The serious athlete is a picky fellow or gal, normally quite unwilling to delegate the critical task of shopping for high-tech training gadgets to mere holiday well-wishers. But the stuff here is disappointment-proof — compact, functional, not prohibitively expensive and, best of all, so new that it will impress any recipient's hard-core buddies.
Call of the wild
Likes: Quick, practical access to bike-related iPhone apps and calls. No more digging through your pack to pick up (and usually miss) a call. Case attaches in one minute with Allen wrench (included). The phone fits snugly in a cushioned silicone lining, well-secured on bumpy rides and weatherproofed against mud, sweat and rain. The touch-screen operates easily through the transparent plastic cover. Includes access to the jack so you can use the phone in speaker, headphone or Bluetooth modes. Swivels from vertical to horizontal position. An opening for the camera lens lets you take photos and video as you ride.
Dislikes: Must remove any other covering to fit the iPhone inside this case.
Price: $64.99. (626) 305-5264; http://www.thinkbiologic.com
Athletic dog tag
Road ID Elite bracelet: Rubberized buckled wristband for cyclists, runners, swimmers and other outdoor athletes that includes a metal plate imprinted with your name, city and contact information so loved ones can be reached in case of accident.
Likes: Peace of mind for you and your family. First responders can provide quick help when you're injured by finding your serial number on the band and calling the given 800 number or going to the RoadID website. Entering your basic medical profile online takes 15 or 20 minutes. Adjustable watchband-style buckle. Nine colors available. One year of information storage is included; additional years cost $8.49.
Price: $29.99. (800) 345-6336; http://www.roadid.com
Strapless heart rate monitor
Impact Sports ePulse2: Heart rate monitor that fits around the upper part of your forearm and doesn't require a chest strap.
Likes: Provides the comfort of a strapless wristwatch-style monitor without requiring you to sacrifice accuracy. By measuring blood flow through the large veins of the upper arm, it gets a reliable pulse the others can't and displays it in bright-green, non-blinking, 1/2-inch-tall numerals that are visible day and night. Lots of good additional features include calories burned; a zone target setting; a stopwatch with split-time functions; maximum, minimum and average heart rates; and a calorie countdown. Includes rechargeable battery and AC charger.
Dislikes: Not waterproof, so can't be used while swimming. The forearm placement seemed a bit uncomfortable for running at first, but I soon got used it.
Price: $149.99. (888) 537-9763; http://www.impactsports.com
Power off the grid
Brunton Restore: Portable power storage unit for recharging cellphones and other small electronic devices on the road or out in the wild.
Likes: Ideal for backpackers and hikers, this lightweight (8 ounces) and compact (51/2 by 3 inches) unit travels well and can be conveniently charged via a car cigarette lighter, USB port, standard AC outlet or twin solar panels that flip open as needed. Smart clamshell design includes a small built-in flashlight, battery power indicator lights, and red and green lights that signal when the unit is charging another device or being charged itself. Cellphones and cameras take an hour or two to charge, while the unit can be charged in two, four or 10 hours from the car charger, USB or sunlight, respectively.
Dislikes: It should come with a carry bag so you don't lose any of the adapters.
Price: $120. (307) 857-4700; http://www.brunton.com
Wallack is the author of "Run for Life: Fast Times, Fewer Injuries, and Spectacular Lifelong Fitness" and "Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100."