Items you’d rather not be outdoors without
by Dave Foley
In selecting items for this year’s Silent Sports Gift Guide, I tried to make choices that would make our time spent outdoors safer and more enjoyable, as well as help minimize classic frustrations, like starting a fire in bad weather, purifying water without making it taste bad, thwarting ankle-biting insects and keeping our feet warm. For those readers who are cyclists or have friends or family who bike, making sure they have a headlight/taillight combo might literally be a lifesaver.
Most outdoorsmen already own one of these all-in-one-tools, but it makes an excellent gift for those who are making their first forays into camping. There are dozens of variations of these devices, some with as many as 21 accessories and selling in a price range of $15 to more than $100.
Collapsible fishing rod
This is the perfect rod to be carrying when you are plowing through brush to get to those great backcountry fishing spots. Also, it can be strapped to a backpack or kept in a car trunk ready for unexpected angling opportunities. When you don’t want a six- or seven-foot rod tangling with the environment, a telescopic rod that collapses down to a foot long piece might be a good choice. Eagle Claw, THKFSH and Shakespeare all sell rods, with some being rod and reel combinations, in a price range of $12 to $40.
Serfas bicycle light TSL-LT1000 and UTL-6 Thunderbolt Taillight
It is always disconcerting to be driving and suddenly come upon a cyclist at night. If they’re not wearing reflective clothing or don’t have taillights on their bicycle, they’re almost invisible. If you’re ever out biking in the dark, in the fog or during inclement weather, headlights, taillights and reflectors aren’t accessories, they’re necessities.
Serfas produces a series of lights which are rechargeable, easy to mount (and remove) and in a range of light intensities. Your local bike shop staff will be able to help you find the light system that best reflects your needs.
The best fire starter is birch bark, but in case that’s not available on a camping trip, pack Stansport Fire Sticks as the next best alternative for starting a campfire. Made with an odorless non-toxic material, a package is about the size of a pack of cigars. The manufacturer even claims they will light after being submerged in water. A package of 12 sticks retail for $3 to $5.
Having your paddle connected to the kayak by a leash is a great idea for those, like myself, who fish from a kayak. When the fish hits, you can drop the paddle and grab the fishing rod without worrying about losing your paddle. It also provides assurance for those who fear they might lose their paddle if they tip over.
There’s some concern you could become entangled in the leash if your kayak tipped, but that’s unlikely. Better to have the leash than literally be up the creek without a paddle. Paddle leashes can be purchased for $8 to $15.
Insect protective ankle protector
After having been terrorized by flies and mosquitoes biting my ankles, even if I’m wearing socks, I’ve become a fan of these ankle protectors. Produced by BugBaffler, these mini-gaiters, made from no-see-um mesh, keeps bugs from biting your ankles or flying up your pants legs or biting through thin socks. BugBaffler also sells head nets and bug proof clothing.
I was first introduced to this method of water treatment on a NOLS National Outdoor Leadership School hiking trip. Water was scarce and we treated water where we could find it, including swamps and livestock drinking pools. Aquamira contains chlorine dioxide, which according to the manufacturer, “has been shown to remove greater than 99.9 percent of bacteria, viruses and cysts, including Cryptosporidium and Giardia.”
Treated water does not discolor water or give it an unpleasant taste. It is easy to mix and the one-ounce, two-bottle kit is small, making it ideal for backcountry tripping.
Grabber Foot Warmers
Nothing dims my enthusiasm for outdoor activities quicker than when my hands and feet start to freeze. Shoving Grabber heat pads into my gloves and boots allows me to keep on fishing, paddling, cycling or skiing.
With pads giving out heat for five to seven hours, I’m usually ready to quit before the heat pads cool. Checking out the Grabber website, I noted they seem to have heat pads for any part of the body that might get cold. Most products come in packages selling for $8 to $20.
Dave Foley tries out the items in his annual gift guide from his home in northern Lower Michigan.