We sportsmen love stuff. I’m talking lots and lots of stuff that to the average person seems useless, but there isn’t an outdoorsman alive that doesn’t have a wish list in the back of his or possibly her mind.
My copies of all those outdoor gear catalogs are dog-eared and worn thin around the house. I like to refer to them as the Big Boy’s Wish Book. The reason it’s a "wish" book is because most of us have other responsibilities that compete for our expendable dollars. Many times, buying an item that is used sparingly for hunting and fishing isn’t nearly as practical as it seems when you’re looking at it on the glossy pages of Bass Pro Shops or the Cabala’s Catalog.
Christmas is a time to remedy that need. Many of you are interested in getting "stuff" for the outdoorsman on your list, but have no idea what kind of "stuff" he would like–because frankly your not an outdoorsman.
Therefore, I’ve decided as a public service to give you a few ideas. As a matter of full disclosure, keep in mind I’m not paid by any of these companies and I’m writing from personal experience of using the products.
–GORE-TEX This is the brand name of a space age fabric used in all kinds of outerwear. You’ll find the Gore-Tex label on boots, jackets, parkas, pullovers, hats, gloves, and an array of other types of outerwear. It’s top of the line material that truly will keep you warm and dry. I’ve used Gore-Tex products in some of the most extreme hunting conditions. You’ll find it’s tremendous for keeping you dry from the inside by allowing your body to "breathe." It’s also effective at keeping a biting cold wind at bay. You’ll not feel the breeze at all in Gore-Tex. It’s also as good as advertised for waterproof repellant of rain. The only product that does a better job is rubber. However, rubber doesn’t breath therefore you’re as soaked in sweat as you would be with rain. The drawback to Gore-Tex is its price. Be prepared to pay $200 to $300 for a good Gore-Tex coat. Boots with Gore-Tex will carry almost another $75 to the price. Sticker shock is common with Gore-Tex goods, but if you’re serious about staying warm and dry while hunting, it’s worth the investment.
—Under Armor This new type of long underwear is the most recent addition to my hunting wardrobe. Much like Gore-Tex it’s a space age fabric, but it has a unique quality aimed at keeping sweat away from your body. For many years, we’ve all used the old cotton long johns or have had the wool or down padded under liner. These were warm, but walking caused you to sweat and once you sat down for a few hours, that perspiration covering your body turned an icy cold as the wind chilled your surface. I wore Under Armor for the first time during November’s buck season and on Thanksgiving Day when the elements were nasty, rainy, and cold…I never noticed. Sticker shock will again be an issue. It’s hard to imagine paying $50 to $100 for a set of long handles, but like most of these high end products you get what you pay for. Under Armor is a brand name and there are various other companies that produce similar products. I cannot testify to their effectiveness since I’ve never used any other. The Under Armor was initially used as an undergarment for athletes. Slick marketing during football games has created brand awareness among teenagers. They also have a line of outdoors gear in camo and earth toned colors. Surely slick marketing has created a branding statement among many and that’s credited for the company’s success, but the stuff works and that probably is the bigger reason people buy it.
One other note on Under Armor, there are two types Cold Gear (for when it’s cold) and Heat Gear (for when it’s hot). Pay attention when buying and get the one you want. The Heat Gear is supposed to be effective during sweltering summer days. I can’t attest to that claim since I’ve never used the Heat Gear.
–TREE STANDS There are a large number of tree stands on the market. They come in a variety of styles, but can generally be narrowed to about three categories. Portable stands, portable self-climbing stands, and ladder stands. The most important thing to consider when buying a tree stand is the weight of the individual who’ll be using it. All tree stands are weight rated for safety. Pay attention since weights in excess of 250 pounds can’t use just any product. That’s why I can’t use a portable stand of any kind. They just don’t feel safe to a guy my size. The ladder stands however are durable products. The ladder actually becomes the support, therefore connecting you to the ground with solid metal framing. A full sized floor in the state is nice to have along with a padded seat and back. There are a variety of styles that largely dictate the price. Two-man stands may also be a consideration–even if just one man will be using it. Roominess has its advantages. I use the Cabala’s house brand of ladder stand, but most others I’ve seen are built with the same materials and seem to be equally durable. Once you’ve decided on the style and type of stand, I would suggest comparing prices for the best deal.
—FIREARMS Like any outdoor gear, a man can never have enough guns. However, realistically a sportsman will want his deer rifle, a shotgun, a smaller caliber rifle like a .22, and possibly a pistol. Those would describe the basic arsenal of most West Virginia outdoor households. There are enthusiasts who have varying calibers and gauges in all of those. Others may enjoy collecting rare and expensive firearms. If you’d like to buy somebody a gun, I would suggest striking up a conversation with him or her about what they’d like to have. Most guys have a long list of those they’d like to have so take some mental notes and maybe you can make him a happy man on Christmas Day. Be sure to ask about brand, caliber or gauge, and any special features the desired firearm may have.
—Ammunition You can’t shoot without bullets. Somehow I always wind up stating the obvious, but shells can make a great gift. Again, strike up a conversation and inquire about what shells or cartridges your hunter or shooter needs or wants. Take not of the brand name, the grain of the bullet, shot size for a shotgun, and what they plan to shoot. Those will give you all the information you may need to find quality ammo at an affordable price.
–Wind Proof Lighter Years ago in the heyday of World War II, this would have been referred to as a Zippo. Zippo of course is a brand name with those click-top lighters that required flints and fuel. They’re still available today, but with the decline in smoking and the advances in disposable butane lighters the company has had to retool its marketing. The outdoors arena has become lucrative ground. The lighters are of high quality and are often guaranteed to work in the most extreme conditions. It’s an item most of us wouldn’t think to buy ourselves, but makes a neat gift. It could also someday save a person’s life if they are caught in an extreme situation with no heat.
–Gun Cleaning Kit Every outdoorsman needs such a toolbox. Outers is a known brand in this industry, but there are a number of quality gun cleaning kits on the market and come with any number of accessories. I’ve noticed in recent years, companies have actually packaged them specifically as gifts by selling a nice walnut case to go along with them. You can find them at most any sporting goods department and they are reasonably priced.
–Pocket Knives I doubt there’s any man in West Virginia under the age of 25 that doesn’t have a blade in his pocket at almost any given time. The pocketknife however is a funny thing. We have an attachment to them. I’ve got at least a dozen, but my favorite has been with me for years. Occasionally it will break or be lost and I’m forced to change. However, it’s a rare time that we give up our favorite blade. You can buy a variety of knives, but be careful of quality. Cheap steel and workmanship are key problems and it’s often noticed in price. A good, quality pocketknife is in the 30 to 40 dollar range. Also, because of the aforementioned attachment, don’t be surprised if he puts it in a drawer and never carries it. He’ll appreciate it, even though it may be packed away as a family heirloom.
–Multi-Tool The multi-tool may be one of the handiest things every conceived. It’s a solid piece of equipment whether you’re hunting in the Northwest Territory, or fixing the lawnmower. Everybody can use a multi-tool. They’ve become almost as standard as a skinning knife for hunters and have all but replaced the pocketknife on a camping trip. I’ve seen numerous soldiers in the streets of Baghdad and the mountains of Afghanistan carrying them–most of them are not military issue. Much like pocketknives be careful cheap steel is a problem here and low price leads to low quality. My personal multi-tool is actually a Craftsman from Sears. However, I also know that Gerber is a quality item and the original maker of the multi-tool Leatherman continues to produce a good product. They’ll come in their own leather or nylon belt sheath and a good one could cost more than $50.
These are a few of the items that have crossed my mind. However, it’s worth having the discussion. Go to our Interactive Page and post some ideas of your own.