This article was produced in partnership with Gerber Gear
When I reminisce on my childhood, I rarely think about the dull hours sitting in Civics class, or the long after-school bus rides in our rural community, or how embarrassed I was at my first school dance. What I do remember well—and often get nostalgic about—are the big life moments with my parents, especially my dad. And, as cliche as it sounds, the older I get, the more important these memories become.
I vividly remember the street where he taught me to ride a bike, the soccer fields we spent most fall afternoons practicing on, and the spring break trips we took each year to national parks around the country. Growing up in a small Midwestern town, we didn’t have a lot of distractions—no movie theater, bowling alley, or mall to hang out in. In lieu of those things, we played street games with neighbors, built a local bike pump track, and spent a lot of time as a family. At the time, it sometimes felt like a burden, but in retrospect I see that it helped develop me into the man I am today and I’m grateful for it.
Planning family time wasn’t always easy for my parents, but they stuck to it. I imagine most of you can relate. That’s why we want to help you turn Father’s Day into an opportunity to connect.
Gifting at any holiday can feel more like a chore, but we want to change that. Rather than feeling transactional and purely material this Father’s Day, here are five ideas that help bring the human element back to gift-giving with an experience you and your dad can enjoy together. Each of these father-son trips are centered on the outdoors and are crafted to help create a more meaningful way to show you care—and let’s face it, have way more fun.
1. Canoeing in Boundary Waters, MN
Tucked in the northeast corner of Minnesota, adjacent to the Canadian border, is the aptly named Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. It is, by a healthy margin, the most popular wilderness area in the country, and for good reason. This iconic web of waterways—rivers, lakes, and wetlands—was protected in 1965 and since then has become a rite of passage for many Midwesterners and beyond.
The BWCA, for short, offers a different type of outdoor experience than many parks. Rent a canoe, maps, and gear at Sawbill Outfitters outside Tofte or Piragis in Ely, and you’ll have the opportunity to create your own route through tens of thousands of water trails. From moose sightings to loon calls to evening fires, it’s the perfect place to reconnect with Dad.
Bring along Gerber’s Lockdown Slim Pry for a quick fix on a canoe yoke or to start a fire in a pinch. Work together to cook your own meals, toil through hard portages, jump in freshwater lakes, and sleep under the stars.
2. Offroading in Moab, UT
Four hours from the closest major airports in Salt Lake and Sin City, Moab, is truly in the middle of nowhere. This area, famous for huge slickrock walls, two national parks—Arches and Canyonlands—and the Colorado River, has another playground waiting to be explored. The Moab desert is vast and rugged, woven together with an extensive network of sandy roads and rocky 4×4 tracks, making it the ideal place for renting a Jeep or UTV and exploring the unknown with your dad.
Make sure to pack enough food and water, goggles and bandanas, and consider upgrading to a multitool like Gerber Dual-Force for unplanned roadside mechanicals. With supplies onboard and a route charted, head out of town into the 1.8 million acres of public land that surround the small desert oasis. The lessons learned in slickrock country are ones you’ll never forget.
3. Mountain Biking in Bend, OR
Central Oregon has no shortage of trails for all abilities and fitness levels, from bikepark laps at Mt. Bachelor to beginner-level loops that begin at Phil’s Trailhead. Bend, one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, is the perfect launch pad. Rent bikes and helmets at Pine Mountain Sports or Crows Feet, both highly knowledgeable shops, and take a shuttle up Cascade Lakes Highway for a day on the trails.
For ambitious riders, many routes make their way all back to town, ending at one of over 30 breweries Bend is quickly becoming famous for.
Make sure to pack snacks, a spare tube and patch kit, and a Gerber Armbar Trade multitool for basic maintenance or for cracking open a cold one back at the tailgate. This up-and-coming bike mecca is the perfect location to up your bike skills, try a new style of riding, and push your limits as a duo. Nothing builds a strong bond like a good toast after a long day out.
4. Camping in Big Bend, TX
Far from the four major metros on the east side of the state, Big Bend National Park is a true hidden gem. It sits on the border with Mexico, separated by the historic Rio Grande. The park truly has it all—vast amounts of open space, big rivers, deep canyons, pictographs, hot springs, and black bears. The best time to visit is fall, winter, or spring, when it’s not unbearably hot.
With three maintained campgrounds—our favorites are Chisos Basin and Cottonwood—there are plenty of options for long weekend trips with Dad. Sites are easy to reserve online and offer plenty of daytime activities, from scenic drives, bird watching, horseback riding, long day hikes, overnight backpacking, and full-day floats through one of the four famous canyons on the river.
Because of the remoteness, we recommend Gerber Ultimate, a fixed blade with an emergency whistle in case you get into trouble and built-in firestarter. It also comes in handy if you need to hammer in tent stakes or forage for dinner.
5. Overnight at Hidden Lake Fire Lookout, WA
If you’re looking to plan a trip truly under the radar—and are willing to put in the work to get there—we suggest an overnight at Fire Lookout in Washington. Most of these mountain-top cabins were built before 1930, with almost 750 in total. Technology has rendered these remote outposts obsolete, forcing many to be decommissioned. Today there are fewer than 100 left. Hidden Lake Lookout is our favorite, but there are many others to choose from.
The hike up to Hidden Lake is short and incredibly steep, gaining 3,200 feet in just three and half miles. That said, it’s worth every step. No other trail offers dense forest, fields of wildflowers, a true alpine environment, and breathtaking summit views into the heart of North Cascades National Park. Sleeping inside is limited and a first-come, first-serve basis, so make sure you go early and be well-prepared: Watch the weather, be physically fit, and pack accordingly.
Things change fast in the alpine, so a multitool like Gerber’s Armbar Scout with a hammer, scissors, and saw, can help you quickly and safely get out of dodge.
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