April 04, 2020

Christmas gifts for outdoor aficionados abound

You’ve put it off long enough. It’s time to finish up (or start) your Christmas shopping. But what do you get your favorite outdoorsperson?

Have no fear, I’ve foraged for you again this year and harvested some great ideas for everything from stocking stuffers to dream-fulfilling extravagances. They are right off the shelves of local stores too.

I’ll start with a few neat items that should please anyone.

First off is the new Petzel Tikka headlamp. This light emitting diode – LED – lamp barely tips the scales at 7 grams. Powered by three AAA batteries, it’s so small it won’t leave a mark on your forehead. It will provide light for up to 150 hours. Full output lasts for the first 12 hours, after that the output is reduced. At $34.95 it’s in the middle price range of headlamps, but it’s the smallest one you’ll find. Find it at Cadillac Mountain Sports.

If a waterproof LED headlamp lights your fire, check out Princeton Tec’s Matrix headlamp. Its three LEDs will throw out light for 40 hours on two Alkaline AA batteries (included) and 100-plus hours on lithium batteries. You also get a second, high-output bulb and reflector that will burn three hours on two AAs. The 4.5-ounce beauty will set you back $49.95.

Next on my list of innovative and useful items is the Safe Water Anywhere water filter. Install this small filter in the feed tube of your hydration bladder and drink safely from just about any water source. The filter alone is $34.99 and you can find it at Johnson Outdoors Factory Outlet on Main Street in Old Town across from Old Town Canoe. If you want, you can purchase it in a gravity filter configuration or with a hydration reservoir attached. These will bump the price up to around $60. The antimicrobial filter removes microorganisms such as E. coli and other bacteria including giardia and cryptosporidium. The list of junk it removes goes on. It’s won’t kill viruses, but you can put iodine tablets in the bladder. The filter will remove the iodine taste. All this with no pumping! It’s good for about 60 gallons of water. Check it out.

While you’re at the Old Town store (as if you’ll need to be told to look around) you may want to explore the GSI Outdoors line of camping accessories. The Glacier Stainless Steel Java Press will brew coffee and tea by the liter and keep it hot for hours. It costs $35.99. If it’s a little too large for your needs, try the smaller version in Lexan that brews 10 ounces. It costs $15.99. (There’s an in-between model for $20.)

If your tastes lean toward the high octane, how about an espresso maker? Two sizes are available ( 4 and 10 ounces) and sell for $18 and $24. Use them on your portable stove for a quick caffeine fix.

Johnson Outdoors store manager Melanie Israel and her able assistant Julie Pratt will bombard you with other ideas. They’re really fired up over the GSI line, particularly the new red enamelwear ($2.99 and up). If you’re looking for something a little different, maybe romantic, try the Lexan wine glasses. The stems are removable for compact storage and they come in clear and blue for $5.99 apiece. While you’re in the mood, why not add a candle lantern ($10 to $32 depending on size, type and number of candles).

My choices of funky and frivolous from the GSI line is the aluminum Micro Table (28 ounces, 11 by 15 inches, 28 ounces and about 6 inches high) at $21.99. And check out the cute little Lexan peppermill that will fit in the palm of your hand and grind your favorite spice for $6.99.

If your favorite hiker is looking for a top-notch pack, there are a bunch at the Old Town store, including Backpacker Magazine’s top-rated five-day pack, the Jack Wolfskin Trailhead (see the December issue). At around $180 this front panel-accessible backpack has all the adjustments you’ll need to make it fit comfortably, and all the pockets and daisy chains you’ll need to strap on extra gear. The pack’s top pocket converts to a fanny pack you attach to the main pack’s removable waist belt.

Third on my short list of innovative and extravagant (this one’s a bit of a stretch) is the Avocet Vertech Alpine electronic wrist instrument that will “quantify your climbing experience.” This little piece of gadgetry will keep time, tell you the temperature, tell you how high you climbed (or rode on the

chairlift or drove in your car), tell you the barometric pressure (is there a storm coming?) keep track of how many ski runs you made and how many vertical feet you descended and cook your breakfast (OK, not).

It’s waterproof and submersible and comes with two

bands (one for your wrist, the other so you can strap it on over your outerwear.). If you’re into quantifying your exploits, check this little beauty out at the Ski Rack on Hogan Road in Bangor. The cost? About $160. It’ll keep your favorite gearhead busy for a month or more trying to figure out all the functions and when to use them. See Dave Behany at the store, he’s been using one now for several years.

Are you into nostalgia and balance? Remember the Bongo Board from the ’50s or ’60s? It was a hunk of plywood you put atop a cylinder with a groove in it. Then you tried to stand on it and balance. It’s back in the same form with a different name. This time it’s the $100-or-so Vew-Do balance board and it’s marketed as a rehabilitation and training tool to build balance for such sports as baseball, lacrosse, football and basketball. It “improves an athlete’s ability to maintain an upright posture under varying environmental conditions, promotes balance-specific motor control, motor learning and skill acquisition,” the literature says, It’s a great ski and snowboard trainer as well. I hopped aboard and checked out my balance – it’s still pretty good!

While you’ve got the checkbook out, consider some snow blades (also called ski blades). They’re double-ended skis about 24 inches long and come with universal bindings. They’ll improve your skiing balance, and you’ll be able to perform tricks you thought you couldn’t. At $170 to $300 they’re not toys. But you’ll save money because you won’t have to buy a ski rack to transport them.

If your outings take you to the backcountry where avalanches are a possibility, there are a few items you must have. If you get buried in snow, the first is a transceiver designed to emit signals other transceivers can “hear” to locate your body. These aren’t cheap, but when you’re 6 feet under and you don’t want to be, there’s nothing more helpful.

If you’re on the searching end of this scenario, avalanche probes are a must. Leki makes a pair of trekking poles that you can convert quickly into a 9-foot probe. The $99 poles are most useful as hiking or skiing poles (they come with two sets of baskets), but the probe feature could come in handy in an emergency.

The Thermo-Lite Emergency Sack, a reflectorized bivy sack that weighs 6 ounces and comes with its own stuff sack, is designed as an emergency survival shelter you can carry anywhere. Priced at $19.95 at Cadillac Mountain Sports, it’s reasonably priced and a must.

A portable shovel is another necessity for backcountry winter trips. Not only is it handy for search and rescue, it’s great around the campsite for packing snow, digging out snow caves, or for a solid base for your portable stove (to prevent it from melting down through the snow). Figure on spending between $50 and $100. I found various brands made of plastic and aluminum at all three stores.

Thinking about safety? How about a skiing or snowboarding helmet. You’ll find five brand names and two basic styles at the Ski Rack. If you’re buying one for a gift, plan to bring your recipient back for a fitting. These things are like shoes; they need to fit right to do their job. They cost between $65 and $140.

For the other end (of your body and budget) there are several brands of creepers to put on your shoes or boots to give you traction in icy conditions. Ice Walkers are the simplest and least expensive at $7.95. Then there’s Yaktrax, a netlike rig that slips over your boot for $17.99 and Get A Grip which covers he whole sole of your boot for $29.95. They all act like studded snow tires for your feet. You’ll find these too at the Ski Rack.

Do your hands and feet often get cold while you play in the snow? It’s the body’s natural reaction to low temperatures. Blood flow to the extremities gets restricted, hence fingers and toes get uncomfortably cold.

I found a couple of items you might want to consider. The first is a battery-operated toe pad called the Hotronic FootWarmer made in Switzerland. Rechargeable batteries clipped to the outside of your boot provide electrical energy through a flat cord to a pad under your toes. At the lowest setting, the nickel metal hydride battery will provide 90-degree temperatures under your toes for 12 hours at minus 4 degree outside temperatures. At the highest setting you could get 154-degree temperatures in your boot (ouch) for around two hours. You’ll have to shell out about $160 for these at the Ski Rack.

I found another nifty warming device at Cadillac Mountain Sports. It’s called the Crazy Hot Pad from the makers of the Crazy Creek chair. These little fleece pads hold air-activated hot pads and strap to the underside of your wrist with hook and loop bands. The concept here is to keep the veins in your wrist from constricting thus allowing warm blood to circulate. Your ulnar and radial arteries are near the skin’s surface here (check your pulse) and this is where the 135-degree pads are placed. At $6.99 per pair (two hot pads included) and only 2.5 ounces, these won’t overburden your budget or your pack space. Be sure to pick up extra hot pads ($1.19 per pair) to “have on hand” (I’m sorry). Each pad is supposed to provide warmth for eight hours.

Speaking of warmth (and fantasy) check out the Col sleeping bag from Marmot at Cadillac Mountain Sports. The 775 fill goose down is supposed to keep you warm on minus 25 nights and the Gore Dryloft cover is designed to shed moisture and breathe. It tips the scales at 4 pounds, 3 ounces. Here’s the fantasy part: $619. And why not complete the fantasy with an MSR titanium cook set. The two pans and fry pan barely tip the scales at 9.6 ounces, but they’ll surely make an impression on your wallet at $89.95. Might as well throw in a titanium teakettle for $50 while you’re at it.

If it’s shelter you seek, check North Face’s Slickrock two-person tent that packs tiny and weighs 4 pounds, 6 ounces. It has zipper pulls that glow in the dark, but they shouldn’t interfere with your ability to stargaze through the screened roof on summer nights. There’s one set up on the balcony at Cadillac Mountain Sports Bangor store. It’ll prompt you to make plans for summer. Plan to spend around $240.

Have a Merry Christmas!

Jeff Strout’s column is

published on Thursdays. He

can be reached at 990-8202 or by e-mail at jstrout@bangordailynews.net.

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