Wow, what a week for waistline, wallet and wildlife.
Or, more specifically Thanksgiving, the opening of the holiday shopping season and the first two-day opening to deer season.
Here at the nerve center of Outdoors Central, we can't do anything about the feasts or the beasts, but we can offer up some suggestions to make the hectic gift-buying experience easier.
So, take a deep breath and try to forget that holidays, like objects in the rear-view mirror, are closer than they appear.
The EMS All-Mountain Sweater ($70) settles the wool or fleece dilemma by using both materials. The result is a toasty garment that can handle outdoors and looks good enough to wear to dinner. Tough on the outside and soft on the inside -- just like me. Three colors for women, three for men. EMS stores are in Annapolis, Timonium and Towson.
Fox River socks have gone to space on the feet of astronauts. However, Earthwomen who like the outdoors and warm toes will find that the Wick Dry Artemis ($15) works well for feet that go hunting and birding. The polypropylene-wool-nylon socks come in three women's sizes and three colors. The guy-equivalent is the Wick Dry Tamarack. To find a store: www.foxsox.com.
Stormy Kromer wool hats are as tough as the old bird himself. A century ago, the retired semi-pro baseball player and railroad engineer had his wife sew earflaps on his wool cap to keep out the freezing winds of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It worked then, and it works now. The hats come with brim ($29.95) or brimless ($27.95). There's a multitude of snazzy colors, and for hunters, there's Advantage Beige Camo, Mossy Oak Break-up or Blaze Orange ($34.95). Go to: www.stormykromer.com
Gear and gadgets
Want one of those cool do-it-all watches that make you look like a cross between yachtsman Dennis Conner and mountaineer Jim Whittaker but doesn't leave you gasping at world-class prices? Axis Digital Watch by High Gear ($150) has a built-in altimeter, barometer and compass and half the price tag of the big boys. Alas, no decoder ring. Available at REI, EMS and Galyns.
No matter where you go, there you are with Garmin's Rino 120, a compact GPS two-way radio hybrid. With two units, hunters can sit in tree stands 2-5 miles apart or a group of hikers can divide into speed demons and strollers. The Rino "beams" your position to the other radio's GPS screen when you talk. The waterproof radio ($250 each) has both GMRS and FRS frequencies, and eight MB of memory. The Rino 110 ($170) has fewer bells and whistles. Available at major electronics stores and on-line services.
Sometimes I travel with my laptop. Sometimes I don't. Either way, I'm always looking for hiking possibilities. High Sierra's "AT Computer Day Pack," ($90), with a removable laptop sleeve does the trick. The pack's lower compartment has a zippered divider that can be opened to create a huge main compartment. Top-rate suspension straps and two mesh water bottle holders complete the package. There's even room for my travel fishing rod. High Sierra is the official supplier for the U.S. ski team, and its luggage and ski bags can't be beaten. To find a dealer: 800-323-9590 or email@example.com.
The Sonic ($20), a little waterproof flashlight by CMG Equipment with an aircraft aluminum body, runs on a AAA battery. It comes in a nice Altoids-style tin box, good for wrapping or stocking stuffing. wwwcmgequipment.com.
Lefty Kreh is on the cover, but for once the prolific author and world-renowned angler didn't pen the words inside.
Flyfisher's Guide to Chesapeake Bay (Wilderness Adventure Press, $28.95) isn't just for the fly rod crowd. Light tackle folks can pick up some useful information from authors Bill May and Ed Russell, both Marylanders with decades of experience on the bay. They've augmented their gray matter by tapping into local experts such as Joe Bruce, Richie Gaines and Norm Bartlett.
The book not only talks an angler through on-the-water situations, it also deals with terra firma issues, from where to stay to where to buy flies and lures.
This book is a keeper.
If you've ever been to Acadia National Park in Maine -- or wanted to go -- First Light by Tom Blagden is the volume for you.
The wildlife photos are surpassed only by the ones of stunning sunrises, sunsets and coastal fog shrouding the rocky cliffs. Blagden's writing isn't shabby, either.
But don't take my word for it. The coffee-table book (Westcliffe Publishers, $60) won top design honors in the National Outdoor Book Awards contest this year. "This work sparkles and dazzles," said the judges.
Got a boat? Get Waterway Guide's Mid-Atlantic 2004, a massive directory of navigational and on-shore information for the Chesapeake Bay and the Intercoastal Waterway to Florida. The 432-page, spiral-bound guide ($39.95) is updated annually by the Annapolis-based staff to include marinas, anchorages and other services. Available at marine stores.