The Bose SoundDock is a terrific music box, but we'd never think of taking such a delicate instrument to the beach or putting it in the family tent. With its rubberized aluminum body, the Eton Soulra ($200) is a better bet. The sound won't make you forget Bose, but it has a solar panel to keep it powered away from civilization and a splash guard to give it and your iPod or iPhone a little shelter from the elements. It weighs a touch under three pounds and packs up nice and tight for travel.
Adventure Medical Kits SOL Origin ($60) is a palm-sized waterproof box that contains a folding knife, LED light, fire starter with windproof/waterproof tinder, rescue whistle with one-mile range, signaling mirror, compass, stainless steel wire/nylon cord, and a fishing kit/sewing kit. It's so small, there's no reason not to have one in your backpack, kayak of tackle box.
Need a liter of pure water? The SteriPEN Sidewinder ($99.95) is a hand-crank unit that destroys waterborne bacteria, viruses and protozoa in 90 seconds. The battery-free unit is about the size of a water bottle and weighs 16.6 ounces. It's perfect for family camping trips and college students traveling abroad.
You're asking for trouble if you carry that iPhone, iPod or BlackBerry loose in a pack or even a dry bag. The Pelican i1015 ($30; amazon.com) is cheap insurance that will keep either handheld unit dry and bump free. To test it, Outdoors Girl put one (empty) under her truck's back tire and backed over it. Except for a tire track, it was none the worse for wear. An external headphone jack supports the microphone control feature for iPhone and iPod Touch and a carabiner makes clipping it to something else a snap.
Stuff happens. If you love your hunter, get him or her a first aid kit. AMK sells a zippered pouch that includes a wound care kit for deer camp and a detachable field trauma kit for when things really go downhill. It contains a first aid manual written by a real doctor. The Hunter Kit ($54) is equipped to handle emergencies for a group of seven people for a trip of up to a week. Pair it with AMK's 3.5 ounce Heatsheet Emergency Bivvy ($16) and you can keep yourself or a friend safe until help arrives.
It's small, but few jobs can slow the Buck PakLite Skinner Fixed-Blade Knife ($20/$25; Bass Pro Shops). The 2 1/2-inch steel blade is married to a grippy, skeletal handle to save weight. It comes in black and silver, with a vinyl carrying sheath. The knife is made in the U.S.A. by one of the nicest families in the business.
The days of a woolen union suit with the trap door is but a scratchy, smelly memory. Homegrown Under Armour and long-time outfitter Patagonia lead the way in staying warm and odor-free under the camo. Under Armour's Basemap ($60 top; $45 bottom) has good ventilation and wicking properties. Ditto Patagonia's Capiline 3 ($50 each piece).
Pete Bodo has written about hunting and the outdoors for the New York Times and other publications bigger than this one. A bow and gun hunter, Bodo decides the time has come for him to bag a buck with a rack big enough to qualify for the Boone and Crockett records. Whitetail Nation: My Season in Pursuit of the Monster Buck ($25; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is a travelogue and hunting diary by a bodacious storyteller. It will help chase cabin fever away.
If JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater had gotten knocked in the noggin with the Pelican 1510LOC ($240; amazon.com), he never would have grabbed a beer and activated the emergency slide. He would have been unconscious. If you need an absolute armadillo of an overnight bag/laptop carrier, this is it. The 13.6-pound rolling case is watertight, crushproof and dust proof. It rolls smoothly on polyurethane wheels with stainless steel bearings.
At the other end of the scale is Briggs & Riley Travelware's BRX line. For weekend trips, my husband and I love the Exchange 26 Duffle Bag ($160; briggs-riley.com), which really is more of a soft-sider than a duffle. At 3 pounds, it's easy to handle, especially with the backpack straps unzipped from their little pouch, and can be stuffed to the gills without fear of a blowout. Zip expansion provides 3 inches of extra packing space. The duffle has clips that allows you attach it to one of their roller bags to cut airline baggage fees in half (I've done it). Briggs & Riley is a little pricey but its guarantee is simple: if one of its bags is ever broken or damaged, even if it was caused by an airline, repairs are free.
If you still haul enough gear on your back to make a turtle cringe, Airbak Focus Tech Backpack ($100; airbak.com) might be the answer. The pack uses an inflatable air cushion system to protect still and video cameras and a laptop. The adjustable air bag provides cushioning if the bag is dropped and also protects the user's back from the stuff inside.
If you know someone who loves all or just one of Maryland's 47 state parks, get him or her a 2011 Maryland State Parks pass ($75; shopdnr.com) 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.
On the federal side, $80 gets you the America the Beautiful ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â– National Parks and Federal Recreational Annual Lands Pass. The annual pass admits the holders and a carload of family or friends to more than 2,000 recreation areas, including national parks and wildlife refuges. Available on line (store.usgs.gov/pass/annual.html) or by phone (888-275-8747, option 1).