Outdoor Gifts to Avoid this Christmas

Christmas should be a time of joy and happiness, so don’t throw a lump of coal in somebody’s stocking with one of these low-quality outdoor gifts. There is a lot of great outdoor gear out there that doesn’t cost a fortune (see 5 Stocking Stuffers for your Camper), so be careful with your money and make sure that you understand exactly what your favorite outdoors person wishes they had.

Gimmicky Products

cheap-lantern-gadgetMy favorite category of “worthless camping products” are the gimmicky ones, like this lantern with a flip-top fan. There was no explanation on the product’s website as to why someone would need a fan on top of their lantern and, try as I might, I can’t think of one, either. This isn’t even a decent lantern, as it only puts out 65 lumens on four D-size batteries. That’s not much more than the tiny backpack lanterns that run on AA-size batteries and fit in the palm of your hand.


Low Budget Tents

Sure, they’re tempting – big, great looking tents for less than $100. Don’t let price influence your buying decision when it comes to tents, though. A tent is one thing that can ruin your entire trip, from frustrating assembly, flimsy poles that break after a few trips, to barely slowing down the rains drops from that gentle spring shower. Think I’m stretching the truth? Here’s a poor buyer’s review of this $84 jewel:

This is the worst tent I have ever seen. I set the tent up and was very hopeful because it was huge! As soon as it started raining outside, water started to sprinkle through the rainfly. The material was pretty much the same as the rest of the tent. Within 30 minutes, everything in my tent was completely soaked. Even offbrand 30 dollar tents are more waterproof than this. Buying this tent was the WORST MISTAKE EVER! After one night, all of my stuff was ruined, there was a tear in one of my seams, and a pole broke.


12-Volt Coolers

With a few very expensive exceptions, 12-volt coolers are a complete waste of money, because they use a lot of power, don’t cool very well and the motors burnout quickly. A really good, 64-quart, 12-volt cooler, like an Engle,  goes for around $1,000 – so if you’re looking at one for $100 you just know something’s not right.


Cheap Survival Kit

Sometimes these come in canisters and sometimes in heavy-weight sealable bags, but the contents are usually the same; some fishing hooks and line, some flimsy matches, a really flimsy space blanket, a really bad compass and a whistle that may, or may not, actually work. Heaven forbid you or your loved one should ever need to use a survival kit but if you did, wouldn’t you want to have quality gear?

Multifunction Weather Radio Flashlight Gadget

multifunction-radioThere are some good multifunction weather radios out there, from companies like Midland, Oregon Scientific and Eton, but this is not one of those. The problem with the plethora of cheap multifunction devices out there is that they don’t do anything very well. They’re made cheap, so they usually don’t come with chargers – the only way to charge them is with the hand crank. They’re also cheap because they don’t have a lot of buttons, dials and displays – so you’re left to rely on guessing, as to which channel you’re tuned into. If you can receive a channel at all.

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11 thoughts on “Outdoor Gifts to Avoid this Christmas

    • I was in REI on Friday and they’re selling that thing. Like you say, Josh, it doesn’t look very useful.

  1. Every year, I receive at least a few cheapo little flashlights and a pocket knife or two for Christmas, and they all break in no time with little use. I’d gladly exchange them all for even just one pair of good hiking socks or a new pair of glove liners. I’m so glad no one has ever gotten me a cheap tent, though. Most of them are good for not much more than camping in the backyard on a dry, windless, summer night.

    • That’s right, Deb – a good pair of wool / SmartWool socks is gold! I have a pair of Gore-Tex Merrells and, as good as they breathe, if I wear cotton socks my feet will still get damp. With wool socks, my feat stay warm and dry.

  2. You are right on all those products, i have had first hand experience with the cheap tent and powered coolers. When i was in cub and boy scouts, my troop leaders always said you get what you pay for. I have started a website selling camping products, thecampden.com. I am hoping to have only the best products to offer everyone. I would love if everyone came in and looked around and tell me what you think of it. If there are products i should or shouldn’t sell, i would like to hear about them.

  3. Great points. If someone ignores the advice on cheap tents, then I’d suggest they take along a couple of tarps to throw over it when it starts to rain. Like the review you cited points out, they leak like crazy, and you don’t want to be remembered as the person who gave the tent that made them hate camping!

  4. You have some very good advice here. You are right about the tent too, a cheap tent is not worth it and is just a waste of money. The 12 volt cooler is a waste of money too. Even the best of them only change the temperature 30 degrees hot/cold. We found that a good brand name cooler is the best way to go. We have had great success in the 5 or 6 day coolers. There are some pretty good shaker flashlights (shake them to charge them) that we like to use when tent camping so we don’t have to depend on batteries. All great advice thanks for the great post.

    • Thanks! We have good luck with our 5-day ice chest, but one of these days I’m going to try one of those high-end marine coolers.

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