Your 2021 Holiday Guide to Sky Island Gifts

Knowing that there are only two weeks left until Christmas is often enough to inspire a sense of panic in even the most enthusiastic holiday shoppers. Doubly so for those who are distracted by the passage of time — and then suddenly the calendar says it’s nearly the end of the year. We know we aren’t the only ones who feel that 2021 went by in a blur! 

You could also be like the many of us who wait until the last minute because we’re searching for that perfect gift for someone special. No judgement, we’ve all been there. 

No matter what this year’s gift hunt looks like, we want to help. As a team, we have curated some Sky Island-themed recommendations to make this season special and give back to some of our local communities. 

And of course, we hope you have a safe and happy holiday season — whether you’re able to see loved ones in person or just over a video call.

A gray fox sneaking through the snow in search of a meal!

For the outdoors enthusiast: 

Tracking Cards & Rulers

A returning favorite from last year… Our Wildlife Specialist Meagan suggests everyone bring a tracking ruler when out hiking, even if they’re not a trained wildlife tracker. These rulers and accompanying track cards are great for educational moments with family or kids and provide ample opportunity to connect with this region’s amazing species. 

GAIA GPS Premium Membership

Zoe, our Community Science Manager, recommends getting this fantastic navigation app for those who enjoy exploring the outdoors: in town, on a hike, during a long backpacking trip, or while volunteering for Sky Island Alliance’s Spring Seeker program. A Premium membership allows you to access GAIA’s entire map catalog and download maps for offline use. 

For the pet parent:

The Essential Guide to Hiking with Dogs

A couple staff members adopted dogs this year, so we’d be remiss to forget about those pet parents in your life! From our local Tucson gear shop Summit Hut, you can pick up this great guide to hiking with dogs that covers all topics from trail etiquette to how to prepare for pet-wilderness emergencies. 

Bonus: We also recommend this book on canine field first aid because, you know — the Sky Islands are home to all sorts of things. Cacti, rattlesnakes, even (unfortunately) rodenticides. It’s better to be prepared than to have a hike cut short by glochids or fangs. 

For the (new or experienced) wildlife lover:

Echo Meter Touch 2 

This bat detector is small, stylish, and plugs directly into an Apple or Android device (including tablets), allowing the most bat obsessed among us to “hear and record bats flying above … in real-time!” Our team recommends pairing this gift with any of your other nighttime excursion fun, including camping, backpacking, or dark skies monitoring. 

For Android | For iOS 

Celestron-Nature 8×42 Binoculars 

Wildlife Project Manager Eamon recommends this introductory pair of binoculars for the new birder in your life. They are waterproof, study, and offer surprisingly good quality for an affordable price. 

Meidase P40 Trail Camera 

The Meidase P40 is one of the highest quality backyard wildlife cameras we’ve found for under $80, and trust us — we’ve tested a lot of trail cameras over the last few years. 

We use Meidase cameras in the field and in our Sky Island FotoFauna lending library kits. They are easy to use and come with almost everything you need to get started: camera, instruction manual, tree strap, and computer connection cord. Just add a 16 GB SD card and a pack of lithium AA batteries, and you’re all set! 

P.S. Want to be extra thoughtful when sending this gift? You can also send the recipient these instructions on where and how to set up their new wildlife camera. 

America the Beautiful National Park Pass  

Another returning favorite… There are more than 2,000 national parks in the U.S.—think of all the travel opportunities that presents! Our Program Director Emily suggests gifting a park pass to anyone who enjoys exploring the various naturescapes this country has to offer. 

P.S. You can also just get the Arizona State Parks & Trails Pass — either for loved ones who live in the state or as a way to encourage friends and family to come visit you! 

For the creatives and artists: 

Aall Forms of Life 

Scientific illustration, wildlife art, and other gifts made by Nathalie Aall, a wildlife biologist living in Tucson, Arizona! Her shop includes a fun and educational assortment of stickers, shirts, holiday ornaments, face masks, and framed artwork. 

Carly Quinn 

Another Tucson local, Carly Quinn makes and sells beautiful handmade glazed tiles to display in houses and gardens. The titles feature Sonoran wildlife, including hummingbirds, cacti, flowers, quail, and scorpions. 

The Glass Desert 

Tucson local Alexandra Berger Clamons “…use[s] mostly repurposed materials in my art – glass that has been handed down, upcycled mugs and pots, and recycled packaging.” With these materials, she makes colorful mugs, ornaments, dishes, glass wall art, and more!

For that one person who actually loves receiving socks in their stocking: 

Native Outdoors Apparel 

Recommended by Zoe, Native Outdoors is “in business to empower Indigenous communities through our products and storytelling for a sustainable world.” You can purchase something from their shop to support their work (we’re especially a fan of their Twisted Juniper Tee) and catch up on their creative content to learn about their mission and values. 

Cute Coati Swag — SIA Bonfire Store 

At Sky Island Alliance, we work to ensure the Sky Islands are a place where nature thrives, open space and clean water are available to all, and people are connected to the region and its innate ability to enrich our lives. Every time you purchase a shirt, tank-top, or sweater featuring the beloved white-nosed coati of this region, you’re helping us keep wildlife thriving! 

P.S. Please note that the wait for orders through Bonfire are currently longer than usual due to COVID-19 shipping delays, so your gift may arrive after Christmas. 

Give the gift of commitment: 

Help Heal the Sky Islands 

A New Year’s Resolution is a great gift to give to yourself. We often fall back on those easy to make — and easy to lose — resolutions, but what about starting 2022 out right with a resolution to give back to the Sky Island region through volunteering? Next year, we’ll be hosting plenty of volunteer events, including tracking days, weekends in Aravaipa Canyon Preserve, opportunities to help restore damaged springs, and more. 

Would you commit to joining us in healing the Sky Islands for future generations? You can follow our upcoming events by visiting our calendar or adding us on TwitterInstagram, or Facebook.

For those who don’t like gifts:

Support a Sky Island FotoFauna Wildlife Camera  

We know not everyone loves receiving gifts. If this is true for someone in your life but you still want to make them feel appreciated, consider supporting a FotoFauna wildlife camera in their name! Your donation will enable us to put additional wildlife cameras in the hands of our Sonoran interns and the students they work with at the Universidad de la Sierra in Mexico.

[Want more ideas? Read our 2020 guide to Sky Island gifts.]