This column is presented as a public service to everyone who must appear to be outdoors omniscient while shopping for a gift for dad, a grad or the odd June wedding.
All of these items have been personally tested by Ye Olde Outdoors Writer and certified to be what they say they are and do what they say they'll do.
A personal floatation device works only when you wear one. Buy your favorite boater or angler a comfortable PFD that won't sit in the bottom of the boat or the car trunk. Bass Pro Shops' XPS fishing vest ($40) and Cabela's Cool Mesh ($30) work well and don't restrict movements. The Cabela's vest is a better warm-weather option, but it lacks pockets (another model, Cabela's Ultimate Full Motion, is $50 and has two pockets). With its fleece-lined collar, the Bass Pro version is better for cooler temperatures; it has a boatload of pockets.
Imagine taking a month off in the fall to fish for striped bass as they migrate south past Eastern Long Island. Peter Kiminsky did just that and then wrote about it in The Moon Pulled Up an Acre of Bass ($12 on amazon.com). You may recognize Kiminsky's name from The New York Times, which has run his outdoors essays. You might also recall him as a major contributor to the how-to, Fishing for Dummies. This book is filled with lyrical stories about fishing, history and cooking that would please even the non-angler.
Settle all arguments with the "gripNweigh" from X-Tools ($90, www.xtools.us or 941-894-0040), a digital scale and fish gripper. It floats, and the electronics are sealed in a watertight compartment. Padding makes it easy to hold, and a lanyard keeps it within reach. The tool has a memory that will store the weights of five fish. The one drawback: The scale tops out at 25 pounds, making it too small for Chesapeake Bay striper trophy season.
Wading staff or hiking stick? It doesn't matter what you call it, sooner or later you will need one. REI makes "Traverse" ($75), a great three-section aluminum pole with adjustable wrist strap that never caves in to pressure at a critical time. The pole weighs just over 10 ounces and has a terrific foam grip that keeps your hand from slipping. Available at REI Timonium, 63 Aylesbury Road, 410-252-5920; or REI College Park, 9801 Rhode Island Ave., 301-982-9681.
Sometimes the glass is half empty, but with Leupold Wind River Katmai binoculars ($390, www.leupold.com or 800-929-4949), the glass is always full of vivid images of wildlife and scenery. These eight-power lenses perform as well as binoculars twice their price. They shine in low-light conditions and are really compact for stuffing into a rucksack or bird bag. And if it rains and the glass gets full, don't worry, the Katmai is waterproof.
A "Buzz Off" outfit by Ex-Officio (www.exofficio.com or 800-644-7303) isn't cheap, but the clothes look good while keeping the bugs from chewing you to bits. An odorless insect repellent, EPA-approved, is bonded to the fabric to ward off mosquitoes and ticks. The socks are $18, the long-sleeve shirts are $79 and the pants are $74. Of course, everything comes with a downside. In the case of Buzz Off, the magic is gone after just 25 washings.
With the suburbanite in mind, the designers at Buck knife crafted the Summit ($70, www.buckknives.com or 800-326-2825), which includes a quality 2 1/2 -inch blade that opens with one hand and a bottle opener and corkscrew for the family picnic. The knife weighs 3.5 ounces, comes in zippy shades of red, blue and green and has a metal lanyard loop on the end to make it easy to attach to a backpack, or the handle of a tackle box.
It looks like a space alien, but the three-legged Squid flashlight ($20 and $25, www.squidlight.com or 1-877-MONTANE) is as friendly as they come when you need to bend a beam to spotlight a tight work area or have a group reading of Stephen King around the campfire. The Squid has an LED bulb on the end of each flexible spoke that will twist 180 degrees. Powered by three AAA batteries, this critter will run 20 hours on the high setting and more than a week on low. One more thing: It floats.
Like a roll of Certs - candy mints or breath mints -Highgear's Terra Tech ($65, www.highgearusa.com or 888-295-4949) is both a digital electronic compass and a digital thermometer. It also has an LED flashlight, a watch, a chronograph and two alarms. All of this fits into the palm of your hand with room to spare for a couple of those little speckled candies ... or mints. The North Carolina company also makes a tremendous sports watch for $150.