It’s that time of year again. Every day my mailbox is filled to the brim with catalogs from retailers attempting to lighten my wallet this Christmas. Not to alarm anyone, but there are only 21 more shopping days till the 25th.
We’re taking a less-is-more approach to Christmas at our house this year. While a week at Orvis’s Healing Waters Lodge in Montana or a guided bird trip to the Caribbean with Audubon would be amazing, I’m trying to keep prices reasonable at around $100 or less. And anyway, for the outdoorsmen and women in your life, the promise of time to spend outside is what really counts.
Let’s start with stocking stuffers.
As a kid, my favorite part of Christmas shopping was perusing the fishing lure aisle at Kmart and picking out some new Rapalas to fill my dad’s stocking. Well, Kmart and my father are both gone now, but Rapala is a brand that’s still going strong and coming out with new lures to tempt big bass.
Their newest Storm Arashi Glide Bait is a 7.5-inch single-joint hard swimbait that comes in nine colors to imitate forage species such as threadfin shad, bluegill and blue back herring. The price tag of $34.99 is about half the cost of similar baits. For more information, go to www.rapala.com/.
Hunters try to stay downwind of their quarry, but Nose Jammer products make that kind of thinking obsolete. Made with Vanillin and other natural ingredients, the scents don’t alarm whitetail deer but instead jam their noses with the smell so the hunter can remain undetected. Shampoo/body wash, conditioner and bar soap are available at Cabela’s, Gander Mountain and Bass Pro Shops and all cost under $10.
Speaking of skincare, my favorite product for dry hands is found in a distinctive green tin and goes by the name Bag Balm. Originally intended for cows’ udders, you don’t have to be a farmer to use the product. It works wonders for chapped lips, cracked skin, windburn and chafing. Bag Balm is available at Tractor Supply Company, Walmart and at dozens of online retailers.
It’s important to stay hydrated and the Platypus DuoLock SoftBottle makes it easy to tote water along on any kind of adventure. It’s collapsible and can be rolled up to fit in a carry-on and comes with a clip to attach to a backpack strap. The bottle is BPA-free, BPS-free and phthalate-free. It’s available in different sizes and colors, all less than $20, at platy.com.
Socks aren’t usually something you’d find on someone’s Christmas wishlist, but then again Darn Tough Socks aren’t your mother’s or father’s socks. You can find socks for the hiker, hunter, biker or runner in your life. The socks are made in Vermont and backed by an unbeatable lifetime guarantee and start at $17. For more information, go to https://darntough.com/.
You can buy more expensive versions of a microfiber towel, but why waste your money?
The Scorched Earth Microfiber Travel and Sports Towel Set is the perfect stocking stuffer for backpackers, hikers, hunters, bikers and campers. For just $10.95 you’ll get a medium and small microfiber that both fit in a mesh carrying bag with a carabiner clip. The whole shebang measures just 5.5 x 3 inches and weighs 6 ounces. It’s available at amazon.com.
My top gift this year, for anyone on your list, is the board game Wingspan.
With a price tag of $60, it’s a bit on the pricier side, but it’s worth every penny. Players compete to attract 170 bird species to their wildlife sanctuary and accumulate food, lay eggs and trade resources.
Anyone — bird lover or not — will find this game enjoyable. It’s available at www.stonemaier.com but sells out quickly so you’ll need to check back frequently to get one before Christmas.
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has an online store that offers a newly published book called the Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes of Virginia written by retired DGIF fisheries biologist Paul Bugas. You don’t have to reside in Virginia to appreciate the color drawings, underwater photographs and a notes section for each species that highlights interesting traits.
You can purchase the guide elsewhere for about $10 cheaper, but buying it directly from DGIF includes a donation to the Virginia Wildlife Program that awards grants to connect kids to the outdoors. The cost is $36.95 at https://license.gooutdoorsvirginia.com/Shop/Inventory.
Bird lovers who drink coffee will appreciate a gift that tastes great and protects the habitat and feeding grounds of various songbirds that winter in Latin America.
A portion of the proceeds from each bag of certified shade-grown coffee sold benefits the conservation efforts of the American Birding Association. The cost is $16 for a 12-ounce bag of whole or ground coffee or 5 pounds for $80 at https://store.thanksgivingcoffee.com/american-birding-association-c39.aspx.
I’ve often remarked that I hate carrying a backpack full of gear when I’m in the woods. The Big Pockets Tropical Vest is the solution for folks like me who’d rather have items within easy reach right on your person.
The spacious pockets can hold binoculars, field guides, notebooks and water bottles with ease. Each lightweight vest is made in America. The cost is $120 to $130 at http://bigpocketsvest.com/.
Andrew Forkner’s A to Z of Bird Portraits is a brand-new book geared toward adult artists who work in acrylics. There are 26 birds in all—birds of prey, songbirds and water birds, including the black-crowned night heron, barn owl, and Baltimore oriole. The paperback edition is $13.99 at amazon.com.
How about a rubber net for the angler on your list? The older style of fishing nets were made from nylon, which made untangling a hook a real pain in the neck. Also, the mesh netting can also be rough on a fish’s delicate exterior.
There are so many rubber nets on the market today, but my top choice is the Frabill Conservation Net. I’ve got the older style black rubber version, and it’s my favorite net by far. The newest version is clear and is $79.99 at frabill.com.
Those are just a few of the items that have caught my eye over the last year. If you’re shopping for kids, I’ve got just one recommendation that will have them outside in a jiffy: a trampoline.
They’ll get years and years of enjoyment out of one. You get what you pay for, so look for a quality version with a good warranty on the frame, a reasonable weight limit and safety features like a mesh enclosure and zippered access.