20 Gift Ideas under $50 for the Van Lifer in Your Life

Van Life Gift Guide | 20 ideas under $50

The holidays are here and so is the stress of gift giving. Enter our gift ideas. Check out our top picks which have been hand-selected and are geared for the adventurer in your life. Want to treat yourself this holiday season? Below is our holiday gift guide for the van lifer or adventurer in your life. It’s our top picks of not only cool things that they’ll be stoked to see but things they’ll get a lot of use out of.

Stanley Growler ($43.95)

Got a beer lover in your life? Get them this growler so they can take home their favorite beers fresh from the tap of their favorite brewery.

Authentic Asheville Gift Guide

LAMURO Campsite Storage Strap ($16.99)

This strap is built for the neat-freak in all of us. It comes with 19 loops on which to hang things and 8 carabiners. No more messy campsite or van.

Authentic Asheville Gift Guide

GSI Drip Coffee Filters ($9.95)

Nothing starts the day off better than an excellent cup of coffee. Life is short, why waste it on bad coffee. These little filters really do the trick. Not convinced? Head on over to this post about how to make great camp coffee and see for yourself.

Authentic Asheville Gift Guide

Van Life: Your Home on the Road ($16.99)

We found this book at the famous Powell’s bookstore in Portland. It sort of just jumped out at us. It’s the perfect book for that #vanlife lover in your life. Warning: upon reading you might have the urge to quit your job and go on a very long adventure.

Authentic Asheville Gift Guide

Magnesium Fire Starter by Ultimate Survival Technologies ($8.95)

My brother introduced us to this little tool. It’s guaranteed to spark, every single time. Plus it’s small enough to keep in the smallest corner of even the smallest adventure mobiles.

Authentic Asheville Gift Guide

National Geographic Road Atlas – Adventure Edition ($15.30)

A paper map? Hell yeah. This thing is one of our road trip MVP’s. There’s plenty of times when we can’t get a signal or just want to explore without cellphones. This is our favorite version of road atlas because it shows you where all the camping spots are located. It’s put us on some really cool spots a number of times and we do not leave home without it. Ever.

Authentic Asheville Gift Guide

Headlamp by Black Diamond ($37.50)

We don’t realize how important our headlamp is until we can’t find it. We run with this one (wear a trucker hat to support it’s weight), use it to read at night and also to help us get around camp at night. It’s been dropped numerous times, endured lots of sweat and has held up to the test of time. 

Authentic Asheville Gift Guide

Eye mask by Eagle Creek ($10.95)

After you’ve slept in a certain number of Wal-Mart parking lots, you will want this mask. Trust us. It keeps out the light, is comfortable and can be machine-washed. We broke the rubberband head piece thing on the other “beauty mask” the first night we wore it. 

Authentic Asheville Gift Guide

JOBY GorillaPod Compact Tripod 1K Stand and Ballhead Compact Mirrorless Cameras or Devices up to 2.2 Pounds ($29.99)

My mom and dad gave me this tripod a couple years ago and it gets the job done. It’s lightweight, compact and bends in all sorts of ways to help you get a shot from places you never thought you could.

Authentic Asheville Gift Guide

Water Bottle by BKR ($38.00)

Sexy design and cool colors. BPA Free. The inside is made of glass and the outside is made of silicone. It just feels good in your hand and it comes in tons of great colors. 

Authentic Asheville Gift Guide

BLACKRAPID Camera Wrist Strap ($39.95)

There’s a ton of camera straps to choose from but our personal favorites are those coming from BLACKRAPID. In particular, we love the Wrist Strap Breathe, Curve Breathe and the Backpack Breathe.

Authentic Asheville Gift Guide

5 Liter Dry Bag by SealLine ($19.95)

This bag is waterproof and holds more than enough stuff for a day on the water whether you’re tubing, rafting or stand up paddle boarding.

Authentic Asheville Gift Guide

SmartWool PhD Run Ultralight Micro Socks ($17.95)

We wear these day in and day out on trail runs and road runs. They’re guaranteed to stand the test of time.

Authentic Asheville Gift Guide

SUUNTO Compass ($20.40)

Surprisingly enough, cell phones still don’t work everywhere. Make sure that your loved ones know where they’re headed with this compass. Especially if they have a love for the backcountry.

Authentic Asheville Gift Guide

Rite in the Rain All Weather Top Spiral Notebook ($3.95)

We’ve gone through a couple of these notebooks. They help us keep track of our adventures when we’re in the field and, just like the name suggests, you can write in the rain or get the pages wet. (Bonus: Your notes will survive coffee spills as well).

Authentic Asheville Gift Guide

Sticky Bumps Surf Wax (Base Wax – 3 Pack) ($8.81)

Got a surfer in your life? You can never go wrong with getting them wax because they’ll go through a lot of it. Not sure what water temp they’ll be surfing in and therefore not sure what to buy? Shoot for base wax since a lot of people will scrape all of the wax off last year’s and start fresh the first time they paddle out in the new year.

Authentic Asheville Gift Guide

Crazy Creek Fold Up Chair ($27.99)

These chairs fold up compact enough to fit between the chairs and our storage boxes in the van. They’re durable, add cushioning to any picnic table and give you an extra layer of comfort when sitting on the ground.

Authentic Asheville Gift Guide

GSI Enamelware 12 oz Camp Mug ($7.00)

Holds 12 ounces of coffee as it does a drink on ice. Not to mention it takes a licking and keeps on ticking AND it looks good in photographs.

Authentic Asheville Gift Guide

First Aid Kit with a Soft Case ($11.55)

Band-Aids, q-tips, tweezers, a cold compress, butterfly wound closures, knuckle bandages, aspirin, ibuprofen, alcohol pads, gauze, antibiotic ointment, etc. This little kit is great to have on handy for minor wounds and injuries. The case is great for keeping it all together and it’s flexible enough that it can be stored in small places.

Authentic Asheville Gift Guide

Buff Unisex Multifunctional Headwear ($22.78)

We wear these on our head as a headband, sometimes to cover our mouths in dusty places and almost every day to wipe the moisture off the inside of the windshield. In addition, if it’s super hot out, they’re great to soak in water and then wear around your neck.

Authentic Asheville Gift Guide

Van Life Gift Guide Recap

Feel free to pin or share this outdoor gift guide, especially if it helped you pick a gift for the van lifer, road-tripper, camper or adventurer in your life. 

Got an item that you think should be on this list? We’d love to hear from you.


Saguaro National Park

Follow in our Footsteps

About two weeks ago we wrapped up our road trip for the Nation’s Vacation. It was an incredible adventure and one we won’t soon forget! We started our adventure in Alaska and visited Denali National Park, Glacier Bay National Park, Olympic National Park, Crater Lake National Park, Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park. Each of the sites we traveled to was unique and a place that we hope to revisit.

Not long after leaving Yosemite, we started heading east again. We were on the lookout for National Parks and first stopped off at Death Valley and then Saguaro National Park. It was our first time visiting Saguaro. Here’s our trip report on the best things to do in Saguaro National Park!

General Info for Saguaro National Park

Visting Saguaro National Park | Southwest, USA

Look at the saguaro but don’t touch!

The park is actually split into two different sections: Saguaro West, the Tucson Mountain District and Saguaro East, the Rincon Mountain District. The city of Tucson sits in between the two. Travel time, depending on time of day and traffic, averages anywhere from about 30 – 60 minutes.

Visitor Centers

There is a really beautiful visitor center in the Western Section called the Red Hills Visitor Center. The architecture is very Instagrammy and the views from the back of it are beautiful. There are a few small exhibits inside, one of which allows you to see the inside of a saguaro.

The visitor center on the eastern side of the park is the Rincon Mountain Visitor Center.

These are the only two places within the park to fill up with water.


You are not allowed to collect rocks, animals, plants or other cultural features. Take photos instead.

Pets are allowed on the roads, on the Desert Discovery and Desert Ecology Trails as well as the picnic areas but that’s it. They must also be leashed (on a leash no longer than 6 feet long.) Please pick up after your pet!

Unlike some other parks, there is no off-road driving within this park.

Saguaro National Park Phone Number

520-733-5158 (West)
520-733-5153 (East)

Park Website

Best Things to Do in Saguaro National Park

See Hohokam Petroglyphs

Visting Saguaro National Park | Southwest, USA

This short hike is one of our favorite things to do in Saguaro National Park.

To see these ancient petroglyphs, park at the Signal Hill parking lot and then hike the Signal Hail Trail. It’s a short .25 mile hike along dirt and up stairs (.5 miles round trip). At the top of the trail you’ll get a wonderful view and you’ll be able to see several 800 year old petroglyphs! This was one of the highlights of our visit. Be sure not to touch them with your fingers as the oils from your hands can destroy them.

Go for a hike or a trail run

Visting Saguaro National Park | Southwest, USA

Caroline getting after it along the Mica View Trail.

We ran several of the trails in the park when we visited. Some of our favorites include:

Mica View Trail (.7 miles long or 1.4 miles out and back)
Cactus View Trail (If you stay within the Cactus View Loop Drive, the trail is 2.5 miles long or 5 miles out and back)
Signal Hill Trail (.25 miles long or .5 miles out and back)
Valley View Overlook Trail (.4 miles long or 8 miles out and back)

Experience a sunrise or sunset

Best places to see a sunrise or sunset in Saguaro National Park? We recommend Signal Hill, the Javelina Parking Lot or from the Valley View Overlook Trail. There are so many options, you really can’t go wrong since there are so many places with open views and long-range sight lines. Bring your camera so that when the sun hits the mountains you are able to capture the moment.

Stop at the Red Hills Visitor Center

As mentioned above, the Red Hills Visitor Center is beautiful and also a great place to learn about some of the native plants and animals in the park. There are a couple of hands-on exhibits and several rangers on staff to answer any questions you may have.

Take a scenic drive

There are two scenic drive loops in the park, one in each section. Both drives offer almost non-stop views of the saguaro forest. Look but don’t touch!

Best Places to Stay in Saguaro National Park

There are several different campsites in the park but they are all backcountry campgrounds. You must hike at least 5 miles to access them. As a result, we ended up staying at a Wal-Mart in Tucson.

When to Visit Saguaro National Park

Lots of people come to the southwest during the winter months to escape the cold. We get it, the desert is warm!

Winter time temperatures range from the mid-60’s during the day to 40’s at night. It’s rare for the temperature to drop below freezing.

Summer time temperatures can get up above 100 degrees with night time lows down into the 70’s.

Monsoon season is mid-June to the end of September. Lightning and flash flooding can occur during monsoon season.

Top Tips For Visiting Saguaro National Park

Carry the proper maps and navigational tools with you and don’t rely on your cell phone to get you around the park as service is limited.

Make sure you travel with enough food and water so that you do not put yourself in danger of heat exhaustion, heat illness or heat stroke!

When we visited in early November 2018 there was a warning out about rabies. Stay away from suspicious looking animals. In addition, watch where you put your hands and feet. Don’t put them where you can’t see them because you risk being bitten by a rattlesnake which are common in this area.

Pack your camera and remember to use it! There are so many amazing places to take photos.

Carry detailed maps and navigational tools with you if you plan on doing any hiking in the backcountry. The park actually has more detailed maps for free upon request. They offer a bit more information than the free map that you receive upon entry.

Fill up with gasoline before entering the park as there are no gas stations in the park.

During monsoon season, do not drive through flooded areas. In addition, do not run or walk through flooded washes. Both are dangerous.

Cell Phone Service and Wifi in Saguaro

We were surprised to find that we had a cell phone signal in most parts of Saguaro National Park that we visited. (There isn’t any wifi in the park). Though we do not recommend relying on your phone for navigation, you might want to turn your ringer off and put your phone on silence so that your desert wanderings are not interrupted with a ding or buzz.

Saguaro National Park Recap

If you’re planning on visiting Saguaro National Park feel free to pin or share this post for reference. There are so many unique things to do in this national park! We tried to decide whether or not we enjoyed the east side or the west side more than the other but they came in even. If you have time to visit both, we encourage you to do so. If you only have time for one, flip a coin, they are both incredible!

Have you been to the southwest? If so, what’s your favorite things to see, do and eat? We’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below!

Authentic Asheville is a team of two. We’re digital nomads who work as freelance writers and photographers. We also design websites and are currently accepting new projects. Get in touch today if you think we’d be a good fit!

%d bloggers like this: