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Expedition Portal’s 2016 Holiday Gift Guide

It’s time again to make your wish list. Over the course of the last year we have found dozens of items which we believe are perfect gifts for the overlander. From inspirational books to trusty camp tools and everything in between, there’s something for everyone.

Travel the Planet Overland, by Graeme and Luisa Bell, $45

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If you frequent Expedition Portal, you have likely read one of the many features penned by Graeme Bell and photographed by his wife, Luisa. Their family of four has been on the road for several years, their home in South Africa long since in the rearview mirror. With a few continents under their tires, they’ve written two books, the most recent is an encyclopedic edifier of all things overlanding. If you have ever thought about hitting the road but lack the inspiration or confidence to push through your front door, buy this book. It also keeps the Bell family rolling and we overlanders love to support our own. a2aexpedition.com – CN

Primus Onja 2 Burner Stove, $140


Can a stove look cool? If so, I’d say Primus’ new Onja is on the right track, but while the stylish design and cool leather accents are what caught my eye, it was the product’s quick setup and durable construction that made me fall in love with it. Unlike normal stoves which require you to attach and detach a gas bottle and regulator for each use, the Onja’s two fuel canisters can remain in place at all times, allowing the user to simply pull it out and light the burner. This makes quick lunches and road side coffee breaks a breeze, even in the chill of arctic conditions. The construction is simple and stout with nearly all metal components, and opening the stove automatically shields the burners from wind while widening the base for stability. As a bonus it includes a solid oak lid, which doubles as a cutting board for picnics and campouts. Although slightly more expensive than your standard two-burner, we feel the quality and simplicity are worth the price, and will keep you happy for years to come. primuscamping.com – Chris Cordes


Stanley Vacuum Steel (Beer) Stein and Growler, $35, $50


Stanley didn’t include it in the title, but I will. This is a beer stein. Put coffee in it if you want, but that would be as wrong as wearing cowboy boots with your lederhosen. The classic flip top of the Stanley Stein doesn’t just keep bugs out of your Kölsch, it seals tight enough with the cam-levered hasp to contain your brew without losing any carbonation. If you have a beer lover in your life, this will be the gift sensation of the year. The Growler is one of the best on the market, the handle large enough to actually fit–a hand. stanley-pmi.com – Christophe Noel

Hanwag Patoja Mid Gore-Tex, $200


It’s never easy to find a pair of boots suitable for the modern overland traveler. A good pair has to be weatherproof, supportive, comfortable, and further complicationg the criteria, it doesn’t hurt if they look nice enough to wear to dinner. With nearly a century of boot making experience behind the classically designed Patoja, it’s the perfect travel stomper. Curiously light due to carefully chosen materials and construction techniques, these boots are as much at home walking miles into the mountains as they are trekking across a hotel lobby. hanwagboot.com – CN

Victorinox SwissTool XC Spirit Ratchet, $140


Earlier in the year I set out to test a handful of the best multi-tools on the market for a review in the Fall issue of Overland Journal. My personal favorite, and the tool that sparked the review itself, is the top offering from the legendary Victorinox brand. Overused as the cliche is, it is impossible to deny the Swiss their dedication to precision. The XC Spirit is not just full featured with 38 individual functions, it is exquisitely crafted, right down to the top-grain leather case. If you need to replace that tired and ugly tool you’ve had for years, this is the one to ask for. victorinox.com – CN

Dometic CFX-50 Refrigerator/Freezer, $775

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A long time player in the RV and marine industries, Dometic is a lesser known brand in the overland world. That is changing rapidly. With an updated line of refrigerators and a renewed marketing focus aimed at the off-road touring crowd, you will likely see more of Dometic in the years to come. Over the summer I used their popular 50-liter fridge nearly every day while on the road or chilling brews at home. I’m still using it today and I’m quite impressed. Although it has a rather large footprint for its internal size, it has proven energy efficient, well insulated, and easy to use with a few features not found on other units. dometic.com -CN

MSR Guardian Water Purification System, $350


Released earlier this year, the MSR Guardian is the most advanced water treatment system we have ever tested. Using their proprietary hollow fiber filter technology capable of removing all water-born pathogens including viruses, the Guardian is remarkably efficient and can produce 2.5-liters of water per minute. Best of all, the water mavens in the MSR lab devised a mechanism that cleans itself as it is being used. The replaceable filter element can treat up to 10,000 liters making it an ideal solution for groups large and small. Easy to service in the field and built to withstand the roughest abuses of the backcountry, this may be the last water purifier you ever need. Read our full review of the Guardian [here]. cascadedesigns.com -CN

BioLite PowerLight Mini, $45


If I had to pick a favorite product of the year this would be it. Not to say I don’t appreciate a flashlight or own a drawer full of headlamps, but the PowerLight Mini is better than all of them––by far. Part lantern, part flashlight, it is also a portable power pack you can use to charge other handheld devices. The rechargeable battery provides up to 52 hours of light adjustable from a soft glow to 135 room-illuminating lumens. Slightly smaller than a deck of cards, it has a built-in stand, charge indicators, and well, you just need to own one to fully appreciate it. Or like me, own several. bioliteenergy.com – CN

Yeti Hopper Flip 12, $279


We have been fans of Yeti’s growing line of soft coolers since the release of their original Hopper a few years ago. The latest addition to that collection is the cube-shaped Flip 12. With a new and improved lid format and space efficient shape, it’s sure to be a big hit. As they name implies, the new lid format, still secured with Yeti’s burly and waterproof zipper, allows the top to open wide for easy access. Sized perfectly to fit a 12-pack of cans with room to spare, the Flip has all of the exterior handles and lash points of its bigger siblings. With Yeti’s proven ice retention performance and bomber construction, this cooler will outlast most of its owners. yeti.com -CN

The Activity Group A260 First Aid Kit, $233


While many overlanders get distracted by the latest LED light bar, it is the core equipment that is often neglected. Principal to this is a proper first aid kit and the training (WFA, WFR, W-EMT) to utilize it in the field. Forget the typical bandaid and aspirin plastic box and invest in a true wilderness trauma kit like the A260 from The Activity Group. Not cheap, but it has almost all of the critical contents required, including a tourniquet, XGauze dressings, nasopharyngeal, compression bandages, shears, gloves, etc. Personally, I would add a few meds like an antibiotic and an Epipen, along with a travel needle and IV kit (for those 3rd world hospitals). The kit is extremely compact and designed to be mounted via a MOLE tear-away panel (I prefer the back of the DS headrest). Made in the USA by theactivityusa.com

Nemo Equipment Nomad 30XL, $199


The winner of our most recent sleeping pad review, this luxurious camp bed is a whopping 6-inches thick, 30-inches wide, and more than long enough for even the tallest sleepers. Perhaps best of all it has a built-in foot pump. Comfort is subjective, but I can’t imagine anyone not getting their 40 winks out of the Nomad. The vertical sidewalls and subtle baffle shape feel more like a bedroom mattress than a backcountry bunk, and as plush as it is, it packs into a small bundle for easy transport. Sleeping pads have become hot gift items this season and the Nomad is the one to beat. nemoequipment.com – CN

Frost River Voyageur Backpack, $250-280


As travelers we all need a means to portage our stuff from point to point. Sure, you could do it in a pillow case, but you would miss out on owning a hand-crafted product made of premium waxed canvas, fine grain leather, and brass hardware. The Voyageur Backpack from Frost River is perfectly sized for all types of travel and works as well for sorties across town as it does bouncing in the back of a Defender or stuffed in the overhead bin on a long flight. The timeless styling and impeccable construction makes this one of those gifts that will likely transcend a generation or two. frostriver.com – CN


Bubba Rope Gator Jaw Soft Shackles, $40


Vehicle recovery is dangerous business. The portent of broken components and the threat of injury or worse is very real. One potential hazard is a broken shackle. Bubba Rope’s Gator Jaw soft shackles are an unlikely solution to reducing the risk of failure and come with a host of other benefits not found in the common metal connectors. Not only are they lightweight and easy to use, they pack small and even float. More importantly, they have a 32,000-pound strength rating that is surprisingly stronger than most steel shackles. Who knew? bubbarope.com – CN

Hanz Waterproof Tap-Knit Touchscreen Glove, $45


Wet hands are cold hands. Unfortunately, few gloves backed with waterproof claims deliver on that promise. The exception are gloves made by Hanz. Their 3-layer technology combines a proprietary stretch MVT waterproof membrane with a wicking liner and a knitted nylon/Spandex outer shell. The result is a thin yet warm layer that seals out moisture, all of it. Anti-slip dots on the palms and fingers provide a solid grip and bolster durability while the two primary fingers have been modified to work with touchscreen electronic devices. Unlike most waterproof gloves which are thick, rigid and awkward, Hanz gloves provide unimpeded dexterity and comfort. Made in the USA and pressure tested for waterproofness, these are the gloves to have for chilly and wet adventures. hanzusa.com – CN

Alpinestars Toucan Gore-Tex boots, $499


The winner of our Overland Journal motorcycle boot review, Alpinestar’s top adventure model is still one of our favorites. It has a near perfect blend of touring aptitude with off-road appropriate armor. Providing ample protection against injury, the waterproof and breathable liner fends off the unpleasant weather that invariably intersects with any motorcycle tour. Slender enough to fit under most pants, they’re built with metal buckles, stitch-down outsoles, and top quality materials which ensure a long service life. For extended days in the saddle, they are surprisingly comfortable. Whether dragging a foot in a rowdy turn, or strolling across the cobbled streets of an Ecuadorian village, these are the boots to have. alpinestars.com – CN

Tepui Expedition Gear Container, $190


Best known for their line of high quality rooftop tents, many people overlook Tepui’s excellent line of Expedition Series storage bags like their massive Gear Container. Made of heavy polyester canvas coated with a thick synthetic resin, this soft-sided case is highly water and abrasion resistant. The large #10 zipper is placed at the upper edge of the sidewalls creating a lid that opens like a trunk, not like a bag. Adjustable dividers and zippered pockets keep things organized and the exterior is festooned with handles, lash points, and even a set of wheels for an easy portage. My Gear Container is always at the ready, filled to the brim with mountain bike gear ready for a ride at any moment. When a bag won’t do and a hard sided case is overkill, the Gear Container usually fits the bill perfectly. tepuitents.com -CN


Midland X-TALKER Two-way Radios, $79


When deep in the woods and beyond the reach of cellular service, two-way radios can be a very convenient tool. Not every traveler has the need for a far-reaching HAM radio system or cares to acquire the licensing required to use it. Midland’s inexpensive and easy to operate X-Talker radios provide superb clarity and useful features to keep your group connected. With 36 channels and 121 privacy codes, they also have NOAA alerts and weather scan information. mildandusa.com – CN

Eagle Creek ORV Trunk 36, $399


With as much as our team travels, we have had ample opportunities to test all types of luggage. Maybe we’re prone to pack too much or we’re simply getting older, but shouldering huge duffels is no longer an attractive option. We are after all big advocates of wheeled things like Eagle Creek’s cavernous ORV 36 trunk. Known for years as the go-to brand for adventure travelers, Eagle Creek has made strong plays into the overlanding segment as evidenced by the predominance of exotic trucks pictured in their catalog and website. Not just a branding strategy, their rugged haulers are up to the task of our type of travel. On a recent trip to Alaska, I packed all of my camping and camera gear in the ORV 36 Trunk and loved its many unique features like an isolated waterproof compartment for my wet boots. The robust materials, large diameter wheels, reinforced zippers, wide handles, and multiple lash points were able to endure the worst baggage handlers, and me, an oft ham-fisted overlander. eaglecreek.com – CN

Jetboil Genesis Base Camp System, $350

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Leave it to the forward thinkers at Jetboil to reinvent the two-burner stove. With a design carefully engineered to maximize storage space without compromising performance and usability, the Genesis Base Camp System is perfect for overland travel. The two burners connect via a robust hinge mechanism allowing them to fold together in a tight clamshell package. The stove then nests inside the large 5-liter pot. All of it, including a ceramic-coated fry pan, then slips into the heavy-duty nylon carrying case. Made of stainless-steel and aluminum, it is a high quality product and over the last summer earned a spot as one of our favorite new gear items of the year. Read our full review of this system [HERE]. jetboil.com -CN

Lightforce 180 LED Driving Lights, $405

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I’m going to go ahead and say it. Many LED lighting systems, particularly light bars, just don’t fit the aesthetics of some vehicles. Fortunately, Lightforce continues to produce up-to-date LED options for the round-light inclined. Their 7-inch lights, sold in pairs, combine 20 individual high quality CREE LED elements to provide flood and spot beams. As we have come to expect of the brand, they have an IP68 rating for waterproofing and impact-resistant polycarbonate lenses for front mount durability. lightforceusa.com

EnerPlex Kickr IV Solar Panel and Jumpr Stack 9 Battery Pack, $129, $119


Travel long and far and eventually you will run out of the juice needed to power your many electrictronic toys. Keeping topped off is often a tricky prospect unless you can tap into the power of the sun. EnerPlex is a leader in solar technology with a series of flexible panels packaged in award-winning products. The Kickr IV panel generates 6 watts of electricity with direct USB charging access. When paired to the 9,400 mAh Jumpr Stack 9 battery pack, you have a charging station that can recharge most phones, tablets, and cameras multiple times on a single charge and indefinitely with dependable sunlight. I have used this combo all over the world with superb results and never leave home without it. enerplex.com – CN

Giant Loop Fuel Safe Bladder, $139-$169


I remember the moment the engine cut out and I coasted to a stop under the pounding sun of Baja. Running out of fuel stinks, but so too do many of the available solutions for carrying reserve petrol. Regulations imposed on fuel containers are strict, but Giant Loop found a little latitude with those rules. The result is their one-gallon Fuel Safe Bladder, available as a stand alone or kit complete with attachment straps and filler spout. It would have served me well on my Mexican romp. Unlike hard sided containers, when not in use it rolls up into a small bundle. Robustly built with reinforced lash points, this is not a long term storage tank, but rather a convenient means of adding a little extra reach between gas stations. giantloopmoto.com – CN

ARB Tire Pressure Monitoring System (External), $314


Everyone is well aware of the importance of proper tire pressure, and we’re all guilty of not checking our inflation levels as frequently as we should. ARB has come to the rescue once again with their TPMS kit available as internal or external kits. The latter can be installed in less than 15 minutes. The compact display plugs into any 12V outlet and has several user-selectable audible alerts for low pressure, high heat, and sensor charge levels. The plug-and-play convenience is only bested by the accuracy, which by my tests, is spot on. arbusa.com -CN

Warn Heavy-Duty Epic Recovery Kit w/ Backpack


The Epic Recovery Kit is a brand-new product from off-road icon Warn Industries. Available in a Medium Duty Kit intended for winches rated up to 12,000 lbs, and a Heavy-Duty Kit rated for winches up to 18,000 lbs, it is now easier than ever to choose the right tools for your needs. Each pack carries two forged ¾” Epic Shackles, an Epic tree trunk protector with forged end loops, an Epic snatch block, a WARN premium recovery strap, and Kevlar reinforced winching gloves. For resistance against wear and corrosion during extended field use, all the metal components have been finished with a heavy grey powder coat, which also happens to look seriously cool. The finishing touch is a modular backpack made from ballistic materials, which keeps your gear separated and organized reducing wear. – Chris Cordes warn.com


Christophe Noel is a journalist from Prescott, Arizona. Born into a family of backcountry enthusiasts, Christophe grew up backpacking the mountains and deserts of the American West. An avid cyclist and bikepacker, he also has a passion for motorcycles, travel, food and overlanding.