Being part of a secret Santa gift exchange can seem daunting, especially if involves co-workers at a new job, a new group of friends, or the first time you’ve met your partner’s family. Take a sip of eggnog and relax. With picks from this list, you’ll be set to give thoughtful gifts – even to people you don’t know very well.
To help us dive into secret Santa gifts, we checked in with Michael, an MEC staffer who feels pretty confident in his gift-giving abilities. “I put a lot of thought into finding just the right thing, even for gift exchanges,” he says. “My strategy is to give gifts I can vouch for.”
“I find people are the most excited when the gift I give them is something I have and like, too, or it’s something I’ve been eyeing for myself.” – MEC staffer Michael
1. A great water bottle
A well-designed S’well bottle is probably the most beautiful way for someone to get in 8 cups a day. Tip from Michael: I have a S’well bottle, and I love it because it keeps my water really cold and looks great. The stainless steel is lightweight too.
2. A cozy winter headband
This Coal Whatcom Headband is a good way to give something warm and cozy, and it’s one size fits all.
3. Classy shot glasses
Do they like to raise a glass? Then they’ll dig these copper shot glasses from United by Blue that add a touch of charm to any holiday party. Bonus gift: For every product sold, United By Blue removes 1 pound of trash from the world’s oceans and waterways.
Consumables are a tasty idea. Get something sweet that they’ve likely never seen before, like this special winter edition Spekulatius chocolate bar from Ritter Sport.
5. Portable fun
A game of planning and strategy, this mini Mancala set from Outside Inside is just the thing for a smart co-worker or new friend.
6. Pom pom hat
The MEC pom pom hat has a classic vibe that’s easy to wear. And with tons of colour options, you’re bound to find one that matches that jacket you saw them in that one time.
7. Candle + mug combo
Torn between a mug and a candle? The cedar-scented candle mug from United by Blue is both in one. Problem solved.
8. Drinking chocolate
This is your chance to wrap up a warm fuzzy feeling. Drinking chocolate from Treehouse adds a cozy vibe to any cold winter day or drafty office space.
For coffee people and campers (or people you suspect might be coffee people or campers), an Aeropress system will change their life. It’ll help them brew to perfection, one cup at a time. Tip from Michael: I don’t have this, but man, do I want it. I use a regular French press and somehow always end up with grinds in my cup. I hope my wife reads this post.
10. Comfy winter socks
Never underestimate the power of a great pair of socks. This Star Wars themed pair will put you in their good books for sure. Want more fun sock gift ideas? Check out gift ideas for grown-ups who love fun socks.
11. Pocket-sized entertainment
Give them a brainteaser (then watch as they try to solve it all night long). This wooden puzzle from Outside Inside is a fun gift that fits neatly into a backpack pocket or desk corner to have on hand when they have time to kill.
12. Nice gloves
Gloves that are versatile enough for the dog park or out to dinner make a nice gift. These fleece and leather ones from Auclair come in easy-to-wear neutral colours – ideal for people you don’t know well enough to have their favourite colour top-of-mind.
13. An insulated growler
If they’re into beer or you suspect they might enjoy a cold one, the MEC Camp Together Growler is an ideal pick. Stainless steel keeps their favourite brew chilled for up to 24 hours. Tip from Michael: This is a must have for any beer lover. I get mine filled at my favourite local brewery before a MTB rip or sunset hike as a reward waiting for me when I’m done.
14. A funky headlamp
Shopping for a little one you don’t know very well? A little bot headlamp from Princeton Tec is a colourful surprise for nights in the pillow fort and hikes past sunset.
15. Hand warmer
Absolutely everyone gets cold hands during Canadian winters (yes, even on the west coast sometimes). No matter where they live, you can warm them up with a Zippo Hand Warmer.
16. Bendy flashlight
A fun bendy light from Night Ize for them to wrap onto handlebars and tent pegs in a flash. Adds a boost of illumination and is totally practical.
17. The Lifestraw
The LifeStraw is an awesome pick for people who love to explore, but also a handy tool to have on hand in case of emergency on a hike. Tip from Michael: I love it because it’s so lightweight. I keep it in my day pack as a just-in-case item on hikes.
18. Gift card
If you’re really stuck, an MEC gift card is always a perfect fit.
Happy secret-Santa-ing! Have fun at your next gift exchange, which is sure to end with “how did you know?”