Photograph by Nick Ferrari Want to know a secret about holiday gift guides? Most of them are slapped-together hodgepodges of new junk magazines think their readers might like. With most holiday gift guides, the closest look an editor gets at a product is when he forwards the hi-res image he received from the PR flak to his photo department. Not this one, though. The products you're going to read about have been used and abused by OL editors and contributors all year long, and every gift here gets our stamp of approval.
Want to know a secret about holiday gift guides? Most of them are slapped-together hodgepodges of new junk magazines think their readers might like. With most holiday gift guides, the closest look an editor gets at a product is when he forwards the hi-res image he received from the PR flak to his photo department. Not this one, though. These gifts for outdoorsmen have been used and abused by OL editors and contributors all year long, and every gift here gets our stamp of approval. Here are 20 field-tested gifts for outdoorsmen for every hunter and angler on your list–be they man, woman, or dog.
Z-Man Pop ShadZ
Price Range: $5-$50Z-Man Pop ShadZ$7 / 3-pack;zmanfishing.com This first-of-its-kind soft-plastic popper is made of Z-Man’s crazy-durable and 100 percent buoyant ElaZtech material that, unlike plastisol, can float a hook. The Pop ShadZ has hook slots on both the bottom and top so you don’t have to “Texpose” an extra-wide-gap hook in the material. I can’t get the Pop ShadZ to make huge, chugging disturbances, but the bait does spit and pop. If you tie on your hook with a loop knot, you can walk the dog in thick weeds and timber—places where no topwater popper has gone before. —James Hall
UCO Stormproof Match Kit
UCO Stormproof Match Kit$7;industrialrev.com These sturdy sticks burn long and bright, even in nasty weather. I’ve struck them without fail in sideways rain and buffeting wind. I keep a tube in my pack and another in the glove box. _ —Natalie Krebs_
Live Target Baitball Series
Live Target Baitball Series$15–$16 each;livetargetlures.com The 10 hard baits in this series each feature a group of baitfish molded within the lure. How bass perceive the Yearling and Juvenile models in the water, I can’t be sure. What I do know is that I caught consecutive 3-pounders on my first two casts when fishing the jerkbait last May. —Gerry Bethge
Winchester Long Beard XR
Winchester Long Beard XR$19–$23;winchester.com Last spring, the Long Beard XR managed to impress the perpetually unimpressed—my turkey hunting buddies. A paste-like resin fills in the gaps between the pellets, keeping the shot together farther downrange. Our longest kill all season was just 40 yards, but six of the eight birds we shot folded neatly without a flop. —G.B.
GSI Commuter Java Press
GSI Commuter Java Press$23;gsioutdoors.com Life is too short for stale, bitter convenience-store coffee. This two-piece on-the-go French press allows you to brew your own coffee with grounds of your choice and expertly control the flavor. We were especially impressed with Java Press’ solid construction—the mug didn’t leak, even after being dropped on the boat ramp. —J.H.
Cabela’s Food Plot Seed
Cabela’s Food Plot Seed$20–$50 / 5-lb. bag;cabelas.com This year I went all in with Cabela’s seed, and with more than 25 plots planted in six seed varieties (alfalfa, lablab, chicory, daikon radishes, soybeans, and winter greens), I’ve been thoroughly impressed with its quick germination and lush, relatively weed-free growth. This is truly a gift that keeps on giving. —G.B.
Leatherman Leap$50;leatherman.com The Leap is designed for kids and fits perfectly in my hand and pocket. It contains many of the same tools as my dad’s Leatherman and has a removable knife that can be added when a kid proves he’s ready to use it. The bottle opener, saw, and scissors are my favorite tools, and safety locks keep them from folding on my fingers. —Tucker Lynn (age 8)
Price Range: $51-$150GoPro Fetch$60;gopro.com Get a dog’s-eye view of your hunt with this new harness camera-mounting system from GoPro. The Fetch excels where similar products have failed, eliminating slipping and rotating of the camera around the dog’s torso. The Fetch features a back plate as well as a removable chest plate for multiple mounting options and angles. I found the system simple to adjust—just pull the straps to tighten it on dogs from 15 to 120 pounds. The soft elastic straps provide a snug fit without cutting into soft underbelly skin. When I first attached the harness to my Lab Kona, I didn’t think the included mount positioned the camera high enough above his head, but with the GoPro’s wide field of view, it was a non-issue, and the perspective was excellent. —Brian Lynn
Prois Ultra Backcountry Shirt
Prois Ultra Backcountry Shirt$64;proishunting.com This versatile wicking shirt for women is a great base-layer option that can even be worn as an outer layer on warmer hunts. Three elastic-topped pockets across the shirt’s lower back are useful for holding gloves or a face mask, snacks, or calls. I stuck a pair of hand warmers back there during an unseasonably cold bowhunt. Its snug fit eliminates the bunching of excess fabric that women encounter when wearing layers designed for men. —N.K.
Hunterra Maps$80 / 3 field maps;hunterra.com Hunterra uses high-resolution aerial imagery to produce custom maps that show the smallest details in terrain. Think of it as Google Earth printed on water-resistant, tear-proof material. I ditched the GPS and used a Hunterra map this season to hang stands and trail cameras, marking the locations with a grease pencil. With this done, it was easy to spot areas where a buck could slip through the cracks. —Alex Robinson
Wiley X Knife
Wiley X Knife$90–$140;wileyx.com These new shades are more than just sunglasses. Going on a high-speed run down the lake? Pop in the facial-cavity seal to keep air from blowing out your eyeballs. Worried about eye protection? The lenses are built to withstand steel projectiles traveling at 102 mph. But my favorite aspect of the Knife is how thick the frame is at the temple, keeping light from slipping in at the sides even when the foam insert is removed. Plus, they look cool. So you’ll look stylish even if you aren’t catching anything. —J.H.
Danner Gila$180;danner.com Designed for steep country, this boot features a supportive midsole and comfortable upper that holds the foot firmly in place when you’re crossing near-vertical terrain. —Brad Fitzpatrick
Thermacell ProFLEX Heated Insoles
Thermacell ProFLEX Heated Insoles$180;thermacell.com A remote control allows users to quickly power up and shut down the insoles to conserve the rechargeable battery and extend the runtime. —A.M.
Vulture Cholera$190;vultureequipmentworks.com This American-made survival knife has a comfortable in-hand feel and a fantastic 5 ½-inch blade. A notch in the blade works with the included fire steel. —Tim MacWelch
Yeti Hopper$300;yeticoolers.com To call the Hopper a soft-sided cooler is like calling a monster truck a pickup. The shell is made from the same material as whitewater rafts, and a HazMat-suit-style zipper prevents leakage. I loaded my Hopper with beer and ice on a Friday last August and dumped slightly melted cubes on the campfire coals on Sunday. —John Taranto
Flir One$349;flir.com Turn an iPhone 5 or 5s into an infrared camera and use it to hike to your stand without a headlamp, blood-trail game in the dark, and see what’s making all that noise outside your tent. —J.T.
Etymotic Gun Sport Pro Electronic Earplugs
Etymotic Gun Sport Pro Electronic Earplugs$400;etymotic.com These plugs amplify ambient noises—crunching leaves, bird songs, a distant gobble—but shut out loud noises from gunshots. —A.M.