Gifts For The Backcountry Enthusiast

Need some gifts for the backcountry enthusiast? Look no further than this gift guide of fully tested and Backcountry Treks approved gear.

LifeProof nüüd for iPhone 5 (and others)

Lifeproof nuudMost of the Backcountry Treks team has been using, abusing and loving this case for the better half of this year.

To my knowledge, it’s the only waterproof (oh, and also dirt proof, snow proof, and shock proof) phone case not completely covering the screen. That’s right, take this phone underwater and you’ll be interacting with the real screen, not a cover that barely works.

The case is actually lighter than the slim profile case that I outfitted my phone with from the Verizon store. It comes with a mockup of your phone and directions to dunk in water for 30 minutes to test the waterproofness. I was skeptical, but my case passed the test, then, against the wishes of the rafting outfitter, brought my iphone in the nüüd on a three day rafting trip on the Rogue River.

Most enticing may be the fact that you can still fit your phone in your pocket while outfitted with the case.

Outdoor Research Pelmo Sweater

Pelmo SweaterNow it’s my turn for a piece of clothing I’ve been living in. The guys at work are probably tired of seeing me in the Pelmo Sweater, but I don’t care.

On the outside of the sweater it’s wool; the manly kind of wool you want to spend your days in when you live in the mountains.

Inside you’ll find a soft brushed-tricot-lining that will appeal to the sappy movie side of you.

At home on the ski slope, at work and in the forest splitting wood, this has now become a go-to layering piece for me. It’s breathable and wicking too, so when you show up wearing this sweater in the backcountry you’ll likely be the best dressed.

5.10 Guide Tennies

Guide TenniesI’ve now climbed about 800′ of slab in these as I’ve taken my daughters out on their first multi-pitch routes. Yes, my daddy-daughter dates are probably weirder than yours but they love them.

The Guide Tennies climb well and feel great on the hike and on the rock. There’s always a line between an approach shoe hiking well and climbing well, but 5.10 knew exactly where to hit it.

Climbing in approach shoes ups the anti and adds to the nerves. I felt right at home on all day climbs in these and they were solid on the downhill as we headed back to the car. The technology behind the stickiness is Stealth C4 rubber, which you won’t find anywhere else.

Columbia Trail Drier Windbreaker

Trail DrierI never thought I’d be in the market for a windbreaker until Columbia sent me the Trail Drier earlier in the spring. It was one of those sustained 20 mph wind days here in the mountains and I thought a hike with the kids would be a great way to test it out.

The Trial Drier is wind-resistant, extremely breathable and water-repellent. It’ll keep you dry when you’re sweating up a storm and take the edge off of a shoulder season wind.

There’s very little to this jacket and that’s a good thing. It’s packs into one of its own pockets so when you’re throwing it into your pack or the back of your truck for emergencies, you won’t be left with loose fabric.

Ranger Boots

RangerI’ve been rocking these boots all winter, which fortunately started very early in Colorado this year. They’re light weight and super-warm, as my feet can attest. Two hours standing at a Christmas parade in five degree Fahrenheit is a good one.

They’re dressy enough for après ski outings and even to wear into work.

Lightness is also a factor; they’re not in the category of big and clunky. Most of the Ranger line is less than $100 so you won’t be breaking the bank either.

I’ve had these boots in all the casual places, but they’ve also gone Christmas tree hunting (not the kind in the grocery store parking lot), tree cutting and log splitting. They’re holding up much better than I expected.

Smartwool PHD Spring Glove

PHD Spring GloveI began wearing these in the fall and found Smartwool to be a liar. The PHD Spring Glove is just as adept at handling fall conditions as it is spring. A Merino wool liner keeps hands toasty but they’re not thick enough to overheat in the skin track.

The PHD’s include the necessary nose wipe which also keeps your friends from borrowing your favorite gloves.

I’ve never had a pair of gloves I don’t have to remove to operate the touch screen of my phone. I’m still amazed at the technology that allows me to do so. It might as well be the eighth wonder of the world. All I know is that it works.

Tasc Performance Fitted Training Pant

Fitted Training PantI’m adding the Fitted Training Pant mainly because I see my wife wearing them almost every day. She works out in them during the summer and uses them as a base layer in the winter. If she’s not wearing them I can safely assume it’s laundry day.

These pants are a mix of organic cotton and bamboo and make Christine look smokin’ hot. That’s perhaps the best feature to look for any time you’re giving a gift to your spouse.

Aside from the hotness, there’s serious technology behind the pants. They are lightweight, breathable, temperature regulating, moisture wicking, 4-way stretch, anti-odor, easy care and have UPF 50+ sun protection. Just what I said: serious technology.

Mountain Khakis Anytime Knit Sleeveless Dress

Anytime DressFlattering is how Christine describes the fit of the Mountain Khakis Anytime Knit Sleeveless Dress. Sexy is the word I use, and the dress lives up to it all.

Made from a blend of cotton and spandex jersey knit fabric, the dress is soft and well, flattering.

It’s a casual dress that will work just about anywhere. Meetings, school functions with the kids, and treks around the local hiking trails. No need to bring a change of clothes when you have this dress in your arsenal, ladies. It really can do it all.


StravaStrava is the only app to have made the gift list. The free version might earn you a nice “thanks for the tip” while the paid version ($59 / year) could earn you much more.

I’ve used the free version of Strava to track hikes around town, climbs in the mountain, and even some ski runs at the resort.

Often, I’m out of the boundaries from normal cell phone reception, but I’ve still found Strava to be fairly consistent at mapping out my routes and exact locations. The app gives you the ability to name your outing and categorize your activity.

Among other things, it maps your route, displays an elevation profile, records distance, elevation, total time elevation gain and max speed (25.9 mph on skis – wow!).

In addition, Strava is a social network. You and your friends can interact with each other in a way that keeps you both motivated and excited to exercise.


HydroflaskA water bottle. You’re kidding, right? Afraid not.

Hydroflask promises to keep hots up to 12 hours and colds up to 24. When they told me this I was in Thailand, sitting on the beach during a 95 degree day. Yeah, right, was my response.

They sent me that bottle and I put it right to the test. Christine parked at the top of the downtown parking garage for a few hours each morning for swim lessons. While the temperature outside was in the 90s, inside the car I’m sure it was many degrees warmer.

The outside of the bottle was warm, just like you’d expect, but because of the multiple walls of insulation, plus a little magic that I don’t understand, the water still contained ice cubes. We repeated this in many parking lots for an entire summer and my mind is still blown.

Point 6 Ski Socks

point6Ever since meeting Pete, the founder of Point 6, I’ve skied almost entirely in this line. I’m mostly a light to medium padding kind of guy, even when the weather gets cold. Anything thicker takes up space in my boots and my feet end up colder.

I prefer over the calf and that’s where Point 6 specializes. They’ve been in the sock and merino wool industry to a long time and back their knowledge up with a high quality sock.

The last thing you want on a downhill ride or long ski tour is a sock that bunch up, falls down, or breaks apart. This sock won’t leave you second guessing the health of your feet.

Darn Tough

Darn ToughAs you can probably tell, I love socks. Happy feet don’t get much notice, but unhappy feet can ruin an entire outing.

While I type, these are the Darn Tough socks I’m wearing. Yes, they’re more expensive that any sock you’ve ever purchased. But have you ever bought a sock that’s guaranteed for life?

My entire family has been wearing the heck out of these socks for many months. I have three girls (ages 5, 7, and 9) and along with Christine and I, we’ve put these to the test.

Darn Tough puts more more stitches into every inch of fabric. They use high quality Merino wool and there’s no extra fabric in the toes that ball up to give you an annoying mess in the middle of a walk.

Justin Lukasavige

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I love family and adventure and I'm creating stories one day at a time.
  • @ginabegin

    I love that you mix humor into these reviews, Justin. :) Great job! Havent’ heard of Strava or Point 6 before this, so I’m going to have to check them out!

    • Justin Lukasavige

      Thanks, Gina. You’ll love them both

    • @ginabegin

      *Haven’t. Yes, I am that obsessive that I have to edit my own comments. Sent you a tweet about the Strava app, also wondering: I’ve been wearing Dahlgren’s Alpaca/Merino blend ski socks and love them, but I need something to switch them out with. I have talked a lot with Darn Tough through email and at the OR show, but haven’t tried for skiing yet. How do you think—with regards to both Darn Tough and Point 6—wicking ability and warmth rate out of 10?

      • Justin Lukasavige

        I love my Darn Toughs. The lifetime guarantee is incredible. I have some casual pairs as does everyone in my family. I also have a hiking pair, but not any for skiing. Haven’t tried those.

        The casual socks don’t hug my legs like I want them too. @Injinji excels there. They don’t slip down but they’re loose. The hiking socks are perfect and warm.