Tried And Tested Gifts
Get the lowdown on gifts that would be highly usable
Editor’s note: Jared Gustafson, video manager at Outdoor Channel, gives his recommendations to these outdoors products.
Peak Design Capture
|Peak Designs Capture clips to backback straps or belts.
This camera clip allows users to carry their camera on a backpack or belt. While leery of my expensive camera hanging off my belt at first, I quickly accepted and trusted the Capture's strength and abilities.
While walking around a convention floor for eight hours on each of two days snapping photos, I didn’t have to worry about a camera swinging by the strap while maneuvering show attendees or when bending over to drink from the water fountain. It also has a lock down screw when you will not be using the camera and want to disable the quick release button.
I highly recommend this to anyone from the shutterbug enthusiast to the seasoned photo professional. Only word of advice: Don't use on a nice leather belt you may want to use for more formal occasions another time. The Capture works by pressure and will leave slight indentations on the belt surface. It did not scratch the belt, only pressure indentations. The clip system costs $79.99 and can be found at peakdesignltd.com.
|PROBAR offers a wide variety of flavors.
I have consumed my fill of energy or nutrition bars. When backpacking for days, prepackaged energy bars become a quick way to consume calories on the move. While not backpacking, the bars find their way into my pocket or backpack for all types of trips, from hunting in tree stands to long video production days and convention floors.
I have learned you never know when you may have a break, so come prepared with a food source. PROBAR has set a new standard for me when thinking about prepackaged bars. Many of the other companies bars have a bad rap for not looking like real food or leaving a less than satisfied taste in your mouth after consumption, and rightfully so. PROBAR does not.
I recently raced a half triathlon and during a long training day took a PROBAR Super Fruit Slam with me for the first time. After 50 miles of biking, I consumed a PROBAR steadily for the next 10 miles, washing it down with water. It looks and tastes like real food!
The true test was after the biking, I ran 14 miles and felt great the entire run. The bar satisfied me and was easy to digest. Now this may not work for you as your stomach may be more sensitive, but you may also not want to put your body through those same rigors.
The Need to Know: this bar blows away the competition with true food taste and is great from the track to the tree stand or the local lake. Cost is $1- $3 per bar. They’re at many outdoor, grocery and natural food stores. Go to theprobar.com.
|FITS socks have something for every occasion.
Your feet may be the last thing you think of when getting ready for a trip, but it's the first thing to let you know when something doesn't feel right.
It's unfortunate that more American companies do not survive long enough to celebrate a century birthday, but FITS sock company has. For over 100 years, FITS has been making socks in its Tennessee factory.
This year FITS decided to come out with its own brand instead of only making other brand socks. They come with a FIT guarantee where they will feel good within the first 30 days of they'll be replaced or refunded.
They come in a variety of styles. From the runner to upland game hunter, to cold weather hunter, FITS has a sock for you. Wool socks have come a long way from the scratchy past, FITS socks use fine spun Merino Wool providing softness and durability.
I like the test things to the extremes, because if they don't work under extreme conditions they won't last long under normal conditions. I have worn a lot of sock brands to see what works for my feet. Some brands have rubbed the outsides of my toes. I took a pair of the FITS Ultra Light Runner No Show socks out of the packaging, put them in my triathlon transition bag and put them on after coming out of the swim, with partially wet feet, biked 56 miles and then ran 13.1 miles to finish the race.
At no point did my feet hurt or feel uncomfortable with the straight out of the packaging socks on my feet. I finished the race without a blister!
For a less foot intensive test, I took a pair of the Big Game heavyweight socks and wore them for three days while Whitetail hunting in North Minnesota. My feet were comfortable the entire time. Every lifestyle you have, FITS has a sock for you. I always say comfortable feet make everything else comfortable. The cost ranges from$14 to $25, depending on style. Visit fitssocks.com.
CGear Sand-Free Mat
|The CGear Sand-Free Mat does what it says. (Jared Gustafson photo)
For the car/family campers, being engulfed in nature is a delightful experience, but you want to leave that delight outside of the tent. Tracking dirt into the tent is a nuisance and sometimes the difference between an enjoyable camping experience and a tense one.
Leave the stress behind when you head outdoors and never think of it again until you have to return to life's realities. CGear's Sand Free mat gives you the piece of mind that nature’s fun will stay where it's supposed to be … outside.
I definitely had to test this to believe it and put it through all types of situations. First up was the sand test. My mat came with a bag of sand and instructions on how it works, but it didn't come with enough sand for my testing desires.
Luckily there is a beach near me. I set the mat out for a few hours of simulated beach play, running over the mat, kicking sand on it, walking across it, pouring wet sand on it and then enjoying lunch on it.
It was an amazing site to see the sand disappear' beneath its multiple layers and not come back through. The wet sand took a slight rubbing of my foot on it for it to disappear but it did and none of the sand came back through. Lunch was enjoyable and I didn't have the extra grit in my food.
So it works at the beach. Now back to the camping and dirt. I took it out twice, once to Zion NP for a week and second on a weekend group camping trip in the Mountains of Southern California.
While leaves do not fall through, the dirt stayed outside the tent. I did remove my shoes before entering the tent as the mat does not scrape your shoes clean but with socks on or bare foot the mat handled the dirt and kept it outside. Now if I can just get my dog to clean his own feet, I'll be dirt free!
CGear also makes a Soft towel like top Sand Free Rug and a bag. I only tested the Mat. The CGear Sand-Free Mat is now a permanent addition to my car-camping and beach going kit. Cost is $49.99. Go to fcgear-sandfree.com.
STRONGBACK travel Chair
|STRONGBACK claims this is"the most comfortable and ergonomically healthy travel chair on the market."
While sitting around camp roasting marshmallows and sharing stories with your buddies, the last thing you want to think about is fidgeting in an uncomfortable chair.
STRONGBACK claims "the most comfortable and ergonomically healthy travel chair on the market." My test: On a group camping trip I had 12 friends -- an even split of men and women -- sit in three different seats to see which they preferred.
One was the older style nylon woven straps around aluminum frame chairs that fold in half. The second was the standard travel chair which looks similar to the STRONGBACK and the third was the STRONGBACK chair.
None preferred the Woven strap style chair. After awhile their rears were moving around trying to get comfortable. Two out of the 12 preferred the standard travel chair which left 10 to prefer the STRONGBACK chair.
The reason two did not prefer the STRONGBACK chair is they said the ergonomics seemed more suitable for someone taller. These two women were just under 5 foot, 5 inches tall. I'm 6-5 and this chair feels great.
From the moment you sit down you feel the sturdy construction and slouch preventing design. For extended campfire time or your favorite spectator event the STRONGBACK travel chair can be a great asset. I'm not one to sit much, but when I do the STONGBACK chair is nice to have. Cost is $79.95. Visit strongbackchair.com.
For a video on fishing gift ideas, click here.