Great gifts and products for hiking, fishing camping, water sports: Campfire
Day Of Victory Studio / Shutterstock

Essential Gear to Improve Your Outdoor Trips

A successful outdoor vacation depends, to an unusual degree, on having the right gear. That's one reason why the Scout Motto is "Be Prepared" and not "Just Throw Some Stuff in a Bag."

For our latest travel gear guide, Frommer's editors found five products that will make your time in the great outdoors even greater, whether you're camping, hiking, fishing, kayaking, swimming, or simply blissing out around the fire. And because we know packing space is limited and there's only so much you can schlep into and out of the wild, we've prioritized our recommendations according to what's compact and portable. 

great gifts and products for hiking, fishing camping, water sports: Fishing Flies for a Good Cause
Fishing the Good Fight / Shutterstock
Fishing flies for a good cause, starting at $2.99

If you find fishing therapeutic, here's your chance to pay it forward. The Denver-based nonprofit Fishing the Good Fight sells hand-tied flies for fly-fishing and donates 100% of the proceeds to organizations that provide mental health services. Founder Jennings Hester is especially dedicated to supporting men, who have been found to seek help for depression and related issues at a lower rate than women do. The flies come in a variety of sizes and styles and are made by hand with durable materials. Purchases are a win-win for all involved, except maybe the fish.

Great gifts and products for hiking, fishing camping, water sports: Backpacking Meals
Camping meals, about $25 per day

With apologies to those of you who enjoy eating a burned marshmallow from the end of a dirty stick, most of us don't go camping for the cuisine. But the prepackaged meals from RightOnTrek let you elevate your culinary game when you're far from a kitchen—and the food is easy to prepare as well as affordable, thanks to the meal plan's flat rate of $1 per 100 calories. Create a customized plan at RightOnTrek's website based on your preferences and the length of your trip, and you'll be sent freshly assembled kits for making tasty trail fare such as mac and cheese, backcountry chili, and gado-gado noodles, along with nutritious high-protein snack bars, dried fruit, nuts, dark chocolate, and instant coffee. Each day's rations come in clearly labeled packaging that fits a day's worth of food in a compostable bundle about the size of a freezer bag. You'll need portable cookware (here's a set we found for less than $30) and a way to boil water.

Great gifts and products for hiking, fishing camping, water sports: Sharkbanz shark repellent device
Shark-deterring doodad, $84

Spotted on the wrists and ankles of swimmers, surfers, and at least one presidential paddleboarder (that would be Obama during his Hawaii vacation in January 2020), Sharkbanz gadgets use magnetic technology to scramble the powerful electrical perception of sharks, thus dissuading them from coming within chomping distance of the wearer. Numerous marine biologists have independently verified the effectiveness of the device; visit the Sharkbanz website to watch unsettling videos of test mannequins remaining stoic despite having bait strapped to their carcasses and getting lowered into shark-infested waters. The band requires neither batteries nor charging. 

Great gifts and products for hiking, fishing camping, water sports: Snow Peak's Takibi Fire & Grill
Snow Peak
Portable grill and fireplace, $320

The Japanese brand Snow Peak sets a high bar for elegant minimalism in outdoor gear. A good example is the company's Takibi Fire & Grill, a five-piece, pack-and-carry set for easy cookouts during campouts, whether on a nature reserve or in your own backyard. The durable, stainless steel grill fits over an angular, wood-burning fireplace that collapses to lie flat for convenient storing and packing. Convert to charcoal grilling with a coal bed that's sold separately. Though Snow Peak's products are on the pricey side, they're designed to last forever.

Great gifts and products for hiking, fishing camping, water sports: Oru foldable kayak
Oru Kayak
Foldable kayak, starting at $899

We've been fans of Oru's foldable kayaks for years—we first recommended the origami-esque vessels in our annual holiday gift guide in 2017. Ingeniously designed to fold up into a portable parcel weighing as little as 20 pounds, the kayaks currently come in five different models, from the new, 9.5-feet-long Inlet to the 16-foot, built-for-two Haven. Each kayak is made of lightweight yet sturdy polypropylene and takes less than 15 minutes to set up.