Instead of making a vacation to-do list, I tell my family what not to buy.
My closet is stuffed with more flannel shirts than you can find in an LL Bean catalog, over a dozen fishing rods hanging from a garage ceiling rack, and camping gear could fill a moving van. .
A Christmas led to a surprise gift.
“Santa Claus is coming today,” said Nancy, with a Cheshire Cat smile.
Sure enough, a Home Depot flatbed truck pulled up and unloaded a large cardboard box with my name on the address label.
The discovery of two layers of shrink wrap and plastic binding revealed a 4.5 cubic foot “Magic Chef” fridge/freezer.
“Now you’re not going to stink up the kitchen fridge with rotten night owls anymore,” Nancy remarked.
My take on the gift is a safe place to store favorite libation, store sturgeon bait, and hide treats.
A garage refrigerator is convenient, but it’s not for everyone.
First on the list of gifts should be replacing everyday items lost or worn out from constant use.
Let’s start with inexpensive and practical.
Each gear bag has room for an extra pocket knife, multi-tool or fillet knife.
The Clark Fork Fillet Knife from CRKT is a useful addition to a sportsman’s arsenal of bladed instruments.
Its 6-inch lockable blade folds into a reinforced nylon sheath, allowing easy access in a tackle box or safe storage in a back pocket.
Mine is often the first knife I grab when it’s time to fillet an eater-sized batch of walleye.
Sooner or later, the blade of every kitchen knife, hatchet and dull hook needs attention.
The WorkSharp Guided Field Sharpener includes five sharpening or honing stages.
One of these sharpeners nestles among the corkscrews and spatulas in the kitchen drawer and another moves back and forth among the tackle boxes, depending on the fish of the month.
Polarized sunglasses are another essential item that ends up being stolen, lost, stepped on, or crushed when left vulnerable on the seat of a vehicle.
I keep a pair handy on my boat, one in the fly vest, and one hanging from my truck’s rearview mirror.
LED headlights are also a great Christmas gift. Backpackers, walleye anglers, and night owls who read under bedspreads will appreciate this useful gift.
Moving on to the big items, those that require loosening the wallet, maybe consider saving someone’s life by replacing their WWII “Mae West” life jacket with a durable and comfortable version that a kayaker , a water skier or boater might actually wear.
Or offer a user-activated inflatable PFD that provides the highest level of flotation without interfering with freedom of movement.
A compact pair of Bushnell 7 by 26 binoculars, given to me one Christmas when my siblings were trying to hide from jealous gazes, are among my prized possessions.
Binoculars are rated on magnification (usually 8X and 10X) and objective lens diameter (usually 42 and 50). For this last characteristic, a larger number allows more light to be transmitted to the eye.
Other considerations include closest focus distance, weight, and size. A decent set of everyday binoculars can be had for less than $200.
Higher quality optics for the serious birder run at a higher price.
What could be more fun than capturing the nocturnal visits of creatures that roam your garden? Or record game behavior before a hunt?
The trail camera used to watch the raccoons steal the suet from the birds in our cabin is priced at a low $120.
Look for a model with a minimum image resolution of 10 megapixels and a motion-activated infrared flash.
Other important features include trigger speed, detection and illumination range, memory, and battery life.
Do you know someone who dreams of preparing smoked fish or venison jerky?
Check out a Little Chief Front Load Electric Wood Chip Smoker for under $150. Or a more versatile charcoal smoker/cooker for twice the price.
Would they rather watch football than watch the fuel load and temperature all day? If so, upgrade to a digital version with automatic pellet feed.
Some people want to know where they are without relying on the sun, moon, or stars. Google “handheld global positioning systems” and the word Garmin most likely comes up.
Their GPS Navigator units for hunters, hikers, and golfers can pinpoint position with a high degree of real-time accuracy.
The units feature topographic maps, compass readings, wireless connectivity, and even two-way SMS. Expect to spend at least $300 on this popular adult toy.
If none of these items are right for you, treat that special someone to a generous gift certificate at Cabela’s or a local outdoor store.
Let them choose what they want and return it if the color, fit and style aren’t exactly what they imagined, as I have more than once.