The most honest and in-depth reviews of outdoor sports equipment on the planet.

Blister’s Holiday Gift Guide 2016

A whole lot of snow has been falling around North America, so if you’re like us, you may have been busy doing more skiing than gift finding for your friends and family. So we’ve listed below some products we love, and you can find some other great gift ideas from our Holiday Gift Guides from past years, too.

(And we won’t tell anybody if you get one or two of these items for yourself — since you should definitely get at least one or two of these items for yourself.)

 

DryGuy Travel Dry DX

MSRP: $40

Every skier and snowboarder on earth should have this product. It is super portable (just stow the Dry DX in your boots), quiet, and it works — after a day riding lifts or backcountry touring, plug in the Dry DX (into your car outlet or wall outlet), place them in your boots, and your boots won’t be wet the next day and your liners won’t stink. It’s a win / win, and we use this product every single time we ski.

DryGuy Travel Dry DX, Blister Holiday Gift Guide

DryGuy Travel Dry DX

 

Hydrapak SoftFlask 350 Collapsible Sports Bottle

MSRP: $18.99

This is one of those unassuming products that you may find yourself using all the time. The Hydrapak SoftFlask is a lightweight, flexible water bottle that collapses as you drink. It’s perfect to throw into the pocket of your ski jacket (especially if / when you are riding inbounds and aren’t wearing a back pack), but we’ve also used it quite a bit for running, too. Hydrapak says that the 350 “holds just enough to keep you hydrated,” and that’s about right — it carries 12 fl oz of the beverage of your choice. We’ve used the SF 750 too, and it’s a great option if you do want to carry more. But in the pocket of a ski jacket, we like how unobtrusive the SF 350 is, and especially given that a water fountain is typically not too far away. It’s easy to clean, and it’s also dishwasher safe.

Blister Holiday Gift Guide

Hydrapak Softflask 350 mL

 

Handsome Cycles Pint Glass and Coffee Mug

Pint Glasses – MSRP: $7.50

Coffee Mug with Removable Wooden Base – MSRP: $17.99

If you’ve been reading Blister for a while, you may have picked up on the fact that some of us around here are big fans of beer, some are big fans of coffee, and the savviest of us know that both provide reasons to live. We also love bicycles and great design work, and the folks at Handsome Cycles are into all of the above. No bike lover will be mad at you if you give them a set of these nice pint glasses, and every coffee lover will be pleased by the beautiful matte-black ceramic mug that comes with a removable wooden coaster base that is hand made in Minneapolis, MN, and embedded with a rare earth magnet. The bottom of the mug has a bit of metal that attracts the base. Detach the base, and the mug is dishwasher safe. (Don’t microwave the mug, however, since you know, metal in microwaves and that whole thing.)

And honestly, you might want to take a few minutes and look around Handsome Cycles bikes and other products, especially if you’re a sucker for nice design. As evidence, check out their Landscape Wool Hat and their Circle H hoodie.)

Blister Holiday Gift Guide

Handsome Cycles Pint Glass and Coffee Mug

 

 

Stio Women’s Jackalope Beanie

MSRP: $35

While we may not love beanies quite as much as beer, bikes, or coffee, it’s close. And beanies that are warm, don’t fit too tight, and have jackalopes on them … we’re all in.

Blister Holiday Gift Guide

Stio Women’s Jackalope Beanie

 

JBL Charge 3

MSRP: $149.95

We also are big fans of music, and we’ve been very impressed by the JBL Charge 3. This thing is fully waterproof (we have tried to drown the thing at multiple pool parties); we haven’t managed to kill it by soaking it during the day then subjecting it to freezing temperatures at night; it has very good battery life, it has good sound (and it can go loud — we used it for the sound at our backyard movie premiere this past summer); and it also doubles as a charger for your phone. We’ve passed the Charge 3 around to a number of different Blister reviewers, and every single one of us wants to keep it. Two thumbs up.

Blister Holiday Gift Guide

JBL Charge 3

 

Blister Membership ($59.99)

Nothing tells that skier in your life that you care about them and want them to be happy like the gift of a Blister Membership!

The Blister Membership:

(1) Gives access to every single bit of content on Blister (including Deep Dive articles, Flash Reviews, etc)

(2) Guarantees that we’ll get you answers to your questions on the site or the questions you email to us (we get so many questions, we simply can’t reply to everyone anymore, or else we would sleep even less than we already do)

(3) Gets you a growing list of great deals that will actually more than pay for the cost of the Blister Membership. 

(4) Includes a copy of the digital-edition of the Blister Winter Buyer’s Guide — and a print copy of the Guide, too, if you hurry up and purchase a membership before we run out of Guides.

So grab a Blister Membership for yourself, your dad, that weird uncle of yours, your pet rat — we don’t discriminate.

Blister Gear Review Membership

 

Hestra Fall Line Gloves

MSRP: $149.95

This glove is a classic. And if there was such a thing as a one-glove quiver, this might be it; no, you won’t want to skin hard uphill while wearing the Fall Line (you’ll be too warm), but we’ve worn the Fall Line pretty comfortably on warm spring days, and also on cold storm days in the dead of winter. It’s nice to have a pair of both lighter and heavier gloves, but if you wanted one glove that will work for many of your days on the mountain (and for multiple seasons), we can recommend the Fall Line.

Blister Holiday Gift Guide

Hestra Fall Line Glove

 

Espro Travel Press

MSRP: $37.95

I love coffee in all of its forms, but for those who insist on French Press or pour-over coffee, I’ve got good news for you. The Espro Travel Press does pour-over and French Press coffee exceptionally well, and it comes in a beautiful, slim container (the whole thing weighs 353 grams) that you can throw into a backpack, messenger bag, hand bag, or the back seat of your car. We have also used the much larger Espro Press P7 quite a bit, and can say that the quality of the coffee that the P7 produces translates over to the single-serving Travel Press. (You can read more about this on the Espro website, but long and short: Espro uses patented micro filters that keeps all of the sludge and grit out of your coffee. And those micro filters work.)

For those of you who care far more about quantity than quality, the Travel Press is probably not for you; brew your pre-ground Folgers and dump it into a Nalgene bottle or whatever. But for those who want to hit the road with a single cup of high-quality coffee with them, you should get this.

Espro Travel Press, Blister Holiday Gift Guide

Espro Travel Press

 

 

Fix It Sticks

MSRP $24.99

From our bike editor, Noah Bodman:

Fix It Sticks and the Back Bottle (which we’ll talk about next) are two little products we picked up at Interbike earlier this fall. While they’re marketed separately, they both come from Brian Davis, a guy who has a few nifty ideas that he’s put on the market.

If you need a gift for someone who rides bikes, these should be high on the list. They’re handy, they’re not too expensive, and most cyclists don’t already own them.

These things are beautifully simple and unquestionably handy. We’ve been using the “original” version of the tool in a “Standard B” configuration — the main body is aluminum, and it has a 4 mm, 5 mm, 6 mm, and a #2 Philips. Basically, it’s all the benefits of a three-way wrench, but it has a 4th tool and it fits into my pocket better.

The two sides of the tool slot together to form a T-handle of sorts. There’s an available bracket so the tools can be bolted onto a water bottle mount if you want to take them with you. While they’re light and handy, ultimately for my purposes, I mostly use them in the shop. On rides, I want a few more tools to cover any eventuality.

The Fix It Sticks are also available in a bunch of other configurations – the aluminum ones have 6 different iterations, each with different tools (the “mountain” version with a 4, 5, and 6 mm wrench along with a T25 Torx looks attractive). There’s also a steel version that has replaceable bits (which are held in with magnets). The Steel version comes with a slew of bits, and it can handle higher torques than the aluminum version (which means it’s work for pedals). The bits are just standard ¼” hex, so if you lose some, they’re easy to replace.

If I were going to do it over again, I’d probably go for the steel ones — the ability to swap around bits would be nice, and since I’m mostly using them in the shop, the extra weight doesn’t really matter. But either way, pretty much anytime I’m working in the shop, these things are close by.

Blister Holiday Gift Guide

Fix It Sticks

 

The Back Bottle 

MSRP: $12

Also from Noah: Another novel idea from Mr. Davis, it’s pretty much just a normal water bottle, except it’s flat on one side and tapered at the bottom. The taper makes it easier to shove in a back jersey pocket, and the flat side means it sits against your back a little better.

At 18 oz (530 mL), it’s a little smaller than a normal “short” water bottle (which is usually about 21 oz). And at the risk of stating the obvious, it won’t fit in a bottle cage. I find that the worst thing about it (which is also one of it’s features) is the lack of a flat bottom. It’s good for jamming in a pocket, but it means the bottle won’t stand up on a shelf.

For quick rides where I don’t need a ton of water, and especially when I’m riding one of any number of stupid enduro bikes that don’t have any damn bottle mounts (that’s a rant for another day), the back bottle is nice. I also like it for longer rides where I have a bottle or two on my frame, but I want a bit extra.

It’s made out of LDPE, which according to the internet won’t give me cancer; it’s BPA free, it’s dishwasher safe, and somewhat surprisingly for something made out of plastic, it’s made in the USA. At the end of the day, it’s only $12, which is in the same ballpark as any other water bottle, and it does exactly what it’s intended to do.

Blister Holiday Gift Guide

The Back Bottle

 

TOPO Designs Mountain Fleece

MSRP: $129

TOPO Designs is a relatively young brand that makes outdoors bags and clothing. Part of what sets them apart is the fact that they manufacture everything in the USA, which is pretty rare in the apparel market.

Their Mountain Fleece has the classic styling and retro colors that you’d expect from this kind of piece, but the nylon-reinforced elbows and forearms are a huge upgrade. The heavier nylon keeps the fleece from snagging in high-wear areas, and is easy to wipe dirt off of.

It is important to note that TOPO’s “Trim Fit” runs a little smaller, so if you’re on the bigger end of a particular size, we’d recommend sizing up.

Blister Holiday Gift Guide

TOPO Designs Mountain Fleece

 

Patagonia Men’s Hybrid Better Sweater Jacket

MSRP: $179

Very few of us need a fully-waterproof, gnar-deflecting hardshell every single day. Sometimes, you just need a jacket that is relatively warm and looks good when you do errands and grab drinks with friends and other normal-people stuff. The Better Sweater Hybrid Fleece Hoody is a cozy jacket that offers a bit more wind- and weather-resistance than Patagonia’s Better Sweater. It worked great last week in Bend, as we were walking around downtown in very cold temps and falling snow, and it’s soft enough to easily ball up and stuff into my backpack when I navigating various airports.

Re: fit — this jacket has a regular / boxier-fit through the trunk, but the arms themselves are more snug-fitting. At 5’10”, 175-180 lbs, I can wear this jacket in a size Medium or Large. If you’re on the fence between sizes, I’d recommend erring on the larger side if you tend to wear several layers or thick layers beneath a jacket like this; I’d recommend opting for the smaller size if  you likely would only wear a t-shirt or a light layer beneath it — or you just prefer a more tailored, tighter fit.

Blister Holiday Gift Guide

Patagonia Men’s Better Sweater Hybrid Fleece Hoody

 

Stio Lofted Sky Insulated Jacket

MSRP: $245

Another nice jacket for town, the Stio Lofted Sky is basically a dressed-up puffy that really does look quite sharp. (We’re big fans of the new colorway “Black Iris”, shown below.) The jacket’s Pertex® Microlight Minirip Nylon outer offers decent weather resistance, while PrimaLoft® Silver synthetic insulation provides the warmth. There is an adjustable hem and zippered interior pockets, and the chest pockets are quite functional. So yes, you could absolutely throw a hardshell over this and go bang out chair laps all day in cold weather, but we like it most as a nice-looking jacket to wear around town, throw in a bag when traveling, etc.

Re: fit — this jacket has a regular / more roomy fit overall, not a slim / tailored fit. So at my 5’10”, ~175 lbs, a size Medium is the right call. But if I was going to wear thick, heavy layers beneath this, or was looking for a baggier fit. Then the Large would be the way to go.

Blister Holiday Gift Guide

Stio Lofted Sky Insulated Jacket

 

Db Ski Bag

MSRP: $249

If you travel with skis, this bag is a godsend. And the more we use it, the more we’re compelled to sing its praises. The bag is light, so you can cram a ton of ski gear into it and stay under the 50 lbs airlines weight limit. It has a phenomenal shoulder strap that allows you to wheel the bag through airports and streets while keeping your hands free — we can’t overstate how nice this feature is. And you can roll the bag up when it’s not in use, so it takes up way less storage space than most other empty ski bags out there. If this bag ever gets stolen or destroyed, we’ll turn right around and get another to replace it.

Blister Holiday Gift Guide

Douchebag Ski Bag

 

Leesa Mattress

MSRP: $525 – $915

In 2016, the topic of “sleep” became hotter and hotter, and we started getting in on it, too. Having spent an absolutely absurd amount of time researching different mattresses and companies, we found our way to Leesa Mattresses, and decided to check them out. I’ve now got over 100 nights sleeping on a king-sized Leesa mattress, and I can personally vouch for the thousands of glowing customer reviews on the Leesa website. I’ll say more about this mattress soon, but for now, I can say that this is an excellent mattress, and it’s understandable to me why it’s one of the most highly-rated mattresses out there. Furthermore, the ordering, delivery, and setup processes are all clear, quick, and simple.

Blister Holiday Gift Guide

Leesa Mattress

1 Comment

  1. Blister Member
    David May 16, 2017 Reply

    The DryGuy boot dryers are great. Bought them based of the review above. I ski in Salomon Quest Max BC boots, which have a gauntlet of pokey plastic pieces at the top of the clog. Taking the liners in and out every day would shred them. With these dryers, there’s no need. Also, I sized way, way down in these boots, which makes putting them on cold really, really tough. On days when I’m carrying a passenger up to the mountain and can’t put my boots by my car’s heater, I can plug-in to the cigarette lighter and have warm, easy-to-put-on boots. It’s a better way to start the day. The cord is long enough to reach the back-seat area of my luxurious 1995 Subary Legacy.

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