My first hunting knife was a Christmas gift from my father. I was only ten years old at the time, which according to my dad is the age when boys should start owning and caring for their own hunting gear. It had a 4-inch fixed blade and was sheathed in an embossed leather carrying case—perfect for any future deer I may need to field dress.
Several decades later, I can tell you that a hunting knife still makes an excellent Christmas gift. Honestly, just about anything in the entire outdoor equipment category qualifies as an excellent Christmas gift. That is because outdoor equipment represents the possibility of adventure—and adventure is always better than a board game.
In that spirit, here is a short list of Christmas gift ideas that I would recommend for any outdoor enthusiast. These are the essential pieces of gear that I find myself using on every hunting or fishing trip, year after year.
$1 Bungee clips—On a recent trip to the Boundary Waters, I found some bungee clips at the Lake Superior Trading Post in Grand Marais. They are clever little devices—just a piece of bungee cord looped through a dowel rod—that I used to secure my fishing rods, paddles, water bottle and map to the thwarts of my canoe. Now I bring them wherever I go because they always seem to come in handy.
$2 Hand and toe warmers—If you’ve ever had to sit in a deer blind on a cold November morning, then you know why these little packets of toasty-ness are on the essential list.
$8 Headlamp—I could spend more money for more lumens, but I prefer the cheaper headlamps that take AAA batteries. It is almost impossible to clean a deer or untangle a walleye rig in the dark without one.
$10 Sharpening stone—This may seem a little old school, but anyone who owns a knife should know how to sharpen it. A basic sharpening stone that is course on one side and fine on the other should do the trick. Don’t forget to add a small bottle of honing oil.
$12 Into The Wild (paperback)—John Krakauer captures the true-life adventure of Christopher McCandless, a young man who left everything and everyone behind to find meaning in the Alaskan wilderness. I bring this book with me on long trips just to keep things in perspective.
$18 Socks—I always hated getting socks as a kid. But now, I understand the true joy of receiving a 3-pack of Merino wool-blend hunting socks.
$20 Bota Outback water filtration bottle—This is a water bottle with a filter, simple as that. I’ve carried it with me on every fly-fishing and Boundary Water trip over the last 10 years. All I have to do is dip my bottle into a lake or stream and I have fresh, clean drinking water.
$20 BoreSnake bore cleaner—Cleaning a shotgun or rifle in the field isn’t easy—unless you have one of these. It is a six-foot long cotton rope and bronze wire brush all in one.
$30 Monocular—Binoculars are great, but they can be cumbersome at times. A monocular is easier to carry around in your jacket pocket or tackle box.
$35 Swiss Army Knife—There are a lot of different Swiss Army knives out there, but the Victoronix Huntsman is probably the most essential model. Along with a basic blade, it has a wood saw, wire strippers, scissors, corkscrew, leather punch, toothpick and tweezers, too. I have never used all these features, but if anyone needs me to cut down a small tree and open a bottle of wine I will be prepared.
$38 Stanley Vacuum Bottle—I can fill this bottle with coffee on Friday and it will still be hot on Sunday. Plus, it is the same kind of bottle my grandfather used back in the 1960s, so you know it has to be good.
$45 Coleman two-burner propane stove (refurbished)—I bought a used Coleman camp stove in 1990 and in all that time it has never failed me. In fact, I was cooking eggs on this stove just a few months ago.
$100 Kelty Recluse Sleeping pad— If you have to sleep in the ground, this is the way to go.
The Kelty Recluse is a small, lightweight sleeping pad that inflates to a comfortable 3-inch full-body cushion. The hand pump is built right in, which is an added bonus.
Just like my first hunting knife, any one of these Christmas gift ideas could lead to lifetime of adventure for someone. I think my ten-year old self would agree.