The Vagabond Gift Guide for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Baby, it’s cold outside. And even the hardiest outdoorsmen and women are thinking about spending afternoons in front of a roaring fire, for the next few weeks at least. So how about some ideas for Christmas gifts that will be sure to be used as soon as they head back out to the hills?

Lights2Gloves, especially thin but warm ones like these Smartwool Liner Gloves. I’m a big fan of liner gloves worn under ski mitts, so that you can slip off the big bulky mitts to fiddle with your kit, use your camera, fix your hair etc, and still keep your hands protected. The gloves are good on their own for everyday use, and these are compatible with touch screens too. A Merino Wool Buff would be great too.

Headtorch, like this rechargeable one from LED Lenser. The light is super bright and can be either a flood light or a spot light for your night-time activities. It also has a dimmer setting, so you can read or work on close things without dazzling yourself. It charges from a USB as well as the mains, so you can top it up in the office before you head out for the weekend.

Steripen Adventurer. A technical bit of kit for real back-country campers, this purifier kills bugs in water with UV light, so you’re not left with a nasty taste in your mouth. The Adventurer is the lightweight version, perfect for backpackers.

Dry stuff-sacks. I don’t think that you can ever have enough of these, especially in a range of sizes. Packing your kit is much easier, it all stays dry whatever conditions you face, and rather than being colour-coordinated, a variety of different colours helps you find the things you need quickly and easily.

Spork. It’s the love-child of a spoon and a fork. Perfect for eating from your rehydrated food pouches. And this one is made from titanium. Oooooh, fancy.

GoPro. OK, it’s a bit of a splurge present for someone you really like , especially if you opt for the brand spanking new HERO4 Black Edition (If Santa is reading this, I’ve been very good this year). However, the entry level HERO model is available for less than a third of the price, with many of the features of the more expensive models, including the option to shoot slow-motion sequences, although the quality of still images is reflected by the price.

A custom-made map from the Ordnance Survey. You can choose the centre point of the map, the format and scale, and design a personalised cover to make a map for a favourite walk or a memorable adventure.

I hope you got some ideas for the fans of the outdoors in your life. Why not check out my gift ideas for travel-lovers too? If you like my suggestions, please share this list on Facebook or Twitter, perhaps drop a hint for yourself?

Note:  This post contains affiliate links.  If you follow them through to buy a product I recommend, I receive a small payment (enough for a coffee, not for a yacht) from the company, at no charge to you whatsoever.  It helps keep my blog up and running.


The Vagabond Gift Guide for Travellers

Dark winter evenings have been drawing in, the afternoons getting colder, and mornings feeling crisper. Oh my gosh! There’s only one month left until Christmas. How did that happen? I suppose its time to start thinking about presents, so I’ve compiled a selection of useful, offbeat and inventive ideas for the travel-lovers in your life.Lights 1

The part-time traveller:  Spending the everyday 9-5 working for a living can leave these travellers dreaming of exotic locations, daring adventures, and exciting activities. Feed their wanderlust with the following suggestions.

Subscription to a magazine like Wanderlust, Lonely Planet or National Geographic Traveller. With gorgeous photos and informative articles, they’ll be able to dip in and out of destinations and plan future travels, as well as getting a little escape from reality each month.  A digital subscription lets them take it on the road, and works for long-term travellers too.

Corkboard Map by Luckies of London. A series of pinboards in the shape of the world’s continents, perfect for displaying favourite photographs, postcards and mementos from recent trips.

Luggage tag. A quirky bag tag can make luggage easier to find and travel less stressful, especially important if your time is tight.  I love this Lego Brick Bag Tag, whilst this Vintage Letter Tag is a bit more sophisticated.

The nomad:  Gifts for a long-term traveller must be able to cram into a stuffed suitcase or be completely intangible. Either way, the following gifts are useful enough to earn their place in these travellers’ affections.

An e-Book reader like the Kindle Paperwhite or the Fire HD 7. A library that fits into a handbag, without exceeding any baggage weight allowance. Already have one? An Amazon Gift Card lets them choose new titles, whether it’s the guide book for their next destination, a poolside read or something taxing to tackle on a long journey.

A Universal Travel Adaptor like this one from Flight 001. Most of the rest of the world doesn’t use the standard UK 3-pin plug. Strange. Hopping back and forward between Europe, Asia and the Americas is made simple with one of these devices, and everyone needs to charge gadgets.

A reminder of home. A jar of Marmite, a box of tea bags, biscuits that you just can’t get abroad.

The first-time tripper:  Facing your first trip alone can be a daunting prospect, so gifts that offer a little reassurance and support can go a long way to make an experience unforgettable.

Rosetta Stone language course. Available as a CD-rom, download or online course, for both regular or business use, it comes in 24 languages as diverse as Irish, Hindi and Vietnamese, as well as French, Spanish and English. Learning the local language could inspire your traveller to explore further, take a travel job or even find romance.

Skype credit. Nervous travellers will appreciate the opportunity to keep in touch with loved ones back home, with calls to landlines and mobiles, and the ability to send text messages worldwide.

Moleskine Journal. Keep track of your important information and make notes of memorable events on your trip. Other journals are available, but Moleskine are the classic travellers brand, available in a range of sizes, with either lined, plain or squared paper, for writers, sketchers or doodlers.

The bargain backpacker:  These travellers have to carry everything they need in their backpacks; through the streets, on and off public transport, up and down flights of stairs in hostels and bunkhouses. Multi-purpose goods and lightweight travel items are the real winners here.

Travel towel. The most important item a traveller can have, according to Douglas Adams. But, as a rule, travel towels are rubbish. Slightly less absorbent than aluminium foil. However, a colourful cotton sarong or kikoy does the job, dries far faster than a real towel, and doubles as a beach cover-up, or emergency clothing on wash day. Try Kisiki or The Pink Gecko for a selection.

USB Multi Charger. Just checked into the hostel, and need to charge all your gadgets urgently? Only power socket in the room being guarded jealously by another backpacker? This device is the answer to your prayers. Offer spare ports to others, and you’ll make new friends too.

Vapur Anti-Bottle. A folding re-usable water bottle. Saves space in your bags, saves money from buying bottled water, and saves plastic waste. These can be frozen to make an ice pack, or to melt slowly and give you chilled water all day. It can even take hot liquids, although it isn’t insulated and these will cool quickly.


I hope this gives you some good ideas for family members and friends with the travel bug, or even for yourself. Or you can check out my gift ideas for outdoor enthusiasts. Why not share this list on Facebook or Twitter and drop a hint?

Note:  This post contains affiliate links.  If you follow them through to buy a product I recommend, I receive a small payment (enough for a coffee, not for a yacht) from the company, at no charge to you whatsoever.  It helps keep my blog up and running.


Santorini on a Shoestring

The name Santorini is likely to have captured your imagination long before you even set eyes on the islands that make up this tiny archipelago at the southern end of the Cyclades chain. Famed for the spectacular sunsets that wash over whitewashed villages perched on precipitous clifftops, turning them rose and gold in the gloaming, it is very much on the tourist trail through the Greek islands.IMG_3809v2head

Chances are your impression is also that Santorini has an air of exclusivity around it, somewhere only for the rich and famous, or a romantic destination just for honeymoon couples, with a price tag to match. If you must watch the sunset from a private balcony, cocktail in hand, or dip in an infinity pool on the caldera rim to make your stay special, that’s certainly true. However, it is possible to visit Santorini on a shoestring budget, and have an unforgettable experience. Continue reading

Seas of Red at the Tower of London (Photo Gallery)

On 17th July 2014, a Yeoman Warder of the Tower of London (also known as a Beefeater) planted a single red porcelain poppy in the grass of the moat surrounding the Tower. Other poppies followed, and the installation named Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red was first revealed to the public on 5th August, the centenary of the United Kingdom’s entry into the conflict that became known as WWI.

Ceramic poppies spill from a window high on the Tower wall, pooling in the moat below, washing the base of the stone walls. As more poppies were added to the display by volunteers working on the project, they surge up in a wave over the causeway leading to the entrance to the Tower.

Created by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper, the installation will be completed with the planting of the final poppy on Armistice Day on 11th November. This will bring the total number of poppies flooding the moat to 888,246, each representing a British and Commonwealth soldier killed in the conflict.

The installation has been criticised in some quarters as a sanitised interpretation of the grotesque and bloody events of WWI, however the sheer scale of the work has captured the imagination of the British people and the many visitors to London. Those attending at sunset everyday for the sounding of the Last Post and the reading of the Role of Honour, can’t fail to be moved viscerally by the thought of a name, and a family, attached to each and every one of the fragile flowers blooming brightly for a few short months.