The Under $30 Gift Guide for Outdoor Families

With 4 years of parenting under my belt (what?? when did that happen?) I feel like one thing I have learned is that not many toys or gifts have staying power.  Or I should say don’t have the same appeal as a body of water and rocks. In any case, we love giving gifts but practically speaking I don’t like to spend a fortune if I don’t have to on things I know they’ll either outgrow quickly or grow out of playing with.

This Christmas, we’re hoping to keep to a lower budget and save the extra to spend on “experience” gifts like a family weekend away.  If you’re also looking for some less expensive items for your kiddos, here are my 5 top picks that are all under $30.

Sno Stompers Footprint Makers ($24.99 at Mastermind Toys)



When my eldest was just 3, we bought her kid MSR snowshoes.  She’s fairly small and they were too big on her to be fun. We’re saving them until she’s bigger but in the meantime, to get her used to wearing snowshoes and encourage fun outdoor play we have these footprint makers. They’re a huge hit with us and her as they’re easy to get on and easy for her to move around in. Not to mention the bonus of dinosaur or bear footprints! They do provide some “lift” in the snow as a snowshoe does but have no metal grips. I haven’t found this to be an issue so far as we are almost always on flat ground. My daughter has used them last winter when she was 3 and is loving them this winter at 4 too. Note, Canadian Tire also sells them for $19.99.

Kombi Animal Family Mitts ($26 at MEC)

kombi mitts

I’ve put this in previous gift guides but have to mention them again as these have been the mitts of choice for both our kids from 1.5 yrs onwards. They are fully waterproof, very warm, and stay on well. The animal faces seems to be the ticket for toddler & preschooler buy in (for us at least). I’m not sure for how much longer my eldest will be into animal mitts but for this winter at least (she’s 4), they’re a hit with both her and our almost two year old. He has hand-me-down moose mitts which my daughter wore for 2 winters prior so they also hold up well. Note, Carter’s also sells them for $30 though they often have sales.

MEC Neck Gaiter for Kids ($11 at MEC)


This is essentially a fleece buff but we love it for keeping necks and faces warm in the cold. Both happily wore it from about 1.5 yrs onwards.

Black Diamond Moji LED Lantern ($24 at MEC)


A friend recommended these to us for camping and it’s easily because one of our favourite multi-use pieces of gear! This mini lantern will fit in your palm and you can turn up or down the brightness. We used it this summer as a nightlight when camping (kids don’t like sleeping in the pitch black), and also as a nightlight when we travel. My daughter also uses it in place of a headlamp as she can hold it which is a fun novelty. Since it’s LED the batteries last forever. It lasted through 9 nights of camping easily.

CamelBak Eddy Kids Insulated Water Bottle ($20 at MEC)

camelbakI hesitated to add this to my list as we don’t have them yet but I think they look like good quality bottles. We currently have Foogo insulated straw water bottles which we love and I highly recommend but my 4 year olds drinks more water on a hike than they hold so we want to upgrade to a slightly bigger bottle. These will be the ones in their stockings come Christmas! Note CamelBak also makes an un-insulated version for $18.

ps – all my links are plain old regular links, not affiliate ones.

Looking for more gift guides? Check out these other outdoor families’ recommendations!



Gifts to last from Baby to Toddler

With an almost 3 year old and a baby I’ve realized that outdoor gear for kids can get expensive, fast! They have this tendency to outgrow all the things, all the time. The worst age for this is baby to toddler. Not only do they grow size-wise but also in abilities and interests. If you’re having a baby anytime soon or shopping for someone with a baby, here are some items that have lasted us from baby to toddler.

Boba baby carrier

We bought this carrier before Little Bear was born and used it with her until she was ~20 months and then have been using it again with Baby Bear since he was born.  The Boba is awesome because it comes with an insert for newborns (no extras to buy!) and also has leg stirrups if you’d like to use it well into toddler years. There are lots of comparable carriers (Lillebaby, Tula, Ergo, etc)  so check out a local store that specializes in babywearing for help picking the best one.


Hiking the Fullerton Loop with Little Bear when she was a baby

Stonz Booties

These booties are great for two reasons. Firstly, on a non-walking infant they stay on and provide a generous amount of leg coverage that’s water-resistant and windproof.  On a walking baby/toddler, they’re great to layer on top of fleece socks or fleece slippers for when your kiddo is stationary (ie in a carrier or Chariot). I only bought the booties but there are also liners you can purchase as well.


Baby bear on the right with his Stonz Booties. Ok one bootie and one mitt because mom was distracted.

Travel Cubes

After staring down my diaper backpack and wondering how I was going to organize everything for two kids, I came up with the idea of travel cubes! I bought the MEC versions and love them as they’re cheap and well made. I keep one cube for my son and one for my daughter.  This enables me to find things easily but also re-pack into a different bag quickly without forgetting things.


His and hers bags for the diaper backpack

Down Blankets

I have had our down blankets from Eddie Bauer for a while but have gotten the most use out of them since kiddos came along.  They keep kids warm in the Chariot and in the backpack carrier and also make great car blankets or camping quilts to throw over your sleeping bags. I can’t find the exact ones we have but these on the Eddie Bauer site are close (Costco also sells their own down blankets!)


Down blankets for the win (and warmth)


My first beloved Thermos is 8 years old and going strong. It’s been our go-to for hot chocolate for ourselves and for the toddler when she was old enough to indulge in a post winter hike bribe beverage. A Thermos is also great to store hot water in for either formula or heating up a bottle of breastmilk, as the case may be. A good Thermos is fairly pricey but if taken care of properly they’ll last a long time and can be used by everyone!


Old vs new Thermos

If you’re like me and like reading what other families love enough to recommend, check out these posts!

Comparing the Chariot and BOB strollers

When I was pregnant and shopping for strollers, I was completely overwhelmed with the choices out there.  I knew for sure that I wanted to get out biking, running and cross-country skiing with the baby in addition to walking around the city park pathways.  So what stroller to get to?  I had no idea which of those activities would be feasible with a <1 year old or if a stroller even existed that would meet all those requirements!  Not to mention every option seemed very pricey so I wanted to make sure I made the right choice the first time.  Almost a year later, I have a much clearer view of what worked and what didn’t so I thought I’d write this up to help any other parents out there who are similarly mystified!

Before I continue, here’s what I wound up with (if the title isn’t obvious enough!).  We were gifted a Chariot CX1 from family and bought a BOB Revolution SE secondhand from a friend who gave it to us for a good price.


 Chariot CX1

Short version: You pay for what you get.  This stroller does everything and does it extremely well.  If you live in Calgary, it seems most outdoor families have one and for good reason!  There are a few tiny quirks to the stroller but the main downside is it’s bulk and cost.

Full Chariot CX1 review

 BOB Revolution SE

Short version: Compared to non-jogging strollers, the BOB is still quite bulky though not as much as the Chariot.  Brand new, it’s a pricey second stroller but used, it’s a great choice for active families who travel.  It can’t be used to bike or ski, but you can buy stroller skis that enable you to push it on snowy pathways (–> Polar Stroller skis)

Full BOB Revolution SE review

Other Options

If you’re looking for a different stroller from the BOB or Chariot that will still perform outdoors, or if you want a second stroller in addition to your Chariot, I’ve polled some of my active Calgary friends to see what choices they made and why.

Stroller Baby Jogger City Elite
Why? I like to do a lot a trail walking, both on paved and gravel pathways. I found the Elite with 12″ air filled wheels ticked all my boxes as I wanted my stroller to:
  • Have an all terrain wheel with air filled tires to give my baby a good ride when out walking
  • Be light and easy to fold down and pop up,  and be compact in my car
  • Be easy to travel with and have wheels that come off easily
  • Be able to lay my baby flat whilst he was sleeping and sit him upright when awake
  • Have a large canopy for protection against the sun and harsh winter elements
  • Have an adjustable height handle bar
  • I didn’t want a jogging stroller with 16″ wheels as they were too big when indoors
  • I didn’t want to spend more than $500 on a stroller.

Likes It is fabulous with our Polar Stroller skis for winter walking, snowshoeing, etc & an excellent all terrain stroller, without being too big and keeps your child shielded from the elements. Adjustable height handle bar.
Dislikes I would like the upright position to be more upright, rather than sling like and slightly slumped.

– Kelly (Owner of Polar Stroller)

Stroller Jeep Adventure.
Likes I love how it looks and rides. It’s a great jogging stroller, Logan hardly feels anything. It has great off roading as well. We go to the dog park everyday. The cargo basket is big and fits a backpack easily. And great coffee cup holders- which is a must for new mummies. Dislikes BIG – I have to take the truck as it doesn’t fit in the Cavalier and takes up most if the cargo space in the RAV4. It’s also hard to find accessories (weather shields etc) for the adventure model. The liberty and other models have accessories, but they typically don’t fit the adventure model. I heard from a friend that mine is a newer model- so maybe in the future it will be easier to find stuff to fit.
                   – Hollie
Stroller Graco Fast Action Jogger
Why? It came as a travel system with a car seat. One buy and no attachments to purchase. I wanted a stroller that had large wheels that were air filled to handle the pathways and our winter weather. We had plans to jog this summer but haven’t yet used it for that purpose.
Likes Front wheel locks for jogging and unlocked it turns on a dime, very easy to steer one-handed, folds one-handed, two cupholders are great (one for water, one for latte), great storage underneath, sturdy, stands on it’s own when folded because of a kickstand (saves storage space)
Dislikes It’s very heavy and bulky when folded and the seat doesn’t recline enough. Unless your baby is sitting on their own very well, it’s not useable without the car seat. If you have a child that hates his carseat, the stroller doesn’t get used.
                                                                                                                       – Laurel

Stroller: City Select City Mini GT
Why? Needed something versatile for travel, malls and just walking around.
Likes: How easy it was to travel with, folds in 1 second, compact and light, a huge canopy that completely covers baby from the sun, lowers flat to sleep with venting to get through, pushes through anything.
Dislikes: There isn’t much I don’t like but I’d say I disliked how you had to buy all the parts separately (console, snack tray, car seat holder) etc.

– Renee

Stroller: Nuna Pepp
Why? I didn’t get a running stroller although I knew I wanted to be active again and doing sports with my baby. I decided on a travel friendly, lightweight stroller hoping it would also work for running purposes. I can lock the front wheels so steering is easy and I knew for sure I was travelling to Europe at least twice in her first 12 months while I didn’t know how active I would be in this period.
Likes: It pushes easily on pavement, and I managed to run a few times, but it does not work anywhere else
Dislikes: I knew this wouldn’t work well in bad weather conditions, but figured in that case I’d rather stay in (others use carriers). It worked for me to have a lightweight stroller instead of a heavy running stroller. I stuck to just one stroller and would suggest you decide on the most prominent purpose rather then the pressure of being an active mom, which I think I am. Running did not become my passion again, now she is 11 months and would rather be on playdates and active herself then in the stroller. I managed to get some me time to go running by myself which is a nice time off. Further, pelvic floor issues is something you don’t consider while pregnant, many just can’t go back to running.


Kelly with her

Kelly with her Baby Jogger City Elite and skis! Photo: Kelly Patterson

Final thoughts

Both the BOB and the Chariot are great strollers and you can’t go wrong with either.  Picking one, in my opinion, comes down to your expected usage.  If you think you’ll be skiing or biking with your baby, the Chariot is hands down the way to go.  The only question at that point would be which Chariot to get and if you think you’d need a second stroller, which to get (hopefully my thoughts above are helpful in that decision!).  If you’re not planning on skiing or biking with baby, you might want to consider the BOB or a similar jogging stroller as they are smaller than a Chariot and less expensive.

Other stroller reviews to check out

If you have any questions about either stroller, please ask! Or, please share your thoughts on either stroller (likes, dislikes) or on whichever stroller you chose!


Disclaimer:  My Chariot was a gift from family and I bought my BOB second hand.  Kelly is a friend of mine and I think her skis are just so awesome after seeing her use them on several walks.

Little baby adventures

It’s been a while since I’ve written on my blog or had the desire to write on it.  I guess new babies tend to have that effect.  Since baby girl arrived it’s been quite the learning process.

Things that were harder than I expected: healing, breastfeeding, leaving the house, dealing with sleep deprivation, finding time to prepare food and eat, … really I could go on here!

Things that turned out to be easy: ??? I kid :)  While most things were hard in the beginning, everything became much easier the more I practiced.

Things that surprised me: 

  • How easy it would be to meet other mom friends.  Turns out babies are great icebreakers!  It wasn’t hard to find local groups online that organized activities.
  • How generous and thoughtful friends (both with and without kids) would be in offering support/advice/hand-me-downs.  We were fortunate enough to receive many items as gifts or second hand which allowed us to spend our money on nice outdoor gear for baby girl.
  • How preparing for that first trip out of the house would remind me of getting ready for my first backcountry trip (Did I pack enough? Not enough? What type of bag should I use? Should I find things that are more lightweight? Is an extra chocolate bar necessary? <– the answer to this is always YES!).  The good news is that it didn’t take long to be a backcountry packing pro and same goes for getting out with babies.  My friend had to remind me of this when I got so flustered on my first trip out that I completely forgot how to fold up my stroller and resorted to putting it in my trunk unfolded!
  • How everything would turn into an adventure!  Driving to a city park for a 30 min walk? –> Not normally that exciting.  Driving to a city park for baby’s first outdoor walk in her Chariot (and having her snooze the whole time)? –> AWESOME!!!!
  • How rad it would be to hang out with a little person all day.  I was never a big kid person but it’s pretty fun to see her personality develop and introduce her to the things I love.

The last few months have been exceptionally cold and we haven’t been able to go outside very  much so instead, we nailed our routine for leaving the house and snoozing on the go.  Our current cold weather walking routine involves putting baby in her Boba carrier or Baby Buddha sling under my jacket.  I have a jacket panel extender from Make My Belly Fit that fits on two of my down jackets and allows me to zip them up with her underneath.  Depending on temperatures, she’ll either be in the carrier in a cotton sleeper or a fleece sleeper. (At some point I plan on reviewing the items I found super helpful for getting outside!)

With warm weather finally in sight, I’m excited to get more comfortable taking her out on longer walks and mini hikes so when summer rolls around we’ll be ready to hit the mountains!

An (over) bundled baby on her first Chariot walk.  Mountains in the distance made for good motivation and excellent views :)

An (over) bundled baby on her first Chariot walk. Mountains in the distance made for good motivation and excellent views :)




Going to the Bugaboos!

Well, it started as an entry on my Fridge List and was finally crossed of Sunday night when I got home!  TheList is a piece of scrap paper where my husband and I write down all our crazy ideas of things that sounds fun to do or experience.  Oddly enough, it seems most of the trips we’ve ticked off have just fallen into place sans planning – I take it as a sign they were meant to be crossed off :)

Earlier this winter, I decided I wanted to learn trad climb this summer.  Then along came the opportunity to sign up for a women’s alpine climbing trip in the Bugaboos with Sarah Hueniken & Kirsten Knechtel.  Three of my friends (including one of my main climbing partners) were also signing up so it seemed like a no-brainer to go learn to alpine climb in one of the most scenic locations in the world!

Day 1:

We met in Brisco, BC at 9am and started driving down the ~45km logging road to the Bugs parking lot.  I was initially worried about the state of the logging road after all the rains we had the week before but turns out it was in great shape with only one big water hole.  I drove in my Forester and had no problem whatsoever with clearance.  I even saw a few cars in the parking lot that made it in. I was glad I had spent the night before in Canmore as opposed to driving from Calgary that morning since it required a fair amount of concentration to avoid potholes. (Here’s a link to a map of the park if you’re curious and trail conditions)

You round a corner on the drive in and see this! Houndstooth is in the centre. Also there are suicidal ground squirrels all over the road. There must be quite a few Darwin awards given out each summer.

As we pulled in to the parking lot interrupted a huge porcupine’s search for an afternoon automobile snack.  There is plenty of chicken wire in the parking lot and it was easy to wrap it around the car (being sure to cover the wheel wells).  I was a little worried about scratching the car since it’s pretty new but it wasn’t hard to secure the wire logs & stone.  It does help though to create a lip on the bottom on which you can place the stones.  We bended the wire to create the lip before wrapping the car.

I may have overdone the wire/log/rock barricade but it was necessary for my peace of mind!

The hike up was short (5km) but steep (700m) because all of the elevation gain happens in the last ~3km.  Some of the steeper sections have steps and chains and there is one ladder.  The ladder is … awkward.  Metal ladder + wet boots + heavy pack + broken  & sharp handrail at the top makes things interesting.

Once at the Kain Hut, we had time to unpack, sort gear, have dinner and plan for the next day.  For inquiring minds, the first level of the hut has the kitchen & eating area, the second level is bunks and the third level has bunks as well.

View from the hut.

Day 2:

Our goal for the day was to climb Eastpost Spire so we started the morning off with a quick review of gear placements, gear anchors and different belay techniques for various scenarios.  Then we headed off to Eastpost, passing the Applebee campground.  There was a TON of snow still in the Bugs.  All of the main trails were covered in ~2m of snow as was most of the campground.  Once we got to Easpost we paired off and scrambled the first half then pitched out the second half.  It probably wasn’t necessary to pitch out most of what we climbed but it was really good practice to be continually placing gear, setting anchors, belaying, swapping leads & removing anchors.  By the end I felt really confident in my gear skills and it gave me a good appreciation of how inefficiency can turn into huge amounts of time wasted over several pitches!

Easpost Spire. Our route was on the backside.  You can see a tent in the snow-covered Applebee Campground

View of Snowpatch Spire from Eastpost Spire. You can also see the Snowpatch-Bugaboo col.

The last pitch was my favourite as it was a real 5th class pitch (5.2ish?) and I got to lead it!  I guess that qualifies as my first trad lead.  And I even did it in boots :)

Me leading the last pitch – Thanks Sarah H. for the pic! And thanks OR for the awesome pink jacket :) It was perfect for 5 sunny Bugaboo days! We also got a prussik and cordelette from Sterling which were put to good use on the rap!

View from the summit of Easpost

Going down was less fun as you have to be mindful to watch each step.  Best part of coming down was when we got to glissade (aka bum slide!!) down the snow slopes to the hut.

Day 3:

Houndstooth was on the agenda for the day so we hiked up to the foot of the Bugaboo glacier and went over some rope management before heading off.  We started at 7am and all the girls took turns leading. Eventually we were at the base of Houndstooth and needed to head up a steep snow slope & cross the bergschrund.  It was a little intimidating at first looking at what we had to go up but once you got going, it didn’t seem so steep or difficult.  We wore crampons all the way up to the summit and slung rocks or place gear in a few places due to the amount of snow at the top and the exposure.  Apparently the top of the route is usually snow free!

The is the left side of Snowpatch Spire. I took this from the Bugaboo glacier.

Walking on the Bugaboo glacier

Crossing the bergschrund on Houndstooth

Going up …

Looking at Marmolata from Houndstooth

I loved this face of Snowpatch Spire. So huge!

One of the highlights of the evening was practicing self-arrest.  We found this nice steep slope right under Snowpatch Spire and practiced falling in different ways (on your front, back, etc) and stopping yourself with your axe.  Turns out the sliding was more fun than the self-arresting part so we had a huge bum slide competition to the bottom :)

Day 4:

This was our longest day and we were up at 5am, eating breakfast and 5:20am and out the door at 6am.  We hiked up Bubaboo-Snowpatch col to the base of the Kain route on Bugaboo Spire.  Turns out 5:20am breakfast was a bit early for my digestive system and it let me know!  Thankfully there is an open-air outhouse at the col, though no toilet paper so bring a day amount if you plan on using it!  We scrambled some sections of the route and pitched others that had exposure.  We knew going up that due to conditions we wouldn’t make it to the top but it still hurt a bit to pack the rock shoes and not wear them :)  The route was beautiful though and we had fantastic views of the Howsers and Snowpatch Spire.  For the fourth day in a row we had blue skies and intense sun.  It was hard to believe that some people come up to climb and get shut down for days due to bad weather.  It was so hot that we decided not to descend the col (rockfall & avalanche hazard) and instead passed behind Snowpatch & Pigeon Spire and descended onto the Bugaboo glacier to return home.

From the Kain route, you can see the footprints up the glacier and the Howsers on the right. We would follow those steps around Snowpatch & Pigeon Spire to get home after.

The right side of Snowpatch Spire from on the Kain route

The snowy Howsers

Wind sculpted snow on the Bugaboo glacier

Walking back on the glacier was akin to post-holing in an oven!  It was sunny and had to be at least 35C.  Because of the intensity of the sun and reflection on the snow there was no way I was exposing any skin so most of us resorted to stuffing snow down our clothes and putting snowballs on our heads to beat the heat.  13.75hrs later we were back at the hut enjoying a late supper and WINE!

Day 5:

By this point everyone was bordering on being overcooked from 4 straight days of sun so we spend the morning practicing crevasse rescue, t-slot anchors & rope ascension outside the hut on one of the boulders that had a deep snow moat.  After lunch we headed back down to the parking lot.

Overall this was such an amazing experience!  I got to finally check out the Bugaboos including a trying a classic route, I got to climb on granite for the first time, I did my first trad lead, I gained a lot of confidence in my alpine climbing skills & I got to do it all with a great group of friends!  I’ll try and post my packing list as well as some more pics in a few days.  Unfortunately not too many of me since I was behind the camera most of the time :)