My holiday gift guide usually focuses on travel and outdoor gear. I search all year long for interesting and useful items, especially for ones that are multi-functional and from companies following sustainability practices. I road test every item. Like everything else, COVID-19 caused me to pivot for this guide. I’m sharing some of the favorite things I found this year in what I’m calling the Stay at Home Adventurer 2020 Holiday Gift Guide. Not only am I looking for things made with sustainable materials, but also focusing on goods made in the USA. Most items are under $100, with a lot under $30.
I explored my kitchen this year and got creative expanding my culinary creations. Most of these are great for an RV, road trip, cabin or beach house. Do the last two as stocking stuffers or combine for a $20 gift.
Back to the Roots Microgreens and Organic Mushroom Growing Kit ($19.99+) – As a perpetual traveler, having a garden hasn’t been feasible for me. Since I was home and working on my cooking skills this year, I decided to have a kitchen garden. I started first with microgreens. They remind me of my mom and are one of the few things you can grow and start eating within a week. I like the instant gratification of growing microgreens. Plus, they’re packed with nutrients. Next I added the kitchen herb garden using cans for mint, basil and cilantro. The mushroom box is the most fun. Watching the mushrooms double in size is fascinating and fun. These are also very portable if you’re in an RV or heading to a cabin for a few months. The co-founders started this company by growing mushrooms in coffee grounds during their senior year of college. It’s now the number one organic gardening company in America. This is a gift that gives. In their #GrowOneGiveOne campaign, if you post a picture of what your growing, they’ll donate a gardening kit and curriculum to an elementary school of your choice.
The Elixir of Life Cookbook by Lisa Dahl ($39.95) – This was given to me on my recent road trip in Northern Arizona. Lisa Dahl is credited with putting Sedona on the foodie road map, in addition to its status as a spiritual, wellness and outdoors destination. As I was finishing dinner at Dahl & DiLuca Ristorante Italiano, Lisa gave me a signed copy after I inquired about her mushroom marinade. The cookbook will whisk you away to Italy. The recipes are simple and approachable, just as good Italian comfort food should be. It’s more than a cookbook, it’s a travel journal sharing a passion for food. When you order, you can also make a signature request!
Cuisinart Griddler ($79.00, on sale for $59.00) – This was the one item I didn’t know I needed in my kitchen. I was looking for a panini press and found this grill/griddle. It has over 16,000 rave reviews and was on sale, so I ordered it. It has five different cooking options. My favorites are using it to grill veggies or to make a panini sandwich. It’s super easy to clean too. This would also be great for a RV, camper, or cabin.
Bee’s Wrap Assorted 3 Pack ($18.00) – These sustainable and reusable beeswax food wraps are perfect for home or travel. They’re a natural food storage alternative to plastic storage or one-use wrappers or baggies. They’re made from organic cotton infused with beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin. They don’t have synthetic was or chemicals. It’s a woman owned company and handmade in Middlebury, Vermont. I especially like using these for cheese. In addition to using these in my kitchen, I keep one in my travel snack pack just in case I need to wrap something up. They’re great for wrapping leftovers or using for a picnic. The wraps are easy to clean too with cool water and dish soap.
Progressive International PS-69Y Breakfast Sandwich Maker ($5.89) – This is an “egg-cellent” gadget for making the perfect breakfast sandwich. While using it several times a week during Coronavirus quarantine, I realized this would be perfect for an RV, cabin, beach house or even a road trip when staying in hotel rooms with a microwave. After using it so much, I actually ordered a second one to go in my road trip go gear!
Prepworks by Progressive Fresh Guacamole ProKeeper with Air Tight Lid ($10.39) – I love making fresh guacamole, but don’t love how quickly it turns brown. This container is a guacamole lover’s dream! I even wrote about it in my Holy Guacamole blog. Pair it with OXO Good Grips 3-in-1 Avocado Slice ($9.99) and a bag of tortilla chips and you have a fun gift.
Let it Glow
Candles are always a great gift. They fill a home with wonderful scents and simply make a house feel more like home. These are three small production unique candle companies that I’m gifting this year.
Park and Peony Candles ($5-60) – I was looking for an artisan find for a close friend’s birthday and found Park and Peony at a farmer’s market in Denver. These hand-poured candles in vintage vessels and upcycled containers are special one-of-a-kind gifts. My favorite scent is rosemary sage. From a small vintage bathtub to coupe cocktail glasses, these candles make special gifts. You can also get them in mason jars and travel containers.
Moore Collection Candles ($22-28) – This company is based in Denver, but I found these candles in an outdoors shop in Heber City, Utah. These are a more rugged design making these candles great for guys, RV, cabin or for the minimalist and eco-conscious friend or family member. I love the scents conjure up moments in the outdoors like sunrise, night sky, campfire and the woods.
The Roosevelts Candle Co. Christmas Candle ($28.00) – I found the Christmas scented soy candle on an annual shopping trip with some girlfriends last December. We were in Nashville and I found the candle at White’s Mercantile, a fun modern-day general store. Being a fan of the outdoors and national parks, I was immediately drawn to these candles inspired by nature and the outdoors. Their 8-ounce candles are named after and inspired by some of the national parks and monuments. They donate a portion of proceeds to non-profits that help conserve and protect our national parks. Each candle is hand poured in Nashville and has a burn time of 40 hours plus. The Merry Christmas message and box of matches add an extra special touch when you open the box. The limited-edition Christmas Candle has a scent profile of cinnamon, clove, evergreen and patchouli. It makes your home smell like Christmas!
Whether at home or on the road you know it’s important to stay hydrated. One of these keeps has a flip up straw and keeps your water cold. The other one is water purifier on the go. I use both daily.
EcoVessel Summit Water Bottle ($32.95) – This 24-ounce water bottle is perfect for travel. I got it in black because it’s so sleek. During the pandemic, I have also found it’s great for home use too. It keeps my water (or any drink) cold for up to 36 hours. I fill it up at night and put it by my bed so I can down some water first thing in the morning. It’s been a key product for helping me stay hydrated at home, which is a lot harder than I thought! I think the flip up straw for tilt-free drinking that makes the difference. I’m easily re-filling it 4-5 times a day to hit my goal of drinking at least 100 ounces of water a day. The loop handle makes it super easy to carry around the house, out walking or while traveling. It fits in the cup holder in my car so it’s perfect for road trips too! Over the summer I added the Boss 64-ounce Growler ($59.95). It comes with an infuser to add lemons to your water or steep tea. I always road trip with extra water. I now don’t road trip without my Boss. I’d also recommend getting the Bottle Brush Cleaning Set ($11.95). It’s great for cleaning bottles and straws. The 12-ounce Transit ($24.95) in blue moon has become my favorite wine, cocktail or coffee cup while sitting out on my balcony. It’s a tumbler with a handle. I’m a huge fan of this Boulder, Colorado, based company. Their products reduce single plastic waste and are long lasting. They can easily go from the plane to the campfire.
Crazy Cap 2 ($69.95) – This is a water purifier on the go. I originally got the 17-ounce bottle to gear test during a trip to Panama, but with the coronavirus outbreak and flu running rampant in February, I started using it as my travel water bottle so I could sterilize water in the airport. If you’ve ever watched folks fill up their water bottles, you know people get the top of the water bottle way too close to the water dispenser. With two taps of a button the top sterilizes the water and bottle in sixty seconds. Using deep UV LED light-ray technology, it can sterilize up to 99.999%. The microbial sterilization means you never have to wash your water bottle too. Another cool feature is you can wave the top over your iPhone, iPad and other surfaces to sterilize those too. Especially traveling, that’s another great feature. The bottle keeps liquids cold for 24 hours or hot for 12 hours. They also came out with a 25-ounce bottle. In my condo, I keep one upstairs and one downstairs, so I have no excuses not to stay hydrated. Plus, 5% of your purchase goes to water.org, to help give safe water and sanitation to 22 million people. Check out my blog Crazy Cap 2: A Portable Water Purification System.
Clear2O Personal Water Filter ($36.99) – This is for the off-the-beaten path traveler, trekker, camper or prepper. It’s an ultra-packable 3-piece set with activated charcoal and a one-liter collapsible water bottle with a carabiner. The dual filtration system makes it easy to drink directly from streams and lakes. It reduces 99.9% of the bacteria and microplastics along with eliminating unpleasant taste and odors. This is a great gift for an adventurer, but the meteorologist in me thinks it’s also great for an emergency kit at home. Between the coronavirus, an unprecedented hurricane season and extensive wildfires, this year has certainly shown us it’s important to be prepared for the worst. Going through my fair share of hurricanes and other natural disasters, I think this is perfect for those who like to be prepared. This portable filter system is a must in any emergency kit.
Get Fit at Home or on the Road
Brazyn Morph Roller ($69.95) – Brazyn says it’s the “most portable/storable foam roller in the world.” I was skeptical of a collapsible foam roller, but I was intrigued by the idea of a more travel friendly foam roller versus my regular roller at home. It only took one road trip for me to become a big fan. At home, I keep this one in my bedroom for easy access when I need a quick roll before bed or as soon as get up in the morning. When it’s flattened, it’s only two inches thick. It fits in a backpack and weighs 1.5 pounds. It’s made of eco-friendly strong materials like bamboo and recyclable aluminum and was featured on the TV show “Shark Tank.” Pull the two cords on either side and it expands to a foam roller that’s 5.5 inches in diameter. Length is 14.5 inches. The foam roller has texture which feels great after a long road trip, adventurous hike or tough home workout. Military service members, healthcare workers and first responders get a discount up to 25% off with valid ID if you order directly from their website. It comes with a travel pouch, but I also got a Morph Skin, which is like a t-shirt for my foam roller.
Peach Bands Resistance Tube Bands Set ($45.99) – I was looking for some resistance bands that weren’t super expensive when I found this set with over 500 5-star reviews on Amazon. The bands are 10, 20 and 30 pounds of resistance. There’s a door anchor that you can use on any hinged door, making it easy to set up at home and on the road.
Gaiam Yoga Bolster Rectangular Meditation ($37.99)– We could all use a little more Zen time, especially this year. Taking restorative yoga classes at home I quickly found I needed to invest in a yoga bolster, but I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on one. The Gaiam Yoga Bolster got rave reviews and was a lot cheaper than other bolsters I found. It’s perfect for your at-home yoga practice.
Stylish and Functional Finds
These are my finds for clothes, accessories and beauty this year. Some of these are multi-functional, which is a key feature I look for in travel gear.
Lo and Son’s Catalina Day Tote ($205, on sale $82) – I can’t believe how much stuff I can get in this tote. It’s got several pockets and a bottom compartment that’s perfect for shoes or anything you want to separate, or unzip the divider and roll it up for an even roomier tote. This is my go-to road trip gear bag for laptop, iPad, tech and camera gear. This company epitomizes the “American Dream” to me. The family-owned company was started by a mom and her two sons. All of the bags have a minimalist, yet elegant look. They use eco-friendly materials and have high standards for quality and durability. The Catalina Tote is made with a strength-tested recycled poly made from water bottles. Each bag has 23 recycled plastic bottles in it. I’m a huge fan of this brand and have several bags. Check out my blog Travel Purse You Can Wear 4 Ways.
Tela Bella Charcoal Druzy Stud Earrings ($40) – I love artisan jewelry, especially when the artist is a cousin. Several friends are getting these from me this year to add a little sparkle to the holidays. These studs are always in my travel bag. Check out the rest of the line featuring beautiful gemstones. Every time I wear some of my Tela Bella jewelry I get compliments. Use the code TBJENNIFER15 for 15% off!
Royal Robbins Bug Barrier Round Trip Drirelease Hoodie ($95) – This is the hoodie I couldn’t stop wearing this summer and fall. It has Insect Shield technology. It’s also has UPF 50+ protection. Bug repellent and sun protection in a super soft material is what makes this hoodie different from others. Check out blog Royal Robbins Hoody with Bug and Sun Protection for my full review.
Royal Robbins Switchform Lite Parka ($140) – Instead of just packing into a pocket, this jacket quickly turns into a bag. Royal Robbins debuted its Switchform Collection this year. I got a sneak peak of it back in January at Outdoor Retailer and recently got the Switform Lite Parka. The hooded trench-length shell is water-resistant and windproof. It comes in three neutral colors. This jacket is ideal for travel. I put it to the test in rain, sleet and snow during a road trip from Prescott to Sedona. I put it over a puffy jacket, and it worked like a charm! It’s the rain jacket that will be in luggage in 2021.
Weatherproof Vintage Ladies’ Cozy Pullover ($21.99) – My friend Melissa wore one of these and I commented how much I liked it. I was floored when she told me she got it at Costco! She surprised me and gave me one. It comes in four colors. Mine is dark gray. It’s perfect for a cold, snowy or rainy winter day. It’s fuzzy, cozy and a great gift for under $25!
Chill Angel Sereni-Tee and Jammie Boxer ($85 and $65) – I had been searching for pajamas that don’t take up so much room in my carry-on. When I found Chill Angel at Outdoor Retailer in January, I hit the jackpot finding ultra-packable pjs that are also temperature regulating and you can wear the pieces for more than just sleeping. These temperature balancing pajamas are super breathable. Because of the high quality of superfine merino wool, they are super soft. That fabric is technical too as it dissipates heat and wicks away moisture and immediate evaporates it if you start sweating, which eliminates chill. I was supposed to gear test the Sereni-Tee and Jammie Boxer on a trip to Panama, but instead used them as my go-to pjs while at home this spring through fall. With the colder weather, I’ve been wearing the RNR Crew and Genie Jogger as winter pajamas. Both sets are great sleepwear and loungewear.
Buff Original Multifunctional Headwear ($20) – A close friend gave me this Buff in the blossom design last Christmas, and I immediately tested it out on a snorkeling excursion in Belize. I also took it hiking in Patagonia Chile, trekking in Nepal and skiing. Here’s why I love this multifunctional headwear: it’s sun protection with UPF 50; it’s lightweight yet warm; you can use it in warm or cold weather; it’s breathable when you use it to cover your face; and the colorful design is cool. Buff has been around for a while, but this is my first one. I was hooked on it on my first use. The fabric is different from other similar items. The higher quality makes a big difference. I since bought a couple of others in different designs. They recently came out with a filter tube and filter mask. Those are next on my list!
United by Blue Ultimate Bison Socks ($38.00) – These aren’t ordinary socks. They’re not cheap, but you’ll never have cold feet with these ultra-soft and warm bison socks. The inner coat of bison, often discarded in the ranching industry, is used in the socks and blended with superfine merino wool in these socks. They’re perfect for sitting by the fire on a hut trip or curled up on the couch. For every product sold, United by Blue removes one pound of trash from waterways and oceans.
Lomi Vie Oli UV-C Portable Sanitizer Collapsible Travel Bag ($39.97) – One of the hottest items this year is a sanitizer for phones, keys and glasses. While searching for one recently, I found a collapsible travel one online at Nordstrom Rack. It’s available at other online retailers too. It’s sleek and effective. The inside is a reflective material. As you zip it closed, a magnet connects on one side. That enables the automatic shut-off. Press the button on top and the UV-C LED light technology disinfects small personal items from 99.9% of bacteria and viruses in just 5-10 minutes, depending on if you’re doing a regular or deep clean cycle. The bag recharges using a USB power charger. I was able to get my phone, keys and sunglasses with room to spare in the bag for my first sanitization. When there’s nothing in it, the bag is about an inch thick. That make it easy to pack. Or, stash a few items in it while traveling then use it to sanitize your personal items when you get to your destination. It’s great for home or travel.
Beauty in the Bag
These are beauty finds I use traveling and at home. One is a game changer for how I dry my hair. The other adds a sparkly pop while protecting from the sun’s damaging rays.
Revlon One-Step Hair Dryer and Volumizer Hot Air Brush ($59.99, on sale for $29.39)– When my hair dryer died in April, I scoured the internet for a new one. I had tried a friend’s expensive Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer earlier this year. I loved the results but wasn’t keen on the high price tag. I also looked at the Drybar Double Shot, but at $150.00 the blow-dryer brush was still on the expensive side for me. Plus, I bought Drybar’s Brush Crush, a straightening iron and paddle brush combo, last year. It works okay on my fine, thick curly hair, but feel like it makes my hair too straight and limp. The Brush Crush is just a straightener, not a dryer. On Amazon, I found the Revlon One-Step with over 29,000 positive reviews. At a price tag of under $60 I decided to give it a go. It’s called One-Step because it dries and volumizes in one step. It promises to give you a salon blow-out in half the time with 22% more shine, 30% less frizz and 36% less breakage. I haven’t used a regular hair dryer since April and when it went on mega-sale on Amazon Prime Day, I purchased an extra one for my travel bag. I’ve also given it as a gift to other friends who struggle with crazy hair like me. It doesn’t necessarily save me drying time but does save time in that I only used one too, instead of a hair dryer and flat iron. It does get really hot, so you have to be careful. My hair is in great shape thanks to using fewer hot tools on it and I love that I can dry and style with only one tool.
Supergoop Shimmershade ($24) – These are the first eyeshadows with SPF 30. The shimmery shades add an extra pop to your lids. They’re light, not cakey, even while hiking or doing outdoor activities. I’m big on putting SPF on my face. Now I have my eyelids covered too! I’ve been a huge fan of Supergoop for years, especially because it was founded by a gal in San Antonio, where I lived for 10 years.
Outdoor Go Gear
I always love finding cool outdoor gear for hiking and camping. I especially like it when I find great gear at good prices. Both of these companies are based in Colorado.
Hydrolight Hydration Reservoir and Lantern ($32) – I love products that are multifunctional. The Hydrolight is a 2-liter hydration system that converts to a lantern in seconds by putting your headlamp in the water-resistant pocket. Voila! You have a lantern for your tent without having to carry extra gear. Headlamp is not included. It’s leak-proof. The fold over top with slide-lock closure makes it easy to fill and you can turn it inside out for easy cleaning and drying. It only weights 6 ounces. It’s made of a durable material that is biodegradable, antimicrobial and mildew resistant. The 70-ounce bag has become my hydration reservoir of choice for day hikes too. Plus, it’s a Colorado-based small company.
Matador Mini Blanket ($19.99) – It’s a blanket that fits in the palm of your hand. This blanket takes up very little room in my hiking backpack or travel carry-on. The Matador Mini Blanket is perfect for a picnic while hiking, squeezing in a spot at festivals, a day at soaking up some rays at the beach or an afternoon at the park with your pup. It is water repellant and puncture resistant. This size accommodates one adult comfortably but could seat two adults. It easily packs back into its pouch thanks to the re-pack stitching directions on the blanket!
Matador Camera Base Layer ($59.99, on sale $35.99) – This is a puffy jacket for your camera. It’s an ultra-light solution to protect your camera. Mine has gone from Taiwan to Iceland. The insulation pads protect your camera from bumps and scrapes and the integrated rainfly gives you waterproof protection when you need it. It’s easy to use with a camera strap too. As an adventurer, I quickly found I needed to ditch the bulk of a traditional camera case. This case is perfect when hiking a trail or traveling to a faraway land.
Cool Car Gear
I love a good road trip. I must if I drove over 30,000 miles, mainly solo across the American West, in two years. Road trips surged in popularity this year. I keep my car stocked with wiper fluid, blanket, snacks and other items in case of emergency. Last year I featured AutoSock as the gift I bought myself right before Christmas. It stays in my winter container in the backseat of my car, along with additional winter driving essentials. Here are a few things I added this year to keep my car clean. These are great for the road tripper or car enthusiast.
Small Foldable Trunk Organizer ($14.99) – These soft-sided collapsible storage bins from Container Store help keep my car clean. They have Velcro on the sides to attach bins to each other. They’re lightweight and easy to move around in the car or to switch out my summer and winter specific bins.
ThisWorx Portable Car Vacuum ($34.99) – I wanted a car vacuum and decided on this one because it’s small, comes in a bag and has multiple accessories to keep your car looking spiffy. Plug it into the cigarette lighter and vacuum away. It has a 16-foot cord to easily clean your entire vehicle.
TiCarve Cleaning Gel ($10.66) – This goop is great! It easily picks up the gunk in the nooks and crannies of your car like the console panel, door handles and cup holders. It’s even great at getting the dust on the dashboard and air vents. I keep one in the car and one at home to clean my laptop and other electronics.
These are fun extras for the outdoors lover in your life.
Natural Life Barcelona Bands ($9) and Camp Mug ($15) – I found these in the Uptown Store in Minturn, a historic town near Vail, Colorado. As someone who wears a ponytail holder on her wrist a lot, these are stylish and functional. They have several outdoor inspired camp mugs, but the “Let’s Just Go Mug is my favorite. It’s great at home, by the campfire or in a cabin or camper. Put the bands inside the mug and you have a great stocking stuffer, hostess gift or an under $25 gift for a friend or relative.
Willow Balm ($10)– A key ingredient is white willow bark, used for thousands of years as a pain reliever in Chinese, Native American and Egyptian medicinal treatments. You can find Willow Balm in 1,200 Tractor Supply stores, Amazon and other retail stores. I use Willow Balm on my ankles and feet after a long day hiking. It’s also great for pain relief from arthritis, back pain, sore muscles or joints. The Bug Bite Balm ($6) quickly became a staple in my hiking backpack. It’s the size of a chapstick. I’ve used it to ease the sting, itch and swelling of bug bites while on the trail.
Shower Power ($20) and GoodWipes ($6.99+) – These are perfect to refresh when you squeeze in a workout between Zoom meetings and don’t have time for a shower. They’re also great for a road trip or to have in the car for use after outdoor fun. SweatWELLth Power Shower is a cleansing spray. It’s anti-microbial, has a clean scent and is cooling. Spray it on your body and wipe down with a towel. GoodWipes has value packs and individually wrapped Body Wipes and Down There Wipes. I stash a few of those in my bag for flights. The wipes are 100% biodegradable, plant-based, hypoallergenic, ph-balanced and toxin free.
Stay Well Kit – With the double whammy of Coronavirus with cold and flu season, make a cute stay well kit of a disposal face mask in a foldable tote, small hand sanitizer and hand wipes. I found the face mask covers on Amazon.
Treats and Eats – These are my favorite road trip snacks and pre- and post-workout foods. My favorite brands are Nuun, GoMacro bars and Honey Stinger.
If you’re still at a loss of what to get an adventurous soul, gift cards are always a great idea. The gift of the National Parks America the Beautiful annual pass ($80) or state parks pass is the gift of the great outdoors. As an avid reader, I think the gift of books is always a great gift. Either gift your favorite read of the year or give a gift card for Kindle and iBooks. Some of the books I couldn’t put down this year are: Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins, Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner, When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal, The Ledge: An Adventure Story of Friendship and Survival on Mount Rainer by Jim Davidson and Kevin Vaughn (Jim is a friend) and The Guest List by Lucy Foley. My two favorite audio books for road trips are The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott and The Caretakers by Eliza Maxwell.