Swedish company Hövding and only readily available in Europe and Japan right now — would go over with style-conscious Madison riders. But the latest in helmets still warrants a mention here. Taking the form of a portable collar, the Hövding uses advanced sensors to detect the rider’s movement patterns and will inflate in case of an accident to provide head and neck protection. Researchers at Stanford University say the device provides “near perfect” protection against concussions.
Closer to home, POC’s Tectal helmet doesn’t inflate, but it is a super-lightweight (340 grams) piece of headgear designed for aggressive trail riding and enduro racing. The reinforced EPS liner provides a high level of protection, and the uni-body shell construction further enhances the safety properties and structural integrity. The Tectal has become an increasingly popular option and provides more coverage than more conventional mountain bike helmets while still providing a comfortable and secure fit.
Hövding Cost: $450
Where: eBay or hovding.com
POC Tectal Cost: $190
Where: Erik’s, 3813 E. Washington Ave.,
795 University Ave. or 6610 Seybold Road