Minnevangelist’s Epic Minnesota Gift Guide: Sports + Recreation

Bushcraft packs, inflatable kayaks, and luxe racing wheels

This being Minnesota, there’s no shortage of stores selling quality outdoors gear. For cold-weather clothing, we like Askov Finlayson, Nokomis Shoes, Storm Creek Outdoor Apparel in Eagan, Faribault Woolen Mill Co. in Faribault, Red Wing Shoes in Red Wing, Duluth Pack or Frost River Trading Co. in Duluth, Lake Superior Trading Post in Grand Marais, and Steger Mukluks and Piragis Northwoods Company in Ely.

For bikes and biking accessories, we turn to Angry Catfish, The Hub Bike Cooperative, Behind Bars, and Brown’s Bicycles in Richfield. For camping, climbing, paddling, and winter activities, Midwest Mountaineering gets rave reviews. For skateboarding and snowboarding, Cal Surf & Sport is a solid bet. And while we don’t run, our friends who do swear by Fit 1st Running, Mill City Running, and its new sister store Saint City Running.

Brick-and-mortar shops aside, we’re always keen to promote Minnesota makers and designers. In the penultimate edition of our epic 2020 gift guide, we present #MNMade gift ideas for Sporty Spices.

1. Want to give them a gift that works up a sweat? Private cross-country ski lessons at The Loppet Foundation, our Reason to Love Minnesota No. 33, start at $90 per person. Face masks and social distancing are required.

The Trailhead

2. If they already know what they’re doing, an All-Access Ski Pass (from $90) makes a great gift and can be used on all Minneapolis Parks trails, including those in Theodore Wirth Park.

3. Nothing makes us want to freeze our butts off like a well-crafted pair of snowshoes. The nesting-shaped Ojibwa wooden snowshoes ($341.10) from Northern Toboggan Co. are top of the line.

4. The inflatable Portager SUP board from Paddle North is ultra light (just 21 pounds!), ultra portable, and now ultra on sale for just $699. The Columbia Heights-based company also makes inflatable one- and two-person kayaks starting at $999.

5. Local LGBTQ+ activist and Outside Safe Space founder Mikah Meyer has launched a rainbow tree line of #AdventurePride gear, including pins, stickers, water bottles, face masks, T-shirts, and leggings. His goal? To help make the outdoors a safe and welcoming space for all.

6. The Social ($189) from Minneapolis’ Äventyr is a damn good-lookin’ urban musette bicycle pannier bag that clips onto your bike rack. When you’re out and about, just detach the bag and carry it with a shoulder strap. Color options include red, cobalt blue, and olive green—but hurry it up because they go fast. (Note: Free shipping and local delivery options are available upon checkout.) 

7. This sleek sport hijab ($35) from Cedar-Riverside activewear brand ASIYA Sport is available in three styles for different levels of modesty, fashion preferences, and uses.

8. The Minneapolis Sailing Center on Bde Maka Ska is one of the largest sailing outfits in the Midwest, offering classes for all skill levels and ages: adult, high school, youth ages 12-18, children ages 7-11, and parent/child ages 4-6. Its latest COVID-19 protocols are outlined in detail here.

9. If you’re like us, you know at least one person who loves nothing more than ditching their electronics and paddling off into the great blue yonder. For those peeps, we recommend a sturdy seat back ($110) from Merrimack Canoe Company in Winona. The frame is ash and the lacing nylon, and it’s available in a bow or stern style.

10. For the folks who’d rather be fishing: a rainbow trout mug ($32) from Kilns of Flanders.

11. Our ridiculously fit friend Michaela Baltasar-Feyen is a brand ambassador for OPE Running, a line of fitness wear launched mid-pandemic. She raves about OPE’s “buttery-soft sustainable fabrics, all sewn locally,” and how everything in the collection is ethically sourced. Current offerings include nasty lil’ shorts, singlets, sweatshirts, long-sleeved running shirts, and tight pants (from $54 to $94).

12. The fanciest and fastest carbon fiber bike wheels — for only the fanciest and fastest racers — come from HED Cycling in Roseville. They own the patent for the most aerodynamic rims on earth, which you can find in their inimitable Vanquish RC Pro wheel line (from $2,600 for a set).

13. Leisure bicyclists will love this stylish Asungtaba oblong bike basket ($72) from Minneapolis’ House of Talents. It’s handwoven from veta vera, a type of tropical grass, and the dyes come from (mostly) natural sources.

14. For a major shot of adrenaline, get them a half-day or full-day snowmobile rental from Boats and Beyond ($199 and up) in Nisswa and Brainerd.

15. Or sign them up for an introductory rock climbing or ice climbing outing with Twin Cities Rock and Ice or Positive Energy Outdoors in Duluth. Go-to ice climbing sites include Gooseberry Falls State Park, Robinson Park in Sandstone, and Casket Quarry in Duluth.

16. We love, love, love the kayaking tours offered by Broken Paddle Guiding in Wabasha, our Reason to Love Minnesota No. 123. The Flooded Forest Tour ($75-$90) takes you paddling in the Mississippi backwaters and includes admission to the nearby National Eagle Center.

17. Calling all campers! A pack of four eco-friendly, Minnesota-shaped fire starters retails for $9.99 at 14 Hill. They’re made of recycled wood, crayons, and candles and five percent of the proceeds benefit Minnesota State Parks.

18. For the person who loves golfing, even in winter: Get a gift card to Top Golf in Brooklyn Center. The space has more than 100 climate-controlled bays, a gaming lounge, and a rooftop terrace with a fire pit. (Note: Top Golf is temporarily closed due to COVID-19; check back regularly for health and safety updates.)

19. For the St. Paul lifer who still collects baseball cards: a hand-painted leather baseball ($60) from Pillbox Bat Co. A wooden ring display base is included.

20. Know someone who loves getting high? Rock their world with a gift card to Vertical Endeavors, which has indoor rock-climbing gyms in Bloomington, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Glendale Heights, and Duluth. Their walls stretch up to 58 feet! (Note: Vertical Endeavors is currently operating at reduced capacity and hours, with a strict reservation climbing system.)

21. Serious runners and casual hikers alike will appreciate the gluten-, dairy-, and soy-free protein bars from Rawr Organics. The 7-bar sample pack ($20.95) is a tasty place to start.

22. Our friend and fearless Boundary Waters guide Aaron Shaffer vouched for this 17-foot, BWCA-inspired Sports & Leisure canoe (from $2,899) from Winona’s Wenonah Canoe. “It’s ideal for a two-person, four-to-seven-day trip,” he says.

23. While you’re at it, how about a Nordlys Double Bent paddle ($230) — made with aspen, cedar, and walnut — from Duluth woodworker Josh Rude of Glørud Design?

24. If you know someone who’d faint over a Wenonah canoe or Nordlys paddle for Christmas, they’ll also appreciate the BWCA gear from Humble Apparel Co., including this canoe trip hat ($28).

25. A Minnesota State Parks permit is a no-brainer. The $35 stocking stuffer gets ’em unlimited access to all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas. The Department of Natural Resources also sells gift cards good for camping, vehicle permits, tours, and gear rental including kayaks, canoes, and snowshoes.

26. Our buddy Aaron also recommends a gift membership (starting at $35) to the Superior Hiking Trail Association, the organization largely responsible for trail maintenance. “They help keep this the gem of the North that it is,” he enthuses.

27. Feeling extra generous? Tuck that new permit or membership inside one of the zillion pockets on the Isle Royale bushcraft pack ($350) from Frost River Trading Co. in Duluth.

28. New York City has more snow than Minneapolis-St. Paul right now, but when it finally comes — whoa boy, look out. Your nearest and dearest will surely wish they owned one of Surly Bikes‘ fat-tire Ice Cream Truck bicycle ($2,099 at Angry Catfish). Aaron agrees this would make a pretty sweet gift for bicyclists and he would know — he represents Ward 8 on the Minneapolis Bicycle Advisory Committee.

29. Don’t feel comfortable selecting a bike for another person? Let them design their own! The Custom Bike Gift Box from Handsome Cycles Co. in Minneapolis starts at $649.95. You choose the type of handlebar you think your giftee would want (city vs. road) and how many speeds it’ll have (single through 16). They choose the rest, including the frame set, size, and color. They can even upgrade or downgrade to different models and add accessories. Pretty cool, huh?

Still shopping? Check out our other holiday roundups, including…
Minnevangelist’s Epic Minnesota Gift Guide: Art + Home Goods
Minnevangelist’s Epic Minnesota Gift Guide: Jewelry
Minnevangelist’s Epic Minnesota Gift Guide: Food + Drink
Minnevangelist’s Epic Minnesota Gift Guide: Kids
Minnevangelist’s Epic Minnesota Gift Guide: Pets
Minnevangelist’s Epic Minnesota Gift Guide: Clothing + Accessories
Minnevangelist’s Epic Minnesota Gift Guide: Beauty + Wellness
Minnevangelist’s Epic Minnesota Gift Guide: Experiences