Home for the Holidays | The 2012 Vermont Sports Holiday Gear Guide is All Made in the USA

We put a new spin on our annual holiday outdoor gear guide this year. Each and every one of these products is made in the United States. When we started on the path of scouting domestically made gear (in January of this year), we weren’t sure if we’d be able to find enough high-quality products to showcase. These days, it feels like everything is made in China.

But there are, in fact, an impressive number of high-quality, well-made, industry-leading products that are still made here at home. In fact, we didn’t have nearly enough room to include all the products we tested. It was a fantastic surprise.

When you’re shopping this year for holiday presents, remember that buying something that is made in the USA supports US jobs—maybe some of your friends and neighbors. And the United States has tougher labor and environmental laws than some other places where manufacturing is on the rise. We hope our guide gives you plenty of ideas for all the outdoors-lovers on your holiday gift list, and that by giving thought to buying something made here, you’ll extend some holiday cheer to people you’ve never even met.

On the Water

Kokatat Aries Personal Flotation Device
Although this device can’t download the Crazy Mouth app, the Kokatat Aries has the Save Your Special Someone’s Life app. Featuring a low-profile, front-entry design and a high back with PVC-free foam inserts for comfort when seated in high-back seats, the affordable Aries PFD is perfect for recreational paddlers. $99 ―RJL

Hobie Kona Tandem Sit-On-Top Kayak
Not everyone is an Olympic rower. For many folks, recreational kayaking will do just fine. Plenty wide for stability with a short waterline for easy maneuverability, the Hobie Kona makes kayaking fun and easy for anyone, including first-timers. Going solo? No problem, it easily converts to a single-seater. $1,199 ―RJL

SeaLine Eco See Dry Bag
Everyone knows it’s nearly impossible to go canoeing without bringing one or more electronic devices, but there are better options than Ziploc baggies for protecting them. Transparent, durable, and PVC-free, SeaLine Eco See dry bags are available in four sizes to keep everything from PEDs to less important items like food and extra clothing dry. $22.95‒34.95 ―RJL

Concept2 Skinny Shaft
If you’re like me, you have an Olympic rower on your list. Lucky for us, Concept2 has been making world-class oars in Vermont since 1976. The new Skinny Shaft features a narrower shaft for rowers who feel standard shafts are too stiff. And there’s a bonus: reduced wind resistance. $390–$460 ―RJL


Vermont Sports Cycling Jersey
Obviously the coolest jersey to be available, ever, the Vermont Sports cycling jersey is made in Newport, Vermont. Featuring light microdry fabric, a 15-inch invisible zipper, and three snazzy back pockets, this jersey is perfect for anyone who likes bikes or Vermont Sports. The front features a photo by Vermont photographer Jeb Wallace-Broduer, and the back features a photo by Vermont photographer Dennis Curran. Visit vtsports.com/jerseys for sizing information. $69.99 includes shipping in the continental US. ―SBG

Louis Garneau Energy Gels
These new endurance boosters are the only energy gels on the market to use real fruit juice. The consistency is a lot thinner than other, more gooey gels, too, which means your gift recipient won’t have to choke it down when trying to breathe heavily. Six flavors, including more exotic ones like strawberry-dragonfruit and goji-blueberry, will have any outdoor enthusiast on your gift list salivating , and it’ll keep them going no matter what their outdoor endeavor. Also, the citrus and tropical fruit flavors are caffeinated, for those wanting that additional kick. $44.99 for a box of 24; Louis Garneau Outlet, Newport. ―JG

Darn Tough Run-Bike Series
Made of Merino wool, nylon and Lycra spandex, the run-bike series socks are the ideal gift for anyone who spends time pounding the pavement or pushing pedals. While they aren’t as cushiony as some running socks, they are surprisingly comfortable and hold up like few other socks on the market (they have a no-strings-attached lifetime guarantee). Stains wash out easily, as do smells, so this is a gift for anyone who spends time with the wearer, as well. Bright colors and fun patterns and a variety of sizes mean you should be able to find the perfect pair for anyone on your list. Best of all? These are made in Northfield, Vermont. $14‒17 ―SBG

Vasa Ergometer
Do you have a serious swimmer or triathlete on your list? The Vasa Ergometer is one of the few effective out-of-water ways to train. Laying face down, users place their hands in paddle-like devices, and then stroke, using varied air resistance to make training harder or easier. It’s endorsed by Olympians and made in Essex, Vermont. $1,899 ―SBG

Clean Ethics Bottle Bright
This is a great stocking stuffer. Bottle Bright effectively cleans stained coffee mugs, water bottles, and other drinking vessels, and eliminates odors too. The formula is nontoxic, biodegradable, and free of chlorine, and it’s made by a Richmond, Vermont-based company. For every purchase made, Clean Ethics gives Bottle Bright to people in developing nations who are in need of clean drinking water vessels. $11.95/tube of 10 tablets ―SBG[/one_third]

In the Snow

AYG 365 Boxer
Softer and less stinky than polypro or nylon, these underwear are still made from “the fabric of our lives,” but with the addition of an XTRDRY treatment that imparts the cotton with moisture-wicking properties. So now your hubby can have the comfort without the concern of being unable to dry his underwear out on the trail. And you might even be able to go along with him and not have to deal with his stench! A gift for the whole family. $29.95 ―JG

Polarmax 4-Way Stretch Zip Mock
All of Polarmax’s products are made in North Carolina. The 4-Way Stretch mocks stand out for their quick-drying, wicking properties, a friend to anyone who plays in the East’s wet snow. The women’s zip mock features an eye-catching print or solid colors, while the men’s crew is a sleek and understated solid black or white. Comfy enough for PJs, performing enough for powder. $59.95‒$69.95 ―SBG

Ibex Shak Lite
Not only are these fleeces sewn in the United States (California), but the Merino wool is culled from Montana-raised sheep. (Much of the Merino wool on the market comes from New Zealand.) The men’s half-zip and the women’s zip hoody are a sharp outerlayer for spring and summer, and they make a nice midlayer for really cold days on the slopes. The domestic wool and new colors give a noteworthy update to one of Ibex’s classic lines. $135 (men’s), $150 (women’s).

Worth The Daily Bread Skis
Homegrown and handmade out West for a Vermont-based company, these bad boys are no sarcastic, dry-witted New England joke. They rip East Coast conditions like razor wire through tissue paper. Why? Because that’s what they’re designed for. The Daily Bread is the narrowest and most forward-biased ski that Worth produces, making them superior for short-swing turns through not only tight hardwood forests but also steep chutes and bumps. Powerful, responsive and stiff, the Alpine skiing enthusiast will be thrilled to have this red-hot arrow in her or his quiver. $799 fiberglass, $899 carbon blend. ―JG

22 Designs Vice Bindings
Combining the power of the Hammerhead with the ingenuity of the Axl, these new bindings will give your favorite knee-dropper’s tele turns more snap and laser-like precision this season. Three discreet pivot points allow for greater adjustment to style or type of snow, and a few degrees of backward tilt engages the boot sooner for more stability and control. The Vice is designed to be a solid resort binding, but at 3.2 pounds (larger size), they won’t weigh you down on a tour either. $210 ―JG

REVO Guide Sunglasses
These might be some of the nicest all-purpose, polarized shades out there―equally suitable on the trail, for skiing, or around town. One especially cool feature relates to their lightweight and durable nylon frames―which are made from castor beans rather than fossil fuels. The Guides come in a variety of lens and frame color options, and REVO backs them with a solid two-year warranty. And while they might be small, they are no stocking stuffer, but rather, a serious investment for your eyes. $180 ―BM

MSR Surelock UL-3 Pole
We’ve solved the mystery of what to get that person who loves to ski, snowshoe, and hike: MSR’s Surelock UL-3 pole. Easy release adjustment makes these poles simple to lengthen and shorten (105 cm to 145 cm) as terrain changes, and the Surelock locking system ensures the pole won’t slip and close on itself under pressure. Includes snow baskets and trekking baskets. $109 ―SBG

Kahtoola MTN24 Snowshoes
Have someone in your life who felt the snow was a little lacking for snowshoes last season? (Nah, nobody knows anyone like that!) These snowshoes allow the user to remove the decks from the crampons and either leave them at home or carry them on a pack if conditions don’t require much float. A very cool design―with the crampon already on your boot or shoe, you can simply step into the frame, and voilà, you have crampons-turned-snowshoes. Almost as easily, the pull of a cord releases the crampon. The heel strap is about the simplest I’ve ever used, and you can adjust the width of the sole plate to accommodate many foot widths. Awesome for variable conditions, saving weight on your feet and preserving the longevity of the deck while enabling you to stay afloat when the pow gets deep. Backed by a lifetime warranty. $279 ―JG

Ski Pass
Whether your loved one is a Nordic or Alpine skier or rider, a season pass to a Vermont ski area is the gift that keeps on giving … all the way through April. Or May. Or June, depending on the year! A season pass to many Nordic resorts gets the pass-holder one day pass to several other Nordic resorts. Certain downhill ski and ride resorts offer discounts to pass-holders of other mountains. This gift will not be returned―you really can’t go wrong. Price varies, skivermont.org for a portal to Vermont’s resorts. ―SBG

On the Trail and at Camp

Muscles Not Motors Water Bottle
For fans of the Muscles Not Motors lifestyle, this aluminum bottle is a way to talk the talk and walk the walk. The reusable bottle is much more eco-friendly than buying bottled water, and this particular bottle is, of course, Made in the USA, but it also exceeds FDA requirements for BPA requirements. Plus it sports the MNM logo, a great conversation starter. $19.99 ―SBG

Brooks-Range Invasion Tent
This burly four-season domicile will make an incredible gift for the avid mountaineer in your life. Alaska-based Brooks-Range, whose products are designed by mountaineers, for mountaineers, placed air vents strategically in this top-of-the-line Alpine assault tent. That way, water vapor escapes easily and condensation does not build up inside. There’s a vent in the bottom of the door too, so you can reach your pack in the vestibule without having to unzip the door—intelligent design. A two-person team will be thrilled with the easy setup and superior strength of this single-walled tent. At just three pounds, seven ounces, it’s incredibly lightweight for how sturdy it is. $569.95 —JG

Thermarest ProLite Plus Air Mattress
Treat someone to a more enjoyable winter camping experience with this insulated, four-season air mattress made in the great state of Washington. For overnight ski and snowshoe tours, hut-to-hut adventures, or the occasional wintertime bivvy, this lightweight mattress will free up room for other heavier essentials while preventing the cold ground from sapping too much precious heat from your body as you sleep. If your holiday karma needs a boost, couple this with Thermarest’s Dreamtime Comfort Cover for the ultimate in camping comfort, and for added versatility when canoe and car camping. $110 —BM

MSR WhisperLite Universal
Amazing that the Cadillac of camping stoves is still made right here at home in the US of A! The best choice for the intrepid traveler on your holiday shopping list, this burner will eat almost any fuel you can think of—white gas, kerosene, unleaded gasoline, and canister fuel—making it one of the most versatile compact stoves on the market. You’ll likely be able to find something to fire it up with in any country you go to. And no matter what fuel type is used, it will boil a liter of water in three to four minutes. And weighing only 13.7 ounces and packing down to the size of a grapefruit, it won’t take up too much room in a pack or suitcase. $139.95 —JG

Aventura Jaelyn Long-Sleeve Tee
There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable at camp. This cozy, roomy (but still flattering) cotton-polyester shirt is perfect wear for hanging out at camp after a long day on the trail. The soft fabric will feel good on skin that has carried a pack a long, long way. Aventura clothing is designed by women, for women, and has a strong green ethic. The unique pattern is a conversation starter, and that’s when the wearer can say, this shirt was made in the USA! —SBG

Chaco Custom Sandals
You can personalize everything from mousepads to blankets, but did you know you can personalize Chaco sandals? With a few clicks at chacos.com (click on Custom Chacos in the upper-right-hand navigation), you can design a pair of sandals from sole to stitching. Once you submit your design, the expert manufacturers in Rockport, Michigan, get to work. Order as early as possible to allow time for your pair to be made. The only hard part? Deciding! There are many colors and designs to choose from. $125 —SBG

Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 Chair
Who doesn’t love Crazy Creeks? One of the most ubiquitous camping accoutrements is now lighter (21 ounces) and more packable (rolls to less than five inches in diameter) than ever in the Hex 2.0. Not only are these ideal gifts for the camper in your life, but they are a guaranteed “seat for the season” for parents whose kids participate in sports like soccer and field hockey. Even more, they make a fine emergency dog bed. $51.50 —SBG

Kate’s Tram Bars
Still made from homemade recipes, and still made here at home (in Victor, Idaho), these bars really satisfy. Four yummy flavors with textures that soar high above other bars, Tram Bars will provide the lucky Alpinist with sustenance and energy for the next vertical endeavor. Made with exclusive all-natural and organic ingredients, like rolled oats (Montana-grown) and honey. $2.79 each or $35.99 for the Delicious Dozen Gift Box. —JG[/one_third_last]

Reviews by Sky Barsch Gleiner, Josh Gleiner, Ryan James Leclerc, and Brian Mohr.