By Abby McAllister
Well, as we had hoped, our family came through with a new GPS unit for Christmas. We decided to head outside today to try out this activity we've been wanting to do for awhile now...geocaching. Think of it like a world-wide treasure hunt. All you need is a GPS unit (some smart phones have this capability too) and access to a database of cache points (many online-some free, some at a minimal cost). We downloaded a few cache points that are near our place and headed out into the cold, clear day to see how this thing works.
We picked what was classified as an easy find for our first try. Dad showed the kids how to work the GPS device and off we went. After a bit of trial and error learning how to follow the device we landed squarely in a big juniper bush. The kids dove right in and soon found the object we were searching for: an old, black cash box.
This cache had a lot of little goodies in it. In a cache like this you can take 1 item and replace it with another. Isaac chose a little rattle to take and we left something fun too! Each cache also has a notebook or roll of paper to sign, showing you were there. We looked over a few of the previous entries (the oldest being 2009) and then signed our names. We were so excited with our success that we headed out for another immediately. The next one was harder since it was much smaller. We aimed the GPS unit and made tracks across the snowy countryside.
This cache was classified as a bit more difficult due to it's smaller size. It also came with a hint that it was located about 6 feet off the ground. On the way the boys were having fun pointing out all the animal tracks we saw in the snow. We wandered around a bit and then came to another juniper tree. Up the boys went! Our tall one spotted it and pulled it out. This one didn't have much room to leave little treasures but we signed our names to the paper and high-fived each other.
The boys really wanted to keep going but we had made the rookey mistake of only downloading two caches. Overall, this is a fantastic way to get your kids outdoors. If we had just suggested a stroll around the reservoir, they never would have wanted to join us. With our GPS and treasures to find we could hardly get them back inside! If you haven't tried geocaching yet-find a way to get started. Your kids will be dragging you outside!
As I started to do some research for this post I realized I might be a bit behind the curve for this whole “Christmas gift Idea” blog post. Here’s the thing: we have 7 family birthdays in the month of December before Christmas so honestly I barely start thinking about Christmas presents until like the 18th when all but 1 are done. So really, for me, this blog post is WAY ahead of the curve. If you’ve already bought all your gifts and they are tidily wrapped and are just awaiting the big day, maybe you can file this away for next year. If you are a bit more like me, this should come just in time!
Here is a list of ideas that we, being an outdoor oriented family, would love to receive (in many cases we already have and we love them!). I hope you can find some inspiration for what to get for those nature lovers in your family.
Hammocks have come a long way in recent years. No longer resigned to a seasonal backyard fixture, hammocks now come ready to travel wherever you want to go. They are great for people of all ages. Mom and dad love to relax after a day of hiking and read a book. Some of our big boys have “rock-offs” where they try to see who can rock the highest without falling out, winner determined by the one who hasn’t fallen out…our baby even likes to nap in our hammocks. You may start with one or two but will quickly need one per person. We have tried various brands over the years but our favorite is SOCO. Their hammocks are very similar to an ENO hammock but their cinch buckle system elevated our hanging up experience from dread to no problem. We also love their colors but more importantly they use socially conscious (hence SOCO) practices AND you can designate a portion of your purchase cost to go to a charity (hence the slogan “kick back, give back”). This is a gift that you get to give to two people! You can’t beat that.
In summary: Just starting out? This is the one you want and you might include a starter kit too. Own their own GPS but haven’t geo cached? Just get them the starter kit and if they are experienced geocachers? Get them a membership to a geocaching group like this one. That’s it-great gift!
I love this gift because it is really a gift of making memories, spending time together and it gives over and over again. You can give a family the gift of a membership, passes or tickets to all sorts of outdoorsy things. Recently some good friends in WA sent us tickets to the Denver Zoo Winter Lights at Night display. Not only are we so excited for a fun reason to get outside this winter, they were also really convenient for our friends to purchase. No matter where you live you can go online, purchase tickets or passes or memberships and have a confirmation sent to the recipient. Christmas shopping done! If you hate lines in stores and crowds of consumers and that frantic last minute shopping, this is a great way to go. Some ideas that come to mind are local zoos, botanical gardens, ski passes, or even memberships to recreation centers. Although a recreation center is not a strictly outdoor item, they really help your family stay in shape in the winter months or during streaks of bad weather.
These would fall under the same category as an “experience” type gift. Is there something your outdoor family has been hoping to try but hasn’t been sure how to start? Maybe your teen wants to try rock climbing or the family has found a cool location to canoe to but aren’t sure about how to do it safely. Not only is this a gift of experience, it is a gift of knowledge and most importantly a gift of safety. Let’s face it grandparents-those outdoorsy types are going to go out and do “it,” whatever it is for them. Now you can give them the gift of knowing how to mitigate risks and up the enjoyment factor. Where do you find such classes you ask? Try the following: recreation departments offer classes at very reasonable rates (look for rock climbing, snowshoeing, boating, swimming, cycling, navigation, and more), outdoor stores like REI often offer classes (check out REI where they offer classes for all ages and for families), our Museum of Nature and Science has trips that include guides who are trained not only in the outdoors but in the science of the area (canoe trips down rivers in CO and UT to learn about ecosystems, natural history, and the biology of the area for example), and finally one for parents only-how about a wilderness first aid program so they can be confident about keeping the family safe. I haven’t been through a course with any of the following but you might check out SOLO, Wilderness Medicine, and Wilderness Medical Associates International.
That’s it folks. I believe every outdoorsy family would be thrilled with any of the gifts above and I think they are gifts you can feel good about giving. They are unique, experience-oriented, build memories that last forever and they are thoughtful (and you don’t even have to leave your house to send them!). Maybe you will even find something that will motivate you to join that outdoorsy family in your life!
Wait! I think I promised a (+1) idea…being a mom of 4 boys I had to throw this in. My boys live for fire. They would love any gift that gave them an excuse to burn stuff. Here are some fun ideas I’ve found that we will be trying out ourselves soon:
Two ways to add some color to your campfire.
colored pinecones 1
colored pinecones 2
How about a “s’mores-in-a-box” gift? Here are some ideas to get you started but really you can figure this out on your own…let’s see, graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate. Yep, you know the drill. To make it a bit more fun you could add marshmallow roasting sticks, various kinds of chocolate, or this idea that I love- s’mores in a terracotta pot for the family without a fireplace or firepit. If you want cute packaging and labeling ideas just go to pinterest.com and search “smores gift box” or “smores kit.”
So that’s it folks! Our top 5 (+1) for 2014. We hope your holidays are filled with what is important-family, fun and the outdoors. If you have other ideas or love these products too we would love to hear from you in the comments section below!
Harley & Abby McAllister
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