Stories & Features

Friluftsliv! A gift guide to channel your inner Norwegian

Image of a child wearing snowshoes
B.C. is a winter wonderland if you have the right gear to stay warm and dry.

With sun seeker vacations on hold, it's about enjoying the B.C. outdoors

In one of the happiest countries on earth, they're way ahead of us in electric vehicle adoption and – through something thing called friluftsliv – the art of enjoying the outdoors in all sorts of weather.

Loosely translated as "free-air life", friluftsliv is a Norwegian focus on the outdoors. It's about hiking, camping, fishing, ski and snowshoe touring, and even living for long stretches in the wild. It embraces the notion that there's no such thing as bad weather, just unsuitable clothes and gear (and perhaps a lack of imagination).

The idea also happens to be perfectly timed for the persistence of the novel coronavirus, which has put on hold (at least for most of us) the option of a mid-winter sun seeker getaway. So as we move through fall and into the winter, we've put together a holiday gift and ideas guide inspired by friluftsliv.

Not everything on the list below is about roughing it in the great outdoors, as items include renting a Tesla or a lux cabin in the woods. But all provide at least a baby step towards enjoying beautiful B.C. – no matter the weather.

Win s $150 Canadian Tire gift card

This month's Team Power Smart contest prize is a $150 Canadian Tire gift card you can use to stock up on winter gear. If you're a member, just log in to your Member Toolbox to enter. If not, join the team for free today and then enter to win.

Now, on to our holiday gift guide...

Image of a couple using an OCEAS waterproof blanket
The OCEAS waterproof blanket is big enough for four to sit on or for two to battle the elements on a cold or wet day.

A warm and waterproof blanket

Whether stargazing in the wilderness or taking in a kids soccer game, a big warm blanket is in order. The OCEAS waterproof blanket measures two metres by 1.5 metres, fits in a small carrying bag, and gets rave reviews for its ability to repel not just cold and rain, but also sand.

Did you know? Keeping a quality throw blanket handy in the home can up your comfort and cut down on heating bills. Electric blankets can be a great option that allow you to use heat only when and where you need it, at a fraction of the cost of heating an entire room or floor of your home.

Image of  Darn Tough camo sock
Guaranteed for life, Darn Tough socks rely on a high percentage of merino wool for improved cold and wet weather performance.

Far from your average sock

Some inexpensive socks perform well, at least until you're in sub-zero temperatures (or they get wet). Look to wool, fleece, or synthetic equivalents in winter, and make sure they're a good fit to prevent blisters during hiking, snowshoeing or other outdoor adventures. Consider a Smartwool sock for the runner, hiker or skier on your list, Darn Tough socks come with a lifetime warranty, and the fit and performance of the Dissent GFX compression ski sock is about as good as it gets.

Merino wool socks are hardly created equal. If they're inexpensive, that could be because the sock is only about 30% merino. To get the full benefits of the wool, look for a merino component of at least 50%.

Did you know? Wearing ski socks or slippers at home can keep you warm enough to save you money on your energy bills. Turn down the heat a couple degrees, grab a sweater, and above all – keep those feet warm.

Image of the waterproof Nova Hydroknit boot for men and women
Native Shoes of Vancouver uses recycled fibres in its waterproof Nova Hydroknit boot for men and women.

Boots for the really cold and the really wet

Some of us love our boots, while others... not so much. If you're looking to gift a pair of boots, consider just what they're likely to be used for, and err on the side of style for the city dweller.

If the person on your list is sustainability-minded and/or vegan, there's a boot for that. Vancouver's own Native Shoes is making noise by using 50% recycled yarn in its men's and women's Nova Hydroknit waterproof boot as the company embarks on a quest to have its shoes 100% life cycle managed by 2023. Native Shoes also offers stylish boots for kids.

And then there are boots designed for the coldest weather B.C. has to offer, including the Kamik Mammoth lined rubber boot that comes with a removable liner. Columbia's Omni Heat line of boots include the men's Powderhouse Titanium boot that promises warmth to -54°C, the women's Heavenly boot that can do double-duty in the city or in the wild, and comes in black, grey, light grey, and red. There are Omni Heat boots for kids too, including the Big Kids' Bugaboot Plus IV. Snowshoeing anyone?

Did you know? One person's sustainability is another person's no-go zone. While vegan boots use no leather or other animal products, there's an argument that a leather boot that lasts a long time is a more sustainable choice. If you're big on sustainability, look for shoes with other natural materials including natural rubber, cork, and wood.

Image of a skiier wearing a helmet
Keeping your hands warm, especially during those chairlift rides back up the hill, can be the difference between a full day on the slopes and an early exit.

Gloves, mitts and rechargeable hand warmers

Now that your feet are warm, let's talk about your hands. For maximum warmth, opt for mittens or battery-powered heated gloves, which are gaining in popularity among skiers and snowboarders in particular. Gloves provide greater dexterity and are designed as one of two options: gauntlet, which go over the cuff of your jacket and cinch at the wrist to seal out snow; and undercuff, which fit under the cuff of your jacket.

Look for gloves that are waterproof and rely on a moisture-wicking liner to keep sweat away from your hands. Even better, a removable liner allows you to more easily dry the liner out. Leather is a great option but is generally more expensive than a glove with a synthetic shell. Look for warmer, heavier gloves for the likes of alpine skiing and snowboarding (such as MEC's popular Overlord unisex glove) and lighter weight gloves like the Hestra Ergo Active Grip for pursuits where hands tend to heat up naturally, such as cross-country skiing or running.

Tired of watching a friend or family member suffer with Reynaud's syndrome, where circulation issues in the fingers can make winter pursuits too painful to enjoy? Opt for gifting them a great pair of gloves or mittens, or surprise them with a rechargeable hand warmer such as one from OCOOPA, or reusable HotSnapZ hand warmers that fit easily into a pocket or even a glove while on a chairlift.

Did you know? Some lighter weight gloves, and sometimes even heavyweight ski gloves, come with touchscreen compatibility so you don't have to take your gloves off for basic use of your smartphone.

Image of a surfer at Tofino, B.C.'s Chesterman Beach
The temperatures are colder but the waves are bigger for surfers opting for winter visits to Tofino.

Nothing says friluftsliv like a January surf vacation to Tofino. If there's someone on your list up to the challenge of the bigger waves that can hit Tofino in winter, consider equipping them with a wetsuit that will guard them against the inevitable chill. Start with MEC's guide to choosing a wetsuit, then decide whether you can afford a high-end hooded suit with a gnarly name like O'Neill Psycho Tech or Rip Curl Flash Bomb.

Did you know? There was a time when the Tofino surf shop Storm closed from November through April. Not anymore. The only day of the year it's closed is Christmas.

Image of a red Tesla Model 3
The Tesla Model 3 is among the rental options available through Vancouver-based EV rentals.

Rent a Tesla for a B.C. getaway

Know someone on your list who's dreaming of an electric car or wondering aloud if it's for them? Vancouver-based EV rentals has an assortment of Teslas – Models 3, S, Y and X – equipped with snow tires and available for single- or multi-day adventures. With Tesla's range, you might want to head to the Interior for a snow adventure or to Tofino for storm-watching or surfing. The rental includes free access to Tesla Superchargers (for the Model S and X) and you can ask for the plug converter that will also give you the option of using one of BC Hydro's more than 70 DC fast chargers, which are mostly located along B.C.'s most popular highways.

Did you know? Under B.C.'s EV charger rebate program, single-family homes can receive a rebate of up to 50% off the purchase and installation costs of an eligible Level 2 charger, to a maximum of $350 per approved charging station.

Image of a chalet near Golden, B.C.
Nestled in the woods near the Blaeberry River a 20-minute drive from Golden, this chalet is a comfortable, luxurious way to get away from it all.

Cabins in the woods, B.C. style

If your idea of a cabin getaway involves popcorn, Chris Hemsworth, and inventive horror, watch The Cabin in the Woods on Amazon Prime. If not, book a winter getaway in B.C. via Airbnb or VRBO. Three dazzling options include an architectural beauty in the woods outside Golden (where you can ski at nearby Kicking Horse Resort), the solar-powered Lavender Cabin near Salmon Arm and the Larch Hills cross-country ski trail network, and the Big Sky condo at Mount Washington.

Did you know? While you're away on a winter vacation, turn the heat down in your home to about 15°C. You won't waste energy and it will stay warm enough to ensure – in the event of a winter cold snap – that your pipes don't freeze. Install programmable wifi thermostats such as the Mysa smart thermostat and you can use your smartphone to pre-heat your home just prior to your return.

Image of hikers using Hillsound portable stools
Vancouver-based Hillsound has designed a portable stool that weighs less than a pound.

A lightweight stool for the soccer game, a hike, or camping

It's hard to imagine that anyone couldn't find a way to use a portable, foldable stool that weighs less than a pound but is strong enough to support the weight of an NFL linebacker (110 kg, 240 pounds). Vancouver's Hillsound makes serious outdoor gear such as crampons and gaiters (those bottom-of-the-leg protectors you put over your boot tops to keep the snow out), but they've hit a home run with the BTR stool, which comes in heights of 14 and 17 inches. It's light enough to win the hearts of backpackers looking for comfort they can carry, but if you know a soccer mom, dad or grandparent, this stool's a slam dunk.

Did you know? Hundreds of studies have linked time spent outside to a range of health improvements, including a reduction in anxiety and depression, diabetes, high blood pressure and increased immune system function.