The holidays are here and one thing seems clear: The gift of the year is outdoor gear.
Gearheads love new gear like boardheads love fresh powder, and this is the time of year you can appease both.
Many downtown Hood River merchants specialize in outfitting gearheads and boardheads, from their heads down to their toes. A short walk down Oak Street and you could find enough accessories to cover everything in between, too.
All outdoor sports have equal representation downtown, so no matter what your gearhead is into — be it windsurfing fly fishing, kayaking, biking or snow sports — you’re sure to find something to please anyone.
“Most people are kind of windsurfed out, so we’re trying to focus more on winter sports right now,” said Adam Durand, manager at the Gorge Surf Shop.
But before the skiers and snowboarders can think about what to wear in the backcountry, they will need to get their equipment ready.
“One thing we’re trying to promote this year is our ski service center,” Durand said. “One idea would be to give a gift certificate for a ski tune-up.”
Or, maybe you want to bring home the hardware and buy your beloved gearhead a new pair of skis or snowshoes. Stop by Doug’s Sports or 2nd Wind Sports for all the hard goods and soft goods you could shake a trekking pole at.
“We sell everything you could need for the outdoors,” said Carol Wild, manager at 2nd Wind, which is located next to Waucoma Bookstore. “You want it, we’ve got it.”
That includes gear for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, camping, and even snorkeling. 2nd Wind also carries smaller gift ideas such as frisbees, travel pillows, gloves, sunglasses and more.
“We sell half new and half consigned goods here, which makes it so people with a tight budget can still get out and enjoy the outdoors,” Wild said.
If you choose not to go the hard goods route, you can find all kinds of winter clothing and apparel ideas at 2nd Wind, Doug’s, Airtime, Storm Warning, Windwing and Big Winds.
“Walk-in traffic for windsurfing gets pretty thin this time of year,” said Big Winds manager Mark Ames, “so we’re starting to sell a lot more clothes, hats, goggles and packs now.”
Like other downtown clothing retailers, Big Winds is featuring clothing and accessories from brands like Nike ACG, Oakley, Quiksilver, Rip Curl and Da Kine.
But others, such as Airtime, feature their own stylish brand of clothing. Airtime’s owners, Jeff and Stacey Houtz, are proud to say that all of their products are “made in the Gorge.” Their entire assortment can be found next door to the Hood River Bagel Company.
Shred Alert and Da Kine also manufacture their products locally, and can be found at many of these downtown stores, as well as online.
Clothes shopping isn’t for everyone, though. Some people have trouble buying clothes for others this time of year, and they know that it’s a lot easier to please a picky outdoor type with a book, a video, a bike pump or river knife.
One place to start is the Kayak Shed (formerly Outdoor Play), where you can find everything from Gerber river knives to paddler first-aid kits; guide books to instructional videos — even headlamps.
“We are trying to provide everything that kayakers may need,” said Brian Shaw, owner of Columbia Gorge Kayak School, which shares retail space at the Kayak Shed. “If you are shopping for someone who is into kayaking, we can probably help.”
Two more niche stores that are looking for a holiday boost this year are Discover Bicycles and the Gorge Fly Shop, located next door to each other on Oak.
Discover Bicycles is highlighting the Fox clothing line, bike tools, training books, winter riding gear and kids’ bikes, while the Fly Shop is trying to promote soft goods along with their endless array of fly rods and reels.
“We sell less hard goods at Christmas because it’s usually better to work with someone on a purchase like that rather than take a chance,” owner Travis Duddles said.
He recommended Filson socks, Simms long underwear and Simms Windstopper coats instead. “Hand it to someone and say, ‘go outside,’” he said, referring to the jacket’s maximum weatherproof construction.
Try something new this year, because getting outside is exactly what Gorge gearheads like to do. Make their Christmas merry and help them fill that ever-expanding gear closet full of outdoor love.