With Christmas coming, it's time to look at some gifts that the adventure traveler in your life might like to find under the tree. Most of these suggestions are new approaches to tried-and-true classics, things that will be used and appreciated for a long time.
Backpacks on wheels. You might think wheels would be unnecessary on a backpack, but they can be a great boon if you have to haul a heavy load through some steamy tropical town looking for the bus station; or when you arrive on the late train, the nearest hotel a mile away and not a taxi in sight. Eagle Creek and Kelty make wheeled adventure luggage, ranging from huge duffels to conversion backpacks. The smaller ones, like Eagle Creek's Switchback Compact, or Kelty Pangaea's Griffin, meet airline carry-on restrictions, yet hold enough for warm-country travel.
Clever bottles. Platypus bottles ($4) from Cascade Designs are a true innovation. Originally designed to fit hydration packs used by runners, these collapsible bottles are good on their own. When full, they stand up like rigid bottles, when empty they go flat. Very light and durable, they can be frozen, boiled and easily fit into tight spaces.
Safe sleep. At bedtime, armies of crawling and flying things -- mosquitoes, bedbugs, lice, fleas, ticks and other unspeakables -- wait hungrily for the weary adventurer. Campers with tents are protected, but for travelers who rely on public lodging in remote places, the answer is a Travel Tent ($79) from Long Road. A free-standing, lightweight enclosure with a floor and zipper entrance, you can set it up on a bed in the worst hotel rooms with the most biologically active bedding, and snooze in a pod of pest-free security.
Speaking of bedding, Design Salt specializes in sleep systems for travelers, including lightweight bags and liners. Its newest offering, the MummyLiner Coupler ($70), is 100 percent silk. Luxurious to the touch, it can be zipped to another one to make a double. In warm climates, the liner could be all the bedding you need, and it practically fits in a pocket.
No one should venture out without a Thermarest, the classic self-inflating sleeping pad made by Cascade Designs. The newest Litefoam versions ($50-$70) are a few ounces lighter and roll up tighter than previous pads.
Hot meals. Primus makes the Swiss watch of stoves, the 3.5-ounce Titanium, which costs $250. However, the Dragonfly ($100) by Mountain Safety Research (MSR) is getting high praise for a simple but long-desired feature in backpacking stoves: an easily adjustable burner, coupled with multifuel capability and MSR's famous reliability. Titanium has also made it into cookware. The weight of MSR's set of pots ($90) is almost negligible. The mug ($28) could blow away in a light breeze. Java addicts might prefer the Big Sky Bistro ($30), a coffee press in a mug, by Porter Products.
Adjustable sights. A headlamp is a no-brainer gift -- anyone can use one, and Petzl has a new model with two bulbs (the Duo, $60). One bulb is brighter and can be adjusted for wide or narrow beam. For close work, like reading, you can switch to the dimmer bulb and save battery power. Smith Sliders sunglasses ($95) can be adjusted in a different way. They come with three sets of interchangeable lenses -- brown, gold and clear, or brown, gold and yellow.
Even tents are getting into the act. Kelty has introduced photochromatic windows on the rainflies of its Cyclone and Vortex tents. Made of pliable plastic, the Eclipse Window goes from light green to deep blue as UV rays intensify. You can look out to see if that noise outside is a bear or a cow.
Gadgets, not gimmicks. The race to pack the most tools into the smallest space has yielded a dizzying variety of multitools, some designed for specific needs, like bicycling. Leatherman has a new contoured model called the Wave ($80) that feels particularly good in the hand; knife and saw blades are tucked neatly into the curved handle.
Is it a sign of aging baby boomer knees that trekking poles are becoming so popular? The Compact Travel Staff (Cascade Designs, $60) collapses to 17 inches. It also converts to a photo monopod, and is the next best thing to new knees.
Finally, there's the ultimate in tried-and-true outdoor gear, tested and proven around the world, the one-step repair kit and indispensable gadget: duct tape. Widely available, it runs around $4 a roll, but priceless when you need it. Someone should make it in Christmas colors.
Cascade Designs, 4000 First Ave. S., Seattle, Wash. 98134; (800) 531-9531.
Design Salt, P.O. Box 1220, Redway, Calif. 95560; (800) 254-7258.
Eagle Creek, 1740 La Costa Meadows Drive, San Marcos, Calif. 92069; (800) 874-9925.
Kelty, 6235 Lookout Road, Boulder, Colo. 80301; (800) 535-3589.
Leatherman, P.O. Box 20595, Portland, Ore. 97294; (800) 762-3611.
Long Road, 111 Avenida Drive, Berkeley, Calif. 94708; (800) 359-6040.
Mountain Safety Research, P.O. Box 24547, Seattle, Wash. 98124; (800) 877-9677.
Petzl, P.O. Box 803, Lafayette, Ga. 30728; (800) 282-7673.
Porter Products, P.O. Box 8148, Missoula, Mont. 59807; (888) 327-9908.
Primus, P.O. Box 186, Cherry Valley, Ill. 61016; (815) 332-5504.
Smith Sport Optics, P.O. Box 2999, Ketchum, Idaho 83340; (800) 635-4401.