Outdoor Gear Reviews, Tips & Adventure Stories to Inspire an Outdoor Life

Tag: survival

Preparing for the Worst: Essential Tips for Surviving in the Wilderness

survival tips for wilderness

When you’re out in the wilderness, anything can happen. A wrong turn, an unexpected storm, or a sudden injury can quickly turn a fun adventure into a life-threatening situation. That’s why it’s crucial to be prepared with the right knowledge, skills, and gear for survival. We all could brush up on survival tips for wilderness trips gone wrong.

In this article, we’ll provide essential survival tips for wilderness emergencies. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a novice camper, these tips will help you be better prepared for the unexpected. We’ll cover everything from basic navigation techniques and essential survival gear to finding food and water and building shelter. We’ll also discuss first aid and emergency response, so you can be ready to handle common wilderness emergencies.

Remember, when it comes to wilderness survival, preparation is key. By taking the time to learn and practice these essential skills, you can increase your chances of staying safe and coming home from your wilderness adventure. So let’s dive in and explore the world of wilderness survival together.

Tip #1: Understand the Environment

The first of our survival tips for wilderness emergency situations is understanding the environment you’ll be navigating. Different types of wilderness environments present unique challenges and hazards that require specific skills and gear.

For example, a desert environment requires special attention to hydration and sun protection, while a mountain environment requires preparation for rapidly changing weather and altitude sickness. Before you head out on your adventure, take the time to research and understand the environment you’ll be navigating. This includes studying maps, reading guidebooks, and checking weather forecasts.

Another important consideration is the time of year. Different seasons present different challenges, such as extreme heat or cold, heavy precipitation, or dangerous wildlife activity. It’s important to plan your trip accordingly and prepare for the specific challenges of the season.

In addition to researching the environment, it’s also important to be aware of your surroundings while you’re out in the wilderness. Pay attention to changes in the weather, terrain, and wildlife activity. This can help you anticipate and avoid potential hazards before they become a problem.

By understanding the environment and being aware of your surroundings, you can better prepare for the challenges of wilderness survival and stay safe on your adventure.

Tip #2: Pack Essential Survival Gear

When it comes to wilderness survival, having the right gear can mean the difference between life and death. Here are some essential items to consider when packing for your wilderness adventure:

  1. survival tips for wilderness
    A good knife is a must-have in your emergency survival kit.

    Knife – A good quality knife is a versatile tool that can be used for everything from cutting rope to preparing food. The Mini Praxis Folding Pocket Knife from CIVIVI is a highly-rated knife that is easy to carry and can be a lifesaver when disaster strikes.

  2. Water filter – Clean drinking water is essential for survival, but it’s not always readily available in the wilderness. A water filter can help remove harmful bacteria and other contaminants from natural water sources. The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter is the gold standard for small, portable water filters that should be a vital part of your survival gear.
  3. Firestarter – Fire provides warmth, light, and a way to cook food, so it’s essential to have a reliable way to start a fire. Options include matches, lighters, and fire starters. We recommend carrying a Flint Fire Starter as a part of your emergency kit.
  4. Map and compass – Knowing where you are and where you’re going is crucial for wilderness navigation. A map and compass can help you stay on track and avoid getting lost. The Sportneer Survival Compass is a handy piece of kit to have on hand in case of survival situations.
  5. First aid kit – Injuries and accidents can happen in the wilderness, so it’s important to have a well-stocked first aid kit. Make sure it includes items like bandages, gauze, antiseptic wipes, and tweezers. We’ve highlighted first aid kits from Adventure Medical Kits in the past at Outward Spaces.  We love their wide selection of activity-based medical kits. We recommend their Explorer Medical Kit to keep you covered for most outdoor activities.
  6. Shelter – Protection from the elements is crucial for survival, so it’s important to have a way to create shelter. Options include tents, tarps, and emergency blankets. When you find yourself in a dangerous situation, you’ll be glad you have a Life Bivy from Go Time Gear on hand. The Life Bivy is an emergency bivy sack that will protect you from the extreme elements in an emergency.

These are just a few examples of essential survival gear. Depending on the environment and the length of your trip, you may need additional items like extra clothing, a water bottle, or a signaling device. Remember to pack only what you need and make sure your gear is high quality and reliable.

Prefer to have a bunch of great survival tools on hand in a complete kit? Check out this highly-rated emergency survival kit that includes 142 pieces of gear that could help save your life.

By having the right gear on hand, you’ll be better equipped to handle the challenges of wilderness survival and increase your chances of making it back home safely.

When considering survival gear, we prefer to carry an item that can avoid survival experiences altogether – a satellite communicator. The Zoleo Satellite Communicator is an affordable device that allows you to contact emergency services (or friends back home) in the case of an outdoors emergency.  It utilizes satellite technology to work even far from cell phone coverage areas.

Tip #3:Become Well-Versed in Navigation Techniques

Getting lost in the wilderness can be a terrifying experience, but with the right navigation techniques, you can stay on course and avoid getting lost. Here are some essential navigation techniques to consider:

  1. Map and compass – As mentioned in the previous section, a map and compass are essential navigation tools. Make sure you know how to read a map and use a compass before heading out on your adventure.
  2. Landmarks – Use natural landmarks like mountains, rivers, and rock formations to orient yourself and stay on track. Take note of these landmarks on your map so you can easily recognize them while navigating.
  3. Sun and stars – If you don’t have a compass, you can still navigate using the sun and stars. Learn how to use them to determine direction and time of day.
  4. GPS – While not a replacement for map and compass skills, a GPS can be a helpful navigation tool. Just be sure to bring extra batteries or a solar charger to keep it powered up. The Garmin GPSMAP 67i is a handheld GPS built for the outdoors and includes Garmin’s inReach satellite technology to stay connected with emergency services when far off-grid.
  5. Leave a trail – As you navigate, leave markers like flagging tape, cairns, or rocks to help you find your way back or to guide rescuers if necessary.

By mastering these navigation techniques, you’ll be better equipped to stay on course and avoid getting lost in the wilderness. Remember to always stay aware of your surroundings and make adjustments to your plan as needed.

Tip #4: Prioritize Finding Food and Water

In the wilderness, finding food and water can be a major challenge. Here are some tips for finding these essential resources:

  1. finding water in a survival situation
    You can find water via natural sources like streams, rivers, and lakes, but be sure to filter or purify the water before drinking to avoid waterborne illnesses.

    Water – Your body can only survive for a few days without water, so finding a clean water source is a top priority. Look for natural sources like streams, rivers, and lakes, but be sure to filter or purify the water before drinking to avoid waterborne illnesses.

  2. Food – While it’s possible to survive for weeks without food, finding a source of sustenance can greatly increase your chances of survival. Look for edible plants and berries, fish, small game, and insects. Make sure you’re familiar with the local flora and fauna and avoid any plants or animals that are poisonous or could make you sick.
  3. Fishing and trapping – If you’re near a body of water, fishing can be an excellent way to get protein. Make sure you have the right gear and know the local fishing regulations. Trapping small game can also be an effective way to get food.
  4. Survival skills – Knowing basic survival skills like fire starting, shelter building, and navigation can greatly increase your chances of finding food and water. For example, learning how to identify animal tracks and signs can help you track and hunt game.

Remember to conserve your energy and resources when searching for food and water. Don’t expend more energy than necessary and make sure to rest and hydrate regularly. By following these survival tips for wilderness emergencies, you’ll be better equipped to find the resources you need to survive in the wilderness.

Tip #5: Learn in Advance How to Build A Shelter

Having a shelter can provide protection from the elements, help regulate body temperature, and increase your chances of survival. Here are some tips for building a shelter in the wilderness:

  1. Location – Look for a shelter location that’s protected from the elements, such as under a rock overhang or near a natural windbreak. Avoid areas that are prone to flooding or that are in the path of potential hazards like falling rocks or trees.
  2. Materials – Use natural materials like branches, leaves, and bark to build your shelter. Look for materials that are dry and sturdy, and avoid using anything that’s rotten or diseased.
  3. Type of shelter – There are many types of shelters you can build in the wilderness, depending on your location and resources. Some common types include lean-tos, debris huts, and A-frame shelters. Research and practice building different types of shelters to determine what works best for you.
  4. Insulation – Adding insulation to your shelter can help regulate body temperature and keep you warm at night. Use materials like leaves, grass, or pine needles to create a thick layer of insulation between you and the ground.
  5. Fire – If possible, build your shelter near a source of fuel for a fire. This can provide warmth, light, and a way to cook food.

By following these tips and building a sturdy shelter, you’ll be better equipped to handle the challenges of wilderness survival. Remember to practice building shelters in different environments and weather conditions to increase your skills and confidence.

Tip #6: First Aid and Emergency Response

Accidents can happen even to the most experienced wilderness adventurer. It’s essential to have basic first aid skills and knowledge of emergency response protocols to handle unexpected situations. Here are some tips for first aid and emergency response in the wilderness:

starting a fire - survival tips for wilderness
When in survival situations, it’s essential to have a reliable way to start a fire.
  1. First aid kit – Always bring a well-stocked first aid kit with you. Make sure it includes items like bandages, gauze, antiseptic, pain relievers, and a first aid manual.
  2. Basic first aid skills – Learn basic first aid skills like wound care, splinting, and CPR. Take a wilderness first aid course to learn how to handle common injuries and emergencies.
  3. Emergency signaling – In case of an emergency, you need a way to signal for help. Bring signaling devices like a whistle, signal mirror, or flare gun, and know how to use them.
  4. Emergency response protocol – Have a plan in case of an emergency. Make sure someone knows where you’re going and when you’re expected to return. If someone gets injured, decide whether to stay put or seek help, and know how to contact emergency services.
  5. Mental preparation – Accidents and emergencies can be stressful and traumatic. Prepare yourself mentally by staying calm, practicing mindfulness, and visualizing potential scenarios.

By being prepared and knowing basic first aid and emergency response protocols, you’ll be better equipped to handle unexpected situations in the wilderness. Remember to stay calm, assess the situation, and prioritize your actions to increase your chances of survival.

The Bottom Line

Surviving in the wilderness requires preparation, knowledge, and skills. By understanding the environment, having essential survival gear, knowing navigation techniques, finding food and water sources, building a shelter, and having basic first aid and emergency response skills, you’ll be better equipped to handle unexpected situations and increase your chances of survival.

Remember, the wilderness can be both beautiful and dangerous, so always prioritize safety and take necessary precautions. Don’t hesitate to turn back or change your plans if conditions become too difficult or risky.

We hope you’ve found these survival tips for wilderness emergencies helpful. By following the tips and techniques outlined in this article and practicing your skills, you can experience the thrill of wilderness adventure while staying safe and prepared for whatever challenges come your way.

Have additional survival tips for wilderness emergencies? We want to hear them, let us know below in the comments.

Garmin inReach Mini 2

Satellite Communicators: How to Stay in Touch While Off the Grid

The Zoleo Satellite Communicator

Everybody’s definition of what is the wild is different.  For some, the wild might be a hike in the hills on the outskirts of town.  For others, the wild is backpacking deep in the mountains far from civilization.

My definition of the wild is somewhere in between. I love exploring spaces off the beaten path, usually right on the edge of cell phone coverage.  On most trips I take into outdoor spaces, I can’t be sure whether I will have a cell signal where I am going or not.  Sure, cellular carriers all have coverage maps, but I find these unuseful for accurately determining whether or not I will be able to make a call in an emergency.

For many, one of the main thrills of exploring the wild is the potential for improvising and displaying self-sufficiency in emergency situations outdoors.  For sure, all explorers of wild spaces should have some basic understanding of how to make it out alive when something goes wrong, but I prefer always having a way to “call home” if things go sideways.

Safety in the outdoors demands an appreciation for redundancy.  Relying on only one way to start a fire or only one source of food can quickly become a mistake when off-grid.  You may be wired differently, but when I’m heading out to enjoy the outdoors, the last thing I am interested in is enacting my own personal survival show.  It’s important to me (and to those who depend on me) to come back safely at the end of my trip.  Exploring wild spaces is one of my favorite things to do, but it’s not worth my life.

The good news is that we no longer have to take unnecessary risks when spending time outside civilization’s bounds.  Cellular coverage in the United States is ever-expanding and you might just find that your favorite spot in the woods has just enough “bars” to get a call out. I’m consistently surprised by where I can manage to find a cell signal these days.

The challenge with relying on cell service is that you never know if you will have it or not when you’re off the beaten path.  You may be able to Facetime your family while camping for a night miles outside of the nearest town, but you may not be able to get a call out over the next hill while hiking the next day. I’ve sailed down the California Coast and been able to answer work emails or stream music without issue.  I’ve also sailed very similar routes and not had cell coverage for most of the day.  The bottom line is that you never know what coverage you will have when you’re exploring remote spaces.  If you’re like me, I want a backup plan when I’m off the grid.

The answer is a satellite communicator – a communications device that utilizes a network of satellites to keep you connected to the outside world, even without cell coverage.  With one of these babies, you’ll never need to worry about being outside of cell range again.  If something goes wrong while you’re off the grid, a satellite communicator will allow you to send a text to family and friends or call emergency services no matter where you find yourself.

Types of Satellite Communicators

Distinct from satellite phones, satellite communicators are primarily designed to communicate via short bursts of data – text messages, location updates, and even weather reports. While there are a number of models of satellite communicators on the market, there are two main types of satellite communicators.

Satellite Communicators that are designed to be used with your cell phone

These devices don’t have an onboard keyboard and thus can’t be used directly to get a message out.  They are meant to be paired with a mobile device with a companion app that handles messaging. These devices are typically cheaper and smaller but do require extra steps to get a message out when far from home.

Devices of this type: Zoleo, Garmin inReach Messenger, ACR Bivy Stick

Satellite Communicators that can be used without a cell phone

These devices can be used on their own to message home but also can connect to a mobile device and companion app for easier messaging. They typically have more features that may include GPS mapping, an altimeter, a compass, and other useful tools.  Some devices of this type include a screen and keyboard (think the old Blackberry format) and others utilize a screen with a number of buttons that can be used to type out a message.

Devices of this type: Garmin inReach Mini 2, Spot X

Garmin inReach Mini 2

Currently Available Satellite Communicators:

Zoleo Satellite Communicator

The Zoleo Satellite Communicator is a wallet-sized black and green device that is marketed to extend your messaging capabilities around the globe without coverage gaps.  When paired with its free companion app, the Zoleo uses wifi or a cellular network to send and receive messages when available.  When not in wifi or cellular range, the Zoleo uses the Iridium satellite network to get your messages out. It has a protected SOS button on its front as well as an additional “Check-in” button that allows for sending predetermined check-in messages without using the phone/app. Once activated with a Zoleo plan, the Zoleo includes a dedicated SMS number and email address – a nice feature that makes for easier messaging for friends and family.

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Garmin inReach Messenger

The Garmin inReach Messenger is an all-black, square device that’s about half the size of a cell phone – though thicker. Much like the Zoleo, the inReach Messenger is meant to be paired with a companion app and it has minimal direct functions on the device. Unlike the Zoleo, the inReach Messenger includes a small, black-and-white, display on the front of the device to allow you to see what’s happening on your device without using your phone. The Messenger also takes advantage of your connected phone’s cellular or wifi connectivity (when available) to send messages without tapping into your satellite service plan allowance. With up to 28 days of battery life and a “safety charging” option – allowing you just enough juice to send a message – the inReach Messenger is a great option for those serious about the outdoors, as well as serious about safety.

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Garmin inReach Mini 2

The Garmin inReach Mini 2 is Garmin’s fuller-featured satellite communicator. The Mini 2 is a tiny device with a larger display than the Messenger allowing for some advanced routing and tracking features when hiking.  The larger display gives you the ability to scroll through received messages and easily send preset messages.  Fitting easily in your hand, the biggest selling feature of the Mini 2 is its small size.  Like most of these devices, pairing the Mini 2 with its companion app makes the device infinitely more usable. Overall the Mini 2 is a nicely designed device, but it doesn’t give you a whole lot more than the Messenger.

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ACR Bivy Stick

The ACR Bivy Stick is similar to the Zoleo in that it doesn’t have a display on the device itself. Its rectangular shape includes a large hole through the top of the device to use for hanging.  While most will hang their satellite communicator from a backpack, devices that have easy attachments to hang, like the Bivy Stick, allow you to store it in more places.  Speaking of storing it, the Bivy Stick relies heavily on its companion app to access and complete the typical satellite communicator features: global satellite messaging, weather reports, location sharing and tracking, and check-ins.  Like other similar devices, it does have dedicated check-in and SOS buttons. One plus with the Bivy Stick is that its available service plans do not have activation fees.

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Spot X

For the messaging addicts out there, the Spot X is a satellite Communicator that has a built-in keyboard. With a similar “Blackberry” designed front, half of the Spot X is a display and the other has a small keyboard. Beyond the keyboard, the Spot Z also has dedicated SOS and tracking buttons. With its own dedicated phone number, the Spot X truly is a stand-alone device.  With most of the industry moving to devices that heavily rely on companion apps, some may love the independence of the Spot X.  While it does have its own companion app, the Spot X is the device most capable of being used without the app.  With only one battery to worry about keeping charged and only a single device to worry about, the Spot X may be perfect for the minimalist outdoorsmen types.

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Satellite Communicator Coverage Plans

Satellite Communicators rely on a satellite network to send and receive messages outside of cell phone range. Each company has its own service plans for its satellite communicators.  When choosing a plan, first consider the number of messages you’ll need per month as well as the costs involved to suspend your service in months when you won’t make it off-grid.

Zoleo Plans:

Basic In Touch Unlimited
Monthly Fee $20 $35 $50
# of Satellite Messages 25 250 Unlimited
Additional Messages 50¢/ea 50¢/ea Free (unlimited)

Zoleo Plan Notes:

  • $20 activation fee for all plans
  • Location Share can be added to all plans for $6/mo
  • Once activated, plans can be changed or suspended after 3 months
  • $4/mo to suspend service

Garmin inReach Plans:

Safety Recreation Expedition
Monthly $14.95 $34.95 $64.95
Annual $11.95/mo $24.95/mo $49.95
# of Satellite Messages 10 40 Unlimited
Additional Messages 50¢/ea 50¢/ea N/A

Garmin inReach Plan Notes:

  • $29.95 activation fee for annual plans
  • $34.95 annual program fee for monthly (freedom accounts)
  • Unlimited Check-in (preset) messages are included in all plans
  • Unlimited Tracking/location points are included in the Recreation and Expedition plans. 10¢ each for Safety Plan
  • Free to suspend service after 30 days (must pay annual fee only)

Bivy Plans:

Basic Plus Unlimited Premium
Monthly $19.99 $34.99 $59.99 $69.99
Annual $14.99/mo $29.99/mo $54.99 $64.99
# of Satellite Messages 20 80 Unlimited Unlimited
Additional Messages 75¢/ea 50¢/ea N/A N/A

Bivy Plan Notes:

  • $0 Activation Fees
  • Unlimited Check-In messages (preset) are included with all plans
  • Once activated, plans can be changed or suspended after 4 months
  • Free to suspend service after 4 months

Spot Plans:

Basic Advanced Unlimited
Monthly $14.95 $29.95 $39.95
Annual $11.95/mo $19.95/mo $29.95
# of Satellite Messages 20 100 Unlimited
Additional Messages 25¢/ea 25¢/ea N/A

Spot Plan Notes:

  • $29.95 Activation Fee for all plans
  • $34.95 Annual Fee for monthly (Flex) plans
  • Unlimited Check-In messages (preset) are included with all plans
  • Once activated, plans can be changed or suspended after 4 months
  • Free to suspend service after 30 days for no fee (annual fee still applies)

Our Pick:

Best Satellite Communicator: Zoleo Satellite Communicator

Most of us really don’t need (or want) to stay in touch with those back home while we’re out in the wild. We don’t need to carry on full text conversations when we’re camping, hiking, fishing, sailing, or doing anything else off the grid.  What we need is the safety of being able to communicate with friends, family, and emergency services IF we need to.  The Zoleo gets the messaging and SOS functions done well.  And if you do choose to send a few more messages while outdoors, the Zoleo and its companion app can do that too. But the price of the Zoleo is what sets it apart.  It’s the cheapest device on our list and its service plans are some of the cheapest and most flexible of the bunch. It’s a great device.  It does everything the others do at a much lower price. If you’re looking for a satellite communicator, save your money for other gear and get the Zoleo.

Looking for other satellite communicator options? Read our review on the Garmin Inreach SE+

The Best Gifts for Outdoor Lovers in 2022

Holiday shopping for friends and family can be stressful. Finding the right gifts that will truly be appreciated can be a challenge. Fortunately, if your friend or family member loves the outdoors, there is a wealth of great gifts to choose from. Here are our recommendations for the best gifts for outdoor lovers in 2022.

Got a price range in mind?
Best Gifts Over $200  |  Best Gifts between $100-$200  |  Best Gifts Under $100  |  Best Gifts Under $50

Gifts over $200

Satellite Communicator

Satellite Communicators are a miracle of modern technology.  Giving someone one of these is giving them the ability to stay in touch and call for help when they are far away from home. It’s a gift the outdoors lover in your life will appreciate, but also it’s a gift to yourself as it’ll ensure they return home safely.

Our Pick: Zoleo Satellite Communicator

The Zoleo Satellite Communicator is a small and lightweight 2-way messaging device that really shines when you’re out of cell phone range. The Zoleo automatically uses the lowest-cost network to ensure your text, email, or emergency messages get out without costing you an arm and a leg. When in cell phone range, the Zoleo will use the network of a Bluetooth-connected cell phone to send and receive messages. When off-the-grid, the Zoleo will use a network of satellites to make sure your message is received when your life depends on it.

Note: the Zoleo requires a satellite subscription service that starts at $20.

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Portable Power Station

Portable power stations combine a battery, inverter, and various charging ports to give you power while on the go. They are an awesome way to keep your devices charged while camping or to serve as your off-grid power plant for lights and other electronic equipment needs. Solar panels can be added to keep your power station charged.

Our Pick: ECOFLOW 256Wh Power Station

ECOFLOW power stations are some of the most respected in the industry. With fast charging, you’ll spend less time waiting and more time using this unit.  It has LiFePo4 battery cells for extended life and can deliver 300 watts via its 110V outlets. At only 7.7 lbs and a built-in handle, the ECOFLOW is as portable as it gets while still delivering big power. It also comes with a 5-year warranty that proves it’s built to last.

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Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard

Paddleboarding great way to travel waterways while also offering a really good workout. Paddleboards are really big and traditional paddleboards can be heavy and hard to transport.  Inflatable paddleboards can be deflated, rolled up, and taken just about anywhere.  They typically fit even in a small car removing the need for expensive roof racks.

Our Pick: DAMA Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board

We really like the DAMA inflatable SUP.  It comes with everything you need including a bag, pump, leash and multiple paddle options. It even includes some items you don’t need, but are a pleasant bonus. The faux wood-grain design looks really sharp on the water and in our usage, the DAMA inflatable SUP feels sturdy and tracks well in the water.

The included backpack-style bag allows you to take this SUP to even the most remote waters.

View our full review of the DAMA Inflatable SUP

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Gifts Between $100 – $200

Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker

Bluetooth speakers are great – they allow you to take your favorite tunes just about anywhere.  But Bluetooth speakers with really good sound and true waterproof durability are the best for serious outdoor use.

Our Pick: JBL Flip 5 Waterproof Portable Speaker

Sure, there are less expensive bluetooth speakers on the market, but JBL is known for a long history of quality sound, and this speaker doesn’t disappoint in the sound department. You’ll get loud, dynamic sound with deep base.  The cylindrical form factor allows it to be stood up safely on its end or quickly stashed in a cup holder.  Battery life is great on the JBL, it’s charged via a usb-c cable, and you can pair multiple Flip 5s for an even bigger sound.

View our full review of the JBL Flip 5 Portable Speaker

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Lightweight Camping Chair

Whether backpacking or camping, its important to have somewhere to sit.  Camping chairs come in all shapes and sizes, but packability and weight are important factors to choosing a chair for the outdoor lover in your life.

Our Pick: CLIQ Camping Chair

The CLIQ Camping Chair is a marvel. Stylish and comfy, it al

so can be packed away to the size of a water bottle.  It’s extremely easy to pack and unpack on the go.  Throw it in a backpack and you may even forget it’s in there. In our time with the CLIQ chair, we’ve found all sorts of uses for it – sports games, weekends at the lake, and a quick extra backyard chair for guests.  This chair is the most versatile and practical camping chair we’ve seen.  It’s worth the hype and the price.

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Portable Projector

A video projector isn’t vital to exploring the outdoors, but if you’ve got one that’s portable enough to bring along, it’s can be pretty awesome to watch your favorite movies projected on the side of your tent. The key to choosing a projector for use in the outdoors is to find one that has a built-in battery so it can be charged beforehand and ready to go.

Our Pick: AAXA Technologies LED Pico Projector

The AAXA Pico Projector is a tiny workhorse of a projector that’s perfect for camping. Its built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery gives you about 80 minutes of viewing time which can be extended using a small portable power bank or power station.  It has built-in speakers for sound on board and has a 720p native resolution.  The AAXA accepts video input via mini-HDMI or composite video connections.  It also has a Micro SD port to allow you to play your favorite video with minimal effort outdoors. Rated at only 25 lumens, it’s not the brightest projector you’ll find, but it’s plenty bright to light up your campground for the whole family to enjoy.

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Gifts Under $100


Daypacks make carrying all the necessities possible while hiking.  Snacks, water, a first aid kit, sunscreen, & bug repellent are all mainstays of the daypack.  A good daypack is built to be practical, durable, and comfortable.

Our Pick: Osprey Daylite Daypack

Osprey builds some top-notch backpacks and the Daylite Daypack is one of them.  This pack is smaller than a typical backpack, but with its various pockets, it’s perfectly sized for multi-hour adventure. Available in 16 different colors, you’ll be able to find a Daylit Daypack that fits your style. This pack has 15L of storage, dual, side water bottle pockets, and is lightweight.

Note: Daypacks are meant to be smaller packs that make short treks easier and more comfortable.  

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Having the right tools when you’re outdoors can make or break a trip.  Even the simplest set of tools can be heavy and too unwieldy to want to carry off-the-grid.  Multitools are pocketknives or steroids – having multiple useful tools that fold up into a single small device.  Since you never what tools you’ll need when off the beaten path, a good multitool will equip you with plenty of options to appropriately tackle the task.

Our Pick: LEATHERMAN Wingman Multitool

LEATHERMAN invented the first multitool back in 1983. Their multitools are still the best on the market. The wingman has 14 tools to handle just about anything.  All tools can be opened with only one hand to allow for quick and effortless use. At only 3.8 inches long, the Wingman can be slipped into your pocket so you always have the tools you need on hand.  With a 25-year warranty, the Wingman should last a lifetime.

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Annual Activity Pass

Using public land often requires entrance or overnight fees. If the outdoor lover in your life spends a lot of time in National or State Parks, an annual pass is a great gift idea.

Our Pick: “America the Beautiful” National Parks Pass


US National Parks are some of our most beautiful and treasured lands. An annual pass saves you from having to pay between $10-$35 each time you visit a national park while giving you the incentive to get to more of them during the year. The “America the Beautiful” Annual National Parks Pass is valid for 12 months and provides access to more than 2,000 recreation areas managed by six Federal agencies, with up to 100% of the proceeds being used to improve and enhance visitor recreation services.

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LED Lantern with USB Charging

LED lanterns are completely different devices than the kerosene lanterns your parents used. Using small, energy-efficient LED bulbs, LED lanterns illuminate your outdoor space using a built-in rechargeable battery that some models also use as a power bank to charge devices.

Our Pick: BioLite AlpenGlow 250

The AlpenGlow 250 gives off up to 250 lumens of light and has 8 different lighting modes. Choose cool or warm white light or add a little color to your campsite with the AlpenGlow 250’s color modes.  This lantern brings some additional fun with its internal accelerometer.  Shake it and it unlocks additional modes – single side light, candle flicker, 1-color cycling, and multicolor party. It has a 3200 mAh rechargeable battery that lasts for 5 hours on high or 200 hours on low. It also has a standard USB output for charging phones or tablets.

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FRS Radios

Family Radio Service (FRS) radios came on the scene in the mid-’90s and quickly became ubiquitous on ski slopes nationwide. Initially designed for use by families, FRS radios provide a simple way for small groups to communicate outdoors.  FRS radios can be used to communicate across campsites, hikes, and any outdoor activity where separation of the group occurs. At Under $100 for a set of 2, FRS radios are a great gift that can come in handy in many different ways when exploring the outdoors.

Our Pick: Motorola T260 Talkabout Radios (2 pack)

Motorola Talkabout FRS radios are full-featured with 22 channels and 121 privacy codes, equalling 2,662 channel combinations to choose from. Use the included rechargeable batteries for up to 10 hours of use or use 3AA batteries for up to 29 hours. The T260 has 11 weather channels to stay updated with real-time weather conditions.  It also has a scan feature to discover which channels are currently in use. The clean profile and white/grey design of these radios make them stylish and fun to use. These radios can save you time, hassle, and possibly your life when you’re outside of cell service range and need to communicate with friends and family nearby.

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Gifts Under $50

Portable Coffee Maker

Exploring the outdoors usually involves some sacrifices, but you don’t have to give up a great cup of coffee while out on the trail. There are a number of convenient options to make that perfect cup of coffee while outdoors.

Our Pick: AeroPress Go Portable Travel Coffee Press

Great coffee can be made with a small, uber-packable device and the AeroPress Go is proof. The Aeropress Go makes 1-3 cups of coffee, espresso, or cold brew in just a minute. The size of an aluminum can, the Aeropress unpacks to hold coffee grounds and hot water over its built-in mug. The AeroPress Go includes 350 microfilters which help filter the grit out of your freshly brewed coffee. Considering its size, the quality of the coffee it produces, and its reasonable price, the AeroPress Go is the perfect gift for outdoors lovers who also love coffee.

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Insulated Cups

It helps to have a cup, mug, or some sort of drinking device when camping. With little space for an assortment of cups and an interest in minimizing trash, having your own cup is a good idea.  An insulated cup will keep cold drinks cold and hot beverages hot for longer.

Our Pick: Outward Goods 12oz Insulated Wine Tumbler

We’re a bit biased on this one. Our sister company, Outward Goods, offers an excellent insulated cup that works really well for camping. While it’s technically a wine tumbler, its insulated sides make it great for both hot and cold beverages.  The 12oz Insulated Wine Tumbler is available in 3 colors: black, white, and stainless and features the Outward logo.

Buy at Outward Goods

Portable Water Purifier

When far from home, having access to a clean source of water can be the difference between life and death. Having the ability to filter contaminants, bacteria, and sediment from available water sources can make otherwise undrinkable water safe to drink.  If you have friends or family that spend a decent amount of time away from civilization, you should consider getting them a portable water filter.

Our Pick: LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter is a small device that removes bacteria, parasites, and microplastics from water. Its microfiltration membrane removes 99.99999% of waterborne bacteria and 99.999% of waterborne parasites. This ultralight and portable water filter can be used for backup hydration, emergency, or on-the-go needs. Its filter will provide 1000 gallons of clean and safe drinking water during its lifetime. The carrying case protects your LifeStraw making it easier to pack and stow without worrying about it being damaged. As an added bonus, for every LifeStraw purchased, LifeStraw provides a school child in need with safe drinking water for an entire school year.

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Solar Phone Charger

Phones and tablets have become important tools while out on the trail or at the campsite.  From playing music to wayfinding with GPS, phones play a significant role in keeping us both entertained and safe while exploring the wild. To use these tools, a phone has to be recharged.  Using the power of the sun, a solar phone charger is a great way to keep your phone charged and maybe even have some power left over for that Bluetooth speaker.

Our Pick: 42800mAh Solar Power Bank

Most of us are familiar with battery banks – the phone-sized (or even smaller) battery devices that we can plug our phones into when we’re low on battery, but not near an outlet.  Solar phone chargers are simply battery banks with a small solar panel attached – allowing the battery bank to be charged when left out in the sunshine. The 42800mAh Solar Power Bank isn’t a name-brand device, but with more than 4,800 Amazon reviews and an average 4.5-star rating, it seems to be a great little device for outdoor enthusiasts. The device has an IP67 waterproof rating and claims to be dust-proof – helping to make sure it lasts many trips. The small solar panel and large battery in this device mean that it won’t charge very fast using solar, but in an emergency, being able to generate power to charge a communication device is pretty key.

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Tablet/Ebook Reader

A tablet or an e-reader may not seem high on the list for outdoors lovers, but the ability to carry a whole collection of books, maps, and travel documents on a single device is pretty awesome.  We even use our tablet to hold the pdf manuals of all of our outdoor equipment in case we need to reference them.

Our Pick: Kindle Fire 7

The Kindle Fire 7 is a small-format, inexpensive tablet that can be carried on your outdoor adventures without worrying about damaging an expensive device.  Its 16GB of internal storage is plenty to store a number of your favorite ebooks, audiobooks, music, and pdfs.  Its “larger-than-a-phone” screen makes reading much more pleasurable and when using it for music or audiobooks, it frees up your phone for other, more important tasks.  Think of the Kindle Fire 7 as a cheap storehouse for any media and reference materials you want to bring along on your next trip, but don’t have the room for.  On ours, for example, we have knot-tying and insect identification books along with pdf maps and details of our areas of exploration.

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This holiday season, get the outdoors lover in your life something that will help them enjoy the outdoors even more. Any of the above items should make your outdoor enthusiast happy and grateful for the thoughtfulness of your gift.

Did we miss a gift that we should have included? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Review: Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator

Never have to worry about being out of touch while exploring off-the-grid again. With a satellite communicator, you can send text messages and location data to family and friends using a network of satellites to ensure you remain connected no matter where you are at. Our Garmin inReach review details both the device we use, the Garmin inReach SE+, and the Garmin inReach service plans needed for satellite connectivity.

The Verdict:

We like to travel where cell service is unknown – a bit more off the beaten path. With our inReach SE+, we can head off-grid without worry.  Knowing that you are always just a few button pushes away from help if something happens while in the wild, frees you from the anxiety of “what if something happens”. While the SE+ is an investment, the inexpensive service plans and the ability to pause your plan while you’re stuck at home make the inReach SE+ a more than worthwhile investment when we head outdoors. There are newer satellite communicators on the market that bring the initial purchase cost down and that have more developed features, but we like the ease of use and dependability of our inReach SE+ for hiking, camping, and coastal sailing. The SE+ is now an older device and at $400 is probably more money than you need to spend on a quality satellite communicator in 2022.



The build on the Garmin inReach SE+ feels solid and rugged.  Using the form factor of its line of handheld GPS devices, the SE+ is rubberized and waterproof.  With an IPX7 rating, the SE+ can be submerged in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. It’s relatively lightweight at 7.5 ounces and feels good in your hand while using.  It has a nicely sized 1.4″ by 1.9″ color display for messaging and for navigating its features. The SE+ has 6 buttons plus a directional pad on its front and a protected SOS button on its side for emergencies. On the back, it’s equipped with a removable belt clip that includes a carabiner attachment for hanging.

Battery Life:

Like any electronic safety device, keeping the batteries charged is a crucial element for a satellite communicator. These devices “ping” the nearest satellite on a regular basis to update your location and to check for any new incoming messages. How frequently you set the device to log your location and check for messages is directly related to how much battery life you can expect.

The SE+ is rated to provide up to 100 hours (approx 4 days) of battery life using the default 10-minute tracking mode. As expected, the rated battery life drops as logging intervals are changed.  Using 1-second logging provides up to 75 hours of battery life. The SE+ also has a 30-minute power save mode where the batteries can last up to 30 days.

In our usage, we kept the device set at the default 10-minute logging interval and found that 3-4 days of battery life is realistic.  If you like to check the device regularly powering up the screen each time, expect less time out of the batteries.  In any case, it’s important to consider your ability to recharge the device depending on the length of your trip.  If you’ll be away from power sources your entire trip, it’s recommended to set the logging interval to a less-often setting to ensure you’ll have connectivity when you need it.


Dimensions: 2.7″ x 6.5″ x 1.5″
Weight: 7.5 oz
Waterproof Rating: IPX7
Batteries: rechargeable internal lithium-ion
Charging Interface: micro USB


  • Interactive SOS feature
  • Send & Receive Messages vis SMS and Email
  • MapShare compatibility with tracking
  • Virtual keyboard for on-device messaging
  • Send waypoints to MapShare during trip
  • Send route selection to MapShare during trip
  • Connect with the Garmin Earthmate App for messaging, tracking, etc information

Service Plans:

Garmin offers 3 satellite service subscriptions for its inReach devices, all of which can be paid annually at a discounted rate or on a monthly basis (called “Freedom plans”) with an “annual program fee” of $34.95.

Safety Plan ($14.95/monthly or $11.95/month annually):
  • Unlimited SOS messages
  • 10 Text messages per month
  • Unlimited Check-in Messages
  • 10-min + tracking intervals
Recreation Plan ($34.95/monthly or $24.95/month annually):
  • Unlimited SOS messages
  • 40 Text messages per month
  • Unlimited Check-in Messages
  • 10-min + tracking intervals
Expedition Plan ($64.95/monthly or $49.95/month annually):
  • Unlimited SOS messages
  • Unlimited Text messages per month
  • Unlimited Check-in Messages
  • 2-min + tracking intervals

See full feature listings for each plan and compare at the Garmin website.

Since our travels are often sporadic throughout the year, we prefer the monthly “freedom” plans offered by Garmin.  A highlight of these plans is that freedom plans can be suspended at no fee when you won’t be needing service.  While your account is suspended, you won’t be charged a monthly fee, but will still be charged the annual $34.95 fee at the yearly anniversary of your account creation.

Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator for Sailing
Relying on our Garmin inReach SE+ while sailing off the coast of California.

What we like about the SE+:

  1. The ability to message home while far from cell service.  This is why satellite communicators exist.  using a satellite network, you can send messages and contact emergency services from anywhere on the planet.
  2. We love that we can message directly on the device if necessary (ie. our phone battery is dead), but prefer to use the mobile app for normal usage.
  3. We love the unlimited “check-in” messages included on all Garmin service plans.  This allows you to pre-set 3 messages on your Garmin account that can be sent without going against your monthly messaging total.  You can change these often and it makes for the ability to send many more messages back home than your plan typically allows.
  4. We love that we can suspend our Garmin inReach service when we’re not able to get outdoors and can easily be reactivated when we’re headed back out.
  5. We love the MapShare feature which gives us a website to share with friends and family.  Your MapShare page can be password protected for privacy, provides an easy way for loved ones to message you directly through the page, and displays real-time tracking data on your trip progress.
  6. We love the tracking, routing, and waypoint abilities of the SE+.  It’s great to be able to plan trip routes and waypoints ahead of time, sync them to the SE+, and have them in hand while off-grid.
  7. The Earthmate app is really good – giving you the full feature set and data found on the SE+ on your phone.  This allows you to hang the SE+ somewhere with a direct view of the sky and leave it there throughout your trip.
  8. It’s fun to be able to keep those back home updated with the tracking features of the Garmin website.  They know exactly where you are at all times.

What we don’t like about the SE+:

  1. Like other Garmin handheld devices we’ve used in the past, the menu and system interface isn’t great.  It’s clunky to navigate and find the features/data you’re looking for.  After some good usage, you get a feel for how to get around the system, but it’s not super intuitive. using the Earhtmate app for primary usage of this device solves this problem.
  2. The SE+ doesn’t have any maps on the device. Its big brother, the Garmin inReach Explorer+ has mapping capability on the device for an extra $100.  It is awkward to see your tracks and waypoints displayed on a blank screen without map reference behind them, but the EarthMate app allows you to download and use maps to display your data appropriately.  While maps on the device would be nice, we didn’t feel that the extra $100 was worth it – another reason why we prefer to use the EarthMate app with our SE+.


Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator
The design of the Garmin SE+ is solid, rugged, and fits well in hand.
Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator Menu
The SE+ menu isn’t perfect, but with some time, is easy enough.
Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator Tracking without a map
Tracking without a map on the Garmin SE+
Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator SOS button
The SOS button can be easily accessed in case of emergencies
Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator back
The SE+ has a belt clip and carbiner attachment on the back
Micro USB charging on the Garmin SE+
Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator Messaging
Messaging on the SE+ is simple using the virtual keyboard.
Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator for sailing
Using our SE+ while sailing off the coast of California.


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