Gift ideas: splurge vs. save edition

Gift ideas: Splurge vs. save edition

Sometimes, you want to go big when it comes to surprising your favourite person. Other times, a present that’s thriftier – but no less thoughtful – is just the ticket to gift happiness. Whatever end of the gifting spectrum you’re on, you’ve got a ton of awesome options.

To take us through some splurge vs. save gift ideas, we checked in with MEC staffer Robin. He’s part of our web team that makes sure absolutely every item is up on, from the highest-end backcountry skis to the smallest bike tube patches.

“I like to make the most of my vacation time, so when it comes to splurging, anything that saves me set-up time, is easier or more comfortable to use, and brings me joy outside is key.” – MEC staffer Robin

Gift ideas: splurge vs. save edition

1. To stay warm

Splurge vs. save: gloves

Splurge: “Gloves can definitely be worth the splurge,” Robin recommends. “I’ve used the same pair of Black Diamond ski gloves for 6 seasons and they’re just starting to show wear now.” Black Diamond Guide Gloves are the warmest ones they make, and are made to last. $195

Save: Budget-friendly MEC Overlord Gloves are waterproof, warm and have removable liners. They’re the perfect present for skiers and boarders or anyone who spends time outside. $49

2. To keep things cool

Splurge vs. save: coolers

Splurge: Like all Yeti coolers, the Yeti Tundra 45 is legendary for keeping stuff ice-age chilly for days. It’s also crazy tough and certified grizzly proof. $465

Save (right): “The MEC Chilli Cooler is a big hit with members,” said Robin. “It was rated 4.8/5 last time I checked.” Not only does this cooler keep things cold, it also has a removable liner for cleaning and a built-in bottle opener. $75

3. To light it up

Splurge vs. save: headlamps

Splurge: Our headlamp specialist is pumped about the Fenix HL60R Headlamp (exact words: “My wife uses it for running at night, it is AMAZING!”). Up to 950 lumens, it’s easy to charge and waterproof to 6.5ft for 30 minutes. $102.75

Save: The Petzl Tikkina Headlamp packs 150 lumens for reading in the tent or avoiding puddles on dog walks. Plus it’s budget-friendly, which is extra-nice if your giftee is prone to misplacing things. (“I’m definitely guilty of losing a few headlamps in the past,” says Robin.) $25

4. To eat pizza

Splurge vs. save: pizza makers

Splurge: For the outdoor pizza-fanatic in your life. The Uuni wood pellet fired pizza oven reaches 500°C in just 10 minutes, which is about how long it’ll take everyone to agree on toppings (pineapple: Y/N?). $400

Save: Bake personal-size pizzas or giant round brownies – Camp Chef Skookie cast iron pans are up to the challenge. Seasoned and ready to use over campfires or stovetops. $32 for a set of 2

5. To prove it happened

Splurge: The GoPro Hero6 Black captures crystal-clear slo-mo and high-speed footage. It’s also waterproof up to 10m, has voice control, and lets you edit right on your phone. $650

Save: For your Insta-happy friend. The MEC Dry Sleeve protects phones so they can snap #goodtimesoutside without stressing about splashes in the rain or brief dunks at the beach. $15–20

6. To have fun with dessert

Splurge vs. save: ice cream

Splurge: Delicious for kids and fun grown-ups. With a few simple ingredients and 20 minutes of shaking, the UCO ice cream ball churns out home-made ice cream in whatever flavour you dream up. $39–50

Save: Freeze-dried ice cream is all the tastiness of ice cream without the chill. “I first tried when I was a kid and thought it was so cool how it melts in your mouth – it’s the perfect stocking stuffer for anyone young on your list,” says Robin. $4

7. To look up at the stars

Splurge vs. save: chair and pillow

Splurge: To watch shooting stars in a bit of outdoor luxury. Unlike some full-size camp chairs, the Helinox Sunset Chair packs up small and is easy to carry down to the beach. $180

Save: Little things can make a big difference. Case in point: the plush and packable MEC Deluxe Pillow. (Another backcountry option that Robin likes is the MEC Pack Rat Pillow Stuff Sack, $22). $27–30

8. To get a head start on resolutions

Splurge vs. save: watch and race series

Splurge: This watch means business. No matter what goal they’re after – triathlons, Fondos, half marathons – the Suunto Spartan with heartrate monitor is loaded with features for training, tracking and crushing. $739

Save: Get them an MEC Race registration to motivate them with a finish line. With races across Canada, from beginner-friendly 5K routes to gnarly trail runs, there’s lots to choose from. Feeling generous (but still thrifty)? Sign up for a race series package for a discounted price (only until January 31). From $15 per race

9. To listen to music on the go

Splurge: A portable wireless speaker that’s just the right size to slide into a bike water bottle cage. Plus, this Scosche BoomBottle+ has a USB port to charge phones and other devices. “This one has an IPX8 rating in case you get caught in the rain,” Robin notes. $199

Save: Have someone on your gift list that’s always on the move? These Scosche Sportclip Earbuds stay put for working out, and can control music and answer calls too. $35

Heads up: all the images above are a side by side look at both products, but they aren’t sized to scale… take a peek at the product dimensions for all the sizing info.

Karen Benson

Editor, trail runner, nature nerd. Lauded for leading cheer squads everywhere, she’s also an outspoken advocate for eating burritos daily.