A gift guide for those who spend their days outdoors

Christmas is only two weeks away, and while that might trigger panic in some people, never fear if you're looking to buy a gift or two for the outdoors lover on your list.The options are nearly endless.From fishing gear to fire starters, from waf...

With his trusty "Labradeer" retrievers at his side, a north woods Santa is preparing for the busy holiday season. Bob King / Forum News Service
With his trusty "Labradeer" retrievers at his side, a north woods Santa is preparing for the busy holiday season. Bob King / Forum News Service

Christmas is only two weeks away, and while that might trigger panic in some people, never fear if you're looking to buy a gift or two for the outdoors lover on your list.

The options are nearly endless.

From fishing gear to fire starters, from waffle makers to good books, we've compiled a list of gift-giving ideas based on some of the multitude of news releases that flow into the inbox every year. Some are tried and true, others caught our attention because they're useful or innovative.

With that in mind, here are some ideas to get you started for the hunter, angler or other outdoors enthusiast on your list.

Keep bait alive


Keeping live bait from becoming dead bait can be a challenge, but this floating aerator from Rapala alleviates that problem. Aerator is powered by three C-cell batteries and fits most bait-storage containers. Set to run every 15 minutes for up to 36 hours. About $24;

See the fish

MarCum's Recon 5 and Recon 5 Plus underwater cameras can be set to view straight down, horizontal or looking up and provide a 110-degree field of view to up the odds of seeing (and hopefully hooking) that big waleye, pike or perch. From $299.99 to $429.99;

Store the tackle

Plano's On-Board Series of tackle storage fits boats of all sizes and features a mesh panel and fabric cover. The On-Board's drainage feature eliminates the risk of soaking your tackle bags and ultimately rusting lures. About $25;

Depthfinder deal

The Helix 5 Sonar GPS packs a lot of potential into a small package. The depthfinder has a 5-inch screen to shed light on what's swimming below, and the unit has internal GPS chart-plotting with built-in UniMap cartography and a micro SD slot for optional maps or saving waypoints. The basic unit retails for $299.99. For even more bells and whistles, the Helix DI GPS ($349.99) adds down-imaging sonar, and the SI GPS ($499.99) adds down- and side-imaging sonar. Info:

Build a fire


I had a chance to try the ExtremeStart Firestarter packs this fall, and they worked great for starting campfires in the pit at hunting camp. About the size of a candy bar, the fire starters are safe for both indoor or outdoor use. Simply place among wood or charcoal and light the packet, which burns up to about 20 minutes until the wood or coal is burning. About $6 for a pack of 12;

Bucks for breakfast

Totally unnecessary but very cool, this waffle maker from Chef'sChoice features a rustic, antlered deer head plate design and is sure to be a breakfast hit either at home or at hunting camp, especially for the avid hunting and outdoor enthusiast. The waffle iron makes two bucks-head waffles at a time. About $49.99;

Blow up a kayak

During a fishing trip in August to Hayes Lake State Park in northwest Minnesota, I was surprised at the number of kayaks I encountered on the water. A new twist on the familiar craft comes in the form of the Innova Swing 2, a two-person inflatable kayak that weighs less than 25 pounds and packs into a 27- by 15- by 9-inch roll. Made from recyclable rubber and available in a special holiday package that includes fin, rucksack, pump and two paddles. Price $948;

Keep cool-or hot

EcoVessel stainless steel water bottles keep drinks cold for 36 hours and hot for up to 8 hours. Available in 64-ounce Growler; 20-, 24- and 32-ounce Boulder; and 17- and 24-ounce Summit versions. From $26.95 to $54.95;

Turn fire into juice


The BioLite CampStove generates electricity for charging LED lights, mobile phones and anything else that needs charging. Burning only wood, the stove creates a smokeless campfire that can cook meals and boil water in minutes. Setup is easy, the fuel is free and flames are comparable to white gas-burning stones. About $129.95 including a free USB FlexLight;

Take a photo

The iON Air Pro Camera has gotten good reviews from anglers who've used it in their boats. The camera has a 170-degree field of view; captures still, burst and time-lapse images; and records video and audio. It's also submersible without a case in depths up to 30 feet. Best of all is the price; the iON 1011L model retails for $39.95. Info: .

Keep warm

Duluth Trading Co. is known for quality clothing and other products, and the company's marketing always is memorable (just check out their underwear commercials). The company's High-Neck Infantry Sweater is made of 80 percent cotton and 20 percent wool and has a roll-up collar that's both functional and stylish. Available in olive and five other colors, the sweater retails for $79.95;

Keep warm and afloat

Warm clothing has helped revolutionize ice fishing in the past 15 years, and clothing that provides flotation in the event of a fall through the ice has taken that revolution even further. Hudson, Wis.-based Striker ICE offers a dozen different styles of flotation suits. Prices vary depending on style and model, ranging from $269 each for bibs and jackets to about $120 each for youth models. Info:

Keep ticks at bay


Lymeez Tick Gaiters first caught my eye last spring when I wrote a story about woodcock banding at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge north of Detroit Lakes, Minn. One of the banders wore a pair of the tick gaiters, which are treated with permethrin, a chemical known to both repel and kill ticks. At $29.99, the gaiters are worth the piece of mind they provide in keeping lyme disease-causing der ticks at bay. Info:

Paddle into history

I've only had a chance to skim through "Canoes: A Natural History in North America," but at first glance, the coffee table-size book looks to be a must-have for paddlers and others with a penchant for the canoe's rich history. Authors Mark Neuzil and Norman Sims delve into the history of canoes from the first dugouts to those constructed of carbon fiber and other modern materials. The book also includes accounts from the likes of Henry Thoreau, Eric Sevareid and Edwin Tappan Adney, among others. Published by University of Minnesota Press; $39.95;

Grab a Yeti

Yeti coolers are all the buzz for their ability to keep ice for extended periods of time, but they also carry a hefty price tag. If spending $350 to $500 on a cooler is out of your price range, Yeti's Rambler Tumbler is a functional, less expensive gift alternative. The stainless steel tumblers keep ice twice as long as conventional tumblers and work just as well for hot beverages. The 20-ounce tumbler is $29.99 and the 30-ounce retails for $39.99;

Read and prepare

"The Bushcraft Field Guide to Trapping, Gathering, and Cooking in the Wild," by New York Times bestselling author Dave Canterbury, a wealth of information about packing, trapping, and preparing food for treks and wilderness travels. About $10 and widely available through booksellers and other online and retail outlets.

Light the way


I got a Pelican 2720 LED Headlight headlamp a couple of years ago, and it's without question the best headlamp I've ever owned. I especially like the gesture control function that allows me to turn the headlamp on and off with a wave of my hand. The headlamp also has a red signaling light, adjustable light beam options and comes with three AAA alkaline batteries. About $48;

Wood is good

For holiday gift ideas, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource suggests a locally made gift created from trees harvested in the state. That could mean wooden toys, handcrafts and keepsakes such as those available at a variety of rustic gift shops. Thousands of items are made from wood harvested in Minnesota forests, the DNR says, and about 30 percent of the state's wood fiber comes from state forest lands.

Hit the snow

There hasn't been much need for snowshoes the past couple of years because of the relative absence of snow, but winter appears to be headed in a snowier direction if the past week's storm is any indication. One of the best ways to get out and enjoy the outdoors is with a pair of snowshoes, which offer both aerobic exercise and a peaceful option for getting out and exploring nature up close and personal. Options range from the traditional wooden snowshoes-my preference-to those constructed of more modern lightweight materials. Numerous retail outlets carry snowshoes, and prices generally range from about $60 to upwards of $300 for certain types of wooden snowshoes.

Warm those feet

ThermaCELL mosquito-repeller appliances and foot warmers have been on the market for a few years now, but the company's latest twist in heated insoles uses Bluetooth technology to control the flow of heat with your smartphone phone. A free app that also can check battery life is available for both iOS and Android devices. ThermaCELL's ProFlex HD heated insoles last up to 8ยฝ hours on a charge. About $199.95 and available through numerous retail outlets;


Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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