If someone on your gift list likes to travel the country–or the world– looking for birds, wildlife, and other natural wonders, I’ve got some great gift ideas for them.
These are all things that I’ve found really useful while out leading birdwatching and nature tours.
Here we go!
Pretty much indispensable for most nature travel is a well-made, well-designed, comfortable daypack. I use mine as a carry-on or personal item when flying and carry it in the field while birdwatching or hiking.
Features to look for:
- Multiple pockets for organizing items
- A padded waistbelt and sternum strap to take weight off the shoulders
- A built-in rain-cover.
- Zippers that can be locked with small travel locks
- Sturdy construction
That last one, comfort, is key but will vary for the same pack among different people. You might want to keep the receipt in case the pack doesn’t fit right.
My top picks for nature travel day-packs:
- REI Co-op Ruckpack 40 (separate models for men and women)
- Osprey Fairview 40 Travel Pack (Women)
- Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Pack (Men)
On Wild Latitudes tours, we do a LOT of birdwatching and wildlife watching. So binoculars are, without question, our number one tool in the field.
Even if you’re buying a gift for someone who isn’t a die-hard birder, they might really benefit from having a nice pair of binoculars on their travels. Binoculars can enhance their enjoyment of not only animals, but landscapes, archaeological sites, cultural events, and more.
We’ve got an article about choosing binoculars for beginning birdwatchers.
Here are my top picks for high-quality but moderately-priced binoculars:
- Nikon Monarch 7, 8×42 Binoculars
- Zeiss Terra ED 8×42 Binoculars
- Vortex Optics Diamondback Roof Prism Binoculars
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been thankful to have my trusty multitool while traveling overseas. I keep it in my pants pocket at all times.
The trick when traveling by plane, of course, is to make sure any multitool gets packed in checked luggage. Those who usually travel with only carry-on luggage may have to do without a multitool. Or they may benefit from a travel-friendly tool that lacks a knife blade (a couple options below).
Here are the top selections for multitools:
- Leatherman Skeletool (NOT suitable for carry-on)
- Leatherman Wingman Multitool (NOT suitable for carry-on)
- Gerber MP600 Multitool (No knife; should be okay for carry-on)
- Leatherman Tread LT Bracelet (No knife; should be okay for carry-on)
A personal locator beacon is a small, GPS-based device that, when activated, can help rescuers find you in an emergency. These beacons work anywhere in the world, provided they can get a good satellite signal.
My wife got me one of these devices to give herself a bit more peace of mind while I’m out running tours in exotic places. Having a beacon gives me some peace of mind, too. I’ve never had to use it and don’t plan to. But just in case.
There aren’t many options here, so I can only recommend this one:
Travel Plug Converter/Adapter
If one is traveling to a country that uses a different voltage and/or plug shape, a device that converts the voltage and serves as an adapter from one plug shape to another is incredibly important. I use these things all the time.
Here are some great options:
- Power Plug Adapter by SublimeWare
- Castries Universal Travel Adapter
- BESTEK USB Travel Power Strip with 8 International Adapters
UV water purifier
Unfortunately, the local water is unsafe to drink in many places around the world. I really dislike having to buy disposable plastic bottles, so I carry a solid Nalgene 1-liter bottle and a small UV water purifier.
In 90 seconds, the UV light from this little device kills 99.99% of all the protists, bacteria, and viruses in a liter of waters. Mine has served me very well in Mexico, South America, and Africa. The model I use recharges via USB.
Here are the best couple options:
- SteriPEN Ultra Water Purifier (USB-rechargeable)
- SteriPEN Adventurer Opti Water Purifier (Battery-powered)
Kindle and eBooks
I love books. And I love to read when I travel (when I find spare moments between birding and leading my groups). I have a Kindle Paperwhite which is a great little device. It can hold hundreds of books and is easy on the eyes. Pretty much all of the Lonely Planet travel books are available for Kindle and I find that really useful.
The reader I recommend is the latest version of the Paperwhite (now waterproof!):
Some ebooks you might also give as gifts:
- Birding Without Borders, by Noah Stryker (also, see our video interview with Noah)
- The Genius of Birds, by Jennifer Ackerman
- The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World, by Andrea Wulf
- Song of the Dodo, by David Quammen
First Aid Kit
Safety first! Thankfully, I rarely have to pull out my first aid kit. But I’m always thankful to have it. A first aid kit is an essential piece of gear for me since I’m a tour leader. Having a small, well-stocked kit is a really good idea for the independent nature traveler as well.
Here are the kits I can recommend:
- Adventure Medical Kits Smart Travel First-Aid Kit
- Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight/Watertight .7 Medical Kit
A Small Gimbal for Smooth Video
Okay, this one is for someone who loves to make videos– for Facebook, Youtube, or just viewing at home with the family. A gimbal provides incredible stabilization of one’s camera resulting in smooth, cinematic-quality footage.
DJI, maker of drones, makes a couple high-quality gimbals that are great for making awesome travel videos. I own the Osmo 2, which is a gimbal that supports a smartphone. To see a video I made with this device, check out our Oaxaca, Mexico Trip Report and watch the video there.
DJI recently released the Osmo Pocket, a much smaller device with a built-in camera. I’ll very likely be getting one of these for my next tour!
A bit old-fashioned, perhaps, but a globe is still a great gift for those who love to travel the world. I’m a big fan of Google Maps and Google Earth, but they can’t replace the tactile joy of spinning a good ol’ globe. I especially like the ones with a bit of topographic relief, where you can feel the mountain ranges.
Here are a couple that I like: