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Holiday gift ideas for the great outdoors enthusiast

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 13 2011 5:13 p.m. MST

There might not be a lot of things more unpleasant than being unprepared for an outdoor adventure.

Take for instance my first Alpine skiing experience. I had never been on skis, and so I did not realize when some friends invited me that snow pants were a must. I showed up in a hat, jeans, my winter coat and cotton mittens. Did I mention that I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska?

Needless to say, I wasn't anxious to return to the great outdoors — especially during cold temperatures — for quite a while. That experience came to mind because of something I heard at a Columbia Sportswear event at Canyons Resort last week.

"Really the biggest obstacle to enjoying the outdoors is the weather," said Wood Blackford, vice president of innovation at Columbia Sportswear. He pointed out that a lot of us are more comfortable than ever inside our homes.

"We've really been trying to make the outdoors a place that isn't uncomfortable to go," he said before explaining how the company is expanding use of its Omni-head technology, which has become a huge hit with consumers.

To test his theory, I asked some of my friends who stay indoors most of the winter — including those playing indoor sports and those who log a lot of hours in gym. While many said they hated to be cold, a lot of them said they didn't really know how to get started when it came to taking up a new winter hobby.

For the last several years, I have compiled a gift guide for outdoor enthusiasts. This year I did something a little different in that I asked a friend, David Blackburn, to help me compile the list. He is the die-hard outdoor lover who embraces outdoor activities of all kinds in every season.

So together, along with the help of Wasatch Running Center, REI, Columbia Sportswear, Black Diamond and a few other companies, we came up with this wish list. I list retailers where I found these items, but you may find them in other stores as well. Most of this gear he's tried and loves, and a few he's hoping Santa brings.

Enjoy!

1. Vapor Flash Jacket. It retails for $350, but could save your life. The entire thing is reflective, and it's wind-proof and waterproof. Even with no lights on it, it glows. Available at Wasatch Running Center. (There is a completely reflective and water-resistant hat, as well, and that sells for $30.)

2. Gore Light AS jacket. This may be the mother of all windbreakers. Extremely water-resistant and completely wind-chill proof, this jacket also folds up into one of its own pockets to make it usable on just about any outdoor adventure one could dream up. Retails for $160 at Wasatch Running Center.

3. Omni-Heat Men’s Bugaglove Max Electric (electric heated leather winter sport glove). This unisex glove has a heater in it (with rechargeable battery) and it puts heat where you need it, on the top of your fingers. Retails for $399.

4. Columbia Baselayer Midweight Half Zip. It's Omni-Heat thermal reflective, Omni-wick advanced evaporation, form fitting and four-way stretch. As far as base layers go, it doesn't get much more comfortable. Retails for $60 at REI.

5. Assimilate Soft Shell Jacket, which retails for $170 at REI.

Why is Columbia Sportswear hot (or should we say cool) this Christmas? Omni-Heat. The technology has made a number of Columbia products must-have the last couple of years. The company claims it keeps wearers 15 to 20 percent warmer, and Blackburn backs them up. He adds that for the price, it can't be beat.

"It seems spacey and out there, but I have been very impressed," he said. The plain black beanie he bought two years ago is his constant companion in cold weather.

"I'm never hot. I'm never cold. It's like the perfect porridge," he laughed. "I wore it every day that I worked (as a mountain host) at Snowbird."

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