Friday, December 27, 2019

Top Ten Family Adventure Highlights of 2019

I love writing this annual highlights post because it helps me plan for another adventurous year with my family. I get a chance to look back and to make notes for the upcoming year as I reflect on the kinds of trips we enjoyed the most, the activities we spent the most time pursuing, and the places we loved visiting the most.

Climbing the "Onion" from Bow Hut was a big highlight for 2019!

Below are "some" of the highlights from this past year that I feel represent moments and trips that made us truly happy in 2019 as a family. They are organized chronologically starting with our favourite trip in January and ending with our most recent highlight.

Top Ten Family Adventure Highlights of 2019 

One - Castle Mountain Resort Ski Weekend (January)

My husband and I skied Castle years ago! (as in 10+ years ago, pre-kid.) I remembered it being a super challenging hill and we only went once (I clearly wasn't a fan.)

Fast forward to 2019 and we ventured south to Pincher Creek to try Castle again. The experience was incredible and on the drive home we talked about how we should move further south so we could make Castle our primary family ski hill.

A ski hill that inspires you to consider moving, just to be closer to the resort, is a hill that you know you'll visit again many times! 

Noah skiing his first double black chute at Castle Mountain Resort 

The trip was particularly momentous for us because Noah skied his first double black run ever, and what a run it was! He skied a chute called "Lonestar," an epic run with the longest continuous fall line descent in Canada. My husband was ecstatic because he has now reached that stage where he gets to ski the runs he wants to ski - with his son! He doesn't have to take off into the extreme terrain on his own, leaving us on the groomers way down below (there's just me left behind, and it suits me just fine!)

And me, who had been so nervous to try skiing Castle again, absolutely loved it!! I could have skied the gorgeous traverse off the summit all day long. (On the second day I think I actually did!)

Read more about our weekend at Castle Mountain Resort below and consider planning your own trip to this great ski hill.

I could have skied this gorgeous traverse off the summit all day at Castle!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Magic Carpet to Monster at Panorama Mountain Resort!

We've been skiing at Panorama Mountain Resort for a few years now, and the biggest thing that continues to impress me is how easy it is to progress as a skier or snowboarder at this resort. Families can start on the magic carpets and the beginner platter lift, work up to four other beginner-friendly chair lifts, and then keep moving up the mountain towards the summit (where there's enough terrain to keep the whole family challenged for a lifetime of skiing or riding.)

From the Platter to the Monster! Panorama Mountain Resort will get you there

Everything you Need to Know about Panorama Mountain Resort 

Panorama Mountain Resort is located 20 minutes outside the Community of Invermere in the Columbia Valley. From Calgary, it is approximately a 3.5 hour drive across the border into British Columbia. We've found that we can easily make it to the resort Friday night for a quick ski weekend, but that it's definitely more fun to make a long weekend of it.

Panorama has a vertical drop of 1300 metres, top to bottom (4265 feet,) and the longest run is a full 6.5 km in length!

Ski 6.5 kilometres from top to bottom at Panorama Mountain Resort

Enhance your stay with overnight accommodations in the village and experience why ski in/ski out vacations are the absolute BEST! Panorama is unique for ski resorts in the Canadian Rockies in that it has its own alpine village, complete with accommodations, restaurants, apr├Ęs ski activities and nightlife.

Stay at the resort and you won't need a car the entire duration of your visit. A small gondola connects the Lower and Upper Village (with free service through the day and evening) and there is no shortage of restaurants spread out around the resort. You'll even find a grocery store (with alcohol for purchase) and a take-out pizza restaurant in the Lower Village.

Stay in one of the properties on the hill and you'll also receive access to Canada's largest slopeside  hot pools! The pools are located in the Panorama Springs Lodge and are walking distance from everywhere in the Lower or Upper village with the use of the free gondola.

Stay at Panorama and enjoy a soak in Canada's largest slopeside hot pools!

Panorama for Beginners 

Panorama is the ultimate hill for progression with discounted pricing available for the beginner lifts. A Discovery Zone lift ticket gives you access to the Discovery Quad, Silver Platter, Red Carpet, and Little Ripper Carpet.

Graduate from the Discovery Quad, and you'll find easy groomed green runs off the Mile 1 Express, the Toby Chair (which also has an amazing terrain park,) and the Sunbird Chair.

Panorama has 2 magic carpets and a platter for beginners to learn on 

Highlights for beginners:

  • Magic Carpets: There are two magic carpets for progression of skills when first introducing the kids to basic ski or boarding techniques.

  • The Silver Platter: From the magic carpets, move up to the Silver Platter and the beautiful beginner run off of it. It's the perfect intermediate step from bunny hill to actual green runs.

    And secret Pano tip: There's a day use parking lot at the base of the platter run (and it doesn't show up on maps, so it's a local secret.)

  • The Discovery Quad: From the Silver Platter, move on to the Discovery Quad with its short green runs and the awesome "Discovery Zone," with a special tree run for the kids - that all children will love, no matter how experienced they are.

  • The Toby Double Chair: From the Discovery Quad, I recommend trying out the Toby Double Chair where there are a couple of short green and blue runs. Alternately, move up to the Mile 1 Express Quad and follow the easiest way down.

    And another secret Pano tip: There's a great day use parking lot at the bottom of the Toby Chair. When we've visited in the past, we always thought we had to park down below in the Lower Village (riding the village gondola up to the base area.)

  • The Mile 1 Express Quad: After getting comfortable on the beginner terrain off the Mile 1 Express Quad, skiers can try "Out Rider" off of the Sunbird Chair (but know, it is a bit steeper than your average green run, and more of an intro-blue run.) Higher up the mountain, I can't recommend anything for true beginners.

And also to note, Panorama offers a great Wee Wascals child care program for families of little ones who might not want to ski the whole day. They accept babies as well as young as 18 months! - which is a great option for families wanting to spend time skiing with older kids, and not sure what to do with the youngest family member.

Children will love skiing through the Discovery Zone off the Discovery Quad 

Panorama for Intermediate Skiers and Snowboarders

I consider myself to be a strong intermediate skier because I prefer to ski groomed terrain (be it blue or black.) Panorama is the ideal resort for those who love flowy cruisers, who want a good assortment of groomed runs, and who enjoy steep black runs that have also been groomed.

The terrain at Panorama can be broken down into 20% beginner, 55% intermediate/advanced, and 25% expert, so you can see that it's an intermediate skier or boarder's paradise.

Every day should start with a Rollercoaster Ride (the name of this gorgeous groomed run at Panorama)

Highlights for intermediate skiers or snowboarders:

  • The Secret Forest: Children who can easily ski off the mile 1 express chair will love a trip into the Secret Forest to look for the hidden tree house. You can either ski down the top of "Fritz's," a groomed black run, or you ski down the top of "Old Timer,"a groomed blue run that's sometimes closed for racing.

  • Fun Cruising off the Champagne Express Chair: We start every day on "Rollercoaster," a fast cruisy blue run off the Champagne Express chair that's always immaculately groomed to perfection and one of my personal favourite runs on the hill.

  • Easy Skiing down from the Summit: After warming up on rollercoaster, we move up to the Summit Quad as soon as it opens for the day at 9:30. We love skiing "View of a Thousand Peaks," a fast steep black run that's often groomed, but more intermediate skiers can take "Get Me Down," an easy groomed blue traverse that winds its way down to the top of the Champagne Express chair, so you can run down Rollercoaster again.

The Sun Bowl has a delightful mix of groomed and natural blue runs for intermediate skeirs 

  • The Magical Sun Bowl: Intermediate skiers or riders will love playing in the Sun Bowl accessed from the top of the Champagne Express chair, "Upper Canadian Way," a blue traverse, and then a short section of "Schober's Dream," a steep groomed black run. (alternately, there is a side loop on "Lower Canadian Way" for those who need an easier way to access the sun bowl gate.

    Once in the Sun Bowl, everything is rated "blue," and there's a nice mix of groomed and natural terrain for all abilities. we go in  as a family and everybody picks their own way through the bowl, usually meeting at the bottom of the Sunbird Chair.

    Once you get to the bottom of the Sunbird Chair, ride back up, and either play around on the short runs off this chair or make your way back to the bottom of the Mile 1 Express chair.

  • Escape all Crowds in Founder's Ridge: The Founder's ridge area is a bit of a secret and certainly not one of the most popular spots on the hill. I love skiing around this quiet area though and I usually enjoy at least one run down "Madison's Mile," a long blue traverse that might fool you into thinking your're cross-country skiing (something I enjoy, so it works for me.) If you want more "downhill" momentum, try any of the other runs in this area that have been groomed. "Zehnder Way" is a personal fav. of mine on my way down from the summit off "View of a Thousand Peaks."
Children will love searching for the tree house in the Secret Forest 

Panorama for Advanced Skiers and Snowboarders 

We love skiing down "View of a Thousand Peaks" as soon as the Summit Quad opens for the day, and I'm always amazed at how fast one can ski down a steep black run when it's been freshly groomed on a weekend.

On one visit to Panorama last winter, we connected View of a Thousand Peaks off the summit to "Zehnder Way" in the Founder's Ridge area, another steep black run that had been freshly groomed, and we marveled at the lack of lift lines (we rode three chairs to access the summit and never waited in a line - on a weekend!) We also expressed complete shock (and delight) that we didn't see a single other skier the entire time we skied down from the summit until we reached the top of the Discovery Quad at the bottom. We enjoyed 5.5 km of steep groomed black skiing on that one descent alone, no line ups, and no other skiers in sight.

Fresh corduroy for a fun descent of View of a Thousand Peaks 

Progression tips for advanced skiers and snowboarders:

1. Start with the groomed blacks and build your confidence for steep terrain here

I read the grooming report with my morning coffee and plan out my morning so that I hit as many of the groomed black runs as possible first thing in the day when they are pristine!

Personal favourites include: "Fritz's" or "Whiskey Jack" (Mile 1 or Sunbird,) "Downhill" (Champagne Express,) "View of a Thousand Peaks" (Summit,) "Stumbock's" to "Taynton trail" (Summit,) "Schober's Dream" (Summit,) "Zehnder Way" (Founder's Ridge.)

Enjoying a steep fast descent down View of a Thousand Peaks off the Summit 

2. Advance to natural (ungroomed) terrain

Start with ungroomed blue terrain in the Sun Bowl and them move up to the ungroomed black terrain as you feel comfortable.

My son's personal favourite is "Sunbird" which goes right under the Sunbird chair and has some fun bumps and jumps.

"Sunbird" is a fun run with lots of bumps under the Sunbird chair 

 You'll find options off every chair, progressing with difficulty as you move up the mountain. Start with ungroomed runs off the Champagne Express chair ("Tacky" is a fun one,) and then progress to the summit where you can see how you do on "Roy's Run," a steep pitch that leads you to "Schober's Dream."

The black runs off "Get me Down" from the Summit are great short ones to practice on with low commitment. If you find yourself in over your head, it won't take long before you're back on the traverse again lower down.

Panorama has lots of options if you like your runs ungroomed and playful!

Panorama for Park Fans 

My son loves terrain parks and is usually quick to approve of a ski hill if it has a good park. The Toby Terrain Park is one of the best we've found across the Rockies and we love that it has its own dedicated chairlift, a nice little short one, so you can spend more time playing in the park (and less time riding on the lift.)

There's also a more advanced park off the Mile 1 Express Chair where my son was given very clear instructions to "roll everything!!"

And for parents who just want to "watch" the kids play on the jumps and features, you can ski alongside them by just sticking to the edges of the run.

Playing in the Toby Terrain Park at Panorama 

Panorama for Expert Skiers and Snowboarders 

I will never fall under this category but my husband enjoys the expert terrain at Panorama and my son will be venturing into the Taynton Bowl this year too.

25% of the terrain at Panorama is considered "expert"as soon as you enter the Taynton Bowl off the Summit Quad. The Taynton Bowl offers big steep lines in former heli-ski terrain through glades and bowls. 

The Taynton Bowl is ideal for those who don't have the budget for a heli-skiing day but want the same epic experience, and have the skills to ski or ride safely in this terrain without a guide. 

Note you do not have to have avalanche gear with you and this area is tested daily for safe conditions. In times of high avalanche risk the taynton bowl may be closed. Check the sign beside the Taynton Bowl gate before you enter to read everything you'll need to know for your trip into this terrain. 

The gate to the Taynton Bowl where the expert ski terrain begins 

Safety and Progression tips for working up to the Taynton Bowl:

  • Always ski with a buddy. A Rescue may take a while if you hurt yourself while you wait for a patroller to find you. If you absolutely have to ski or ride alone, carry a whistle and set up a check-in system with family or friends.

  • Ski with a more experienced partner if you're new to expert terrain. Ideally, ski with somebody who knows the Taynton Bowl well and can introduce you to the best lines for the day's conditions. You'll be in "backcountry type terrain" and you'll need to be able to look ahead as you descend to pick the best path down your chosen run.

  • Join a free mountain tour with Panorama's snow hosts. Join one of the advanced groups for a half-day outing on the hill. You might even make some new friends to ski with in the afternoon. 

  • Start with a run down "Heli High." This is the classic, recommended first run that everybody should try in the Taynton Bowl before progressing further along the ridge. Take "Heli High" into "Cauldron," finishing on the Taynton Trail.

Once you've successfully skied down "Heli High" and you've hiked further along the ridge to try a couple of other runs through the Taynton Bowl, consider moving on to the "Monster."

A look at what to expect once you drop into the Taynton Bowl at Panorama 

Skiing the Monster Terrain in the Eastern side of the Taynton Bowl 

The Monster terrain features seven double-black diamond lines (upgraded from four last year) and you'll be in your happy place if you like long steep open faces and glades.

The Eastern side of the Taynton Bowl is accessed via a snowcat that you can choose to ride if you'd like to avoid the final climb from "Never Never Land' in the Taynton Bowl up to the top of the Goldie Plateau.

To reach the pick up point for the snowcat, Monster X, first ski through the gate to the Taynton Bowl from the top of the Summit Quad, and then ski along Outback Ridge for approximately 20-30 minutes (where a few sections have to be walked, especially if you're on a snowboard.) 

It will take you at least 40-50 minutes to get from the bottom of the resort after riding up three chairlifts and then making your way across the ridge to the Monster X meeting spot. From here it is a 10 minute ride to the drop off point further east along the Taynton Bowl. 

Monster X - Your "shuttle service" to the top of the Goldie Plateau 

More details on the snowcat and the monster terrain:

  • There is room for a dozen passengers on Monster X.

  • This is not a guided cat-skiing experience! From the website: "think of Monster X like a really cool shuttle service to some awesome, big mountain terrain that you'll want to lap again and again, and Monster X makes that way easier."

  • You are welcome to hike the final climb to the Monster terrain if you don't want to pay for the snowcat.

  • The minimum age for a Monster X ticket is 6 years. (for obvious reasons.)

  • Tickets are needed to ride Monster X and must be purchased in advance from Guest Services in Ski Tip Lodge. You have the option of a single ride, a four pack of single rides, or a season pass. (read more on pricing here.)

  • Monster X operates Thursday, Saturdays and Sundays between 10 am - 3:30 pm January to March, with additional special dates throughout the season starting in December. (see all special holiday dates here.)

Outback Ridge which you must ski or walk to reach the Monster X meeting spot 

Planning a trip to Panorama? I recommend reading some of the other stories below where I've written more about our past trips, accommodations and dining on the hill, along with other activities you can enjoy as a family at Panorama Mountain Resort (including cross-country skiing, fat biking, or hiking.)

The scenery is always incredible at Panorama!

Additional Recommended Reading

Find it ALL at Panorama Mountain Resort

Family Guide to Panorama Mountain Resort 

Panorama Mountain Resort - (much more than downhill skiing)

Winter Guide to the Columbia Valley (Golden, Radium Hot Springs, Invermere, and beyond!)

Disclaimer: We've had a few hosted trips to Panorama Mountain Resorts over the past few years, and all photos/content comes from those trips. This story is not sponsored and all words are my own.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Secret to "Tourist-free" Travel (November in Radium Hot Springs, BC)

Travel enough and you'll find that November is a GREAT time to travel! This "shoulder season" month is generally quiet across Canada as we see a transition from summer sports to winter ones, and most people take a break leading up to the Christmas holiday season.

Discover "tourist-free" travel this November 

Radium Hot Springs in November

We spent a weekend this November in Radium Hot Springs, across the border in British Columbia. So far this year, we've been out to the Columbia Valley 12 times, in pretty much every season - and we've found something fun and unique to do as a family on each one of these trips.

And while we generally spend a lot of time around the Radium Hot Springs area, this was our first time visiting in November. - and I admit I had no idea what one would do this time of year between seasons.

As it turned out for us, we escaped a major cold front blowing through Calgary, we avoided a big snow storm, and we enjoyed warm autumn weather (while Alberta was seeing some of the coldest temperatures on the planet for November!)

While Albertans were shivering in front of their fireplaces all weekend and shoveling out their driveways, we were soaking in natural hot spring pools and taking walks around the Village of Radium Hot Springs on dry trails.

Travel to the Columbia Valley in November if you want the Lussier Hot Springs to yourself!

Our "Home" for the Weekend in Radium Hot Springs 

We were offered the opportunity to spend the weekend at Bighorn Meadows Resort in Radium Hot Springs, located on the Springs Golf Course right in town. We've spent many weekends in Radium, but this was our first time staying at this resort, and it was definitely a property we'd choose to stay at in the future.

Highlights of a stay at Bighorn Meadows Resort: 

Individual 1, 2 and 3-Bedroom condo-style suites or townhomes with options to fit every budget. We had a two bedroom suite and it was more than comfortable enough for our small family (allowing my son to have his own room.)

We appreciated the separate bedrooms and living area so that we could go to bed at different times (rather than everybody going to bed at 8pm when my son wants the lights turned out.)

Thursday, November 14, 2019

5 Reasons to Visit Golden, BC this Winter

Golden is a year-round adventure destination and is only 3 hours away from Calgary, making it an easy location to visit for a ski weekend this winter. Plan a longer getaway over a long weekend and you'll have plenty of time to explore the town and surrounding national parks.

Plan to spend at least one day at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, Golden BC 

5 Highlights of a Winter Getaway to Golden, British Columbia

1. Skiing or Snowboarding at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort 

We just visited Kicking Horse Mountain Resort as a family last winter for the first time (shocking I know!) What impressed me the most was the scenery. Don't believe me, just look at the views from the top of the gondola in the photo at the top of this story.

Scenery aside, other things families will love about Kicking Horse:

  • There's an easy way down from the top of the gondola, allowing for top to bottom skiing for all abilities. (See the ski map here.) I also found a good way down from the Stairway to Heaven chairlift that most "strong novice" skiers should be able to handle.

  • There's a beginner chair at the bottom of the mountain where you can warm up before getting on the gondola. I always appreciate having a beginner-specific chairlift when I'm at a new resort because I can just enjoy skiing without constantly checking the map to make sure I don't end up somewhere I won't be able to ski down. - especially useful when skiing with kids who like to ski ahead!

  • I like resorts with gondolas! Gondolas are so much warmer than open chairlifts and Kicking Horse is one of the few resorts here where you can get to the top of the mountain without having to ride several chairlifts.

The Eagle's Eye Restaurant at the top of the gondola 

  • There's a family-friendly restaurant at the top of the gondola! Reservations are recommended and I appreciated knowing I could show up and be guaranteed to have a table. (unlike trying to find space in a crowded day lodge.)

  • I liked the assortment of other restaurants at the resort including the Double Black Cafe in the Village. I'm a big fan of resorts having an authentic coffee shop rather than just a day lodge with cafeteria. (It makes for a nice place to unwind if you're a person who sometimes finishes skiing earlier than the rest of the family.)

  • Strong skiers will love the advanced terrain at this resort. With 5 alpine bowls and 85+ inbound chutes, you'll feel like you're backcountry skiing without the work of climbing up the mountain first. Note that a short hike is required to reach some of the bowls but you'll appreciate that ski down after you've worked a bit for it.

How's this for a sea of mountains all around you at the top of Kicking Horse! 
Climbing up to ski the Whitewall at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort 

2. Cross-Country Skiing at the Dawn Mountain Nordic Centre

I love downhill skiing, but I'm also very fond of nordic skiing and was very excited to finally visit Dawn Mountain on our trip to Golden last winter. The Nordic Centre is located less than a kilometre away from Kicking Horse so if you aren't a downhill skier, you could drop the family off at the hill, and then continue back to the nordic centre for the day.

At the Nordic Centre you'll find 33 km of trails groomed for both classic and skate skiing. There are loops for all abilities and the trails get freshly groomed within 24 hours of every snowfall. You can also phone ahead if you'd like to sign up for a lesson while you're here.

Dawn Mountain Nordic Centre day lodge 

Dawn Mountain has a full rental shop and so my son rented skate skis for our outing here. He'd been begging to try skate skiing all winter and I was happy that he finally got the opportunity on such meticulously groomed trails.

You can also rent snowshoes if you'd prefer to check out the trails around Dawn Mountain while hiking. There are a couple of short snowshoe loops here that would be perfect for families.

The Nordic Centre also has a beautiful day lodge where you can warm up  between ski loops or have your lunch before driving home if you visit for a few hours of skiing Sunday morning (as we did.)

Learning how to skate ski at Dawn Mountain Nordic Centre 
Cross-country skiing at Dawn Mountain Nordic Centre

3. Winter Hiking and Chasing Frozen Waterfalls in Yoho National Park

There are many beautiful hikes near Golden, but my favourite is the Wapta Falls Trail in Yoho National Park. Best of all, you'll pass right by the trailhead on your drive to or from Calgary. Leave Friday morning for an extended weekend and you can hike to Wapta Falls on your way to Golden. Alternately, stop on your way home Sunday.

Wapta Falls from the first viewpoint above the river (most groups climb to the top of the snow pile in front)

The trailhead is located 32 km east of Golden, so this hike is definitely day-trip worthy from Golden as well if you're spending a few days in town.

Hiking across the frozen river to the base of the waterfalls 

In summer, the falls are reached in a round trip distance of 4.6 km. In winter, you have to add an extra 3.6 km for hiking the closed gravel access road from the highway. In total, it's an 8.2 km winter outing and fast parties can make the return trip in 2.5 hours.

Standing at the base of Wapta Falls 

I hiked this trail last spring with a few girlfriends and we didn't need snowshoes because the snow was packed down. If you go earlier in the winter, you'll want to pack your snowshoes. Depending on conditions you might also want ice cleats for the steep hill down to the river.

The snowpile in front of the falls makes for a great lunch spot!

4. Family Backcountry Adventure at Rogers Pass in Glacier National Park

We travel out to Golden and beyond to Glacier National Park to spend a couple of nights at Rogers Pass every winter. We rent out the entire A. O. Wheeler Hut, An Alpine Club of Canada property.

From Golden, you can reach Rogers Pass in roughly an hour (82 km away) when roads are good.

A. O. Wheeler Hut, Rogers Pass 

The Wheeler Hut sleeps 24 people in winter and is one of the larger backcountry huts managed by the Alpine Club of Canada. With three separate rooms on the main floor, it always feels spacious and comfortable for a big group. Reservations must be made in advance and you'll want to book your spots at least 6 months in advance (earlier if you want to stay on a weekend or you want to book the entire hut.)

Skiing into the Wheeler Hut, Rogers Pass 

In summer you can drive right up to the door of the hut, but in winter it's about a 30 minute hike in. You can also use cross-country skis to reach the hut from the highway.

From the hut, families can't go too far without entering avalanche terrain, but you can hike up to the first bridge in the Asulkan Valley and the kids will have fun playing in the ruins of the old hotel here.

Read more: The Easiest Family Winter Backcountry Trip (Wheeler Hut, Rogers Pass) 

Snowy hiking at Rogers Pass in the Asulkan Valley 

5. Unique Winter Tours and Activities for the whole family! 

Don't ski but still have a day or two to spend in Golden? Check out this large list of fun winter activities below.

Some of these activities are also great for the more "extreme" person in the family if you want to divide and conquer, sending one or more adults in your group off on a guided tour while others spend time with the kids.

Finally, there are a few suggestions below that definitely say "romantic weekend away without the kids!"

Eagle's Eye Restaurant on top of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

Dogsledding with Golden Dog Sled Adventures (photo: Julie Brown and Golden Dog Sled Adventure)

Disclaimer: our stay in Golden was hosted by Tourism Golden. As always, all words and opinions are my own

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Holiday Gift Guide for Happy Campers

I'm back with another one of my annual holiday gift guides, and this year I've decided to focus on camping as my theme. I've collected a large list of Christmas gift ideas for families who enjoy tenting, RV camping, and backpacking.

Holiday Gift Guide for Happy Campers 

All links go to the product or company website. A few links go to the Amazon Canada website (If you choose to purchase anything off Amazon I might make a few pennies off the purchase, but please feel free to shop wherever works for your family.)

You'll also find many links for products off the All Out Kids Gear website, where I'm an affiliate partner. Altitude Sports has also been a huge supporter of this blog so you'll find links to their website as well. Shop from either company where you can order quality outdoor gear and clothing online across Canada.

Holiday Gift Ideas for Happy Campers

1. Leatherman Multi-tools and Knives

Learning to use a pocket knife is a valuable skill for older children, and whittling by the campfire can be a fun source of entertainment. For us parents, a good multi-tool is one of the most basic "must have" items in a day pack or on a backpacking trip.

Leatherman Signal Multi-Tool
The Leatherman Squirt is a small keychain-size multi-tool. Tools include pliers, scissors, a screwdriver, knife, bottle opener, and a file. This small multi-tool is perfect for snipping fishing line, and is nice and light for backpacking.

Alternately, the Leatherman Micra is perfect for a stocking stuffer gift. With a small knife, tweezers, a nail file, scissors, and a bottle opener, this is an item that should be in any mom's purse or day pack.

Finally, for the full meal deal, check out the Leatherman Signala full-size multi-tool which includes a firestarter, hammer, one-handed blade and an emergency whistle. Alternately, take a look at the Leatherman Free, P4, "the most advanced multipurpose tool ever made." This multi-tool comes with 21 tools and yet weighs in at only 8.6 ounces (making it ideal for backpacking.)

Leatherman Multi-Tools make great Christmas gifts for your camping adventures (winter or summer!)

2. New Sleeping Bags, Sleeping Pads, or a New Tent

With technologies always improving, it's safe to say most of us could appreciate a new sleeping bag that's either warmer, more lightweight for backpacking, easier to compress, or just more comfortable. The same can be said for sleeping pads! I upgraded a few years ago and I sleep so much better on my much thicker (yet somehow lighter in weight) sleeping pad.

You'll find a great collection of sleeping bags and sleeping pads for the whole family from All Out Kids Gear with free shipping included on orders of $49.99 or more (before taxes.)

And I'd especially like to highlight one of the coolest things I've seen for parents who want to co-sleep with younger children. The Big Agnes Dream Island double wide sleeping bag is a nice roomy bag with an  integrated pad coupler that can accept a double-wide sleeping pad.

Finally, you'll find a great collection of tents for all family-sizes from the same website.

Follow this link to shop all camping gear at All Out Kids Gear.

** If anything you're interested in is out of stock with All out Kids Gear, please send them a message and Phil will let you know if he has more of that item on order.

By shopping from this company you are supporting a local Alberta family and business.

Invest in a new tent or upgrade your sleeping bags and pads this Christmas 

3. New Backpacks or Hydration Packs 

My son got his first overnight backpack from his grandpa a few years ago and it was a fabulous Christmas present. Last year I was asking for a new day pack for mountain biking, and my husband recently updated his overnight pack as well.

Regardless of who you're shopping for in your family, there's almost always a need for a new backpack of some kind or size. 

You'll find no shortage of great packs on the All Out Kids Gear website so take a look around and see if there's something you're missing. Maybe the kids just need a bigger pack. 

I also recommend hydration packs for the kids for day hikes. My son doesn't carry a huge pack when we're out for the day, but he does need to carry his own water, a few basic items, and most importantly, his own candy!

Backpacks are a great Christmas gift for anybody!

4. Hydro Flask Products for Camping and Backpacking 

We LOVE our Hydro Flask products and have used several different items from this company while both car camping and backpacking.

Some of my favourite items are below (with links to the Altitude Sports website where Canadians can easily order Hydro Flask products.)

25 Ounce Wine Bottle - Fits a full bottle of wine and keeps it perfectly chilled. Great for overnight paddle trips when you won't notice the extra weight. I've also used this bottle for cold brew coffee and taken it with me to the beach while camping.

10 Ounce Wine Tumblers - Each tumbler comes with an insulated lid and these cups are worth their weight in gold! I use these tumblers for car camping and my wine is always the perfect temperature (even sitting out in the sun.)

64 Ounce Beer Growler - One of our favourite things to do on camping trips is to stop at local micro breweries along the road. Having a growler in the trailer allows us to fill up at each brewery (even if they don't sell bottles to go.) The growler also allows you to take beer on overnight paddling trips without having to worry about keeping cans cold. The Hydro Flask growler keeps beer at an ideal temperature for a few days.

Stop at micro breweries on the road and fill your Hydro Flask Growler for cold bevies at camp

16 Ounce Pint Cups - Enjoy a cold beverage in these double wall insulated cups. Perfect for folks like me who take a while to nurse their beer and don't want it getting warm in the sun.

12 Ounce Coffee Mugs - Enjoy your morning coffee in one of these insulated mugs with a lid to prevent spills. I can't think of a better coffee mug for camping!

12 Ounce Food Flasks - I have a child who will not eat sandwiches while camping, hiking, or when on the go. Having a food flask in the trailer saves our butt on every trip. They also come in an 18 ounce model. 

18 Ounce Standard Water Bottles - While these bottles are a little heavy for hiking, they're perfect for hydrating around the campsite and for always having a cold drink handy. We spend a lot of time driving between new campsites and sightseeing on our road trips as well, where having a good water bottle in the vehicle for each person is imperative. These water bottles also come in 21 or 24 ounce models.

Cooler Cups - "The new Cooler Cup is two great things in one: it’s a can or bottle cooler, and, with one quick switch, it’s a 12 oz beverage cup. As a Cooler Cup, it’s brilliantly versatile with a silicone sleeve that lets you slide in a narrow bottle or a can—all with the same snug fit. Pop off the sleeve and you have a 12 oz cup made to keep cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot. The ultimate win-win." - and while I haven't tried this product yet, I'm definitely intrigued!

Hydro Flask Wine bottle and Wine Tumbler for a camping win 

5. New Sun Hats or Knit Toques for Cold Weather Camping

I recently discovered Sunday Afternoons when I was given an Aurora Beanie to keep my head warm this winter. Let me tell you, I am in love with this hat and if you've seen me in the past month, I was probably wearing it. 

Another hat that has caught our attention is the Sun Tripper Cap. This hat is perfect for hiking and comes in youth sizing along with colors for both men and women. (Every member of my family has one.) 

Matching Sun Tripper Caps 

The cap has a bungee cord at the back to cinch it in when it's windy, it has slits for the arms of your sunglasses so they won't fall off when worn on top of your hat, it's water repellant, and it can be folded for traveling. All in all, it's a brilliant hat and I'll never want to wear anything else in summer.

Sunday Afternoons has a giant collection of hats for all weather, seasons, activities, and temperatures. 

Hats of note I suggest you take a look at:

- The Snow Tripper Cap (the winter version of the Sun Tripper Cap)

- Kids Play Hats (in a variety of different color themes)

- Kids Trucker Hats (in a variety of themes with beautiful animals and nature scenes on each hat)

I've already placed a second Aurora Beanie from Sunday Afternoons on my Christmas list this year 

6. New Hiking Shoes 

Hiking is one of our favourite things to do when we go camping in the summer, and a good pair of boots will be invaluable on a backpacking trip.

We're big KEEN fans in this family and my son gets a new pair of Targhee Hiking Shoes every year. Myself, I live in my Terradora boots and I like the Explore shoes for mountain biking or walks around the city.

I also live in my KEEN slipper shoes around the campsite when it's cool outside and they're easy to put on for night time trips to the bathroom. 

Kids grow! You can't go wrong with new hiking shoes as a Christmas present

7. Camping-Themed Books and Guidebooks 

I love receiving new guidebooks for Christmas because then I can spend the afternoon reading through each book, highlighting trails I want to hike, and dreaming about the upcoming summer.

For families planning to camp in the Canadian Rockies, I recommend both of the books below, written by local authors from Calgary:

Family Walks and Hikes in the Canadian Rockies - Volume 1: Bragg Creek - Kananaskis - Bow Valley - Banff National Park  - written by Andrew Nugara and published in 2019

This guidebook is filled with colorful photos of local families hiking around Calgary, and my son spent hours reading through it last summer. It's been a great tool for creating interest in hiking with my son and he's added several hikes to our list after reading about them in this book.

Andrew has also published his second edition to this book. The next book carries on with more hikes, areas to explore, and trails not described in the first book.

The Ink Pots in Banff National Park, one of the hikes we read about in Andrew Nugara's book 

Canadian Rocky Mountains Hiking Guide for Families - Hikes for Families, from toddlers to grandparents, near Banff, Canmore, Kananaskis, Bragg Creek, and Calgary written by Annika Mang and recently published in 2020.

Each hike featured in the book has a good map, directions to the trailhead, a difficulty rating, a description of what to expect on the hike, nearby attractions, and insider tips from one outdoor family to another.

Best of all, every hike in this book has been researched and walked by Annika and her young children, so you can trust what you're reading.

Other recommended books for Happy Campers 

 - A camping logbook and travel diary 

- Goodnight, Campsite - A children's picture book on camping

And by searching for this book on Amazon you'll receive suggestions for many other great camping-themed picture books to start a fabulous collection for your family.

- A Hiking Journal for Kids (we have this one and it's a beautiful way to record the hikes your child completes.)

This hiking journal was a great gift for a happy camper and outdoor child

And check out this brand new book: The Easy Camp Cookbook: 100 Recipes For Your Car Camping and Backcountry Adventures by Amelia Mayer of the popular blog, Tales of a Mountain Mama.
"Organized into two sections: car camping and backcountry camping, this camping cookbook features delicious, easy-to-make recipes. Many recipes can be prepped at home so you can spend more time relaxing and enjoying camping—it even includes vegetarian options! Take the guesswork out of keeping everyone fed with this insightful camping cookbook."

Also check out this brand new family adventure journal: The Outdoor Family Adventure Guide (Journal + Activities for every season) by Amelia Mayer and her team at the Tales of a Mountain Mama blog.

"Help inspire year-long family time outside with this unique adventure guide made just for you. Over 350 different ideas for outdoor family fun, divided by season so you can choose-your-own-adventure depending on the weather in your area, ages of your kids and personal preferences.
Choose your favorites and document them in the included 52-week journal with room for specifics, photos, lessons learned and questions you have.The book also includes a list of 75+ books we recommend to supplement your outdoor time together.
This book is for ALL families in all climates and is incredibly easy to customize for an adventure keepsake. Plus 14 bonus extra family CHALLENGES to work on together and a huge book list divided by seasons."


8. Lightweight Gear for Backpacking or Tent Camping 

Christmas is a great time to update or upgrade backpacking gear. There's always something out there that's lighter, better, more comfortable, or easier to use.

Check out the All Out Kids Gear website for ideas

And a few of my personal suggestions:
  • Headlamps

  • LED Lights and lanterns

  • Backcountry chargers (we just found an affordable one at Costco that looks great.)

  • Inflatable pillows

  • Backpacking chairs

  • A new stove or cook set

  • Satellite communicators and locators 

  • A Gravity water filter (We LOVE ours and never sit beside a stream filtering water anymore.)

  • Down blankets (We always use our down blankets for hostels and backcountry cabins)

  • Down hut booties 
Upgrade this Christmas with great gear for tenting and backpacking 

9. Camp Toys for both Kids and Parents

Admit it, camping is more fun when you bring the toys. Be it a great hammock that you spend hours chilling in with a good book or something as simple as a fishing rod.

Below are a few suggestions for gifts you can wrap and put under the tree:

Water Toys:

- Inflatable floaties and water toys

- Inflatable stand up paddleboards

- Kids sit on top kayaks 

- Fishing rods and a starter tackle kit

Hours of entertainment at camp with inflatable SUPs and floaties 

Toys for the Campsite:

- A slackline the whole family can enjoy at camp

- A great hammock (and consider getting a freestanding frame for sites without good trees)

- New games to play at camp

- Inline skates for campsites that have paved loops 

- Walkie talkies for the kids to use around camp

Check out the All Out Kids Gear website for ideas (and you can also order slacklines and hammocks here.)

These skates were my son's fav. camping toy this past summer!

10. More Awesome Gear to take Car Camping to the next level! 

Some of these items could be hard to find this time of year, but you could always wrap a photo of what you intend to buy your partner once Costco brings their camping gear out for the new season. A Costco gift card would also work in this situation with a voucher for one "big round comfy Costco chair."

Below are just a sampling of suggestions other Happy Campers have said they'd like for Christmas this year:

  • Heavy duty welders gloves for cast iron pots on the fire

  • A screen tent for the campsite to protect you from rain or bugs 

Wrap up some awesome gifts to take car camping and RV life to the next level!

Check out my Complete Set of Holiday Gift Guides

A Holiday Gift Guide for Active Kids 

A Holiday Gift Guide for Winter Hiking and Snowshoeing  

Big Thanks to all sponsors of this year's holiday gift guide!

- All Out Kids Gear

- Hydro Flask

- Sunday Afternoons

- Leatherman Canada

- Annika Mang, Calgary Author

- Andrew Nugara, Calgary Author

- HT Designs