When it comes to socks, there's just two brands for Outdoors…
There will be no trumpets heralding this year's outdoors gift guide. We're saving up for a fur-lined kayak with Bose sound system and flat-screen TV instead.
This year, Outdoors Girl enlisted one of her favorite adventure buddies, Biker Guy, to help with gear reviews (he handled, predictably enough, the biking category). We tested everything listed. Not appearing in the guide is the stuff that stunk -- who wants to read about that? Some gifts can be found most anywhere outdoors gear is sold. Where we could, we steered you to company websites or ones that had the product in stock.
I caught heck a few years back from older anglers who didn't like the idea of someone messing around in their tackle boxes. I stand by my holiday suggestion. Sneak your angler's tackle box out of the house and to a reputable retailer such as Tochterman's, All Tackle or Clyde's Sport Shop. Have the salesperson help you choose new lures or gear to replace old ones. Put all the old stuff back in its place. Wrap new stuff. Present on Christmas day. Pure genius.
Give your favorite angler a day or a half-day on the water with one of Maryland's premier guides. The best ones will fill up their 2011 dance card early, so don't delay. Your local tackle shop can help fill a specific need. But anyone's Chesapeake Bay list would include -- alphabetically -- this six pack, certified captains all: Mike Benjamin (410-920-8921), Brady Bounds (301-862-3166), "Walleye" Pete Dahlberg (410-586-8340), Richie Gaines (410-827-7210), Tom Hughes (410-747-9431), and Skip Slomski (410-746-6907). In Ocean City, Monty Hawkins (410-520-2076) and Mark Sampson (410-213-2442) are the go-to guys.
Craft's Thermal Split Finger Glove ($49.99; amazon.com) may make you look like Mr. Spock, but they are designed to allow your fingers to share the warmth while allowing flexibility for braking and shifting gears. A windproof outer shell is backed-up by a removable fleece liner ensuring that your digits will live long and prosper.
To get even stranger looks from passersby, put a pair of Bar Mitts ($64.95; barmitts.com) on your bike. The neoprene pockets attach to your handlebars and look like giant oven mitts. They are windproof, waterproof and allow you to wear a thin liner glove in the coldest conditions for more dexterity. A wide cuff makes them surprisingly easy to get in and out of.
In the past I have used neoprene booties over my biking shoes in the winter and I have often had a problem with the toe slipping of the front of the shoe and have torn two sets while mountain biking. Louis Garneau tackled this problem by building the bootie into its 0 Ergo Grip shoes ($179.99; louisgarneau.com). A rugged outer body of high density nylon and neoprene encases a leather inner shoe with pull-tight laces. A wide toe box allows for thicker socks or toe warmers and keeps my toes from getting cramped.
Cycling doesnÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â¹t have to be all about Lycra, particularly when it is 50 degrees outside. Oregon Cyclewear ($84; oregoncyclewear.com) celebrates fashion and function with its retro-style merino wool jerseys. The soft, moisture wicking jersey is incredibly comfortable and looks great both on and off the bike. Your neighborhood club name can be added for a few bucks more.
Maybe papa needs a brand new bag. Or mama. Or the kids. REI has something to keep the younger ones covered: the Nodder +25 kids sleeping bag ($69.50; rei.com), which grows as your youngster does. The mummy bag is marketed for campers ages 6-10, so test it at the store first. The comfort level is about 25 degrees, a pocket in hood can be stuffed with clothing to make a pillow and the stuff sack is attached to the sleeping bag to keep from being left behind.
For the adults, try Mountain Hardwear's Switch 20 ($120; amazon.com). It's a roomy bag that really will keep most folks warm down to about 20 degrees. The mummy shape -- a drawback for those who don't like a snug fit -- can be modified with something called the Quantum Expander that adds eight inches to the girth. It's not the lightest bag around, but if you're car camping, that doesn't matter much. It will keep you warm in three seasons, even when things get damp.
For car camping with the whole family, check out REI's redesigned Hobitat 4 family tent ($269; rei.com), which offers the same great space with one less pole and a much easier setup. You donÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â¹t have to be a Halfling from middle-earth to appreciate the six-foot ceiling and huge front door. The optional Hobitat Garage ($99.50) lives up to it name by providing room for all of your gear and even your bikes.