These outdoors gifts have you covered


December 10, 2006|By CANDUS THOMSON

After my family's four-w have you covered

eek battle with "customer service" representatives based in who-knows-where about our DSL connection, doing hand-to-hand combat for holiday gifts will be a piece of cake.

And if "sales representatives" in the mall are more competent than my Internet service provider (hint: the company's name rhymes with horizon), no one will get hurt.

There's lots of good stuff out there this year for the outdoorsman, woman and child in all price ranges, so let's get started.

If it takes a little leap of faith to step into an inflatable boat for the first time, setting foot in a folding kayak takes a leap of the Carl Lewis Olympic variety. Yet, paddling the 9-foot, 4-inch BIC Big Yakka ($600;, will make you jump for joy. It takes less than 10 minutes to open the hull, inflate the side bladders and install the foam seatback. The Big Yakka carries up to 260 pounds, weighs 49 pounds and folds to 59 inches by 27 inches. Paddlers and anglers with minimal storage space will find it fills the bill but not the closet. For its navigational qualities and ease of use, Yakka won this year's "Paddler's Pick" by Paddler Magazine.

If you know someone who loves all or just one of Maryland's 47 state parks, get him or her a 2007 pass ($75; that allows free day-use entry for up to nine people in a vehicle; free boat launching at all state ramps, and a 10 percent discount on state-operated concessions and boat rentals.

As a weather junkie addicted to the Weather Channel, I admit Oregon Scientific's WeatherNow station ($199; is a luxury. But, no one needs the new PlayStation3, either. What makes the WeatherNow desktop gizmo great is its wireless link to MSN's regional forecasting service. Just plug in the station, and you're ready to watch the weather by the numbers: temperature, wind, rain, humidity, three-day forecast and chance of precipitation updated every two minutes. It even provides National Weather Service warnings. Very cool.

Red Head "Lifetime" hunting socks ($9.95). These babies, sold by Bass Pro Shops, combine merino lamb's wool, stretch nylon and spandex to keep feet warm and dry inside your boots, be they of the hunting or hiking variety. They are well padded with double reinforcement in the toes and heels and have an elastic arch support. They come in one color - gray - and four sizes, and carry a lifetime guarantee.

Mountain Hardware's Dome Perignon cap ($30) has you covered in a double layer of Polartec fleece, the inner one windproof. OK, so it makes you look like a Conehead, but I'd rather look like Beldar than feel like I'm on the backside of Remulak, or a small town in France. For the retro look - think Elmer Fudd - with similar warming results, you can't beat the all-wool Stormy Kromer cap ($29.95 to $34.95; It's been around for more than a century, so who are we to quibble about fashion?

Once you have warm feet and a warm head, toasty fingers are a nice addition. Atlas Gloves, well-known in the hardware and gardening markets, has entered the outdoors market with a line of four gloves, each of a different weight and warmth. What sets these gloves apart is that each palm is dipped in either natural rubber or a tough synthetic rubber to provide impressive grip and a degree of water protection. ($6 to $20;

Need a steady hand? Want to be in your own group photo? Looking to take a time-lapse shot? Carry the T'Pod Traveling Tripod System by Trek-Tech ($80; Designed to be used with a spotting scope or digital SLR camera and lense weighing up to nine pounds, the small tripod folds down to a tiny package that fits in your hand and weighs just 13 ounces.

To keep 20 ounces of hot things hot or cold things cold for 24 hours, Thermos has designed the Element 5 vacuum bottle ($40; In addition to its touted "maximum insulation," the handsome stainless steel Thermos has a twist-and-pour stopper, a shock absorbing base, a carabiner carrying clip and a lifetime guarantee. The Element 5 also is offered as an insulated travel mug ($35) and a 16-ounce food jar ($30) that retains heat for seven hours and cold for nine hours.

For the snowboarder, skier or sailor who insists on having his tunes close by, Pelican, the makers of outstanding watertight, crush-resistant cases, has introduced the i1010 ($35; that cradles iPods of any size. The case has an external headphone jack so that the hits keep coming even in the face of inclement weather. Inside the lid is storage space for headphones and download cables. The case comes with Pelican's standard "you break it, we replace it" guarantee.

One version of National Geographic's pocket-sized Field Guide to Birds ($15) is specific to Maryland and D.C. As you would expect, it has beautiful pictures to accompany concise descriptions of habitat, behavior and local sites.

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