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Holiday Gift Guide 2009 from Athletic-Minded Traveler

After making notes all year long, we're ready to share our Top Ten Holiday Gift Picks for everyone on your list! These are products that the Athletic-Minded Team think are useful, cool and exceed expectations. So before you head to the mall or start combing the web for gift ideas, read through our recommendations.

NOTE: If you need additional ideas, our prior two years' lists have some real winners. (Click here for 2008's list and here for the 2007 list.)

Hitch Safe

SurfSafe Sports Case

1. For the Surfer, Open-Water Swimmer, Hiker and Cyclist: HitchSafe Key Vault. Stop worrying about where to put car keys while heading out for a surf, swim, hike, run or ride. Automobile wheel wells and open shirt/short pockets are not secure. The HitchSafe Key Vault is a slide-out tray with a combination lock that easily slips into your car's or SUV's 2-inch hitch sleeve. We've been using one for three months now and love, love, love it! It's very simple to install, easy to use, and very secure. A rubber square snap on cover is included too, so the combination lock isn't even visible.

At $70, it's not cheap, but it's a lot less expensive than a new car! Note: Your hitch must be 2-inch (standard size).

No hitch? Too much work? If you don't mind wearing your keys, consider the SurfSafe Sports Case. It's only $6 and while we haven't tested it out, it gets strong reviews and makes a GREAT stocking stuffer!

2. For the Tea Drinker: Capresso Electric Kettle. Forget using the microwave or stove for boiling water, this Kettle is awesome. It boils water in under 90 seconds. And it looks cool too.  Once you have it, you'll wonder how you got along without it! $60 

Capresso Tea Kettle

3. For the Swimmer, Surfer, River Rafter, or Bikram Yogi: Clear Dry Bag. After a day at the beach, time at the pool (e.g., swim lessons), or a sweaty hot yoga session, where do you put the wet and sweaty duds? This waterproof Clear Dry Bag is a perfect dumping satchel for all things dripping and dirty (also can serve to keep triathletes' transition area gear dry during rainy race days). We easily fit wetsuits, yoga mats, damp towels, bathing suits and more into one bag. And there's no concern about leakage. After removing your gear from the bag, simply rinse it out with water from a garden hose and it's ready for the next use. West Marine sells the bag in three sizes. $25 to $35.

WestMarine Waterproof Bag

4. For YOU: Marpac SleepMate Dual Speed. After nearly 18 years Erin's Brookstone sound machine finally died. She spent hours researching a replacement--seeking plain white noise, not bird calls, ocean waves, rain, wind, or storm. The Marpac definitely doesn't look as good as Brookstone's Tranquil Moments System, but it's half the price ($50), has high quality sound, and can be adjusted for varying volume. It produces a sound similar to a very clear running fan, great for home and/or on the road use.

Sleep Mate White Noise Maker

5. For the Athletic-Minded Traveler or Parent: KangaTek Personal Holder. Just as it looks, this carrier will keep your valuables close and your hands free. Lighter than a backpack and better looking than a "fanny-pack", we particularly like KangaTek's cool colors, water resistant design, and comfortable material. With the four pockets' zippers ergonomically placed, you can access your belongings quickly and easily. One size fits all, $40 plus shipping. And don't fret the neoprene smell. It wears off quickly.

KangaTek Personal Holder

6. For the Practical Cook: B&D 2-speed Food Chopper. While hardly glamorous, this electric chopper is a godsend for anyone who has frequent chopping needs. Forget the simple hand choppers, and use this quiet, two-speed electric device. After wearing out 3+ hand choppers, this $20 gadget makes dicing fruit and veggies a breeze. It's faster, easier and clean-up is simple. Erin uses it primarily for apples, but you can also make bread crumbs and chop ice. (Hint: add the finely chopped apples to yogurt, oatmeal, pancake or muffin batter or to make muesli.)

BD Electric Food Chopper

7. For the Iced Coffee (or tea) Addict: Mr. Coffee Cafe Frappe. Push a button and 3 minutes later you can enjoy a perfectly blended 20 oz frozen coffee drink. The blender/coffee maker combo means you can add all sorts of extras (frozen banana, ice cream, chocolate, flavored syrups) to create a custom beverage. You control the sugar and calories! You are paying for the convenience and fun! $80

Cafe Frappe Maker

8. For the After Dark Cyclist: Bicycle LED Headlight Our cycling expert recommends NiteRider or Light & Motion. Both will perform, but NiteRider tends to be more readily available. We suggest also going with the brightest option for safety. For bonus credit consider also buying tail lights! Plan to spend $100+

NiteRider Cycle Headlight

9. For the Long-Distance Athlete: Gu Energy Gels Fish can never have too much water and athletes can never have too many gels. Our staff goes through these pre, post and intra-workout liquid squirts like an eight-year old goes through candy on Halloween. Likely, your athlete inhales these as quickly. Gu's Chocolate, Tri-berry and Vanilla Bean are our favorite flavors; there are a lot of unpleasant tasting gels out there. One box contains 24 gel packets (lasts a few weeks) - $25.

Gu Energy Gel

10. For the Soda Drinker and the Whole Family: SodaStream Jet Make your own carbonated beverage with this cool gadget in about 30 seconds. Sound silly? We thought so, until we tried it. It's awesome. First of all you can control the carbonation, so no more flat soda, and even more important, you can control the flavor and sweetness. As BIG fans of Hansen's Diet Rootbeer, we weren't too happy to be ingesting MORE Splenda, (the sweetener used by Hansen's). The SodaStream is the perfect substitute. A team favorite? Soda flavored with chocolate extract, orange extract and Stevia. About $80.

SodaStream Jet

Extra Credit: Santa could use a little athletic-minded help. So before you put out any cookies and milk, read our healthy cookie post. And if you sign up for our newsletter you can win cookies and other cool stuff.

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