This year’s selection of eclectic gifts offers something for everyone in the WalkClickMake sphere of influence.
Rain Kilt by Zpacks
I hate rain pants. They are a pain to put on. They are sweaty and hot. They are too heavy. Enter the Rain Kilt by Zpacks. You will not win any fashion awards, but these kilts are a good, functional alternative to rain pants. Gail and I took them on our Japan trips and tested them extensively as we walked entire days in the rain. They are completely waterproof and easy to slip on. Just like a skirt (or so I am told) the kilt leaves your legs cool and refreshed. Most importantly, the kilt packs into a tiny roll and weighs a negligible 60 grams. As a bonus, the kilt can be unzipped into a flat ground sheet for use as a nice dry seat for a picnic on wet grass. They are not cheap at USD $59, but are highly recommended for the long-distance walker.
Vertice Rain Mitts by Zpacks
There is nothing more uncomfortable than fingers that have gone numb during a long walk on a rainy, cold day. Zpacks’ Vertice Rain Mitts help solve that problem. Made of a waterproof Ventum-WPB material with sealed seams and a water repellent coating, these mitts will keep those digits comfortable. At 28 grams for the pair, there is no reason not to pack them in a coat pocket. For cooler days, Gail and I carry a pair of lightweight gloves to wear inside the mitts. Worth the rather steep USD $65.
Pointy Hat by Zpacks
Clearly I am a fan of Zpacks. It’s worthwhile exploring their website for other tempting, lightweight backpacking gear. For example, Gail and I also purchased their Pointy Hats as a way-more-comfortable alternative to the traditional sedge hats worn by pilgrims on the Henro 88 Temple route in Shikoku, Japan. They weigh but 110 grams, are waterproof and unzip to store flat. A baseball or visor cap is required, which attaches to a clip on the underside of the cone. It all fits very comfortably on the head. Even though the hat has a grey finish, as opposed to the bamboo colour of traditional Henro sedge hats, the form factor is very similar and we were still instantly identified as pilgrims. I consider the Zpacks Pointy Hat as essential equipment for the Henro pilgrimage. Expensive at USD $65, think instead of it costing five cents per kilometre if the pilgrim on your gift list walks the entire Henro circuit. Happy (rationalized) holidays!
Nomader Collapsible Sports Water Bottle
Carrying water on a long day’s walk is essential. But, boy, are those rigid plastic water bottles bulky. The Normader helps solve that problem. Made of a BPA-free flexible silicon, these bottles can be rolled up into a compact package that fits into a corner of a backpack. Unlike other soft, foldable water bottles, these ones retain their shape once expanded and, even empty, stand up on their own and are easily slid into the outside bottle sleeve on a backpack. At 209 grams, they are just a tiny bit heavier than the equivalent hard plastic bottle. Purchase them on amazon.ca for CDN $26.95.
QuikStand by Nite Ize
Perhaps you are watching Netflix on your tablet in a small Japanese inn. Or maybe you are on an Air Canada Rouge flight using their tablet-based entertainment system. How do you prop up that slippery iPad on your table? Enter the minuscule QuikStand by Nite Ize. Folded, it is about the size of a credit card and weighs in at a mere 10 grams. Expanded, it will prop up an iPad (in a protective case) on a table at a reasonable viewing angle. About CDN $12.00 at outdoor stores and Amazon, or try your local Eddie Bauer where gadgets are often 30% off.
Micro Hybrid Tripod by Joby
I do not carry a tripod on long-distance walks, where reducing the weight of my pack is paramount. But there are occasions where I’d like to prop my camera on an available rock or fence rail to take a long exposure or a selfie of Gail and me. Joby’s Micro Hybrid Tripod fills that need and is so tiny and light (59 grams) that it can be screwed into the tripod socket on my camera and left there for the duration of the trip. In its folded position, tucked under my camera, it goes completely unnoticed. When needed, I quickly rotate the three legs to fan them out and set the camera on an available surface. A friction-fit ball head allows the camera to be levelled. It’s a sufficiently sturdy arrangement to support my Olympus OM-D E-M5 II body and 14-150mm zoom lens. Prices seem to vary wildly. Amazon.ca sells it for CDN $37.99. At staples.ca, the product is described as the Joby Gorillapod Micro Tripod 800 – although it appears to be the same product – and the price is considerably less, CDN $19.79.
Awagami Inkjet Paper Pro Sample Pack
For the experienced printmaker on your list, this collection of Japanese papers (washi), specially coated for use in inkjet printers, is extraordinary. The sample pack contains 18 machine-made papers and 2 handmade papers. Each of these matte papers has its own unique colour and texture. I am particularly fond of the Unryu paper, with its random strands of kobo (mulberry) weaving across the paper surface. I used the thicker Premio Unryu paper for my recent Ramen Rambles exhibition. The sample packs can be ordered directly from the Awagami Paper Factory in Japan. If that seems a long ways away, consider this: I have twice ordered paper online and had it delivered to my door in Winnipeg a week later. The sample pack costs ¥2,000 which is about CDN $22.32. Shipping is very reasonable. There is only one sheet of each paper in a pack, so I would order at least 4 packs for that very special printmaker on your Christmas gift list.
This is your chance to support an artist and get in return a very nice gift worth giving (if I say so myself). Ramen Rambles is my self-published book. As I say in it’s epilogue,
“I don’t over-estimate the importance of these five rambles in search of ramen. They are simple self-propelled journeys through the ordinary lands of my city [Winnipeg] in search of ordinary bowls of soup.
When I use the word ‘ordinary’ I mean to say that the ingredients are just that. Garage doors, railway tracks, shopping carts, trees. Broth, noodles, pork, egg.
The act of walking is ordinary too. It’s the most basic, primitive means of human locomotion. It requires no machinery, no device to make it possible. No bikes. No cars. Just a pair of shoes. Not even that if I was more of a walking aesthete.”
You can purchase this softcover book, 6.5” x 6.75” with 102 colour photographs, 7 illustrations and a lot of words, at my Blurb Bookstore. It will set you back about $45 at the USA Store or $58 at the Canadian Store.