There is no pricetag on the outdoors, no substitute for the fresh air or the invigorating smell of snow on pine branches or the way the warmth of the sun heats one from the inside out. There is no Instagram pic or Facebook post of a waterfall or forested trail or sunset sliding down the back of a mountain that can transport the viewer. There is no 3-D printer for life. You have to go out and get it.
To that end, what better gift to give to a loved one than some of the basic tools they need to enjoy the outdoors this winter?
The first one is easy. A map set. If you want to inspire, encourage, even join a friend or family member with some hiking, walking, cycling adventures, the best place to start is with a set of maps. Two that come to mind for this region are the Shawangunk Mountain Ridge map set that includes Minnewaska State Park, Sam’s Point and the Mohonk Preserve as well as the Catskill Forest Preserve map set — both published by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference include trail descriptions, elevation markers, and a list of easy-to-interpret symbols for beginners. They even come in waterproof and tear resistant packaging to tuck into any rucksack or fanny pack or inside jacket liner.
What good is a map if you can’t gain access to the mountain or trailhead? Consider a membership to either the Mohonk Preserve and/or the Empire Trail Pass, which gets you and your carload into almost any New York State Park.) For less than $100 each, both these passes offer unlimited access throughout the year, encouraging recreation and land preservation while curbing the day-visit costs.
Now it’s time to start outfitting your outward-bound gift recipient. Consider a pair of wool socks, a first aid kit, a neck gator, gloves and the almighty, often-forgotten headlamp, great for those hikes that stretch beyond sunset, for safety when walking along the side of the road, or for searching for a lost item. When it comes to staying warm, many think a coat is the most important article of clothing. But nothing can take the joy out of a trek like a pair of wet, icy-cold feet that could easily be assuaged by a pair of Darn Tough or Smart Wool socks.
Even if you’re wearing a pair of warm woolen socks, after a long hike, run, bike climb, ice-climb, even the toughest sock can succumb to the elements, so it’s great to have a second, fresh and dry pair to put on once you get back to base camp.
Other great gifts for the winter hiker include micro-spikes or crampons or yak-tracks. These make even routine walks safer as they grip the ground, providing traction where patches of unforeseen ice may lurk. They also allow that more experienced and enthusiastic hiker, runner, trekker to get out further without the fear of falling in the snow and ice on the endless combinations of historic carriage roads and trails that zigzag throughout the Hudson Valley. Walking with good micro-spikes that slide over whatever shoe you’re wearing can turn a dangerous, ice-walk into a cake-walk. It can help one explore those crystalized palaces hanging like hidden chandeliers in the recesses of the mountains.
Neck gaiters are another simple yet effective gift that can serve a myriad of purposes. There are many styles of warm and colorful gaiters made by Buff that include lightweight merino wool. They keep the neck and face warm when biking or hiking, or slide up around that head, doubling as a hat or liner beneath a bike or climbing helmet. Heat is often lost through the head, neck, feet and hands. Any outdoor lover will tell you that having an extra one of these items can be a godsend.
There also more experiential gifts, like rental packages for cross-country skis or snowshoes. These are great for someone who has expressed some interest in these activities but hasn’t tried them yet. Getting them nice gear could be cost-prohibitive and ultimately a waste if they don’t take to the sport, so rentals are a great option. Local parks and rail-trails also great options to groomed trails. .
Here are some resources for finding these gifts. The Mohonk Preserve has a new trail map that members and visitors can purchase as well as climbing, hiking, geology, birding books. Gift memberships can be found here: https://www.mohonkpreserve.org/how-to-help/join/gift-membership.html. The Empire State Pass can be found here: https://parks.ny.gov/admission/empire-passport/
Many of the items mentioned can be found Rock and Snow in New Paltz or their new children’s store in Rosendale or at Kenco in Kingston. Rentals can researched at https://www.rockandsnow.com/177/Rentals/.