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The Camper’s Holiday Gift Guide

December 2, 2002
Filed under Camping Gear, Misc. Camping Gear

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Camping sure has changed since I was a kid. My dad would take us on two-week-long camping odysseys armed with nothing more than an assortment of grocery bags into which our minimalist supplies were packed. There was usually one flashlight, utensils purloined from the kitchen, and sheets, pillows and blankets ripped from our beds. He would proclaim the virtues of roughing it and sleeping under the stars, although in the Pacific Northwest, where overnight rain was not uncommon in certain scenic locales, the undersides of picnic tables became more familiar to us than the constellations. The day Dad gave in and got a tent, we all rejoiced.

Nowadays accessories for camping are getting so high-tech and cool, I doubt that even my dad could have resisted. And what better time than the holidays to see that your family is well equipped for the next trip to Yellowstone, Acadia or whatever paradise is on your agenda? Here are our picks out of hundreds of products that will make great gifts and help cultivate fond memories of camping as a pleasant experience.

WHAT TIME IS IT AND WHERE THE HECK ARE WE?

Forget the bread crumbs and what position the sun is in. With the new compasses/watches on the market youll have a better chance of finding your way and getting there on time.

Handheld or wrist-top Digital Navigation System (DNS) compasses from Bushnell (800/423-3537; bushnell.com) also feature a watch/alarm clock with snooze function, calendar, and thermometer, all on a large backlit LCD display to help keep you on top of wilderness situations. MSRP: $79.95 to $113.95.

High Gear’s (888/295-4949; highgearusa.com) handheld TechTrail Compasses this year include the TechTrail III. This digital compass, water-resistant to 100 feet, can also provide you with a high-intensity LED flashlight, a watch with dual time zones, alarm, chronograph, rotating bezel and backlight display. MSRP: $60.

Another handheld compass to consider comes from Scientifics (800/728-6999; scientificsonline.com). The Handheld Electronic Compass (MSRP: $47.95) will give some lucky person on your list a clock, timer, stopwatch and reference pointer all wrapped up in one 2-inch by 3.4-inch by 0.8-inch, 2.7-ounce package. Featuring magnetic sensor technology, the lithium battery-powered compass is water resistant to 10 feet.

Silva (800/572-8822; silvacompass.com) has more than a few new clever products on tap. The Sportmans Tool (MSRP: $6.99), great for kids, offers luminous compass, thermometer, magnifying glass and safety whistle all in one lightweight, floatable package.

LETS GET ORGANIZED

A big improvement on the traditional grocery bag, many of todays daypacks and organizers are not only sturdy and comfortable but help maintain sanity. And for those who like to hike more than a few feet from the water cooler, many of these packs provide portable personal hydration systems.

The Cloud Walker hydration pack (MSRP: $60) from Camelbak (800/767-8725; camelbak.com) offers multiple cargo spaces and an easy-to-fill-and-clean 70-ounce reservoir. Refinements include an enhanced outer pocket flap, headphone port and a boot that allows the bag to stand upright.

If youre looking for more than a backpack to stow your gear, Eagle Creeks (800/874-9925; eaglecreek.com) Pack-It System may be it. The system features a line of five bags, including folders, cubes, sacs, toiletry kits, and compressors to aid in any packing challenge. A range of colors even allows for color coding. MSRP: $7 to $50.

Available in four sizes, the Granite Gear ( 800/222-8032; granitegear.com) Zipp Sacks (MSRP: $12.75 to $15.75) unzip to a wide opening, reducing the struggle to get to clothing and other gear. Just the ticket for camping and RV travel, the rugged sacks come in a variety of colors.

High Sierra Sport Companys (800/323-9590; highsierrasport.com) 5470 Access Pack offers a hidden water-resistant hood, side water-bottle pocket, padded CD pocket with headphone port, organizer, cell phone pocket and moisture-wicking ergonomic shoulder straps. MSRP: $49.99.

Courtesy of Hydrapak (510/549-0559; hydra-pak.com), the Hip Sip 70 Four Season Waist Pack offers 70-fluid-ounce capability in an attractive little hip pack that sports two pockets, room for cell phone, wallet, CD player and keys. The neoprene-covered hose is bite-activated and features a shut-off valve. MSRP: $47.99.

The new hydration pack lineup from Kelty (800/535-3589; kelty.com) includes the Sundance Fast Pack (MSRP: $150). Designed for extended outings, the lightweight pack features adjustable torso suspension and shoulder straps, padded back panel and waist belt, durable but breathable construction, and a 3-liter Source hydration bladder. Assorted pockets make organizing a cinch.

Outdoor Products (800/438-3353; outdoorproducts.com) offers its Aquarius Technical Fanny Pack (MSRP: $30), which comes with two 32-ounce water bottles. Available in red, gray, gold or cobalt, it features compression straps, bungee closure, and breathable mesh padded back. The oversized main compartment can easily accommodate your treasures.

Great for long trips, Outdoor Researchs (888/4-ORGEAR; orgear.com) Travel Organizers (MSRP: $26 to $46), make it easy to find your toothpaste. Numerous containers and compartments in this hangable kit will help keep your life in order.

CUTTING EDGES

Whether you need to sharpen marshmallow sticks, cut cheese, bread, tomatoes or bait, its always nice to have something sharp on hand. Some of todays products offer multiple tools in one, keeping you prepared for practically any situation.

The Griptilian Series of knives from Benchmade (800/800-7427; benchmade.com) combines single-hand, ambidextrous functionality with an AXIS locking mechanism and a choice of blade shapes and sizes. Great for lightweight carry, the stainless steel knives feature sturdy, molded handles to assist grip in all kinds of weather. The new Mini-Griptilian pocketknives come with colored handles. MSRP: $85 to $105.

Buck Knives (800/326-2825; buckknives.com) offers its Collectors Edition knives through the end 2002. The 24K gold-plated Running Deer, with a boxed elderwood burl handle is one of the fixed-blade choices. Other selections include the Buffalo Hunter 110, with coral, turquoise, opal, black jet and desert ironwood inlay work; and several new additions to the Artist Series. MSRP: $44 to $570.

Coast Cutlery (800/426-5858; coastcutlery.com) introduces three new Pocket Travel Tools that are all airline approved as they contain no sharp objects. What the 21/4-inch tools, available in red and blue, will give you is a cuticle tool, nail file, flat screwdriver tip, Phillips screwdriver, toothpick, tweezers and key ring. Some models also provide a safety whistle, LED light and a retractable ballpoint pen. MSRP: $9.50.
Gerbers (503/639-6161; gerberblades.com)

Multi-Plier 650 Evolution features easily interchangeable plier heads, which include needlenose, bluntnose, technician, and cable cutter heads. Also on the stainless steel tool are a saw blade, scissors, medium and small screwdrivers, Phillips screwdriver, half-serrated drop point knife blade, bottle opener, can opener, and a Simonds fine and coarse file. A lockback safety bar ensures that only one tool at a time can be used, making it one safe tool. MSRP: $96.

With the Camp Tool Trader (MSRP: $99) from Kershaw (800/325-2891; kershawknives.com) the camp cook will never be caught unprepared. The interchangeable blades can transform one tool into many. Included in this handy little kit are an angled spatula, fork, spoon, and two handles that can accommodate a cooks blade, fish fillet blade or saw blade with a safe, easy-locking mechanism.

If you like to travel light, the Schrade Simon travelers knife (MSRP: $19.95) from Schrade Cutlery (800/272-4723; schradeknives.com) could be the answer to your prayers. The 3-inch, 1-ounce folders plunger-like quick clip provides easy access from a keychain or belt loop. Made of black anodized aluminum and stainless steel, the Simons blade is notched for one-handed opening and locks for safety.

New from SOG Specialty Knives (888/764-2378; sogknives.com) the Field Pup is a fixed-blade knife with an elegant satin finish and workhorse functionality. Featuring a 4-inch blade and tactile Kraton molded handle with finger grips and thumb notches, this little gem is designed to handle a variety of camping chores, from cooking to fishing. MSRP: $49.95.

ENLIGHTENED CAMPING

If youre tired of those flashlights that always seem to be going out, dont despair. Innovative lights on the market this season will keep you from stumbling around in the dark and then some.

For those who dont like to be completely out of touch, the California Car Cover Co. (818/998-2100; calcarcover.com) offers the Multi-Function Sport TV/Lantern (MSRP: $69.99). This easy-to-transport mini entertainment center provides AM/FM radio, 5-inch black-and-white TV, 180-degree fluorescent lantern with krypton spotlight, thermometer, compass, earphone jack, AC/DC and 12-V adapters.

The Reactor flashlight from CMG (888/699-0622; cmgequipment.com), said to match incandescent light output, uses one LED to put out a white light that is reportedly three times brighter than a cluster of four LEDs, illuminating objects more than 75 feet away. Made of anodized aircraft aluminum and polycarbonate, the water-resistant flashlight is said to yield up to 10 hours of peak brightness. MSRP: $32.

Among Coleman’s (800/835-3278; coleman.com) recent offerings is the Sentinel windup flashlight (MSRP: $40). All you need to do to recharge this little illuminator is to crank er up should you find yourself without a power source. Thirty seconds of cranking will give you eight minutes of light. Fully charged, it will offer a high beam for 30 minutes or a low beam for up to five hours.

The innovative LED flashlight from LazerBrite (435/259-3117; lazerbrite.com) can become a standard wide-angle flashlight on one end and high-visibility safety light simultaneously on the other. It can even become two separate lights. In fact, the flashlight offers the function of eight lights in one: two color area glow lights, two wide-angle flashlights, two focused spotlights, and two removable micro-lanterns (red, green, blue, or white). MSRP: $24.99.

Instead of a bulb, Lightwaves (678/393-9072; longlight.com) 2100 LED Portable Lighting System uses four super-bright white light-emitting diodes, said to be good for thousands of hours. The light runs on three AA batteries, which translates to long battery life. The rugged construction can handle any weather. MSRP: $34.95.

If you need fire instead of light, the Windmill Stormproof Shock-Pro 3000 Lighters from Essential Gear (800/582-3861;
essentialgear.com)feature a circular design with durable external cap, high-capacity (4.8 grams) fuel tank, Piezo electric ignition and adjustable flame. Weighing only 2.8 ounces with strap and buckle, the 3-inch-diameter lighters come in a variety of tones including Black Matte and Silver Pearl. MSRP: $70.

VISUAL AIDS

Wildlife buffs will certainly appreciate the quality found in several of this years binoculars. Many feature durable rubber housings; specialized coating systems to reduce glare and increase light and clarity; antifogging, dust- and waterproofing properties; and light weight. Those with less than perfect vision will also find them eyeglass-friendly. The models mentioned here include neck straps and carrying cases in the price. Binoculars are a great way to get up close and personal without putting yourself or the animals at risk.

Minoxs (800/222-0118; minox.com) new 8×32 BR and 10×42 BR binoculars feature aspheric lens technology, designed to enhance light, contrast, color and resolution. A special coating system enhances prism light transmission. MSRP: $549 and $679.

Bushnell (800/423-3537; bushnell.com) recently announced Bausch & Lombs addition of the 12×50 to its Legacy line. The new 12x50s join a lineup of binos that employ multicoated optics and Bak-4 prisms for maximum clarity, and offer gold trim, large center focus rings and twist-up eyecups. MSRP: $189.95 to $318.95.

Bruntons (800/443-4871; brunton.com)
12-ounce Lite-Tech Compact Binoculars 5037 (8×25; 429 ft. field of view at 1000 yds.) and 5038 (10×25; 325 ft. field of view at 1000 yds.) feature Emerald Fire lens coating system, which reduces glare and filters harmful UV and
IR light. MSRP: $99.

WHEN YOUVE GOT TO TAKE A LOAD OFF

Theres nothing like sitting around the old campfire, especially if what youre sitting on is more comfortable than a knotty log. Hanging around may seem even better to some.

Who wouldnt want to take five in this hammock from Byer of Maine (800/338-0580; byerofmaine.com)? The Traveller Hammock (MSRP: $19.95), constructed of durable parachute nylon, weighs a mere 10 ounces and stuffs tidily into a 4- by 8-inch sack. Yet, the hammock, which is about the size of a queen-size bed when flattened out, can support up to 240 pounds. (See page 28 for photo).

If you enjoy accessorizing even around the campsite then youll appreciate Cascade Designs (800/531-9531; thermarest.com) new Therma-a-Rest Deluxe Pillow prints (MSRP: $22 to $24). The polyester-filled pillows, available in two sizes, are light, comfy and easily compressible. New prints include Rocket Ship, Dragon Fly, and Fish.

Hammock Bliss from Eclectic Imports (520/577-7779; way2coolgifts.com) is made of soft, breathable 100 percent nylon parachute material. Tested to hold up to 325 pounds, each hammock has 98 inches of 5 mm climbing rope sewn into either end and comes with a stuff sack. Available in two sizes: The single hammock (MSRP: $39.95) comes in navy/red or forest green; the double (MSRP: $49.95) comes in tan/green.

With GCI Outdoors (800/956-SEAT; gcioutdoor.com) Wilderness Recliner comfort is yours, even out in the middle of nowhere. The aluminum and nylon chair is lightweight enough to be worn folded up, with shoulder straps like a backpack, but its strong enough to support 300 pounds. Cupholders, a storage pouch, and padded headrest, seat and backrest round out the chair, available in green or blue. MSRP: $59.99.

Info-Tek Associates (714/534-9436; packnchair.com) can make life a little easier for someone on your list the next time he or she takes to the wilds even if that means a trip out to the backyard. The Pack-n-Chair is a lightweight backpack/cooler/chair in one that, when folded up, is easily portable. When unfolded, it provides a comfortable perch from which to drink a cold one, fresh from the integrated ice cooler. MSRP: $55.

WHEN YOU GOTTA RAMBLE

Walking sticks are designed to help curb fatigue and aid stability when out on the trail. What hikers wouldnt be thrilled to find one of these unique hiking accessories waiting, all wrapped up, for them?

Cabelas (800/331-3454; cabelas.com) durable, 8-ounce, aluminum Alaskan Guide Hiking Staff (MSRP: $49.99) is more than a stick. Adjustable from 31 to 62 inches, the staff offers a built-in shock absorber, a threaded mount for a camera or spotting scope, a waterproof internal compartment, carbide tip, wrist lanyard, shoulder strap, and liquid crystal compass mounted into the wooden knob.

While the Natural Wood Walking Sticks from the Natural Frame Co. (877/204-0000) are not particularly high-tech, they are charming and educational. The sturdy 50-inch sticks are handmade from a variety of woods. The four styles available (Animal Paw Tracks, Leaf Prints, Mountain Cones, Snow Measuring Stick) can help with flora and fauna identification and can measure snow or water depths. MSRP: $10 to $30.

And speaking of rambling… If the folks in your circle enjoy hiking with warm, dry feet that are free of blisters, the latest innovations in sock technology could be a big hit. Among the unbelievably comfortable offerings are:

Dahlgrens (800/635-8539; dahlgrenfootwear.com) Merino wool blend Light Hiking LV socks (MSRP: $14.50); Hot Chillys (800/468-2445; hotchillys.com) Sport Socks for men and women (MSRP: $16 to $19); Smartwools (800/550-wool; smartwool.com) Merino wool Midweight Hiking Socks (MSRP: $14.95 to $16.95); and Thorlos (800/438-0209; thorlo.com) wool/silk Ladies Light Hikers ($13.99 to $15.99) and Kids Outdoor ($8.99). And dont forget the littlest ones. The ultra-cute My First Merrells from Merrell (800/789-8586; merrell.com), designed for newborns from three to six months, will keep babys feet toasty (MSRP: $25).

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