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Plenty of gift ideas for outdoors guys


December 16, 2012
By Walt Young ( , The Altoona Mirror

I'm sure a great many folks in our area have at least one outdoor enthusiast on their Christmas gift list. Whether it's hunting, fishing, hiking, biking, kayaking or wildlife watching, just to name a few, there is certainly no shortage of outdoor activities around here as well as plenty of active participants who engage in one or more of them. I'm often asked for advice by folks seeking a suitable outdoor gift for a family member or friend. A common complaint is "he already has everything."

I freely admit being a compulsive gearhead, so take it from me, that is rarely a problem because the only thing better than having one of everything for a particular hobby is having two of everything for that diversion.

Of course, it's almost impossible for even the most avid outdoors person to have everything, so allow me to offer a few suggestions. For me, outdoor photography is a favorite hobby in itself, so I actually enjoy hiking around the fields and forests toting a heavy pro-grade camera, tripod and bag full of lenses. But a camera is also an indispensable companion for just about any other outdoor activity, so I have a couple of compact digital cameras to fill that need. Nowadays, digital cameras are available in a size for any purpose and a price range to fit any budget. Most models will even take HD video.

Several manufacturers offer units designed for rough use, such as being dropped from as much as five feet and taking photos underwater. Many hunters I know enjoy using trail cameras to monitor and record the wildlife that frequent the areas they hunt. Basic models start at less than $100 and some of the better versions will also take video clips.

A GPS unit can be a useful tool for many outdoor pursuits. I'm not referring to those annoying devices designed for vehicle navigation, but rather the compact handheld units that can be so useful for plotting or recording routes and waypoints in the field.

I bought my first GPS unit 12 years ago and have used it to find my way back a remote hunting or fishing spot months or even years later. A GPS is also indispensable for hiking or exploring unfamiliar territory. Not only can I record exactly where and how far I've traveled but also know how to return without fear of becoming lost. Most basic GPs units cost just over $100, while the more advanced feature-packed models can be around $300 to $400.

A good pair of binoculars is always a worthwhile piece of outdoor gear. Actually, I usually have several different binoculars in my vehicle and pick the best for what I plan to do. For wildlife and bird watching, a pair of high-magnification, full-size binoculars fill the bill. If I'm just out a hiking around, a lighter, medium-sized binocular in 8- to 10-power will be more appropriate.

compact binocular that will easily fit in a jacket pocket or fanny pack will also be a handy piece of gear from time to time. I've also added a pair of waterproof compact binoculars to my optics collection for kayaking or when inclement weather is likely. Binoculars range in price from $20 $30 to $1,000 or more, and like most things, you get what you pay for, so buy the best you can afford. Higher-priced models from top manufacturers generally have superior optical quality and are a pleasure to use.

Whether a small folder for carrying in your pocket every day to specialty blades like fillet or skinning knives, good knives are another must-have item for any outdoors person.

I have no idea how many knives I own, but I can always find a place for a new one. No knife, regardless of cost, is worth much if it isn't sharp. There are many great knife sharpening kits available that would make an excellent and useful gift.

If none of these suggestions work, one can always take the less imaginative route and opt for a gift card from one of the major sporting goods retailers, such as Bass Pro Shops, Cabela's, L.L. Bean and many others.

Most of us have already been browsing the catalogs or websites from many of those sources and making wish lists, so those colorful pieces of plastic will easily be converted into some of the new gear we want to add to our collection in the coming year.

I am looking for: