7 Reasons to Give the Gift of Adventure This Holiday Season

‘Tis the season to give what matters most: time spent together on a unique adventure! It is so easy to get caught up in the materialistic view of the holidays, so this year, break the mold. From the moment I can remember, my family has spent the holiday season together, valuing gifts of time and love more than anything. Every year, specifically, we give each other a “gift certificate” for an adventure. From hiking a new peak to visiting a new state to cracking the code of a mystery room, our gifts are full of challenges and, in turn, become wonderful memories.

Here are seven reasons you should incorporate the “gift of adventure” into your holiday shopping list:

1. It is actually a gift that both the receiver and the giver want

There are only so many pairs of socks, base layers, headlamps, and pocket knives that your adventuring friend or family member needs. Instead of adding more weight to their backpack or taking up space in the closet, give them something they really want. How often do you and your friend verbalize that you “need to spend more time together” or you “can’t wait to see each other”? Gifting an adventure to go on together, like a day trip to your local ski mountain, promises that you will spend some time seeing each other. Plus, it’s fun for both of you!


2. It promotes less stress and more positive feelings

We all know that stress increases dramatically over the holidays. Although practicing yoga and spending time appreciating Mother Nature are great ways to reduce it, so is gifting your time to someone you love. When we are busy giving more to work and additional obligations, it is easy to sacrifice quality time with others.

Taking time for social interactions creates positive experiences and supportive relationships, both of which we can lean on when times get tough. As an added bonus, you get to avoid the stress that comes with the crazy traffic and crowds at the shopping mall, and spend all that extra time outside. As one alternative, plan an outing to Jackson, NH, where you can take your loved one on a holiday sleigh ride!

3. It can be easier on the budget

The largest part of your gift—your time—is truly free. So, the cost to give an adventure can be as little as the gas it takes you to get somewhere. Do you have a family member or friend that enjoys hiking? Why not gift a winter hike? As a family, we would often give a small item that could be used on the trip, such as winter gaiters or gloves with liners, and attach a “coupon” for a hike we planned for the receiver. It was always cheap on the wallet, but wealthy in spirit and family time. For ideas on how to outfit your hiker and what to bring along on a winter trek, check out our Alpha Gift Guides.


4. It will last

Electronics: You buy it, and within six months, it’s outdated and a better model is available. By giving the gift of adventure and time spent together, however, you are choosing something that will never go out of style. Think about a moment you completely enjoyed with friends or family. What is your favorite part about that memory? Why did it make a lasting impression? Giving “time” is a concrete expression of love that people can measure.

5. It could save your loved one’s life, or at least teach them a new skill

When my husband and I decided to take our skis off the groomers and into the backcountry, we fell in love with the combination of hiking and skiing. We also considered the additional risks of skiing in areas where patrollers were unavailable and conditions were not always ideal. Instead of just “sending it,” we opted to learn about these conditions from an expert. For Christmas, we gifted each other an AIARE 1 Avalanche Safety Course and now have the skills to safely ski along backcountry trails.

If you have an adventurer in your life who is excited to try something new or ready to take their activities to the next level, consider gifting them a course like the ones offered through the EMS Schools. Awesome courses include rock climbing, ice climbing, backcountry skiing, first responder training, paddling, and so much more. Extra bonus: Take it with them, so you can adventure together!

6. It is important for your health and your family’s

Some of my most favorite memories involve adventuring with my family, from hiking the Presidential Range in the White Mountains to cross-country skiing at Bretton Woods. While I cannot tell you what material gift I received for my 12th birthday, I can tell you the finest details of the three-day Kennebec River white water rafting trip my parents took us on for my sister’s 16th birthday.

Research has proven that shared experiences, especially those involving nature, promote healthy psychological development in children and adolescents. Youth who spend large amounts of time with family have a stronger sense of identity, higher academic success, and lower violence rates, just to name a few upsides. As one option, give the gift of a family adventure this holiday season, like a weekend trip to Nestlenook Farm in Jackson, NH, for ice skating, frozen waterfall hiking, snowshoeing, and so much more.


7. It will not end up in the storage unit, donation bins, or the trash

Do you know that the average American family spends $1,700 on clothes annually while giving or throwing away over 200 pounds of clothing per year? And, that there are five times more storage units than Starbucks in the United States? An adventure, on the other hand, can never be thrown away, donated, or placed in storage. It’s eco-, budget-, and spirit-friendly.

Do you give the gift of adventure? Tell us about it in the comments!

How a Plastic Bottle Becomes Your Next EMS Shirt

Photo: Courtesy of Repreve
Photo: Courtesy of Repreve

Recycling’s importance has been drilled into all of us. As a result, brands have been choosing to convert waste into new products, saving on fresh materials and energy and avoiding more air and water pollution in the process. Today, most items made out of paper, metals, and plastics can be turned into new, useful products.

The plastic soda, tea, or water bottle from which you may be drinking is just one of the 50 billion bottles purchased each year in the United States. Place all of those bottles upright next to each other, and the distance they would reach could circle the Earth almost 80 times. But, rather than letting those bottles sit for centuries in a landfill, REPREVE wants to put them back to work in the form of your next EMS shirt.

How does this happen? Let’s follow your plastic bottle’s story in the presentation below:

As one way to support recycling, look for the REPREVE logo on your next EMS garment, so our planet can experience a reprieve from excessive non-biodegradable waste. #TurnItGreen

Photo: Courtesy of Repreve
Photo: Courtesy of Repreve

5 Eco-Friendly Brands You Can Find at EMS

Did you know that the 28 billion plastic bottles Americans throw away each year have the opportunity to be turned into clothing, rugs, toys, and more? Or, that one solar panel on a sunny day can run a single retail store’s LED lights? From using recycled materials to sustainable building practices, these brands put their best foot forward when it comes to protecting our environment. Look for each company to support while shopping at EMS this season.



The next time you pick up an Eastern Mountain Sports Techwick® T-shirt with REPREVE® on the label, you are, in fact, holding a garment made out of six recycled plastic bottles.

How does this work? REPREVE® is a company that recycles used plastic bottles. They then spin them into fibers used to produce polyester clothing and more products. To date, they have recycled more than 5 billion plastic bottles. Considering these factors, EMS has partnered with REPREVE® to create some of our beloved polyester items in a more sustainable fashion.


2. Flowfold

A local Maine company, Flowfold develops products designed for adventure. Their wallets and totes, for instance, are durable but lightweight and, like many of their items, use the material that makes racing boat sails.

This idea came about when founder Charley Friedman needed to replace his old, worn-out wallet. So, he grabbed a piece of sailcloth out of the trash. Racing sailcloth is non-biodegradable, and by repurposing it, Flowfold keeps the plastic away from landfills and out of our environment. Similarly, their dog leashes use scraps from another Maine brand, Sterling Rope Company.

Flowfold gets extra sustainability points for being local to many EMS stores. Working with nearby companies shrinks the amount of transportation needed, which in turn lessens the carbon footprint left behind.


3. PrAna

Organic doesn’t just apply to the food you put in your belly. It’s also a label to look for when buying clothing.

One of PrAna’s many environmentally friendly practices includes using organic cotton to craft their apparel. By eliminating pesticides, insecticides, man-made fertilizers, and genetically-modified seeds, organic agricultural practices help maintain clean water, soil fertility, and biological diversity. Ultimately, it’s healthier for the environment and farmers.

Adding another notch to its eco-friendly belt, PrAna has eliminated plastic polybags from its manufacturing process and ships over 79 percent of its products in plastic-free or recycled paper bags.


4. Oboz

Buy a pair of Oboz shoes, and the company will plant a tree. As one environmentally conscious effort, Oboz partnered with Trees for the Future to provide trees in areas that need them the most. These trees not only clean the air by using carbon dioxide and producing oxygen, but they also offer shade for crops, food and medicinal products, soil rehabilitation, and erosion control in African, Latin American, and Asian communities.

As another environmental bonus, Oboz works to offset unavoidable carbon emissions stemming from transporting its shoes. As part of this effort, the company funds projects through the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, which assists with lowering carbon emissions worldwide.


5. The North Face

Since The North Face had its first solar installation in 2009, the company has been geared toward developing buildings sustainably.

Their San Francisco headquarters proudly exemplifies this, featuring recycled building materials, a waste-reducing design, and energy-efficient machinery and lighting. In fact, all of the building’s energy comes from renewable resources, including five wind turbines and over 4,000 solar panels. As well, the building process included recycled and reclaimed products, such as 5,500 pairs of blue jeans used for insulation.

And, here’s the icing on the sustainability cake: The North Face helped co-found The Conservation Alliance. This business collective donates several million dollars to support organizations working toward permanently protecting wilderness areas.

6 Ways to Stay Warm When Sleeping in Your Vehicle

The simplicity of living in your van becomes a little more complicated when the snow starts to fall and it’s time to pack the skis and avalanche gear into your backpack. Just like finding the perfect system of clothing layers to hike in, getting to the sweet spot for staying warm, dry, and comfortable in your van takes times and patience. So, here are six tips from two van-lifers who can finally wake up to warm feet and dry clothes.

Credit: Samantha Derrenbacher
Credit: Samantha Derrenbacher

1. Prep Your Van

As the most essential item on this list, it’s a must to insulate your van. Without adding a protective barrier to your vehicle, cold air can sneak in and hot air can drift out. Just like your down jacket, insulate with loft to your walls, floors, and ceiling. Lastly, don’t forget your windows! Material such as Reflectix—a shiny, industrial bubble wrap that acts like Columbia’s reflective Omni-Heat™—can be cut to fit any size window and is a total game-changer in colder temperatures.

2. Prep Yourself

Just like your van needs insulation, so do you. Make sure to pack an extra set of clothes, hats, and gloves to change into immediately after your adventure. That way, your body won’t have a chance to get chilly from your sweat-soaked gear.

3. Bring on the Heat

Now that your van and you are efficiently insulated, it’s time to heat up the inside! Investing in a small heater can completely change your vehicle’s interior. We went with a diesel heater that sips from the van’s tank while keeping the inside climate-controlled at the desired temperature. We always make sure to keep windows or the roof vent open, and have a small, battery-powered carbon monoxide and smoke detector inside.

4. Wet Gear? No Problem

A simple clothes line to hang your shirts, pants, jackets, and anything else you wear beats draping them over chairs, where all the damp spots may not dry. Tupperware bins are awesome for snowy hard goods, like your snowshoes, keeping water from soaking your floor. Our van rocks in that it’s long enough for skis to dry off inside, but a roof- or hitch-rack system, like Thule’s, is another great way to store larger hard goods.

The number one question we get about wet gear is how to dry out our boots. When staying in a smaller car, we used to use boot dryers that plugged into the lighter, which worked great but took time. Now, we just place them near our heater with the liners removed, and it does the trick.

5. Refueling

You know when you’re chilly and a warm drink seems to heat you from within? Anything from a Coleman cooktop to a JetBoil to boil your water will chase the shivers right out of you. Our new favorite mid-ski day lunch in the van is hot soup.

6. Choose Your Location Wisely

Waking up at the base of a mountain is always our dream, and we’ve been lucky enough to do so in the past. But, be aware that your new parking spot isn’t yours to own: It’s a temporary resting place for your home on wheels. Be conscious of others and their work, like the plow guys and lifties who might wake you up at 2 a.m.

Credit: Samantha Derrenbacher
Credit: Samantha Derrenbacher