We are living in a material world, and I am a material girl. So spoke that great American philosopher, Madonna.
Well, it's Madonna's time of the year in more ways than one. But the Material Girl probably never stood in a driving rain for just one more cast, shivered in a tree stand waiting for "Mr. Right" to come along or tried to negotiate a muddy trail.
On second thought, maybe she has. Have you seen her videos?
If you're seeking a present for your outdoorsman, woman or kiddo, here are a few suggestions:
Socks. Wiggle your toes in comfort. Bridgedale makes great socks for a variety of uses, from just strolling around to a summit assault. Backpacker magazine gave the Trekker model its highest endorsement. I like them inside a rubber boot because they're warm and soft and they don't ride down under my heel. They aren't cheap ($15 for a pair of Trekkers), but they stand up well to long hikes and numerous machine washings.
Encyclopedia. It's bigger than a bread box and weighs more than most of the fish I've caught. "Ken Schultz's Fishing Encyclopedia and World Wide Angling Guide" answers any question you can think of and settles any argument you might be thinking of having. Schultz, a Field & Stream writer for more than 25 years, picked the brains of more than 100 fishing experts to put this book together. Amazon.com is selling it for $48, and some retail stores are offering similar discounts.
Aqua, wasser, H2O, water. Any way you say it, everyone needs it, and active outdoors people need lots of it. But walking along the Grand Canyon's North Kaibob Trail in 104-degree heat can turn bottled water into bathwater. Polar Bottle makes a double-insulated, 24-ounce bottle with washable nozzle for about $7. For hands-free drinking, you can't beat CamelBak hydration systems that put a small reservoir on your back. The Marines use them, and so does NASA. They come in all shapes, sizes and price ranges for outdoor activities ranging from cycling and hiking to snowshoeing and rock climbing.
Shimano tackle bags. I love these bags. The hard-bottom, waterproof vertical stack bag has lots of pockets for storage and a lashing strap on top. The medium size ($55) has six utility boxes. The jumbo bag ($80) has eight. The top-of-the-line model is a horizontal stack, with removable dividers for custom fitting of reels and gear. It has a skid-proof bottom and closed-cell foam padding for protection. The medium ($75) has four utility boxes. The large ($83) has six. On-line, you can get them at www.tackledirect.com.
Oh, where am I? Never ask the question again with Garmin's eTrex GPS unit. The little yellow box -- slightly smaller than a dollar bill -- can store 500 waypoints. But the best feature is TracBack, which can get you from where you are (the woods) to where you started (the road). REI sells the hand-held unit for $119.
National Park Service Pass. For $50, you can give someone free access to more than 350 parks, from Acadia to Zion. For an extra $15, you can buy a Golden Eagle Pass that grants access to 49 other federal wildlife areas. You can order a pass on-line at www. nationalparks.org or stop by any park (Fort McHenry is probably the closest). You must get a Golden Eagle Pass in person.
Settle down with a good book. For youngsters, Ducks Unlimited has a picture book, "The Wide World of Suzie Mallard," that portrays one year in the life of a hen mallard, from the time of its hatch through the laying of its own eggs. The $14.95 book can be ordered by calling 800-45-DUCKS. "Woman's Guide to Hunting," is a how-to by Berdette Elaine Zastrow, the former head of the South Dakota fish and game department. The paperback book is $19.95. Black-powder hunters will find "Modern Muzzleloading for Today's Whitetails" ($29.95) by Ian McMurchy, a terrific read. The 208-page book offers tips for buying an in-line rifle, developing an accurate, powerful load and mastering field tactics.
Guide. Why not get your angler a trip with an expert? Whether you catch a lot of fish or not, a good guide will make sure you go home with a creel full of tips. Not sure how to pick a guide? Go to a reputable bait and tackle shop -- such as The Fisherman's Edge, Tochterman's or The Fishin Shop -- and ask. If you don't want to spring for a whole day's trip, half-day deals could be available.
Radios. Silence is golden, except when you're lost, limping, tired or hungry. Motorola Talkabout radios allow you to connect with companions up to two miles away, perfect for bicycling, hiking, fly fishing or hunting. The least expensive are about $40 per radio -- remember, it takes two to make a conversation. Units that have greater range or pick up commercial radio signals cost more. Another neat little present is a NOAA weather radio. Radio Shack has one, but my favorite is the WeatherOne ($39.95), because it turns on automatically when a weather emergency is being broadcast.