holiday gift ideas

10 Brilliant Gifts You’ll Want to Keep for Yourself

The Holidays are upon us and we’re being inundated with pumpkin, spice and all things naughty and nice.

It’s a time of year I sometimes feel very disconnected with the world outside my own bubble.  Excessive commercials to buy this and that, lines starting on Wednesday for black Friday and website shut downs on cyber Monday!?!  It’s pandemonium out there!

So, before we add to the shopping insanity I wanted to share a little insight into our sharing & gifting mantra:

Our un-sedentary lifestyle is one of constant evolution in search of simplicity (plus we don’t have a lot of space).  The less stuff we have weighing us down and taking up space, the more room we have to focus on experiences.  For us, life is all about experiences.  If we can save time, space or money, that means more experiences.

So, we’re always on the lookout for items that can enhance our travels, camping experience and overall adventurous lifestyle, however there’s one major caveat: they must work really well!  We research, read a ton reviews and don’t mind spending a little extra money for that perfect item to fill the gap.

If we share something on our website it’s because it serves a meaningful purpose in our life.  If we give a gift, we want it to serve a meaningful purpose in that person’s life.  Before we ever purchase, give or suggest anything we always make sure it fits this mantra.


Sony a6000

best travel camera

The past several years I’ve been lugging around a giant dSLR and this year I decided to search out a smaller camera that could produce the same quality video and photography.  The a6000 is extremely compact & lightweight, with the advanced accessories and interchangeable lenses I think this little camera is perfect for any traveler.  The NFC allows me to tap my phone to the camera and transfer images to share on social media, so no more sharing low res phone photos.  I filmed most of our Alaska Bound adventures with this camera…and yes, my neck and back are thankful for its smaller size.


Hiking Boots

hiking badlands national park

As a nature addict I am a little embarrassed to admit this but…until this year, we’ve never owned a pair of hiking boots! I have always had trail running shoes and used them for every outdoor activity I do.  It took planning four months in Alaska to finally convince myself to invest in proper hiking boots and all I can think is “How, oh how did I ever survive without them?!?”

I wanted something that was insanely durable, breathable, waterproof and not too granola looking (which is oddly difficult to find).  I ended up with not one but two pair of boots that share all of those qualities. I love both pairs and between the two pairs I wear them almost daily.  My Timberland’s are my daily go-to’s because they’re light weight, stylish and crazy comfortable.  I can roam about town and hit a trail all in a day.  When I know we’re going hard core or not sure what the conditions are going to be, I reach for my Keens because they make my feet feel bullet proof. Oh, and go for the high tops! I tried to convince Jason it would be best, he didn’t listen and now he wished he would’ve.  The low tops are fine but high tops offer that extra support for long days and treacherous trails.


UE Megaboom

best travel speaker

For years I’ve complained about the dash stereos in most RVs, they’re pretty much worthless!  When we’re camping without hook-ups our home theater stereo pulls too much power to run for a long time, plus that outlet isn’t live on the inverter and there’s no speakers outside.

This year we searched for a solution and we found the UE Megaboom, it’s not cheap but it seriously rocks.  It’s waterproof so we can use it outside, it’s loud enough to hear over our roaring front engine RV, it connects to our phone via Bluetooth or NFC and the lithium battery lasts 20 hours.  The bass is rich and the highs are clear filling the RV with plenty of sound to rock out, they call it “360 degree sound”.  It’s also worth noting two speakers can be paired together for even more sound (or one inside and one outside) and now that we’ve decided this one is awesome we’ll probably invest in another.

  • UE Megaboom – $300
  • UE Boom – $100 (same great sound but a more affordable option for those that don’t need it to be waterproof)


Foam Roller & Yoga Mat

deep tissue roller

Travel and constant adventure can take a toll on our bodies and it’s amazing how easy and beneficial stretching and rolling can be.  We have always carried a yoga mat but new to us this year is a foam roller and it’s been a lifesaver!  It helps tremendously with a wide variety of aches and pains. I use it for everything from easing sore legs from a high incline hike to helping with sciatica pain.  A fair warning: Our cat loves to eat foam so if your cat is similarly crazy you better keep the foam roller locked away, and never turn your back when you’re not actively using it. 🙂


ROK Espresso

best espresso maker

I was unhappy with the performance of our Bialetti Moka Elettrika (it was fine but the espresso came out a little “flat”) and since we purchase more expensive small batch roasted coffee I felt like we were throwing away money with each brew.  I almost purchased an Aeropress and then I stumbled upon the ROK espresso maker.

It looks awesome, its made of heavy duty stainless steel, it uses ground coffee (not pods) and it makes a luscious crema when the espresso is pulled nice and slow.  I love the entire process of making coffee each morning and this hands on experience is an extremely rewarding way to begin my day.  They’ve just launched a manual coffee grinder so that just might be my personal Christmas request. If you’re not an espresso drinker and prefer a pour over or immersion, check out the travel friendly Zevro.


Bar Tools

rv happy hour

Nothing says I love you or welcome home like a well-crafted cocktail!  With such limited space in the RV I like having just a few high impact tools.  I love my dapper penguin cocktail shaker (he always impresses guests too) and my 10 in one bartender tool (its like a Swiss Army Knife for booze).  Plus, I use airtight glass jars to create my own infusions and brandied cherries.


Neat Scanner

NeatDesk Desktop Scanner and Digital Filing System - PC

Before we hit the road nearly six years ago I purchased the Neat Mobile Scanner and I didn’t like it because the scans were slow and too hands on.  I’ve gone back and forth on what to do with all my receipts attempting to store them, capture them using a cell phone camera + app and I simply got fed up with the hassle of it all.  Now I have a giant stack of receipts taking up an entire cabinet inside the RV, what a waste of space!

This year I bit the bullet and purchased the NeatDesk Desktop Scanner and I love it.  I can throw a handful of receipts and it scans them all and adds them to a designated folder on my computer.  It literally saves me hours at the end of each month, it’s better for the IRS since thermal receipts tend to ‘disappear’ over time, I don’t have to keep files & boxes of receipts in the RV and I can transfer the scans to my Quickbooks account which works great for managing our small business.


Portable Solar Kit

portable solar panel

Solar and RV’s go together like peanut butter and jelly.  If you prefer to be out in nature and more than 5 feet from your neighbor, chances are you will be dry camping and in need of an alternative energy source.  If you know and plan to dry camp a lot, maybe you are ready for a full roof install like ours. But if you’re still on the fence and not sure how much dry camping you will do, a portable solar kit is a great, no install needed investment and way easier to gift wrap.  If you’re really non-committal you can purchase two portable panels and connect them together, which may be enough juice if you’re a lite power consumer.


Beyond the National Parks A Recreation Guide to Public Lands in the West

beyond the national parks

We were recently given this book by a fellow traveler and it’s a wonderful tool to have in our Wild Camping kit.  Searching for public land online can be extremely frustrating but I’ve found this guide to be helpful in showing us new areas to point our motorhome towards.  It’s not a how to guide or a where to camp for free listing database, I consider it an insight to public lands that are worth visiting.  Sadly it’s not been updated in several years but the good news is it’s wicked cheap on Amazon.


Air Compressor 

viar air compressor

Since we’re in a Gas RV now we don’t have a built-in air pump in our motorhome.  The Viair came highly recommended by multiple friends and travelers (even RVers with Diesel Motorhomes) so I purchased it before we left for Alaska…better safe than sorry, right?!?  Turns out I ended up using it several times myself and I loaned it to a couple of fellow RVers who needed to air up.  This thing works like a champ, but make sure you learn from my mistakes and read the directions before you use it!


Since we own all the items above you’re probably wondering what’s on our personal list?  We always have consumables on our list: Craft Beer, Wine, Chocolate, Cheese…you know the finer things in life! Since we signed up for Amazon Prime around the holidays last year we’ll be giving ourselves another year, it’s been worth every penny with the free music, movies and 2nd day shipping.

So there you have it, our personal, very random smattering of RV traveler gift giving ideas.  Did you see any you want to gift yourself this year?  Have something different on your RV friendly wish list that could be a good idea for someone else? Tell us about it in the comments below!


See Previous Years Gift Guides

Our Top Travel Finds – 2014 Holiday Gift Guide
RV Holiday Gift Giving Guide 2013
Nomad Friendly Gift Giving Guide 2012
Nikki’s RV Friendly Gift Giving Guide 2011
Jason’s RV Friendly Gift Giving Guide 2011

Disclaimer – These are all items we own and use, nobody paid us to create this post or to be included. However, the links are to our travel store (products from amazon) and if you shop through us or click through from our links we get a small percentage at no extra cost to you.  It’s like a twofer, you buy a gift and we get a small one too as a thanks for recommending it!

Hello there! I honestly don’t know what to say, so I am going to tell you a bunch of random facts instead. I'm a fish eating vegetarian who hates spiders and loves snakes. I almost never took vacations growing up. I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking (still do). I misspell about every other word I write and still struggle with grammar. I love splurging on a good high tea (which is really hard to find these days). And whatever you do, don’t tell me I can’t do something, because then I'll HAVE to do it!

Comments (52)

  • Lee Brister

    Jason, I see you use an electric razor to keep neat and handsome. I’ve never found one that I like but in order to save water from using a regular blade, I’m willing to try again. What do you use? It’s about the only thing I can find in your product list.

  • Jason & Nikki; Great list of gifts to keep for yourself, but I have one that not only you but hundreds of others would enjoy and make life so much easier. It’s called the Sewer Solution and is sold at Camping Worlds. You have to look for them, but they are there. Best product I ever bought for my RV and this will work on everything from Class A, B, C, 5th Wheels and any other mode of transportation that has a black/grey water tank. Check it out. You can dump without the need for gloves and neatly stow the gear when done. It can also pump up a slight grade and I have used it for over 100 feet to a septic tank. Please check out the video on youtube. You will be glad you did!

  • Brian

    Thanks for the great ideas. Based in this list my wife got me the ROK manual espresso maker for Christmas and I absolutely love it!

  • I just wanted to let you know I included your Gift List in my most recent blog post about My Favorite Blogger’s Christmas Lists!
    I hope it is okay to include it here!
    Thanks for all of your experiences with us!

  • I always love your lists! Thanks for all the great ideas. I was particularly happy to see the affordable foam roller. Just wondering if Nikki has any tips for how it helps with sciatica, as I need some help with this as well. Thanks, and Happy Holidays!

    • Suzanne,
      We use it for stretching and loosening our muscles after long days at the computer or on the trail. When researching the foam roller many people claimed it helped with their sciatica.

      • I have used a foam roller in the past at the gym, both pre and post work-out, but never specifically for sciatica. I will research further on youtube. Thanks!

  • Thanks for the great list! Especially loving the camera recommendation! I have been looking for something better than the phone yet lighter than most cameras. Is it fairly easy to use and learn the settings? I’m not real techy with cameras but certainly could learn!

  • Deborah Kerr

    Hello! Great information! Thank you! This could be a lesson in basic economics…. that book, “Beyond National Parks” was 1 penny, then someone said $39 or something up to $73. Check it out on Amazon now…. it’s $110 to about $218!! That’s crazy!!

  • Raivyn

    Last year the Surface 3 was on your list. No Surface 4 this year? (I am using the 1st Gen Surface Pro and love it)

  • Since you mentioned Amazon Prime, I’m wondering how you manage to deal with your shipping address since it must change all the time? We have just started our journey and we have the added complication that we are Canadian and have no US permanent address, but we might be able to overcome that using a friends address. But even if that works it still leaves us with the shipping challenge.

  • Mike Nielsen

    Nikki & Jason, You guys just get better and better! I am a huge fan and tell everybody about you! I just wanted to comment that I have been using the Aeropress coffee maker for a couple of months and love it. It makes some of the best coffee I have ever tasted and is supper easy to operate and clean. The very compact size is a big plus, as well. Not as cool looking as your espresso maker, tho Jason

  • Bob Lantinga

    Hi guys. Merry Christmas and Soon a Happy New Year too the both of you. I have been a full time RVer for the last 8 years. I on a 1996 Americaian Dream Motorhome. With 6 solar panels (140 watt) mounted flat on the roof. I have 6 (6volt) deep cycle batteries. With two 40 amp controllers. 3 solar panels on each controller. My question is. Is you solar rack manual or auto? I would love to know more about how your mounting system works and any information on who sells it. How many batteries you running! Thanks Bob and my dog Anchor

  • Ron S : )

    Where did you find Beyond National Parks for a .01. Amazon has them for 39.70 used, plus shipping. Some other sites go from 4.99 to 73.00. Ouch!

  • Suzanne Johnson

    Hello! A number of my friends and I watched you on HGTV when you decided to go out on the open road and were purchasing your RV. Was speaking with work friends and they mentioned your website. What a surprise to see you’re one and the same! I’m retiring next week and am trying to talk my husband into selling everything, purchasing an RV, and enjoying the open road. He’s not so keen…needs to have a home base. With the economy the way it is, do you have a sense as to whether other retirees are opting for this kind of life? We have no children–just 2 cats, so no real ties.

  • Brenda Jones Schneeberg

    Love how Nikki gets the first cup of coffee. What a gentleman!

    • haha, yep…and usually it’s delivered in bed with a biscotti 🙂

  • Scott

    We love our Keen boots also. Really comfy and capable. The higher tops also are better at keeping stuff out of your boots as well as the ankle support.

    • yep, I learned that the hard way on our first coastal hike that ended on sand dunes…low tops are not good for sand!

  • Gary Usher

    Thanks guys, good stuff. I have the same Viair, it works better than my home compressor. Not a fan of bluetooth audio, way too much compression. I found a $250 sound bar & subwoofer that will do wired or wireless and 200 watts that is sure to annoy the neighbors. Won’t fit in the kayak though. Rock on!

    • This little bluetooth speaker might just change your mind, I’m blown away every time we turn it on and crank up the jams.

  • Lindsay Reed

    Beyond National Parks price on Amazon ranges from $8.00 used to $19.99 new. Someone must have snapped up the last of the $0.01 copy.

    • bummer, when we looked there were several copies for $0.01. In that case I’m not sure it’s worth ten+ bucks because it hasn’t been updated. Much of the listings are available on which works well…assuming you have internet.

  • Jon Sowles

    Had the Viar come in last week, headed out on the road with it for the holidays. Will be much easier to keep the airbags in our C topped off. Checked it out on the tires and it works great, just add patience. Noticed the screw on chuck and thought “Hey, Jason probably should have used this” 🙂 Glad to see it all clicked. Nice tip on putting the handle in the middle of the line so you can back away from the tire. High pressure and propane are the two things that scare me. Happy holidays!

    • yea, high pressure tire explosion + propane = not good. As we always say: safety third, I mean first!

  • Thanks for the ideas! Especially for the book of places to go.
    An alternative to the Megaboom is the UE Boom, for $99 on Amazon. It is not waterproof, but I don’t want to listen to music in the duckblind anyway. I love mine.

  • Corinne

    Viar Air Compressor – check….got it last year and love it. We tried ours out BEFORE we had a flat tire (nudge to Jason).

    As a result of last year’s list, I picked up the Cuisinart Central Oven. Our RV doesn’t have an gas oven or a convection oven, so this little electric oven was the perfect solution. We love it. It will do something as simple as toast to casseroles to baked chicken. I definitely pull it out when we are on shore power.

    Great recommendations! I’m eyeing that Bluetooth speaker.

  • Joseph Like

    I don’t think Jason could grow a real Santa Beard. It wouldn’t be white nor thick enought.

  • mike

    we also have a class a rv and there is no front dash speakers, only overhead ones near the
    dinette. so, it’s hard to hear radio when driving. i like the megaboom. but $300 is quite a bit.
    do you suggest any less expensive options.



    p.s. if your in sf bay area say hello

  • Kerri

    Great ideas!! I am hoping that Santa brings me a Harvest Host membership. ? The place you are filming this video reminds of a state park we stayed at this past August in California. The fire pits were huge!

    • Good call, and HH membership is the gift that keeps giving all year!

  • wayne thomas

    Tried to checkout with VIAIR in cart, bottom of page is greyed out and cannot click on go to paypal.
    Firefox and IE did the same thing.

    • I believe we found the issue and repaired it, seems to work on our end now. Dang technology always causing problems at the worst time!

  • never mind! sorry got it!!!

  • Where’s the link for the tool thingy and the coffee press? I would buy those!

  • John S.

    Another excellent video with great tips. Where was this filmed?

    Have to ask about the ‘bad boys’ hiking boots. Did you know what was on the bottom of your Keen boot before you showed it to us twice? You really put your heel into something.

  • I got the JBL flip 2 and it is wonderful! The one you have is amazing! Huge! I bet it sounds great! I also love that all and one tool thing and the coffee press thing! Every cool! Hope you guys have a wonderful holiday season!

  • John Puccetti

    Great list of items! I just ordered the book THANKS. You must be just down the road from us we are in Ventura CA. On a more serious note wireless in metal boxes like RV’s is bad news. Here is a book I recommend for you “Overpowered” By Martin Blank, PhD. Be well.


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