This year, I offer a mixed bag of gift ideas for the walker and/or photographer. All have been used, tested and read by me or my wife Gail in 2018.
Blue Q Coin Purse
There are two things I can’t stand: 1) having loose change jangling in my pocket and 2) having a bulky awkward coin purse for all that loose change. (Okay, other stuff bugs me too, but loose change is up there.) Enter the Blue Q Coin Purses. Aside from being super-cute and colourful, these zippered pouches are fabricated with 95% post-consumer material, add almost no bulk to my pocket and weigh almost nothing (9 grams to be exact). Take a look at the Blue Q website to see their fun collection of purses. While you’re there, pop in your zip or postal code to find a local retailer (there are 14 here in Winnipeg). At USD $3.99, they make a great, useful stocking stuffer.
Nite Ize Curvyman Cord Supervisor
If you use corded earbuds, you know the frustration of tangled cords. Solve that problem with Nite Ize’s Curvyman Cord Supervisor, a simple, minimalist cord wrap that takes no room and weighs a mere 4 grams. At USD $3.99, it’s the perfect stocking stuffer. Available through many retail outlets, including Staples, Cabelas and Atmosphere.
Arcade Adventure Belt
This one is for the long-distance walker carrying a backpack. Any good pack will have a well-designed hip belt to transfer part of the load from the shoulders to the waist. Unfortunately, most pant belts have bulging buckles that end up right under a pack’s hip belt, pushing uncomfortably into the tummy.
Solution? The Arcade Adventure Series Belt. Its plastic buckle is no thicker than the belt itself. The belt material is soft and stretchable so one size fits most people (up to 40-44”). I have been wearing an Arcade on long distance walks for three years and can attest to its comfort while wearing a heavy backpack. And, being all-plastic, it is perfect for passing through airport security.
The model I wear is the Arcade Midnighter Adventure Slim belt (USD $26.00). Its 1.25 inch-wide belt webbing fits my Tilley pants. The wider 1.5” webbing on most of the Arcade belts would be too wide for my pants. But check out the Arcade website. They offer a wide variety of cool designs and an online store.
Pacsafe Metrosafe LS350 Anti-theft 15L Backpack
This is an ideal daypack for excursions to big cities. Pacsafe is a well-known brand specializing in anti-theft travel gear and their Metrosafe LS 350 is a fine example. The entire bag is slash proof. Its two compartments have security clips that would defy the most adept pickpocket. One of the slash proof pack straps has a clip so the bag can be securely hooked around a chair. There are two external pockets for water bottles as well.
Any big city, in whatever country you choose, poses some risk from pickpockets and thieves. Gail and I recently used ours for an eight-day stint in Mexico City. Of course, we had no problems, perceived or real. But the Metrosafe bags offered us peace-of-mind when walking the streets or standing in crowded metros. If we go to London, Paris or New York, this is the daypack we will take. It’s like travel insurance. Probably overkill, but then again…
Pacsafe offers bags in a number of sizes but we found these 15-litre ones to be compact enough to wear comfortably in tight quarters yet large enough for carrying sweaters and rain gear plus a couple of bottles of Mezcal purchased en route (and tested!).
I doubt that I would take it on a long-distance walk as an accessory daypack—they are a bit too heavy—but, for trips to big cities, the PacSafe MetroSafe 350 is a nice, secure pack. You can get yours on amazon.ca or many independent local stores for about CDN $125.
FileHub RP-WD03 by RavPower
I reviewed the FileHub earlier this year so I will spare you the details. This is the perfect gift for the walker/photographer on your “nice” list. It’s an SD card backup device and an external battery for charging smartphones. It’s only CDN $58 at amazon.ca.
Moment Cases and Lenses for Smartphones
I also reviewed Moment’s line of cases and accessory lenses designed for popular smartphones, such as the iPhone. Check out my review here and then go to the Moment website for further details and to purchase online. For iPhone 7/8/X users, I would recommend the Battery Photo Case (USD $90) or the Photo Case (USD $30) in combination with the Wide 18mm Lens (USD $99) as an ideal gift package.
Three books, Three Photographers
These are not books for the trail. They are books about the trail. They have found their way into my collection of photography books in 2018 because of their unique observations about places we live in and travel to and, of course, because of their brilliant images.
Teju Cole’s Blind Spot (Random House, 2016) is a collection of intimate colour photos taken in the many places he has travelled around the world. Snapshots yet ethereal. Straightforward yet mystery-invoking. Each photo is paired with a brief text, a thought or memory recalled by the photo yet invisible within it. It is a beautifully printed and bound book that feels good in the hands. Cole’s photos and prose are dreamy. I keep my copy on a bedside table, ready to open at some random spread to lose myself in. About CDN $38 on amazon.ca and fine bookstores.
Drowned River (Radius Books, 2018) documents the life and death and rebirth of Colorado’s Glen Canyon over the past 45 years. It starts with a facsimile of Eliot Porter’s book The Place No One Knew: Glen Canyon on the Colorado, Porter’s 1963 collection of vibrant colour photographs completed just as the canyon was being dammed and flooded to become Lake Powell. Drowned River follows up on Porter’s book with Klett and Byron’s photographic re-examination of this now-failed mega-engineering project. Klett’s work, which I have been following since 1980, focusses on rephotographic projects, pairing historic photographs of natural and urban environments and his own contemporary views taken from exactly the same camera position. That thread continues in Drowned River, but in a less stringently documentary, more evocative style. No less remarkable than the photography is the text flowing through the book, prose by the eloquent Rebecca Solnit, author of the seminal treatise on walking, Wanderlust: A History of Walking. About CDN $68 on amazon.ca and fine bookstores.
Naoya Hatakeyama is a photographer I should have known years ago yet only discovered this year through his retrospective show at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA). The catalogue for the show is Excavating the Future City (co-published by MIA and Aperture, 2018). It’s hefty and pricey, but inside are hyper-real glossy images from Hatakeyama’s extensive oeuvre. Influenced by the photographers included in the 1975-76 show, New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape, Hatakeyama explores similar themes in his own country, Japan. Natural landscapes blasted to harvest limestone. Limestone made concrete as new urban landscapes. Urban landscapes transformed and reframed over time. I particularly like the River Series, documenting the path of the Shibuya River as it passes through Tokyo, now trenched in an open concrete conduit and travelling invisibly between walls of tall concrete buildings. About CDN $52 on amazon.ca, USD $45 for MIA members.
I’ve cast a wide, eclectic net this year. Hopefully you’ll find some useful gift ideas for the adventurer on your list. But there is one more—a tenth gift idea—I’d like to propose: take your friend or loved-one for a good, long walk this holiday season.