Meaningful Gift Ideas for Active Travellers

Winter atop Sulphur Mountain in Banff. | Gordon Stermann
Winter atop Sulphur Mountain in Banff. | Gordon Stermann

By Robin Esrock

Holidays is a time for giving, and there are a lot of choices out there. We often find ourselves wondering what people actually need, as opposed to what we want to give them. We compute mental algorithms of cost and benefit and availability, and these days add an extra input of environmental responsibility (do we need to keep perpetuating an Endless Cycle of Stuff just for stuff’s sake?) On the other hand, and in the other sock, the gift of experience keeps on giving. Long after a gadget bricks itself into obsolescence, clothes wear out, flowers fade or a bottle of wine is consumed, an experience continues to warm the soul with memories and stories that last a lifetime. 

Travel Vouchers and Trips

Nobody needs a gift receipt for “This One Time.” As in: “this one time, I went hiking/biking/kayaking/exploring/sailing/camping/snowshoeing/skiing etc.” The gift of experience spans all-expense paid trips to a travel voucher that contributes to the cost of any adventure, taking the financial edge off while creating a fantastic excuse for someone to just “do it already!” Travel isn’t cheap, but there are other ideas we know active travellers will appreciate, from literary inspiration and helpful gear to supporting important organizations that breathe life into Canadian outdoor adventure. Call or email Great Canadian Trails to buy your gift voucher.

Incredible backdrops of Auyuittuq National Park, Nunavut |  <i>Louis-Philip Pothier</i>

The Gift of Inspiration

Travel and learning make a winning combination. Meanwhile, everyone is drowning in online information but sorely lacking inspiration. Consider the fantastic books that celebrate Canadian travel experiences, shining a light on all this country has to offer. Marlis Butcher’s Park Bagger: Adventures in the Canadian National Parks gathers personal adventures and beautiful photography from an intrepid explorer’s quest to bag all our national parks. Alone Against the North and A History of Canada in Ten Maps is Canadian Geographic’s Explorer-in-Residence Adam Shoalts’ thrilling and fascinating account of the vast northern wilderness few Canadians ever see. Beyond our own borders, Porter Fox’s The Last Winter is a timely and gripping investigation into the disappearing winter of the northern hemisphere and the impact climate change is having on land, people and wildlife. If you’ll indulge in some shameless self-promotion, The Great Canadian Bucket List is a 20x national bestseller that celebrates the most unique destinations and activities across the nation, packed with personality, humour, history, and the many reasons why Canada can rightly be called a true global bucket list destination. 

Parker Ridge Trail in Banff, Alberta |  <i>Ben Morin</i>

 The Gift of Support

Did you know that the Trans-Canada Trail is the world’s longest network of multi-use recreational trails, spanning over 28,000 kilometres from coast to coast to coast, crossing every province and territory, and linking over one thousand communities? The TCT comprises 400 individual trails maintained by tens of thousands of volunteers supported by a registered charitable organization. Donations quite literally go a very long way to expand and maintain this incredible network. You can also gift a donation (directly, in-tribute, or through membership) to other non-profits like the Bruce Trail Conservancy, the East Coast TrailLeave no Trace CanadaThe Royal Canadian Geographic Society, the Ancient Forest Alliance, and many other organizations that protect and steward Canada’s world-renowned wilderness for the benefit of generations to come. Great Canadian Trails includes a monetary donation on many of its tour packages to support the effort and initiatives of diverse trail organizations across the country.

Viewpoint signage on the East Coast Trail |  <i>Caroline Mongrain</i>

The Gift of Gear

More and more travel gear suppliers are upping their sustainable game. Brands recognize that those of us who love the outdoors are just as passionate about protecting our limited natural resources as we are exploring them. For Earth Day 2021, Travel and Leisure compiled a list of some of these companies, from luggage and travel bags using carbon-neutral manufacturing processes and recycled materials to stylish footwear companies boasting ethical, recycled and sustainable production. Companies like Patagonia advocate for the environment through land purchases and various philanthropic efforts. As for travel gadgets, including insulated travel mugs, portable chargers, camping hammocks, and portable firepits, there are dozens of updated lists online that can steer you in the right direction (I compiled one myself!). A hot travel gear tip: if you’re planning on doing a long-haul flight or spending a lot of time on your feet, I highly recommend a pair of compression socks that spins magic with your circulation. It might seem strange (you’re giving me socks?!), but trust me, compression socks will have a hugely positive impact on the traveller in your life. 

Climbing ladders on the West Coast Trail |  <i>The Great Canadian Bucket List</i>

Global tourism has been hammered by the pandemic, but at last, we can see that light at the end of the tunnel. After a terrible and tragic period of lockdowns and restrictions, we have all learned to stop taking things for granted and can finally start planning Canadian outdoor adventures of a lifetime. And that, ultimately, is a much-appreciated gift unto itself. 


Robin Esrock is a renowned travel journalist and the bestselling author of the Great Canadian Bucket List.

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