Outdoor Christmas gift ideas for outdoor


December 12, 2002 -

Darren Marcy/The Daily Times

Outdoor Christmas gift ideas for outdoor enthusiasts

The annual spending season is upon us.

Fortunately, if an outdoor enthusiast is on your Christmas gift list, the chance to sign away your life brings options ranging from just a few dollars to credit-limit testing purchases.

Across the board, no matter what outdoor pursuit the person on your list enjoys, there are gifts that will make anybody happy.

Some gifts are very specific, but others have a wide appeal.

For example, a gun-cleaning kit won't appeal to anyone but a shooter, but a headlamp can be used by hunters, anglers, hikers, backpackers, campers, cross-country skiers and many other outdoor enthusiasts.

In the mood for spending?

Get a highlighter, or piece of paper and pen, it's time to take notes.

Across the board

Some gifts are good for just about anybody who ventures out and about.

One idea that just about any outdoor enthusiasts would appreciate is a Global Positional System unit.

Five years ago there were two distinct camps when it came to GPS those who thought they were indispensable and would become widely owned and used. And those who thought they were the latest flash-in-the-pan electronic gizmo that would soon fade away.

GPS units are still here and it's clear they're not going away anytime soon.

Everyone it seems has a GPS, and owners of the devices range across the board among outdoor enthusiasts.

Beyond their obvious use of getting a hiker or hunter back home, the instruments are employed for a variety of tasks.

Hunters use them to remember water holes and locations where game was spotted during scouting trips. Hikers keep track of trails to get from Point A to Point B when off trail. Anglers mark underwater structure or where fish locate given specific conditions and water levels.

They've even become useful for search and rescue operations and on more than one occasion an injured outdoor enthusiasts has been able to call for help on a cell phone and bring rescue personnel right in with GPS coordinates.

Fact is, the naysayers underestimated the GPS' value in the outdoors and if the person on your list doesn't have one, maybe Christmas is the time to fix that.

The units come in a wide variety of configurations and with a price tag ranging from less than $100 to quite a few C-notes.

The higher the cost, the more features. Many units have the ability to exchange data with computers, meaning a hiker can download information into their unit offering maps or waypoints along the way.

At home, water holes or other locations can then be uploaded to a computer and those locations plotted on a map.

Blake Stewart of Zia Sporting Goods said one of the most popular units selling this Christmas season is the Rhino by Garmin.

The $180 to $230 GPS units offer two-way radio communication in addition to regular GPS features.

Stewart said he's seen spouses of hunting buddies getting together and buying the Rhinos for them meaning next fall's hunt will offer even more to look forward to.

Two-way radios, by themselves are also a hot idea.

Staying in touch is a good thing, no matter what the sport.

Skiers use the radios to arrange meetings at the bottom of a lift, and others use them while afield hunting or fishing. An angler in a boat can talk to the family back in camp or for one hunter to call another for help in field-dressing a downed animal.

With prices ranging from about $20 per unit or up to about $120 per pair, the biggest difference between cheaper units and expensive ones is range. The lower price tags usually offer a 2-mile range, while units with a 5-mile range are generally more expensive.

Other gift ideas that are universally popular include fanny packs and backpacks, hydration systems, binoculars, multi-tools, headlamps and clothing.

Fanny packs and backpacks are useful for just about every outdoor adventure. Whether going on a short hike, hunting near a vehicle, skiing or fishing, having a few things handy is always good.

With a fanny pack or small backpack, a person can always carry a snack, first-aid kit, camera and a cell phone along.

Of course the bigger the pack, the more that can be carried and some packs are made for different activities so consider what sports the person will be using it for when making a purchase.

Hydration systems are also good, since staying hydrated is not only a convenience but a safety factor.

Even in cold weather, drinking plenty of fluids helps maintain performance so skiers and snowshoers need to drink just like hunters, anglers and mountain bikers.

Hydration systems come in a wide range of styles, capacities and delivery systems.

Look hard enough and some fanny packs even have hydration systems built in, as do many backpacks.

Headlamps are hard to beat.

It's critical to have both hands free while building a fire, hiking or riding a bike, or cleaning fish or field dressing a deer.

Headlamps, which range in price from less than $10 for the cheaper models, can range up to about $40 with LED illumination systems and can light up an entire camp or trail in the darkest of conditions.

Binoculars are always a good choice. From birdwatchers to hikers and hunters, a good pair of field glasses will not only make a trip afield more fun, but successful as well.

Stewart said Zia's optics department is doing a great business and with low-power binocs starting at about $25 they're also affordable.

Of course for those with a big credit limit buying for a person in need of high-quality glass, a $1,000 pair of Leica or Zeiss binoculars is sure to bring a big smile Christmas morning.

Spotting scopes are an alternative to binoculars. Although less portable, they offer higher magnification and can be used to watch a herd or elk or a bald eagle from greater distances with prices running from around $100 up to about $250.

Multi-tools and knives are always popular.

Dana Clevenger of East Main Trade Center said a knife is always a good option and what outdoor enthusiast doesn't need a spare knife in the tackle box, glove box or backpack.

"A knife is always a good gift," Clevenger said.

With prices starting at less than $10 for an inexpensive pocket knife to several hundred for a high-quality knife, there's a blade for anybody's budget.

"You can get into a really good, quality knife for about $40," Clevenger said.

While you're at it, don't forget a knife sharpener, which is a great gift idea in itself.

Multi-tools are very popular and widely needed in the field.

From simple auto mechanic chores to working on a bow or fixing a broken binding, a multi-tool will not only allow an outdoor enthusiast to cut a rope or carve a hotdog stick, but they can also cut leaders and trim the hackle on a fly when it doesn't float right.

No-name multi-tools can be had for about $10, up toward $100 for name brands with lifetime warranties.

Computer software is also a good idea.

Hikers, mountain bikers and even hunters and anglers can use topographical map software to plan trips, and even a road atlas is handy while planning how to get to an area unfamiliar to them.

There is also a variety of hunting and fishing games that could keep the die-hard entertained in between seasons or when the weather doesn't cooperate.

There is always clothing.

With specialty fabrics that wick moisture and keep a person dry, to fleece and Gore-Tex to keep them dry, high-tech clothing is important in the outdoors.

Don't forget gloves, ear-warmers and hats. Even during the summer, an early morning in the mountains can be downright chilly, and in the heat of the summer a wide-brimmed hat that allows heat to escape is a must.

More specific

Let's face it. Not everyone is a multi-season enthusiasts who hunts, fishes, camps, hikes, skis and mountain bikes.

Some folks simply fish year-round, or spend all their time when they're not hunting, scouting for the following season.

There are those who do nothing but mountain bike, or hike, or spend their time bird watching no matter what the weather is doing outside.

For those people, there are gift ideas as well, and even if they already have everything, there's always something newer or better on the shelves.

Skiers and snowboarders are hitting the slopes right now, but how many of them have a helmet protecting their noggin.

Helmets are one of the hottest items right now as more and more people read stories of accidents involving head injuries on the slopes.

"Everybody probably should be wearing a helmet up there," Stewart said. "That's been a biggie."

Starting at about $60, helmets can cost up to about $120, but that's still a lot cheaper than a visit to the emergency room with a concussion.

For the person looking to get into snowboarding, Stewart said complete packages run from more than $200 to the mid-$400 range including boards, bindings, boots and accessories and have been a popular gift this year.

Shooters and hunters should be easy to buy for and Clevenger said there are lots of great gift ideas.

From the low end, a $10 to $20 cleaning kit is a good option all the way through a new handgun, rifle or shotgun.

"I don't know of any gun owner out there who wouldn't want a gun for Christmas," Clevenger said.

Clevenger said the person who is big into firearms would love a classic gun, maybe something that is no longer made but still available on the used market.

But a newer option is brand new caliber that is getting a lot of good press.

The .17 HMR is a 17 caliber projectile fired out of a .22 Magnum case with a muzzle velocity of just over 2,500 feet per second.

The Hornady Magnum Rifle caliber is proving to be a great small predator round and outshoots the .22 Magnum in most cases and is proving very popular.

"Their accuracy is showing to be phenomenally good," Clevenger said. "We can't keep them in stock."

With prices running from about $200 to $500, the guns are also near the low end for a popular rifle.

For the person who has all the guns they want, there's always cases, targets, and reloading supplies to consider. And a laser boresighting kit, at about $50 to $75, could prove popular as well.

Clevenger said reloading is a way for the avid shooting enthusiasts to extend their shooting enjoyment while saving money, seeing better results and having something to do while stuck in the house.

"A lot of guys reload not only for the savings, but for the accuracy they can get," Clevenger said. "It gives them a little something to do in the warmth of their shop. A lot of guys truly enjoy the reloading process."

Hunters who already have everything, might not yet have a range finder in their gear bag.

These binocular-type gizmos will give a hunter an exact yardage, ensuring a more successful shot that leads to more accurate shots and humane, one-shot kills.

A range finder can cost as little as $50 or as much as $700. The most popular models run about $250 to $450.

The cheaper models offer shorter ranges and are generally used for bowhunting, while the most expensive models can range a target up to 1,000 yards accurately.

And don't forget the little hunter. A BB gun could be the perfect introduction for a youngster to learn the shooting sports.

Anglers should be easy to buy for as well.

Every cast risks a lost fly, spinner, spinner bait or other gear. Tell a local sporting goods shop employee what the person on your list fishes for and they can probably lead you to a shelf full of gift ideas.

For the person who wants to get into the sport, or wants to expand from, say, bait fishing to fly fishing, local shops can set you up with a complete combo providing everything needed to hit the water.

Stewart said a new fly-fishing combos start at about $100 and extend all the way to unaffordable.

Spinning combos are more affordable running from about $25 to $50.

Don't forget nets, waders, fishing vests, tackle boxes, rod cases and other gear for the person already into the sport.

Hikers and backpackers might enjoy a hiking stick.

From a simple wooden stick to a high-tech hiking pole with shock-absorbing tips and collapsible shafts, these items have been proven to aid walkers and lessen the impact on knees and ankles.

Anglers who wade in swift currents swear by the added security of a wading stick as well.

With prices ranging from about $20 to $65, there is a hiking stick for anybody's activity.

And if these gift ideas don't work for the enthusiast on your list, there's always a gift certificate. Sometimes, as easy as it may be to come up with ideas, finding the perfect size, style or function can be hard.

Allowing them to buy exactly what they want is sometimes the best gift of all.

Darren Marcy: [email protected]

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