In a perfect world, every Manitoban would own a waterproof, breathable and fully insulated storm suit capable of withstanding the worst imaginable winter weather without causing a single bead of sweat to emerge from any pore.
Unfortunately, most of us can't afford to acquire Everest-worthy outdoor gear. But since this is the season to buy stuff -- ostensibly for other people -- there are plenty of inexpensive doodads and gadgets for the gearhead on your list.
Here are five outdoor-equipment gift ideas that retail for less than $30. I've personally trail-tested all but one of these doohickeys and can attest to their quality, so don't be put off by the low price.
For the night rider
At some point, everyone you know with a bike is going to wind up riding in the dark. Keep them safe by getting them a headlight that will never run out of juice.
Mountain Equipment Co-Op sells a baby-blue, gummy-rubber Front White LED Light that wraps around any handlebar -- and is powered up by a USB cable. The list price is a wallet-friendly $9.75.
For the minimalist
A generation ago, taking a portable stove on the trail meant lugging a massive Coleman around and suffering a hernia in the process. Those big propane-burning Colemans are still dependable -- and even desirable for a large group of paddlers -- but of very little use for a solo hiker, paddler or cyclist interested in travelling light.
There's a dizzying array of camp stoves on the market, ranging from integrated stove-pot-heat exchanger systems that boil water disturbingly quickly to lightweight doohickeys fuelled by hand-pressurized, refillable gas canisters.
But when it comes to simplicity, durability and minimal weight in your pack, it's tough to be beat a simple stove that screws on to a can of liquefied, pressurized gas. For the past five years, I've used a Primus LPG stove that weighs 225 grams, fits into the palm of my hand, takes mere seconds to attach to a gas can and is all but impossible to clog.
The Primus Classic Trail LPG retails for US $31 at primuscamping.com but is usually under $30 at Winnipeg retailers. The main drawback is the canisters that fuel this thing can only be recycled at a handful of Winnipeg hazardous-waste depots, such as Miller Environmental on Hekla Avenue.
For the helmet-head
If you've ever tried to slip a bulky toque under a bike helmet during the winter, you might wind up with a headache. All-weather cyclists can borrow a piece of gear from whitewater paddlers and slip on a lightweight, insulative paddling cap, which can slip into practically any helmet without adjusting the fit.
I've also used a paddling cap as an extra layer of insulation for my bald head during severely cold weather. And yeah, it works well on the water. MEC's Seymour cap retails for $13.
For the accident-prone
If you ever head into the wilderness, you will at some point make a mistake that will require a night outdoors without a tent or sleeping bag. Whether you get lost, run out of sunlight or simply plow a car into a ditch, you'll need some means of staying warm while you stay put until it's safe to move again.
Every glove compartment and daypack has room for a thermal blanket with a reflective-metal liner -- the kind they've been stuffing into car survival kits since the '70s. The Wilderness Supply sells the SOL Emergency Bivvy for $19.99. I haven't tested this thing, but can cite two occasions where I wished I had something like it in my pack.
It wasn't long ago when the only valuables people took into the bush were a bit of emergency cash and maybe a clunky camera. Now, iPhones and other electronics have insinuated their way into the outdoors. You need waterproofing to keep 'em safe.
Pelican, which makes all manner of protective cases, makes a bomb-proof Micro model that retails for under $15 in most stores. If all you need is waterproofing, transparent SealLine roll-top bags sell for $13 to $17, depending on the size.
I stow a small camera and spare batteries in a Pelican case and stuff cash and essential documents into a tiny SealLine that winds up getting stowed in my PFD pocket on paddling trips.
Both are more reliable than baggies.