Gift ideas for the outdoor enthusiast

For some of us, buying Christmas gifts can be a rather arduous task. Not because we don’t care about our loved ones and friends, but because holiday shopping is a lot like driving on the expressway during rush hour.

Eventually you will get where you want to go, but the experience isn’t much to write home about. Then there is your shopping list. Creating one can sometimes be a challenge.

If you find yourself struggling with gift ideas, either for yourself or someone else, here are a few that might be of help.

This certainly isn’t a novel idea, but always at the top of my list is an annual hunting and fishing license. In the past, the timing of Nevada’s license year made these a gift-giving challenge. Today, however, Nevada’s hunting and fishing licenses are good for 365 days from the date of purchase, making them more of a practical Christmas gift than they were in years past.

Like many of you, I have been using a simple binocular harness for years. The switch from a basic neck strap to the harness was a significant improvement in the way I carried my binoculars. Where the neck strap permitted them to swing back and forth and bounce around, the harness held my binoculars comfortably in place.

What the harness didn’t do was protect my binoculars from dust or the elements. So, after purchasing new glass this fall, I began looking for something that offered more protection while still providing the carrying stability of the harness. That search took me to the level of a binocular pack, which is basically a harness with a built-in pouch or case in which your binoculars ride. And over the top of the pouch is a cover that helps to secure your glass.

Like most products, binocular packs are available in multiple configurations from as many companies, including Kuiu, Badlands, FHF Gear and Alaska Guide Creations (AGC). In the end I went with the AGC product because the top of the pack is designed to fully enclose your binoculars rather than simply cover them. Expect to pay between $75 and $100.

Another product worth looking at is a set of trekking poles. In the past, I thought trekking poles were something urbanites used to keep themselves upright on groomed hiking trails. Then I started watching videos of people backpack hunting in steep, rugged country. Many were using trekking poles.

Articles I read about their use talked about the stability trekking poles provide, especially when carrying a load, and the reduction of knee pain many users experience during descents. As a lifelong knee pain sufferer, that thought alone made a product test worth the effort.

After using them for months of training hikes and a sheep hunt, I won’t hike anywhere without them. The increased stability in rough terrain was worth the investment, and I noticed a significant reduction in knee pain, especially when going downhill.

The price range for trekking poles starts at about $20 and climbs past $200 a pair, but you get what you pay for. While doing my research, I found that a lever mechanism for adjusting the height of your trekking poles is preferred to a twist-lock mechanism.

By now, some of you might be asking, “How do you safely manage your hunting rifle when you have trekking poles in both hands?” The answer to that is the Kifaru Gun Bearer, which is basically a pouch that connects to the left or right side of the waste belt on your backpack. The rifle’s buttstock fits into the pouch with the barrel pointed up and positioned so your scope fits between your arm and your side. The rifle is held in place by an upper strap that is firmly connected to the pack’s shoulder strap and wraps around the rifle’s forestock.

All it takes to remove the rifle is a solid tug on the end of the upper strap, and trust me, the gun comes right out. Despite that, the rifle is held secure enough that you can easily climb with both hands free, whether you are using trekking poles or not. The Gun Bearer is not for everybody, but I will use it again. Expect to pay about $35.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com.

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