About this time every year, I tend to get calls from the wives or other relatives of my hunting or fishing companions asking advice on gift ideas for their outdoors enthusiast. Frequently, the gift-giver tells me, "He [or she] is so hard to buy for because he already has everything." Let me assure you, that is rarely the case.
If there is anything that most of us outdoors folks have in common - from the casual to the most hardcore participant - it's that we love our gear. Keenly of this trait, the manufacturers of everything from fishhooks to four-wheel-drive vehicles do their best to appease our never-ending quest for "stuff" with a never-ending array of new or improved outdoor equipment. And if there is anything we outdoor folks enjoy more than owning most of our favorite outdoor toys, it would be having two of any of them.
We also like to talk among ourselves about the gear we have and, of course, all the neat things we would like to have. That's why his frequent hunting or fishing buddies usually will know what is at the top of your outdoor fan's wish list at any given moment.
In the spirit of the season, however, I'll also share a few ideas on some equipment that have increased my enjoyment on many outings almost year-round.
I've used a handheld GPS unit for almost 10 years now, and I've found this electronic marvel incredibly useful in conjunction with all sorts of outdoor activities. Just using it to know exactly where you are and how to get back home again is great piece of mind when hiking or hunting unfamiliar territory. Most units will allow you to store hundreds of routes or waypoints, which allow you to return to a precise location, or hunting or fishing hotspot, days or even years later. Handheld GPS units range in price from about $125 to $400.
With all the compact and easy-to-use digital cameras available nowadays, there is no reason for any outdoors person to go afield without a camera to record the sights and special events he experiences. Simple pocket-sized point-and-shoot cameras start at about $100, while lightly larger and more feature-packed models with high-power zoom lenses run from $250 to $400.
A good pair of binoculars usually comes in handy on even a casual outing. But just like a camera, binoculars do you no good unless you take them with you. And also like cameras, there are plenty of lightweight and compact binoculars available that easy fit in a jacket pocket or fanny pack. For more dedicated wildlife watching or general scouting, full-sized models in higher magnifications will be a better choice. Binoculars will range in price from $80 to $800, or even more. And like so many things, you get what you pay for. Higher-priced models typically will have superior optics and or other features to justify their cost, such as being waterproof or fogproof.
Unless you are a fair-weather outdoorsman, a set of good raingear is well worth the money. I'm referring to the high-tech rainwear that is breathable for extra comfort and designed for needs of fishermen or hunters. Those rain suits will start at around $300. Several years ago, I spent just over $500 for a jacket, bibs, and insulated liner, and even if I only wear it once or twice a year, staying warm and dry on a miserable day outside makes it a worthy investment.
Of course, if the prices of these items are not in the gift budget this year, there are many other more economical but equally useful things too. Some stores will run sales on hunting equipment before Christmas to clear inventory, making it possible to buy gloves, boots, jackets and other hunting gear at a significant price reduction.
Many retailers won't bring in their new line of fishing tackle until after the first of the year, but if you need a surefire gift for an angler on your list, a new fishing license is perfect. Fishing licenses in Pennsylvania expire at the end of the calendar year, and 2001 fishing licenses are on sale now. Gift vouchers can be purchased at any license issuing agent. The recipient can then redeem the voucher for his new fishing license.
And of course, gift cards are always a plausible alternative, and they allow the recipient to make his own choice. Just this week I saw gift cards in various denominations for Bass Pro Shops, Cabela's and L.L. Bean on sale at the grocery store, and each of those businesses offer plenty of wonderful things for any outdoor enthusiast.