Shopping ideas for the outdoor person who thinks they have everything
By Dave Foley
Shopping for a silent sports enthusiast isn’t a fail-safe endeavor. Often these folks seem to possess every item of equipment or clothing needed to pursue their passion. A little stealth may be needed to ascertain what their needs might be. There’s nothing wrong with a clandestine search through their sports cabinet or closet, or taking a peek at their bicycle, ski rack or boat. Sometimes, the best plan is to check in with a family member who can make the assessment for you. What is most satisfying is to present a gift that upgrades what they already have, or fills a need with a product that they didn’t realize even existed. In that spirit, here are some items – all of which I own – that intrigued me.
Tick Remover– With the possibility of a tick being the carrier of Lyme Disease, these tiny mites are more than just an annoyance. The Center for Diseases Control (CDC) has concluded that burning them off with a hot match head, while fun for the guy wielding the match, isn’t effective. Better to pluck them with tweezers, being careful not to pull the head off, leaving it in your skin. The most effective way is to use a Tick Wrangler, which lessens the chance of leaving tick body parts inside you. You can buy one for about four dollars.
Clear/yellow glasses– Hunters routinely use these, but I bought a pair of Arcoloa shooting glasses by Mossy Oak for my excursions down shady trails on my fatbike. In heavily wooded areas, I need eye protection from flying insects and overhanging brush, but sunglasses aren’t effective in low light. Clear lens make it easier to see. I bought a pair for eight dollars. Yellow/amber tinted glasses can help increase contrast in low light.
Portage yoke pads– For years, we’ve rested rounded c-cups on our shoulders when portaging canoes. They seemed quite adequate until I was helping load boats equipped with sling style padded yokes. It almost feels like you’ve got pillows beside your neck. I was convinced and bought a pair for myself and gave a set to my brother. This may have been the best sport purchase I made last year. For about $75, you can have a pair for your portage needs.
Bike cages– If your cyclist friend’s bike has clipless pedals, they won’t need these. However, recreational cyclists just using the platform pedals may be ready to attach a set of cages (toe clips) to their pedals. In just a few trial runs, they’ll get comfortable with slipping their feet in and out of the cages.
I do a run-bike-paddle triathlon. Since the bike segment is only 20K, I use cages, saving the time of shoe changes in the transition area. Surprisingly, my time trials on the bike with or without clip-ons show little, if any, difference in the performance, and my transitions, without doing shoe changes, are among the fastest in the field. Expect to pay about thirty dollars for a set of cages.
Flashlight– When you’re camping, sometimes a headlamp isn’t enough. I have a small Nitecore flashlight that’s only 5½ inches long, yet puts out 1000 lumens and illuminates more than 200 feet at high power. Last summer, when something thumped the canoe during a night in Quetico, I grabbed the flashlight and the beam quickly assured me that it hadn’t been a bear tapping at the canoe. This was sixty bucks well spent.
Thermacell Mosquito Repeller– Here’s where I roll out a superlative. This is absolutely the best defense against mosquitoes, no-see-ums and blackflies. Press the starter and a small butane cartridge heats up a mosquito repellent card and within minutes all bugs will be gone in an area about the size of a picnic table. I’ve used them in Alaska and the Canadian Bush during the peak of the bug season and it vanquished the winged biters. The only time it’s not effective is if there is breeze that dissipates the vapors. Twenty-five dollars for a bug-free outdoor experience? Now, that’s a bargain.
Stormproof Matches– I was handed a box of these as I was leaving with a group of boys for a Y-camp overnight. The night was drizzly, so I tried one to start the fire. When I struck it on the box, it flared like a sparkler and kept burning. Put this with a handful of birch bark or a commercial fire starter and it would be hard not to succeed with a fire, even under the most trying circumstances. The manufacturer, UCO Titan, guarantees they’ll burn for 25 seconds, even continue to flame under water, and light in gale force winds. You’ll get a box of 25 for about nine dollars.
Fire tube– Keeping a fire going with wood that’s damp or green can be frustrating. The fire builder often finds himself blowing on the fire until he gets light-headed. A fire tube is usually the answer. The construction is simple, take a length of surgical tubing and shove a piece of copper tube inside. Partially flatten the copper end with a hammer. Blowing down the tube concentrates the air flow, which helps fan the flames. A trip to hardware and medical supply stores should get you what you need to build one.