Outdoor Gifts for Tweens and Teens
Teens and their younger tween counterparts are a notoriously difficult group to buy gifts for. As my kids age, they definitely are becoming pickier about what they wear and their choice of outdoors activities.
We have a lot here on TMM with gifts for younger kids, so this gift guide is for the parents of those (pre-)pubescent kids who still love getting outdoors with their families (or maybe more often than not, friends).
We are also including some more tech-focused options than normal, since we understand that in our world, teens + tech is almost an inevitability. The trick here is to buy the tech that encourages them to get outside, get fresh air, and move!
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Adventure Gifts for Teens: Gear to get them outside
As kids get older, they may still want to go camping with their family (we hope!) but might also want a bit of privacy at the campsite and for sleeping. Gifting your older tweens or teens a tent of their own may encourage them to participate in outdoors family activities even longer, while acknowledging they are branching out as independent members of the family.
Buy them their own one-person tent (or perhaps two-person, so they can bring along a friend). REI Co-op Passage 1 Tent is one option that is not super pricey but loaded with great features. Although labeled a backpacking tent, it’s a bit heavy at 4 lbs.
For backpacking families with teens, a budget option like the River Country Trekker Tent 1 sets up with hiking poles to eliminate extra weight.
Enlightened Equipment makes down and synthetic quilts for backpacking and camping. These are amazing quality, incredibly lightweight, warm, and versatile. The custom option for their most popular Revelation down quilt allows you to choose from 19 colors for the outer fabric and 15 colors for the inner fabric, letting you pick your older kid’s favorite color and making a personalized sleeping quilt.
You can also customize the temperature rating (we chose 20-degree quilts for 4-season camping in Texas) and size (an x-short option is great for younger tweens, but check the size chart carefully before you order!) Custom orders can take 2-4 weeks to make and ship, so be sure to order with plenty of time if you want to give as a Christmas gift!
Hammocks are a huge hit for all ages, from the littlest campers to teens and beyond. Having their own hammock in their favorite color could up your teen’s enjoyment of family camping, because what teenager doesn’t love to lounge in comfort with a good book (or their phone)?
At least if they are on their phones while camping, they still get the benefits of fresh air, sunshine, and family togetherness. We have always had good luck with the Eagle Nest Outfitter (ENO) Hammocks, even with pretty rough play at the campground.
JetBoils are amazing for older tweens and teens who are starting to cook their own meals in the backcountry. We use ours on every camping trip to make coffee, hot chocolate, oatmeal, instant mac, ramen, etc. Gifting your teen one of their own will encourage independence and take some of the labor off of the parent to keep them fed and happy while in the outdoors.
For younger tweens, a fixed blade knife like the Mora knife is a better option, but as kids get older, they can be trusted to use a folding, pocket knife without it slipping. Opinel makes high-quality pocket knives at an amazing price, and we use it while camping to slice off pieces of cheese, cutting up fruit, and even whittling.
We are starting to replace all of our headlamps and other lights with rechargeable options, which means no more searching for batteries the night before a camping or backpacking trip and realizing you don’t have any. This one from Ledlenser is an economical choice for a rechargeable option while still providing great performance in a long-lasting, bright beam.
Techy Gifts for Outdoor Teens
Isn’t that all of them? For those tweens and teens who love their technology, it’s still possible to get them outside and in nature! It just takes a bit more planning and some specialized gear.
As my kids start adventuring and exercising more on their own, they love to keep track of their progress. Activity trackers, like a FitBit or Garmin, can help them stay active while quenching their thirst for competition and stats.
While a kid-specific activity tracker–like the Garmin Kids’ Vivofit Jr. or the FitBit Ace 3–is great for younger tweens, teenagers would probably do best with an adult version (my 12-year-old uses his dad’s old VivoFit). An adult version also has more features than the kids’ version, especially when it comes to tracking mileage, speed, heart rate, and location.
As outdoors-oriented moms, we also want to encourage our kids as they get older to get outside, hike, ride bikes, or exercise whenever the mood strikes them, even if we are busy with working or taking care of younger siblings.
If you are hesitant to introduce a fully-featured smartphone to your tween or younger teen, a Gabb phone or watch may be a great option to keep connected with them while delaying their interactions with social media or unmonitored internet access until they are a bit older and more mature. The Gabb watch even includes a GPS tracker and an option to designate safe zones, and you as the parent can be notified if your kid ventures out of the zone.
Use code “mtnmama” for 50% off the GABB watch and phone!
For the tech-savvy teen who wants to stay connected to their friends, keeping their phones charged could be a struggle at a dispersed camping site or a campground with no electric hook-ups. The Goal Zero Nomad 5 can be used with their Flip batteries while outdoors on a sunny day. The Flip 36 can also be charged via USB before the adventure begins, and then used to fully charge a smartphone up to 3 times.
For the skiing tween or teen, the Aleck 006 Bluetooth Audio and walkie-talkie speakers puts their music soundtrack into their snow helmet to allow for crisp sound and functionality. They can also be used as a walkie-talkie to keep them connected to their skiing companions, and a GPS enabled “friend finder” means they can keep up with their crew using the Aleck GO! Mobile app with relative ease.
A new edition to the Aftershokz product line is the Aftershokz Aeropex Mini wireless headphones, which have a 1-inch smaller band than their previous models.
These headphones are unique in that they use bone conduction technology to play music, which means your teenager wearing them can still hear you talk and also maintain situational awareness while in the outdoors or while running in city streets. They weigh basically nothing (1 oz!) but are not tiny pods that can get lost easily.
The JBL Clip 4 speaker is perfect for the outdoors because it’s water- and dust proof, and you can clip it straight onto your pack. It’s a great option for when teens are hiking with friends or siblings, and they want to all listen to music together. Since it’s waterproof, it’s also a great option for poolside or at the beach.
Gifts to Keep Teens Safe in the Outdoors
For older tweens and teens who are starting to venture into the backcountry on their own or with friends or siblings, they may get out of range of cellular signals. Equipping them with a GPS device like the Garmin inReach Mini will allow you to check in with them along their journey and give them the option to send an SOS signal should someone get hurt or need immediate care.
It’s expensive, and requires a monthly subscription, but peace of mind for parents and keeping kids safe is priceless.
As they venture on their own (or even just hike ahead of the group), it’s vital to make sure your kid has their own medical kit on hand in case of injury when away from the group. This ultralight and watertight, ready-made kit from Adventure Medical Kits weighs just 3.68 ounces but has the essentials for mild injuries.
This is both for safety AND fun, but I recently bought my older kids a knot-tying kit from UST. It comes with a bit of rope and instructions for some useful and common knots. After using it for a few days, my daughter now has added “rope” to her Christmas list. This is a great stocking stuffer item!
Teen Hygiene in the Outdoors
As kids age, so does their smell. A completely normal but fairly inevitable part of puberty means learning to manage personal hygiene. While this can be tricker in the outdoors, there are some great products that can help your pubescent kid stay fresh(er).
While Kula cloths are truly for everyone who squats to pee, the cool designs and functionality will be attractive to tweens and teens. If backpacking or hiking, they can keep their own on their packs for ease of use. As mamas, we swear by these for ourselves, too.
And speaking of squatting to pee, who says you have to even do that in the outdoors? There are a wide range of urinary devices that allow folks to stand to pee if they aren’t exactly naturally-equipped to do so.
My girls always had a pretty easy time squatting for a nature pee when they were little, but as my older one enters the tween-age years, has become a bit more self-conscious about peeing in the wilderness. While I use a P-Style myself, I’m planning to get her one with a more open design (like this one), that’s a bit easier to use for a younger kid.
While regular baby wipes can do the job of cleaning up little ones in the backcountry, Wilderness Wipes are thicker and larger (and don’t smell like a newborn should), making them a great option for teenagers to take with them camping or backpacking to keep themselves a bit cleaner and smelling a bit better.
While these are compostable at home, they should always be packed out when in the wilderness per Leave No Trace Principles.
Games for Tweens and Teens to Bring on Adventures
My kids are avid chess players, so we love our magnetic chess set that we bring on all of our adventures, including outdoor adventures and travel. This Outside Inside Magnetic Chess and Checkers set include both games, folds down small for storage, and comes with a sturdy mesh bag.
Cornhole to most of us in the southern U.S., bean bag toss, bag-o, or simply bags to other places, this game is always a hit for all ages at our group campouts. While here in Texas, our friends sometimes pack their full-size wooden cornhole set-up on campouts, this portable version from Outside Inside is a better option for those with more limited space for gear.
Some of my own fondest high school memories are playing Ultimate Frisbee with friends. Bring along a frisbee, or better yet the Nite Ize Light Up one for playing in the dark, and your tweens and teens will (hopefully) be entertained for hours, both during the day and at night.
While we love hiking and exploring on our camping trips, we also spend a lot of time hanging out together at our campsite (or sometimes inside the tent, when the weather is rainy).
We always bring a couple of small, card-based games. We recently discovered Space Cats Fight Fascism, a game by a small company TESA Collective, and we are hooked. It’s cooperative, which means no hurt feelings and fighting over winners and losers. It’s perfect for 12+ years, and it can be played with 2-4 players.
While not one you’ll want to haul out while camping, the Trekking National Parks board game is a fun family game night to embrace the outdoors while staying home. It’s best for 10+ so tweens, teens, and younger siblings can join in on the fun.
Another one you’ll want to play indoors due to lightweight cardboard trees that could get blown away by wind, the Photosynthesis board game by Blue Green is also fun for ages 10+. My older kids are huge board game fans, and it’s one of our favorite ways to hang out when we are all home together to keep them off screens and interacting together. Definitely a tradition we plan to keep up as they enter adolescence.
Outdoorsy Clothing for Teens and Tweens: Stylish and Technical
The days of dressing your little ones in whatever you choose are fleeting, but you can at least still try for a bit longer! Here are a few of our favorite functional and stylish (at least, us moms here think so) options for tweens and teens.
Best Jackets for Teens
Patagonia is known for their high-quality and fashion-forward designs, and the reversible down hooded jacket is no exception. It’s warm, packable, and durable — there is a boys’ and girls’ specific cut, for tweens and teens who may prefer a boxier or slimmer fit.
The best part is the reversible factor: my kids always love having a choice day-to-day to mix things up a bit, with one side patterned and one side solid.
Incredibly waterproof and breathable at the same time, the Shred Dog Elevated shell jacket will keep your tween/teen dry during rainy, slushy, or snowy weather. It’s versatile and can be used by itself in rainy, warmer spring weather or as an outer layer with a puffy underneath for cold, winter days. It also looks badass, something your kid may appreciate.
Use code “MTNMAMA25” for 25% off!
We love Reima for their rain gear, winter overall suits, and mittens, but their “everyday” clothing is high-quality and stylish too. My son last year wore a Reima hoodie every.single.day, and despite a few holes developing near the cuffs, it still looks great.
As it gets colder here in Texas, I’m thinking to replace it with this Lively Fleece hoodie from Reima, which goes up to a size 14Y (and Reima’s sizing runs generous!)
Use code “MTNMAMA” for 20% off!
Base layers for Tweens and Teens
One tradition in our family is Christmas PJs that we unwrap on Christmas Eve and wear all day on Christmas. But recently, we’ve stopped buying pajamas and instead opt for cozy base layers that work double-duty as pajamas at home and to keep them warm while camping or during winter activities outdoors.
For the tween or petite teen demographic, our favorite base layers from Iksplor are available until size 12. These are the softest, coziest merino wool layers, and your kids will want to live in them during the colder months. They also come in vibrant colors and have thumbholes, a key feature that kids from toddlers to teens will love.
For those teens who have outgrown the fit and style of Iksplor, a great option would be REI Co-op base layers. Their kids’ version of merino wool base layer tops and pants goes to size 18 (XL), which means you can still get the kid-pricing for your older teen for a few more seasons before moving them to the adult sizes.
For kids who don’t like wearing wool or you want a more budget option, the Shred Dog synthetic base layer half-zip and leggings are more affordable, get great reviews, and are available up to size 16+ (XL). They come in fantastic color schemes like their jackets, have four-way stretch for comfort and movement, and keep your tween or teen warm and dry with their moisture-wicking fabric.
Choosing the Best Outdoorsy Gifts for your T(w)een
Your kid is getting older and becoming their own person. Make sure to buy with an eye to their unique personality and interests. Hopefully they love spending time outdoors and have already-established outdoors sports and hobbies; if not, maybe nudge them towards a love of the outdoors through games and new tech.
Even if they are reluctant to spend time with their family in the outdoors, perhaps encourage them to start venturing out on their own with some important guidelines, great gear, and safety equipment to keep them connected.
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