We’ve put a lot of hunting and fishing gear through the wringer this year. Our list below consists of the products that not only survived the torture testing, but reveled in it. Plus, some items that great stocking stuffers for the hunter or angler who already has everything.
Most of the products in the roster are brand new, some are classics, but all will bring a little extra Christmas joy to the outdoorsmen or women on your gift list.
Fix It Sticks
Fix It Sticks Fix It Sticks
These handy tools come in various combinations so you can customize the kit for your specific needs. They contain a selection of bits for the various fasteners you will find on scopes, rings, bases and rifles and a set of color-coded torque limiters that allow you to tighten fasteners to precise settings. Great for use at the gun bench or in the field.
MSRP: From $112
—John B. Snow, Shooting Editor
Helle Didi Galgalu
Helle Didi Galgalu Helle
Every time I pull this knife out on a hunt, someone says: “That’s a cool knife.” And, it is.
Helle is a Norwegian knife making company that has been at it since 1932. But the Didi Galgalu has African, not Scandinavian, roots. It’s named after a desert in Northern Kenya and designed for bushcraft/survival and to “withstand the hardships of transcontinental journeys of Africa.”
As it turns out, it works pretty well in North America too (I’ve used it on elk and whitetails but have yet to need it in a survival situation). It’s a full-tang knife with three rivets that reinforce the Kiaat-wood handle. The blade is Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel.
—Alex Robinson, Online Editor
Camp Chef Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet
Camp Chef Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet Camp Chef
Aside from the bottle opener on my fridge, the 14-inch cast-iron skillet sitting on the stove next to the fridge is the most-used and well-loved item in my kitchen. I cook everything from buttered toast to backstrap in it, and it has yet to disappoint. I also keep one of the smaller 8-inch Camp Chef skillets as backup for making side dishes (their classic seasoned skillets range in size from 4 to 14 inches). If the cook you have in mind already owns enough cast iron to launch a new Iron Age, you might consider getting him or her a few handy accessories to care for their cookware instead. I’ve used everything from the chainmail scrubber to the cleaner and conditioning spray, all of which make excellent stocking stuffers.
MSRP: $8 and up
—Natalie Krebs, Senior Editor
Browning Speed Load Interchangeable Blade Folding Knife
Browning Speed Load Interchangeable Blade Folding Knife Browning
Havalon revolutionized the world of big-game skinning and skull caping with its replaceable-blade knife a decade ago. But the market for knives whose blades can be swapped out has become crowded since then. Browning’s new Speed Load locking folder brings three features that should get some love. First, the full-size, hand-filling handle designed by blade ace Russ Kommer gives you plenty to hold on to, and the liner-lock blade backer gives you strength for tough jobs. Second, the simple and strong thumb-stud release for the blades ends the dangerous practice of grabbing the blade to release it, or finding pliers for the job. And lastly, the four replaceable blade types (drop-point, skinner, caping, and utility) cover almost any cutting job. But the real beauty is that the Speed Load accepts any standard utility blade (carpet knife) found almost anywhere.
Pick up a 3-pack of replacement blades for the Speed Load: $10
—Andrew McKean, Hunting Editor
Final Approach Hunting Pack
Final Approach Hunting Pack Final Approach
FA has had a major resurgence this year and one of their standout products is the Hunting Pack. They took everything you love about a blind bag and turned it into a backpack. You’ll notice instantly that this thing was built to take a beating. It’s constructed out of rugged, water-resistant 900D material. The pack the perfect item for a two-man, run-and-gun duck hunting team. One guy packs in the decoys. The other guy packs in the backpack loaded up with shells, calls, coffee, snacks, and an extra layer or two of clothing (having a free hand will also allow him to pack in the spinning wing decoy). On the way out, the backpack guy also hauls out the ducks — the backpack has duck straps included.
Other features include: zip-out gunsling, waterproof cellphone pocket, waterproof bottom, tree hook for hunting timber, padded waist belt, and more shell loops than you should ever need.
Badlands Approach Camouflage
Badlands Approach Camouflage Badlands
Camouflage sort of exhausts me. Sure, I understand the need for a hunter to break up his profile and melt into his surroundings, but I’m pretty sure deer don’t care if you’re wearing Realtree’s Xtra or Mossy Oak’s Obsession. What matters to me is how the gear fits and performs. Badlands, the company that made its name in backpacks, came out earlier this year with a full line of camo clothing that performs well in the field and won’t break your budget. It’s called Approach, and I spent most of my archery elk season in it. From base layers to rain gear and just about every piece of apparel in between, the gear is hard-wearing, quiet, and the dappled pattern allows you to hide in a wide variety of terrain.
Delta Waterfowl Gear Dog Stand
Delta Waterfowl Gear Dog Stand Delta Waterfowl Gear
This stand keeps your four-legged buddy out of the water when you’re hunting the marsh or flooded timber. It’s made of aluminum (weighs 9 lbs. 5 oz.) and has a mesh platform allows water to run through and prevents puddling. It adjusts in height from 22 inches to 36 inches and the legs fold up for transportation.
The stand has angled feet for pressing down into the marsh muck — you’ll want to make the stand is set firmly before you put your dog on it.
I’ve been using the stand all summer and fall have beaten the snot out of it (It lives in my truck bed). There are no signs of wear and tear yet.
Federal Prairie Storm
Federal Prairie Storm Federal
Plenty of guys won’t spring for premium upland ammo… event though they actually want to.
That’s why you should get the pheasant hunter on your list some supped-up rooster ammo for the late season. Prairie Storm uses 70 percent copper-plated lead and 30 percent nickel-plated “Flitestopper” lead. It patterns tightly and drops big roosters stone dead. A box of 3-inch No. 6s and a box of 3-inch No. 4s will last him or her through the rest of the pheasant season. Drop a 6 in the first barrel and a 4 in the second barrel and kill roosters at any reasonable range.
Plus, Federal donates a percentage of each sale to Pheasants Forever. This November Federal surpassed the 50 million round mark on ammo that has a royalty going to PF (the program has been running since 1998). So burn it up and help conserve more habitat.
MSRP: $20 to $22 per box
National Parks Wall Calendar
National Parks Wall Calendar Anderson Design
Earlier this year, in recognition of the centennial of the National Parks system, Anderson Design Group reimagined the iconography of the National Parks poster. The result is a stunning coffee table book that features the favorite places of American outdoorsmen. They have packaged the best of those prints into a 2017 wall calendar that will dress up any office, home, or hunting lodge.
SPG Portable Dog Dish
SPG Portable Dog Dish SPG
Here’s a good stocking stuffer for any hunter who’s ever tried to get a dog to drink out of a water bottle. It looks like a CD case when zipped shut, but open it up and you’ll find two collapsible dishes, one for water and the other for storing food.
But here’s a better use for the food dish: pack a couple dog first aid items (tweezers, gauze, antiseptic, ect) in a ziplock bag, put it in the dish and pull the draw cord closed.
The whole kit fits easily in an upland bird vest or jacket pocket.
SpyPoint MMS Trail Camera
SpyPoint MMS Trail Camera SpyPoint
I’m a trail camera junkie and enjoy monitoring cameras almost as much as I enjoy the actual hunt.
Some of my favorite hunting areas, however, are hundreds of miles from home making trail cam monitoring a complicated affair. The solution: One of these puppies.
This camera uses cellular service to send images directly to my smartphone using SMS technology. You do need adequate cell coverage in the area for the system to work but, when it’s there, it works like a charm.
Setup is simple and quick and image quality is more than good enough for long-range monitoring. MSRP: $359
—Tony Hansen, Assistant Editor
Sig Sauer Kilo 850 Rangefinder
Sig Sauer Kilo 850 Rangefinder Sig Sauer
I had the chance to spend some time with Sig’s Kilo rangefinder line this fall and have been impressed – which is saying something because I’m pretty fussy about rangefinders, particularly when used for bowhunting.
A rangefinder should be a simple device: Put it to your eye, push a button and get the yardage. It doesn’t need to do anything else.
That’s exactly what this unit does and it does it well. The display is one of the easiest to read I’ve encountered, range acquisition is fast and simple. And, it’s a bargain for a unit of this quality.
I’m aware that this is a wildly rash statement, but this may be the best pair of gloves I’ve ever worn. Made with waterproof, breathable GORE-TEX membrane and PrimaLoft insulation, these gloves are warm without being hot or bulky, and toasty for just about any condition, whether ice-fishing on Northern Plains reservoirs, chasing elk in the snowy backcountry, or sledding with the kids. The goatskin facing is grippy and allows for dexterity, and the wrist cinch keeps heat trapped in the glove.
Rienhart RhinoBlock Rinehart
Every bowhunter needs a target. I’ve had my share of them – but I’ve had this one far longer than any other and it’s still stopping everything I shoot at it. It’s not the cheapest block-style target but it is the most durable I’ve used. Arrow removal is easy, particularly after it’s broken in.
Broadheads are no problem and don’t tear up the foam like they often do with other targets.
Looking for the perfect gift for a hunting or fishing buddy? Check this out. Stephen Herbison of the Red Lake Cedar Co. in Mississippi can take virtually any high-quality image and transform it into a rustic set of cedar coasters or even a wall plaque. Yeah, I was doubtful, too, until I sent him a trail camera picture of a buck I was fortunate enough to shoot a few years ago and received the pictured coaster in return. Pretty darn awesome.
MSRP: $40 to $70 for a set of 4 coasters plus shipping
—Gerry Bethge, Fishing Editor
HUK Packable Rain Suit
HUK Packable Rain Suit HUK
I’ve probably been through more rain gear than any other piece of fishing and hunting apparel—and have complained about virtually every bit of it. Leaky seams on lightweight, stow-away jackets are especially irritating. HUK’s packable rain jacket is designed to make those pop-up storms a lot easier to endure. Taped seams, Velcro cuffs and a draw-cord hem keep moisture out , yet the breathable performance material lets humidity escape. It’s available in sizes up to 3XL.
Sportsman Vest SCOTTeVest
Hunting backpacks are great for all-day sits on stand, but can be a cumbersome load when stillhunting or snow tracking. When the need is to stay mobile and warm, yet prepared for whatever a day in the woods can throw at you, consider the Sportsman Vest from SCOTTeVest. Made for hunting, fishing and general outdoor use, the vest features 24 smartly designed pockets that snap, zip, or fold closed. It actually comes with a tethered instruction sheet on where to store your stuff that doubles as an eyeglass wipe.
Hunters Specialties Undertaker Chest Pack
Hunters Specialties Undertaker Chest Pack Hunter’s Specialty
Turkey vests are cool, but cutt-and-run gobbler hunters often find them unwieldy for quick setups. The Hunters Specialties Undertaker Chest Pack features ample storage space for calls, shells and other gear, but, best of all, keeps everything directly in front of you for easy access. No more turkey vest deep dives searching for your favorite slate call.
Plano Guide Series Tackle Bag
Plano Guide Series Tackle Bag Plano
Remember when they used to be called “tackle boxes?” Well, not anymore. Fishing tackle management is what it’s all about these days and Plano does it like no other. I’ve been messing with my Guide Series Tackle Bag since last summer and have included it on my fishing-buddy shopping list for Christmas. First off, Plano’s patented stowaway box locking system can’t be beat. Add to it features such as 34 attachment points, elastic tie downs and side pockets, and it’s a guarantee that the angler in your life will freak out (in a good way) when he unwraps this baby.
Chef’s Choice Compact Sharpener
Chef’s Choice Compact Sharpener Chef’s Choice
Stocking stuffer alert: Whether you need to touch up a hunting knife or your entire kitchen knife ensemble, this two-stage compact sharpener from Chef’s Choice will be up for the task. It’s lightweight, compact and stores easily in your hunting jacket or camp kitchen drawer.
MSR Dromedary Bags
MSR Dromedary Bags Cascade Designs
If you’ve got a backcountry or mountain hunter on your list (or even a weekend camper), these durable water storage bags are a smart choice. Hydration should be one of the top priorities for anyone venturing into the backcountry, and these bags a simple solution for managing it. I tested these dromedaries on an elk hunt this fall, and the nylon and polyurethane-lined bags proved perfect for packing in water to terrain where there was none readily available. A wide mouth makes the bladder easy to fill when you do come across a water source, and the spout makes filling backpack bladders and cooking pots a spill-free affair so you don’t waste a single precious drop. They’ll attach easily to a pack and are available in 2, 4, 6, and 10 liter sizes.
MSRP: $24 and up
Nikon Monarch 7i Vibration Reduction Laser Rangefinder
Nikon Monarch 7i Vibration Reduction Laser Rangefinder Nikon
This holiday season finds me in the market for a new rangefinder. I left my first and only trusty rangefinder (a Bushnell G-Force DX) on a Nebraska hillside this season. I ranged a buck, shot the buck, and then forgot to collect the rangefinder in all the excitement. But after trying out the new Monarch 7i VR this fall, I’d be willing to upgrade. The “VR” in its name stands for Vibration Reduction and (as someone with a wicked chronic case of buck fever can attest) it helps steady the user’s sight picture for an easier reading. It has a 6X magnification, and Nikon says the waterproof and fogproof unit is good out to 1,000 yards.
Present Arms Inc. makes portable workstations for cleaning and servicing firearms. This veteran-owned company has focused mainly on professional armorers in law enforcement and military, but is expanding into the civilian market as well. The new Sentinel plates allow shooters to prop up AR-type rifles or semi-auto pistols and act as an extra hand while doing maintenance chores. The plates come in two sizes, large and small, for rifles and pistols respectively and use the interchangeable magazine posts for different makes of weapons.
MSRP: from $50
5.11 Tactical Bail Out Bag
5.11 Tactical Bail Out Bag 5.11
Whether you’re facing the prospect of the zombie apocalypse or a horde of relatives descending on you for the holidays, there comes a time where you need to bail out. And that’s what this handy bag from 5.11 is designed for.
The bag holds six standard AR magazines in three double-stack pouches along the front, while the main zippered compartment is able to hold firearms, food and other essentials. The large, padded shoulder strap will keep your hands free to fight off the undead or dodge a hug from that creepy uncle.
Foodsaver GameSaver Big Game Plus vacuum sealer
Foodsaver GameSaver Big Game Plus vacuum sealer Foodsaver
You know the saying: give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime. The same goes for this piece of gear. I’ve long been a wrap-and-bag sort of food processor, but this fall I started using this vacuum sealer, and it’s made my big-game processing go more quickly and our stored meat keeps longer, meaning I’m going to eat this year’s harvest for well over a year. The heart of the unit is a double-wide sealing strip that locks in the contents of the bags—after it purges all of the air from the inside. And because the Big Game Plus can accept rolls of bagging material, you can make your bags however small or large you want. I appreciate the unit’s ability to run either on household electrical current or 12-volt DC, so I can use it at hunting camp.
LifeStraw Go Water Filter
LifeStraw Go Water Filter Lifestraw
There’s no way you can carry as much water as you’ll need for a backcountry hunt, which means you’ll have to find water along the way. For me, hunting in the arid Missouri Breaks, available water is alkaline, bitter, and often brackish, all qualities that will ruin or clog most water filters. The LifeStraw Go is different. Its replaceable carbon filter treats up to 26 gallons (I get about 20 out of my unit), and because it doesn’t sit on the bottom of the bottle, it doesn’t suck up much sediment. The filter removes almost all bacteria and waterborne parasites.
I’ve gone through through a lot of mesh game bags in my career, and while they’re okay for one-time use, they also let a lot of dirt and debris get into my meat. I love heavy-duty canvas bags, but they’re heavy to carry. The solution is breathable, synthetic, durable bags from Caribou. They have bags for every purpose, from whole-carcass behemoths to little pillowcases for trim meat. My favorite collection is the “Caribou,” a package of six bags sized for the backcountry hunter who intends to bone out meat. Each bag features light-reflective attachments and loops that easily attach to frame packs or can be used to hang meat to cool.
“Zumbo” – biography of Jim Zumbo
‘Zumbo’ – biography of Jim Zumbo Zumbo the Book
If you’re a faithful Outdoor Life reader, then you know Jim Zumbo. The magazine’s longtime Hunting Editor, Zumbo wrote about everything from rabbit hunting in his native New York State to antelope hunting in Africa to deer hunting. But he was most informative and entertaining when he wrote about his favorite type of hunting, for Rocky Mountain elk. Zumbo’s career at Outdoor Life ended in a public whipping after he wrote what he calls “the blog heard round the world.” You can learn more about that incident, and Zumbo’s storied career, in this 416-page book by author K.J. Houtman. Even sweeter for Outdoor Life readers: the forward is written by Pat McManus.
Tepui Expedition Series Duffle
Tepui Expedition Series Duffle Tepui Tents
If you think a bag is a bag, you have to check out this tough-as-nails duffle from Tepui, which also makes a wide variety of durable tents. I’ve used this 28x15x15 duffle for everything from carrying waterfowl waders to packing a half a mule deer to carrying all my gear on a float-plane trip in Alaska’s bush. Its polyester-canvas is treated with a synthetic resin that makes it water and abrasion (and blood) resistant, both inside and out, and it cleans up with a garden hose. The bottom is reinforced, the straps are triple-stitched, and the vivid orange means I will never lose it in the field.
Muck Boots’ Girls With Guns Boots
Muck Boots’ Girls With Guns Boots Muck Boots
I hear it all the time from my wife and daughter: women’s boots aren’t like men’s boots. They fit differently and they wear differently. I generally get this reminder after they wear my own boots around the woods for a day. Thankfully, Muck Boots has a solution for this source of domestic strife: a new line of hard-wearing field boots for women. Muck teamed up with Girls With Guns Clothing to deliver a thermal boot that looks great and will keep feet warm and dry even in brutal and sloppy conditions. Available in either tall ($185) or mid ($175) heights, the extreme-conditions boots fit women and have enough distinctive styling they won’t be mistaken for your boy Mucks.
I have spent all fall in this merino wool garment, designed and made in the great state of Colorado. It cools when I’m warm, and it warms when I’m cool. It doesn’t stink, and it doesn’t itch, and I can wear it just as easily to town as I can mule deer hunting. The phase-dyed wool is the best neutral camo pattern I own. Best of all, Voormi has teamed up with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, so that a portion of sales of the Blowdown sales go to opening public-land access and improving wildlife habitat.
Camp Chef Everest High Pressure Two-Burner Stove
Camp Chef Everest High Pressure Two-Burner Stove Camp Chef
Solo, I’m a backcountry hunter. But with my family, I’m a car camper and a tailgate chef. This compact, high-performance stove from Camp Chef is my go-to gear for making morning coffee or putting out a full meal for kids and visitors. Most two-burner stoves do a pretty good job of putting out heat, but they’re lousy at low-flame cooking. The Everest is the best simmer stove I’ve seen, and the high-pressure burners also produce tons of heat: 20,000 BTUs worth. The Everest features matchless ignition and folds down to a compact, packable unit.