By Eileen Ogintz

Tribune Content Agency

Are you a smart traveler?

One who squirrels away souvenirs to present (ta-dah!) as holiday gifts?

Aventura’s Ecoths line for men partners with regional food banks

Aventura’s Ecoths line for men partners with regional food banks


The best I was able to do was buy funny ornaments until my kids begged me to stop. “We’ve got way too many,” they said. And they were right. Besides, these days, with restrictions on the weight of checked bags and ever-smaller room for carry-on luggage, bringing back gifts is more problematic.

I spent a few days perusing what’s new at the Outdoor Retailer show in Denver recently, chatting with passionate innovators, and came away with some ideas for your favorite travelers — kids, adults and even the four-legged ones. The best part: Some of these gifts help you give back, be environmentally responsible and just feel good. You won’t have to go over your budget either.

Not just any T-shirt. Not only do the shirts and hoodies from the Wanderheart Project encourage you to “unplug” and “be present” with biking, mountain and kayak graphics, but $1 from each purchase (shirts start at $23.99) provide assistance to families facing pediatric heart conditions. Co-founder Jordan Bruursema, whose company is based in Michigan, explained this effort evolved after his third child was born with a congenital heart defect that couldn’t be overcome. “We are encouraging people to live life to the fullest and potentially help others,” he explained.

Evans Prater’s business card reads “head honcho” of the Ashville, N.C., company The company not only makes shirts with plastic bottles (between six and 14 ounces) in every shirt with fun logos like “May the Forest Be with You,” “Always Growing” and “Explore More”) but invites families to return outgrown shirts to get a new, larger one. The only cost is postage. Kids’ shirts start at $21.

Everyone knows the Life is Good brand, which celebrates its 25th anniversary next year. But what you may not know is that 10 percent of the company’s net profits are earmarked for kids in need. Right now, we could all use the optimistic message the company’s shirts and hats are known for — like the one with Santa that says, “Don’t Stop Believin’ Life is Good,” or “Be the person your dog thinks you are,” or family long-sleeved tees with a snowman or bear family on the front that say “Life is Good Together.” ($22 for kids; $30 for adults.)

The family-owned company Aventura, based in Nevada, says that for every garment purchased from its Ecoths line for men, three meals are provided for those in need through partnerships with regional food banks — 200,000 meals, and counting, have been provided.

The Waterloo, N.Y., company Arctic Gear, which makes hats for the military, has established the nonprofit Arctic The production of this headwear collection earmarks 100 percent of profits going back to the initiative that provides services to the Arc of Seneca Cayuga, a clinic that provides services for those with special challenges. The hats come in a variety of styles and materials and are under $30 (fleece caps are under $20).

For the environmentalists on your gift list who chide everyone they know for using plastic straw that end up in landfills, Klean Kanteen is touting a five-piece stainless steel multicolor straw set that can be used with reusable cups (just $9.95, including a narrow brush for cleaning. #bringyourown). Reusable water bottles, of course, are great gifts for everyone — personalized with stickers from their travelers. The brightly colored insulated Kleen Kanteen bottles come in kid and adult sizes and will keep drinks hot and cold for hours. (Kid Classic Sippy cups are under $20; Insulated Kid Classic $24.95.)

For the multi-tasking family traveler. I’ve become a fan of four-wheeled spinner bags. They’re so much easier to wheel through an airport or hotel with a child in one hand. I’ve tried the Carryall medium Spinner ($199) from LL BEAN, lightweight, made from a travel-tough fabric and expandable (up to 39 percent!), and the Transcend spinner from Briggs & Riley (starting at $469 and guaranteed for life).

Another good bet for women: Totes that can slip over a suitcase handle — like the lightweight anti-theft ones with RFID protective lining and anti-slash technology. It’s from the company Sherpani, based in Boulder, Colorado (under $100). You can also use it as a backpack or a cross-body bag. (Some of the Sherpani’s collections are even made from recycled water bottles!)

TOPO Designs, a Fort Collins, Colorado, company has got a made-in-Colorado Mountain Briefcase that morphs from a traditional briefcase to backpack and has stowable straps, a shoulder strap and exterior cinch straps.

Lifestyle socks from Smartwool

Lifestyle socks from Smartwool

You can’t go wrong with socks for everyone on your list, especially if they have cute patterns and wick moisture. Vermont-based Darn Tough’s socks are made in Vermont of Merino wool and are guaranteed for life. Love the bright colors and patterns! Smartwool makes socks and wool clothing designed for sports (running, cycling, skiing, etc.) for adults and kids. (Check out the CHUB collection with alpine-inspired patterns. I also love the patterns on the Farm to Feet Merino wool socks that tout they are not only American made but use all U.S. materials and workers.

These companies all support environmental programs.

Let’s not forget the traveling pooch. Check out the OllyBottle with a detachable bowl ($12.95 to $15.95).

Happy shopping!

(For more Taking the Kids, visit and also follow “taking the kids” on, Facebook and Instagram where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments.)