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Outdoor Gear, Gadgets and Gizmos

Innovative designs and improved materials add extra quality and durability to the latest outdoor products.

By Gibbs Milliken

When considering the purchase of new gear for yourself or as a gift, keep this in mind: It costs more to replace lower-grade items repeatedly than to buy products that represent the pinnacle of design, materials and durable construction. The best of these items can be passed on to family and friends as personal treasures and, with proper care, perform perfectly for many decades.

Folding Bicycle

The Montague Paratrooper Bike was designed so that U.S. Special Forces dropping silently from the sky could travel with stealth in enemy territory. This 24-speed mountain bike folds into a 3-by-3-by-1-foot square that weighs only 29 pounds for easy portability, storage and deployment. It is available in exactly the same configuration to civilians as a rugged recreational bicycle that can be quickly assembled or disassembled without tools using a quick-release latch system. It eliminates the need for bike racks by fitting inside most vehicles. ($645, Paratrooper Bike, Montague Corp., 800-736-5348, www.montaguebikes.com)

Shotgun

Over the years few shotguns have received higher praise than the Browning Citori. This over-and-under has become a true classic among sporting arms. It is available in several configurations, gauges and barrel lengths, all with interchangeable choke-tubes. Also shown is the Bob Allen Shooting Vest of light khaki polyester/cotton fabric, paneled and trimmed in dark padded leather. This well-ventilated, mesh-back garment has both fine styling and functional design for bird hunting or shooting clays. ($1,359, Citori, 12 or 20 gauge, Browning, 800-333-3504, www.browning.com) ($125, Bob Allen Shooting Vest, Model #280M, Boyt Harness Co., 800-550-2698, www.boytharness.com)

Chaps

TurtleSkin SnakeArmor Chaps are made of a tough Aramid ballistic fabric for “brush-busting” while in prickly plant and snake-infested country. Unique among products of this type, they are soft and comfortable to wear and are flexible enough to pack flat without excessive bulk. These chaps are bite-proof below the knees and are less than a third the weight of other snake and thorn protection. ($189.95, Turtleskin Chaps, Warwick Mills, 888-477-4675, www.turtleskin.com)

Rain Gear

Suit up for extreme weather with a Bass Pro Shops Qualifier Gore-Tex Rain Parka and Pants. This set is ideal for boating or other outdoor activities when the north wind blows a steady blast of cold air and rain. The Gore-Tex shell is the primary shield; a separate Windstopper Jacket forms a soft velour lining that zips inside to add extra insulation for harsh conditions. Handwarmer pockets and tough waterproof fabric add to the comfort of this excellent foul-weather outfit. ($199.95, Jacket, $129.95, Pants, Bass Pro Shops, 800-227-7776, www.basspro.com)

Rod & Reel

Serious anglers looking for a small, high-power, high-speed lever drag reel with excellent castability should try the Shimano Torsa. This premium saltwater reel sets a new standard for quality construction and versatility. The Torsa’s drive train, oversized-handle shank and power grip are incredible performers. Using two anti-reverse systems, the reel has solid hook-setting reliability. The oversized drag washer can generate amazing pressure for a unit of this size. Available are eight different Rapid Fire cams that can be quick-changed to fit specific fishing techniques.The matching short and stout Ocean Master Stand-Up Rod has a triangular, nonslip foam foregrip and long, gimballed handle for great leverage and lifting power. It is well constructed with full-frame roller guides plus a heavy-duty, positive-locking reel seat. Field testing of this rod-and-reel combination has proven it can equal the fighting power of much larger and heavier offshore equipment. ($699.99, Shimano TS-30 Torsa Reel, #38-352-188-00, $49.95, Extra Drag Cams. $149.99, 5’9” Ocean Master Rod, #38-152-216-00, Bass Pro Shops, 800-227-7776, www.basspro.com)

Fishing Belt

Hooking and landing a big game fish is easier, safer and more comfortable when using an abdominal pad like the Angler’s Choice Fighting Belt. This shield is handmade in the U.S. and has an easily adjustable waistband and universal gimbal-pin receiver cup. It provides good lightweight protection, leverage and freedom of movement about the deck while working a stand-up boat rod to subdue a powerful saltwater predator. ($34.99, Super Pad Fighting Belt, #IG-013975, Cabela’s, 800-237-4444, www.cabelas.com)

Padded Cases

Soft-sided luggage and backpacks are great for travel, but fragile items like small lanterns, stoves and optics need extra protection in individual containers such as Outdoor Research Padded Cells. Made of lightweight, water-resistant polypropylene fabric with closed-cell foam padding, these well-made boxes keep important equipment from foul weather and abuse. ($17.95-$23.95, Padded Cells, various sizes, 888-467-4327, www.orgear.com)

Rod & Reel

Offshore angling with a fly rod is a unique sporting experience and requires specialized equipment. The Dennis Freeman Sage Custom Xi2 Big Game Fly Rod with an Islander 4.8 LX Reel will handle the toughest fish like tuna, billfish and sharks. This excellent 8-foot, two-handed boat rod is built on the highest quality Sage 16-weight, four-section blank using heavy-duty Pacific Bay components and a Cam Sigler rotating gimbal. The matching Islander 4.8 LX Reel has a huge drag system and frame that is built and polished to an impeccable quality. The wide ergonomic rim-control and oversize drag knob offers fast and easy pressure adjustments on light IGFA class leaders. It is spooled with 700-grain Scientific Anglers Bluewater Express Fly Line backed by 300 yards of 80-pound Stren Hi-Vis Gold SuperBraid for maximum strength. This is one of the strongest fly rod combinations ever built. ($650, Dennis Freeman Sage Xi2 Rod, 16 wt., 8-foot, 4-piece, Rodmakers, 210-479-3477, www.rod-mak ers.com) ($765, LX 4.8 Reel, Islander Reels, 800-475-7335, www.islander.com) ($59.95, Bluewater Fly Line, Scientific Anglers, 800-364-3577, www.scientificanglers.com) ($43.99, 300 yards, 80 lb. SuperBraid, Stren, 800-237-5539, www.purefishing.com)

Camo Blind

The portable Winchester Camouflage Blind is a lightweight one-person wind and waterproof polyester enclosure for hunting, nature observation and wildlife photography. It uses a tension-pole framework with staked tie-downs to secure the 6-by-6-by-7 1/2-foot structure. Campers find it is also useful as a changing space, shower stall or restroom. ($199, Winchester Blind, Model 21, 888-700-8368, www.winchestertents.com)

Field Journal

Naturalists and travelers will find this Filson Field Journal a high-quality repository for their notes and personal accounts of adventure travels. It is made of premium-grade bridle leather and durable canvas twill with a solid brass snap closure. The smooth finish archival paper notepad is removable for filing and easily replaced with a fresh one as needed. ($97.50, Field Journal, C.C. Filson, 800-624-0201, www.filson.com)

Sunglasses

Cocoons Sunglasses fit over most prescription glasses and have excellent scratch-resistant lenses and polarized eye protection. They are ideal for active field sports, with side lenses providing good peripheral vision. A fitted neoprene belt case and special microfiber cleaning cloth come with each pair. ($39.99, UV400 Gray Lenses, Model C405G, Cocoons, 800-834-2563, www.cocoonseyewear.com)

Folding Knives

The Buck Lumina is a combination full-size folding knife and LED light for everyday use or in an emergency. It is handy to have a single tool that illuminates your cutting surface plus serves as a pocket-sized flashlight with a long-lasting bulb and battery. A smaller (2 1/2-inches folded) and flatter version, the Buck Metro, is intended for short-blade tasks in or out of the woods. ($57, Lumina, Model #777SMK. $28, Metro, Model #758SMK, Buck Knives, 800-362-2825, www.buckknives.com)

Rod & Reel

Big game anglers will appreciate the tough Ocean Master Stand-Up Spinning Rod and precision-made Van Staal 300 Reel. This duo is intended for fast action inshore and offshore battles with the larger species like tarpon, billfish, tuna and sharks. The rod features a gimbaled butt, non-slip foam grips and oversize guides. The matching Van Staal reel is among the best ever built. It is intentionally over-engineered to prevent failures by using a titanium roller for manual line pickup and, with proper maintenance, will provide many years of reliable performance. This unique design has an extra-deep spool that can hold over 200 yards of 130-pound test Stren SuperBraid Hi-Vis Line for the maximum IGFA rated strength, long runs and hard fights. ($99.99, Ocean Master Rod, #35-110-000-00) ($679.00, Van Staal Reel, VS300G, #35-340-320-00) ($39.99, Stren SuperBraid Line, 300-yard spool, Bass Pro Shops, 800-227-7776, www.basspro.com)

Keychain Light

A keychain-size Gerber O-4 High Beam Light is one of the best and smallest LED lamps of its type. It can save your life if you find yourself in total darkness without a light source and have this tiny quarter-sized, yet brilliant, white light to guide your steps. Two lithium watch batteries provide 14 hours of illumination to help get you home safely. ($16, O-4 Light, Model: white LED, Gerber, 800-950-6161, www.gerbergear.com)

Rod & Reel

The Wright & McGill Sportsman’s Traveler Spinning Rod and Shimano Stella Reel are a dream combination for most fishing adventures. The 6-foot-6-inch rod breaks down into three pieces for easy transport. It has a unique cross-woven Kevlar matrix in the rear sections for extra strength, comfortable swollen-palm cork grip, triangular foregrip and full-frame Fuji Alconite line guides. The Stella 2500FA Reel is a perfect match for this rod and has the smoothest casting, drag and retrieval performance of any reel currently available. This is a truly great combination for any serious angler. ($129.99, Travel Rod. #WME-STM66S-3, Wright & McGill, 720-941-8700, www.wright-mcgill.com) ($499.99, Stella 2500FA Reel. Shimano, inc., 800-274-4626, www.shimano.com)

24K Lures

A special gift for the bass fishing addict who owns every other high-quality lure is the 24K gold-plated Nemire Spoon Baits with loud rattles that drive bass crazy. Three different skirted lures come in a velvet-boxed set and could easily become collector’s items. ($39.95, Gold Lures in Velvet Box Set, John Nemire Lures, 800-232-9909, www.nemire lures.com)

Gloves

Glacier Stripping Gloves protect your hands against the sun and provide a sure grip on rod handles when you connect to large fish. These light yet durable gloves are great for stripping fly line and good insurance against blisters when paddle-boating. The soft, stretchable Lycra back offers resistance-free hand flexing; the tough, synthetic-leather palm material protects while giving a positive grip on most wet surfaces. The open-ended fingerstalls are a comfortable fit and let you easily handle lines, tie knots or operate a camera. ($17.95, Stripping Gloves, #067TN, available in five sizes, Glacier Glove, 800-728-8235, www.glacierglove.com)

Headlamp

For hands-free lighting, the Browning Black Ice 7-LED Headlamp is very small, lightweight and will run 150 hours on one set of AAA batteries. It has three pushbutton settings to control brightness and conserve battery power. The beam is directed by positive-click vertical positioning and, on the high power setting, it is twice as bright as most three-LED headlamps. One big plus for this nifty gadget is that it has very even illumination at all distances. ($47.99, Headlamp, #3718131, Browning, 800-333-3504, www.browning.com)

Machete

The Woodman’s Pal is a 17-inch bolo/machete that uses weight-forward balance for increased momentum and cutting ability. A U.S. military issue since 1941, this classic tool is a proven design for all-around chopping of brush and wood up to 3 inches in diameter. The premium model comes with a non-slip leather grip and steel knuckleguard. A natural finish grain leather sheath is available as an accessory. ($89.95, Woodman’s Pal, #284. $29.95, #510-4 Leather Sheath, Pro Tool Industries, 800-708-5191, www.woodmanspal.com)

Canoe

A wooden American Traders Canoe called “The Feather” is beautifully made of thin laminated natural light and dark clear-heart cedar in a traditional graceful design. It harks back to ages past, yet has a permanent clear exterior of fiberglass and epoxy for durability. This 14-foot boat is a light 49 pounds and functional for two people. Handmade in Canada, fewer than 40 are produced each year. It is a quiet-water canoe, not intended for rocks or whitewater runs. The craft is best suited for leisurely travels, fishing and camping on our rivers, lakes and ponds. American Traders Paddles are accessories. ($2,750, Wooden Canoe, Model: Feather. $29, Square Blade Paddle, American Traders, 888-723-3779, www.amtraders.com)

Dry Bag

The clear-sided Fishpond Watershed Dry Bag is a reinforced rain- and splash-proof field sack for boaters and campers wanting to keep food, clothing and valuable gear safe and dry. While not waterproof, if submerged, it is an economical and durable container. ($19, Watershed Bag #WDB, Fishpond, 970-468-2056, www.fishpondusa.com)

Fish Attractant

Fool-a-Fish Formula is a unique spray-on fish attractant that makes lures more visible. The product contains titanium dioxide, a non-toxic, environmentally safe, odorless, greaseless coating that emits an ultraviolet glow. Invisible to humans, fish can see it from great distances as if the lure has been covered with thousands of tiny reflective mirrors. It even clings to wet, live or cut baits but must be reapplied at frequent intervals. ($9.95, Bait & Lure Formula, 2 oz. size, Vision Outdoors, 800-884-8196, www.foolafish.com)

Pliers

Donnmar Big Game Pliers are a compact and efficient tool for hook removal, wire rigging or clean cutting the heaviest braided fishing line. Non-slip rubber grips ensure durability, and an internally mounted return spring aids fast handling. The sharp tungsten-carbide blades feature anvil-style cutting and are replaceable. They come with a nylon belt case; a fitted leather sheath and coiled tether are available as accessories. ($109.99, Donnmar Pliers, Model CP850EX, #38-446-932-00. $41.99, Leather Sheath, #38-426-351-00, Bass Pro Shops, 800-227-7776, www.basspro.com)

Digital Camera

The Olympus Stylus 720 SW Waterproof Digital Camera sets a high standard for a pocket-sized unit. It can also go to 10 feet underwater without damage. It features a slim, sturdy metal case, 7.1-megapixel sensor, 3x optical zoom lens and bright 2.5-inch viewing screen. The waterproof-shockproof design is ideal for use during active outdoor sports. ($399.99, 720 SW Camera, Olympus Imaging America, 888-553-4448, www.olympusamerica.com)

Rod Rack

Most anglers would enjoy having a Browning Rolling Rod Rack to hold and display their favorite rods and reels. It is large enough to handle 14 rods with reels attached. A full-width drawer keeps extra reels, line and accessories in a handy location. The unit is natural finished solid oak with locking wheels for convenient placement. ($119.99, Browning Rod Rack, #38-423-986-00, Bass Pro Shops, 800-227-7776, www.basspro.com)

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