Outdoor gift guide has something for every budget

Posted: Thursday, December 20, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Christmas is approaching like an F-15 with its afterburners lit up, and you don't have a clue as to a gift for that adventuresome outdoors person in the family, circle of friends, office, etc.

Don't worry.

We're here to help. We have suggestions for adventurers short and tall, in prices big and small.

We'll start at the bottom:

Ideas for $10-$50:

SmartWool Adventure Travel socks, $10 to $15. Sure, people have been getting socks for Christmas since grandmothers learned to knit, but not like these. SmartWool socks are made from wool that has been chemically treated so the manufacturer can guarantee the socks will neither itch nor shrink, not even after repeated washings and dryings. Still, the wool retains its well-known ability to function as insulation, even when wet. And some serious outdoor people swear wool is still the best insulation in cold, wet conditions.

Big Sky Bistro French press and travel mug, $15 to $20. Who can't use one of these? You can make your own coffee in camp -- just dump in some fresh grounds, add hot water, wait a few minutes and push the plunger -- or dump the coffee from your favorite in-city espresso stand into the insulated mug for easy portability.

Swiss Army Climber knife, $30. Never go anywhere in Alaska without a knife, preferably with a multitude of blades. The Climber will serve your needs. It has two blades and the city essentials: scissors, cork screw, toothpick, tweezers, can opener and, oh, yes, a couple of screwdriver blades in case someone actually needs to fix a piece of outdoor gear.

Yoko Classic gloves, $30 to $40. These are the favorites of serious Nordic skiers, those people you see skating past you on the trail in a blur. They get these from Finland, where Yoko, a manufacturer of ski poles, started making them in 1972. The gloves have Thinsulate and Spandura and all that stuff. They work great for skiers, snowshoers, runners and even strollers.

Black Diamond Lunar headlamp, $35 to $40. This little brother to the higher-powered, more expensive Black Diamond SpaceShot ought to be all that most people need to burn a hole into the heart of the night. Stuff the battery holder with three lithium AA batteries (they're lighter than alkalines and suffer less in the cold) and wrap this one up.

Ideas $50 to $100:

N.E.O.S. Explorers overshoes, $60 to $70. Throw a pair of these in the trunk. They're great to pull on over running shoes to hike to safety when you go in the ditch during a whiteout. But that's not the only use for these insulated overboots from the New England Overshoe Co. A urethane-coated Cordura improvement on the rubber galoshes your grandfather wore, the polyurethane insulation adds warmth. Some pull them over tennis shoes to use as snowmobile boots; others use them to hike in cold weather. A foldover closure secured with a snap, together plastic buckle, makes getting the boots on fast and easy. A cinchable stretch cord around the top makes the boots easy to tighten around the leg to keep out cold.

Fly-tying kit, $50 to $100. What better way for the avid angler to endure the offseason than with a vice, a couple of bobbins, some scissors, thread, hooks and bucktails. General stores offer basic fly-tying kits, or you can head for one of the specialty fishing stores and get one made up to suit the angler on your list.

Leki Tour Vario Ski Poles, $70. The manufacturer calls them ski poles, but many people just call them handy. These variable-length, lightweight aluminum poles can be used as hiking poles or wading staffs or for balance for snowshoeing. Different sized baskets and the adjustable size make the poles adaptable for almost anything. They can be used at their full 60-inch length or shrunk to 36 inches for lashing to a backpack.

Craftsman 101-piece Mechanic Tool Set, $79.99. What do bikers, boaters, snowmobilers, aircraft owners and all-terrain vehicle riders have in common? They're always fixing something. You can't have too many tools, and they can't be too good. And as tools go, they don't come much better than the lifetime-guaranteed Craftsman. This is a good starter set or add-on set.

Hodgman Wadelite Breathable Stockingfoot Waders, $99.50. There are waders arguably better than these but nothing this good at anywhere near this price. For just under $100 you can clothe your favorite angler or waterfowl hunter from toe to chest.

Ideas $100 to $500:

G.Loomis GL-3 travel rod, $306 to $310. There is no telling where or when an angler is likely to run into spectacular fishing, and nothing is more frustrating than to find oneself near a stream full of rolling salmon or feeding trout sans rod and reel. G.Loomis' four-piece, seven-weight FR 1087-4 in GL3 graphite ($310) is a good all-around rod for the traveling fly fisherman, while the company's three-piece LR844-3C or LR844-3S ($306 each) should meet the needs of the lure flingers.

Specialized Hardrock mountain bike, $360. The Hardrock A1 Aluminum is an affordable, decent mountain bike at a good price. The drive train is put together of reliable Shimano parts. There's a functional front shock from Suntour to take some of the pounding out of the trails. The bike is a little heavy, but any young cyclist on your list, and quite a few old ones, would be more than happy with this setup.

Arc'Teryx Alpha SV or Sidewinder SV jacket, $440 to $475. From the watertight front, pocket and pit zips to the bellowed pockets, the attention to detail here is noticeable. And the three-layer Gore-Tex XCR is the best thing going in waterproof-breathable fabrics. Some people might question spending this much money on a shell, but no one could be anything less than overjoyed to find this jacket under the tree.

Canon Powershot S110 Elph Digital camera, $400 to $500. One of the top picks of Consumer Reports, this camera is nearly perfect for hauling along on outdoor adventures. It's hardly bigger than a pack of cigarettes but has a good zoom lens, takes 2.1-megapixel-quality photographs (big enough for pictures up to 8 X 10), and even shoots and records 30-second video clips.

Atomic Beta & Rossignol skate ski package, $450 to $500. You can spend a lot of money on skate gear, but you don't have to. We suggest the Atomic ATC Beta Skate, a slightly heavier version of the more expensive Beta Race Skate (both share the same graphite-sintered P-Tex bases for maximum glide over the snow) and Rossignal Delta Skate boots with matching Rossignol bindings. You should be able to find this package at $425 to $450, which leaves just enough extra for a pair of cheap poles.

Ideas $500 and up:

Bibler I tent, $595 to $695. If you could have only one lightweight, unheated, go-anywhere, survive-anything tent for Alaska, this is it. The Toddtex material is waterproof and as breathable as any. The two crisscrossing aluminum poles that support the tent make quick setup a snap -- snap the poles erect, crawl inside the tent, place the ends of the poles in the opposite corners, Velcro them together at the peak of the tent. Presto. That's it. The result is maximum strength and more headroom per square foot of floor space than any other tent. The single piece floor has no seams. The door toggles to the side when open. The no-see-um net door is on the interior to prevent the massive ice buildup that occurs on exterior net doors of other brands in winter. Each Bibler comes with two weatherproof zippered vents at the very peak of the tent to draw out moist air.

Remington Model 700 Titanium rifle, $1,000. You can spend more on an ultralightweight mountain rifle, but you can't go more state-of-the-art .

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