Picking a unique and exciting Father’s Day gift shouldn’t be that hard. Hint: avoiding cliché gifts like whiskey stones or neckties is a good start. But if you really want to hit a Father’s Day home run this year, you’ve got to go a little bit deeper. For outdoorsy dads that means consulting other hikers, bikers, climbers, and amateur fishermen. Because an REI membership is a good start but a pocket-sized water filter or a fishing rod he can share with his kids will show you did your homework.
Two of the outdoorsy dads we talked to recommended this packable and inflatable sleeping pad for camping trips with their kids. Rob Urry, a father of four and grandfather of 11 who lives in Utah and goes hiking every chance he gets, said he uses his on the ground or in a hammock. “These are the best pads ever! They blow up with just a few breaths, are lightweight and are super comfortable. Works great on the ground or in a hammock. I was sold when I tried one out on the cement floor in a Costco.”
Paul Ronto of RunRepeat was a rafting and hunting guide for years and has traveled all over the world to climb mountains, hike, and bike. His first recommendation is a good headlamp. “Anyone who spends any time outdoors needs to have light. There are a million options out there but I’d recommend the Black Diamond Spot. It’s cheap, but it’s not lacking in performance. They updated it to 300 lumens this year. It’s lightweight and small, and uses triple-A batteries, which are easy to find and also lightweight. Rechargeable is nice in theory, but when you’re on the side of a mountain and your lamp dies, rechargeable is useless. Plus, it’s waterproof.”
Ronto also believes in the universality of giving a water bottle, even if your loved one already has one in rotation. “Every climber, hiker, or outdoor nut needs a great water bottle. I know most people already have a water bottle, but most don’t spring for an expensive, nice, insulated one. I’d recommend anything from Hydro Flask; they are all vacuum-sealed, stainless-steel bottles that keep things cold or hot for hours. I’ve traveled with mine and it’s held ice for over 24 hours easily, keeping my water nice and chilled.”
“There’s something primal about starting a campfire. Even better when you start it with a flint tool,” said Steve Lemig, founder of Wilderdad.com who lives in Denver and spends his time trail running, mountain biking, snowboarding, and fly-fishing with his 9-year-old daughter, whom he calls his “No. 1 outdoor bud.” He uses this fire-starting tool for car camping and backpacking. “I picked up this fire-starting tool a couple years ago and love it. It’s compact, so I take it backpacking to keep things light. But it’s so easy to use I take it car camping too.”
“This tent has turned my son into a serious explorer,” said Joe Peters, a father of two and head of marketing for hiking boot brand Vasque, who admitted to using it in his backyard more than anywhere else. “I’m six-foot-three, but the Wagontop’s dome height is impressive, allowing me to comfortably stand inside while I tell bedtime stories before we spend a night under the stars.”
“This is the gift of hydration and a much lighter pack.” said outdoorsy dad David Stephan, who has a 19-month-old baby and is awaiting his second child. “I’m always wary of drinking and cleaning with water in the wild that hasn’t been treated so having a small pump filter in my pack frees me up from carrying too much water on trips where I’m sure there’s a reliable source. An even smaller version is maybe a cooler gift and it could be a literal lifesaver, too.”
Kevin Mooney, owner and operator of the Mohicans, Ohio’s first-ever treehouse resort specializing in weddings, recommends giving a GoPro. “Everybody should have a GoPro; it’s fantastic for shooting outdoor videos, whether you’re mountain biking or working on a building project. The footage that we have shot with ours is phenomenal.”
If you decide to take Mooney’s advice and get a GoPro, or if the dad you’re shopping for already has one, you might want to pick up one of GoPro’s many accessories. “A lot of us outdoor guys already have a camera, and while it’s nice (but expensive) to upgrade to the newest version, a cool additional accessory could be all he needs right now,” said David Stephan.
Chris Cosentino who is a chef, restaurateur, cyclist, and cool dad rotates between three different models of this Nixon 51-30 Crono watch, which he called indestructible. “I was wearing my first 51-30 watch in the kitchen prepping one day and I realized it was missing. Six hours later my staff was straining some chicken stock and found my watch inside. Amazingly, it was still working. The watch face is large so it’s easy to read at a quick glance and it’s a show-stopper of a watch.”
Peters likes the versatility of this moisture-wicking tee. “I’ve spent an entire three-day weekend in one of these solo parenting while my wife was out of town, which is an adventure in itself. The engineered fabric incorporates the natural properties of merino wool that wick away moisture, resist odors, and regulates temperature.” He also mentioned that the cut is flattering while still allowing for lots of movement.
Fire-starters and tents are great, but don’t forget that dads also want to look good. Greg Breitmaier of Simms Fishing Products in Bozeman, Montana, recently bought a pair of these indigo-rinse jeans and they’ve become his go-to. “They look great with a modern cut, and they feel super soft.” He also loves that they’re sustainably made. “I’m always looking for brands that adhere to the highest possible ethical and environmental standards, like Outerknown. If we’re not making conscientious decisions with our consumption now, there won’t be the same outdoor opportunities for our children to enjoy later.”
Lemig said that these Hoka sneakers are his favorite trail-running shoes of all time, calling them “grippy on the trail with tons of cushion and great toe protection.” But he doesn’t just use them for running. “I use them hiking, camping, or even just cruising around town.”
Steve Casimiro, founder of Adventure Journal magazine, says, “I’d love to be given the Danner Mountain 600 EnduroWeave hiking boot. It’s built on Danner’s legendary platform, which is sturdy, durable, and time-tested, but now has a modern and urbane look. EnduroWeave is textured, sleek, breathable, and bombproof.” They’re also a good gift for frequent fliers, since travelers love Danner boots as well.
“I have two sons ages 7 and 9 and we love to go skiing,” said Paul Miller, president of Lokus Nutrition and a father of two boys, who usually packs PB&J for trail lunches. “My dream is that we ditch the sandwiches, put a camp stove in the SUV and ski down to the parking lot for lunch, fire up the stove and cook burgers. It’s not a huge dream, but it’s mine.” This stove is a classic, a best seller on Amazon and will cost you less than $50.
Stephan said that the better he has gotten at cooking for his family while camping, the more often they are willing to go outdoors. One of his preferred outdoor-cooking tools is a lightweight kettle. “Not every camper or backpacker thinks to use a lightweight tea kettle, but in many cases all you need is hot water for dehydrated meals or to make tea or coffee, or in my case, yerba mate.”
Chef Cosentino has two pocket knives from the James Brand. “One I leave in my dopp kit for when I travel (so I don’t get it taken away in airport security) the other Elko I keep in my seat bag when I’m bike riding.” And it has a ton of uses. “I use them everywhere from tasting fruit at the farmers’ market to breaking boxes at the restaurants.”
Bags and packs
Nicola Agostinetto, U.S. sales manager for Parajumpers, said the best gift he ever got was “a multifunctional, lightweight backpack ideal for my walks in the Dolomites.” With leather patches and minimal pockets and zippers, this Topo Designs backpack has enough urban edge for walking from the park to your local coffee shop — but it’s still durable enough for a family day hike. Plus it’s the same one Mark Ruffalo recently lost and couldn’t live without.
Last year, ultra-marathoner Michael Wardian broke the speed record in the World Marathon Challenge — that’s seven marathons in seven days on seven continents — so to say he’s always on the go would be an understatement. The best gift he ever got was this “really nice dry bag that I can throw all my wet clothes into when I finish an event and have to rush off to the airport.” Perfect for catching a flight home to see his two sons — or to Antarctica for his next 26.2.
Another gift that was recommended by two dads (Peters and Breitmaier) is this Osprey child-carrier pack. Breitmaier uses his to haul 2-year-old on hiking trails. “I get all kinds of wistful and envious looks from other dads on the trail who are eyeing my Poco. It’s lightweight and comfortable, and with a max weight capacity of nearly 50 pounds.” Other “bells and whistles” Breitmaier appreciates include a sunshade, massive pockets for sunscreen and snacks, and an aluminum frame that stands on its own. “It’s like having an extra set of hands helping to get my daughter into the seat when it’s just the two of us on an adventure.”
A fly-fishing kit
Two of our outdoor dads recommended giving a new fishing rod. “A new fly-fishing rod is always a sweet gift,” said Matt Hranek, photographer and author of A Man and His Watch. Because these can be expensive and, Hranek said, he doesn’t need more, they’re a special gift for the fly-fishing enthusiast who wouldn’t buy one for themselves. “I think of my wife or daughter every time I fish with one of those presents; it connects me to them every time,” he said.
Lemig recommended this Tenkara kit because it’s easy to share and teach with. “I bought this for my daughter to teach her to fly-fish a couple years ago. Tenkara rods don’t use a reel, so they’re super easy to use. It telescopes down to 20 inches and packs away super easily. It gives my $800 Orvis fly rod a run for its money.”
A year’s pass to America’s national parks
Perhaps the best gift for dads who enjoy spending time in nature is the gift of nature itself. “I’m a bit of a lone wolf, but I definitely prefer to go outdoors with my family,” said Stephan, whose wife bought him a National Parks pass for Christmas. “It’s something that I would have bought myself on my first outing of the year to a National Park, but I thought it was really cool to receive it as a gift.” Stephan recommends this for dads who aren’t all that into stuff or who already have everything. “A lot of us outdoor dads are more into experiences than we are stuff. This is a perfect gift to get guys going out to some of the best natural places on Earth —and it’s good for an entire carload, so he can take the family with him.”
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