Let the grimacing begin.
Chocolate Santas. Ugly ties. The dreaded fruitcake.
’Tis the season to expect such unfortunate gifts, especially from loved ones whose idea of outdoor adventure is trying to find a parking space at the mall.
Don’t fret. Whether you’re a bike geek, fitness freak, or gear head, this list — strategically placed in the vicinity of a loved one — should make the holiday season a little more adventurous.
ATLAS 718 JR. & ATLAS ELECTRA 822 SNOWSHOES
Want to spend some time trekking with the family? Now you can purchase snowshoes designed just for juniors and mom, too.
Weighing less than two pounds, the Atlas 718 Jr. snowshoes make snowshoeing a family sport, with treads designed for kids. The juniors are made of lightweight aluminum tubing with Atlas bindings that allow for natural movement, so it’s like not wearing snowshoes at all. The Atlas Electra 822 — the result of two years of research with female athletes — is the first snowshoe specifically designed for women. A streamlined frame delivers the best clearance for a woman’s stride. The soft padded binding envelops the foot for maximum warmth and centers rotation under the ball of the foot — instead of the toe — and limits heel twist for more efficient hiking.
The Atlas 718 Jr. ($39.95) and Atlas Electra 822 ($169) are available at local REI stores or www.rei.com.
OSPREY AETHER 75 BACKPACK
Expect to see this pack on everyone’s holiday gear guide this year. With a pair of composite rods helping to spread the load away from the lumbar area and toward the sides of the hips, the Aether is a comfortable fit even on longer backpacking trips — which is saying something for a bag that expands to handle 4,500 cubic inches. Mesh covers the contoured foam of the hipbelt and broad back panel, keeping you cool. The lid also converts to a lumbar pack.
The backpack costs $239 and is available from REI.
"MOUNTAIN BIKE AMERICA: ARIZONA," BY PAUL BEAKLEY
From low desert to high peaks, from rolling midlands to red slickrock, Arizona offers some of the world’s finest, most dive rse mountain biking. If you’re looking for a comprehensive guide, try this book by Tempe resident Paul Beakley. It offers trail descriptions from beginner to advanced, digitally designed maps detailing each ride, accurate route profiles that show the ups and downs of each ride, directions to get to the ride, mile by mile directional cues, difficulty ratings, elevation gains, trail contacts and other local information.
The book ($17.95, Globe Pequot Press) is available at local bookstores and www.outside-america.com.
X CHALK AND SKIN REPAIR BY ZEN LIZARD
If you need stocking stuffers for the rock climber on your list, check out these two products by Scottsdale-based Zen Lizard. XChalk has been gaining a reputation among local climbers, as it’s the first chalk that soothes hot and ripped up fingers as you climb. While the formula remains a secret, Zen Lizard says XChalk is "100 percent natural with minerals, herbs, and botanicals. No chemicals or weird stuff."
Skin Repair is another all-natural product that will help heal your hands after climbing. You only need a few drops to help heal and mend fingers, toes, and other dry skin areas — excellent absorption, no greasy residue. It is made from "100 percent essential oils and carrier oils. No petroleum products." XChalk and Skin Repair are becoming so popular that Phoenix Rock Gym and Climbmax in Tempe have started carrying the products.
XChalk ($2 for 2 ounces, or $3.50 for 4 ounces) and Skin Repair ($9 for 1 /2 ounce) are available at www.zen-lizard.com.
GARMIN IQUE 3600 PDA GPS
Getting back to nature is fun and all, but it’s even better with a cool gadget in hand. The iQue is a multifunctional PDA that integrates basic organizer features with an MP3 player, voice recorder, vibrating alarm and GPS navigation system. PC-based downloadable maps provide street-level detail, addresses, restaurants, hotels and ATMs. Routes are automatically calculated and iQue provides turn-by-turn voice guidance.
The parallel channel GPS receiver continuously tracks and uses up to 12 satellites to compute and update your position. Weight: 5.2 ounces. Display size: 3.8-inch diagonal. Dimensions 5-by-2.8-by-.08 inches. Screen pixels: 320 by 480. 32MB. Geek factor: A must-have.