Outdoor Christmas gift ideas: compact optics to super lights
by John C. Krull
Gun Week Production Manager
I don’t know where the time goes. It seems that just yesterday I was leaving for Washington, DC, on my bike for Rolling Thunder over the Memorial Day weekend. Now Fall is upon us, the temps are dropping and before you know it snow and St. Nick (can I say that) will be here.
This is my fifteenth year of giving Gun Week readers my suggestions for Christmas gifts for our sportsmen and gunowners. I assure you that I have tried each and every one of these products and I put my complete reputation behind any and all of them. If a product isn’t up to my standards you won’t hear about it from me. So let’s get started.
Tasco (9200 Cody, Dept. GWK, Overland Park, KS 66214; phone: 800-423-3537; online: tasco.com) has introduced a new pair of binoculars. They call them the Off Trail and they are an 8x25mm magnification. I have found that they give you a really clear image of objects far off whether it glassing for game, at a sporting event or checking out that young lady coming down the street.
They only weigh 10.5 ounces without their carrying case or 12 ounces with the case. I’ve been carrying them on my bike for the last few months and have been very happy with their performance. Very often while out on a bike ride there are points of interest that you just have to check out and the Tasco Off Trail suits the bill just fine. They come with a nylon carry case that can protect them and can also be attached to your belt for carrying. The binocs are waterproof and are nitrogen charged so they will remain dry even in a rain storm.
Also included is an easily removable neck strap. They have a suggested retail price of just $40, so while I wouldn’t like to see them stolen off my bike I don’t worry about it as much as if they were a more expensive set, but they are always there when I’ve needed them.
In the past I have covered several SureFire (17680 Newhope St., Dept. GWK, Fountain Valley, CA 92708; phone: 800-828-8809, online: surefire.com) products flashlights, knives, firearms mounted lights, and other products. This year we have four of their products to suggest to you.
Their mainstay has been the field of illumination and they have certainly come up with some real dandies. The light I want to discuss is the LX2 LumaMax. Like all of SureFire’s flashlight bodies it is constructed of aircraft grade aluminum. It as an LED light and is powered by two 123A Lithium batteries. What makes this light different and/or better are its two levels of light. The tailcap can totally shut down the unit when turned far enough counterclockwise for carrying or storage. When the tailcap is screwed in about half way you will be allowed to activate a useful amount of light (15 lumens, for anybody that really knows what a lumen is) for most activities. Press or screw the tailcap switch all the way and you will increase the light output to 200 lumens. This is really bright, but this level of light uses a lot of energy and will shorten the amount of usable time you can operate, usually not more than two hours on the higher light level. For a constant-on the tail cap has to be screwed clockwise until the lower power level is reached. You can maintain the lower useful light usage for up to 47 hours.
The LumaMax comes with an adjustable lanyard that can really come in handy so that you don’t lose your flashlight during times of stress. Unlike previous SureFire lights that I have tested on this one the attaching point for the lanyard can swivel 360 degrees around the unit. If you don’t want to use the lanyard there is also a clip for your pants or shirt pocket. This one isn’t as stiff as some have been in the past and works a lot better. So far this has got to be the best flashlight that SureFire has yet engineered.
The retail price of the LX2 is $195, so it certainly isn’t cheap, but you get what you pay for. The lithium batteries have a 10-year shelf life, so I suggest that you keep some on hand. Personally, I carry an addition 6 batteries with me in the bag that I carry to work everyday. I also keep a couple on my bike and a few more in my truck. You don’t want your batteries to go dead at that critical moment.
While I’m on the batteries, I’ll suggest that the batteries in themselves make a pretty good Christmas present. That is what I gave to my brother, Justin, last yearI think it was. From what I have seen you are best off buying the batteries from SureFire. They have the best price that I have found. They are $21 for a dozen. One thing about lithium batteries is that they don’t slowly dim like other batteries. With Lithium batteries they maintain their level of energy right up to the end, and then you are just suddenly out of power; whatever product you are using them in goes off. So after a period of time the batteries should be changed just on GP.
SureFire also sent us a SureFire cap. I’m given many caps every year and most of them I really don’t ever wear. Usually I want them in black or forget it. This one is sort of a washed out olive with their logo on the front in black. This one I will wear. Their caps are $15, which is about normal in price.
The fourth item that SureFire sent was a pen. I have always hated the cheap lightweight pens that are given out by most companies, hotel chains and organizations. But then, once again, you get what you pay for. I’m not suggesting that this pen is something that will be a give-a-way like those I’ve mentioned, just that I really like a heavy pen that has some bulk to it.
The SureFire pen is a new addition to their product line and I think they will make a hit with it. The pen is 6.04 inches long and weighs 1.8 ounces. It has an aluminum body and is probably indestructible. It has a pocket clip to prevent loss. The pen is made in the USA, but they use an imported ink cartridge. Their literature says that it can use any ink cartridge between 3.875 and 4.25 inches long. This pen is no throw-a-way, especially because it retails for $125.
The top point of the pen can also serve as a glass breaker in an emergency. This is one really good looking pen, besides it writes well, feels good and can be used in emergency situations like a kubotan. Our pen came to us in black, but blue and tan pens are also available.
Next is a new product on which I received a press release, so I sent them an inquiry about their lanyard. Most of us carry a lot of gear into the woods on our hunting expeditions. A lot of the time it is probably too much gear. When you’re hunting, something that requires the use of calls, so it can be confusing which call did I put in which pocket or you suddenly need to just drop the call or the remote and go to gun.
EZ Access Gear’s (W4630 Hwy G, Dept. GWK, Black Creek, WI 54106; phone: 920-609-7995; online: esaccessgear.com) lanyard can be used by bird, waterfowl or varmint hunters alike. We all have a need to organize our calls and other gear. This lanyard has four detachable call lanyards. The individual lanyards could also be used separately and attached to clothing, backpacks or other items if you wanted to. The system is very versatile. The main lanyard has a quick-detach buckle that can be used for a remote, compass, rangefinders or anything else that you can think of. This is one product that won’t set you back an arm and a leg; it retails for only $16.99. They are available online at their website or at sportsmansguide.com.
Back in July I got an email from Kate Slater at Verde PR, an advertising agency. She included information about several products that she wanted to know if we would at all be interested in. A couple of them seemed sort of interesting, so I told her to go ahead and send along some samples and we’d see what we thought.
I was actually very surprised with what arrived. The first of the products I’ll cover here are from Buff (online: buff.eu; phone: +37 938 054 861), a company in Barcelona, Spain. I don’t think that I have ever written about any products from Spain before. I’ve only given you their website and phone number because I don’t really know how to even read their address.
Buff products several types of very diverse headwear. Some are of a lightweight material that can work to either wick away moisture while also keeping you warm. I have found them to be not only very comfortable to wear but very much windproof and very breathable. I don’t ski but I do ride a motorcycle until the temperature gets below 40 degrees and The Cyclone Buff is just about 2 feet long. It is like a tube for your neck and head that can be configured in many ways depending what you need to keep warm. The Cyclone has a price tag of $38. It has helped keep me warm on the last couple of bike rides I was on this year and the season isn’t quite over yet.
The Buff multi-functional headwear can serve as a UV protector against the sun’s damaging rays. They say it can be used in a dozen different configurations. It is made of CoolMax® fabric which helps with the wicking away of moisture which will help reduce you body temperature on hot days. There is also a version that incorporates an insect shield. These models cost between $23 and $27. The Buffs come in dozens of colors and patterns, depending on your taste. Personally I am quite happen with just the black and the camo patterns.
Another product offered by Verde PR are some sunglasses made in France. Julbo is the name of the company and they have been making eyewear for 121 years. Their instruction sheet is written in 24 different languages so they must really get around the globe. While I like the level of shading they provide on a sunny, even a blindingly sunny day, I don’t see that they come in different prescriptions, which I need for driving purposes. So if you aren’t stuck with prescription glasses give the Julbo eyewear a try. For more information you can visit their website at: julbo.com.
There are too many different styles available to give you information on them all, so I would suggest if you are interested that you should visit one of three places: Cabelas.com, LensCrafters.com, or SearsOptical.com for more information on pricing and availability.
The last products that Slater had sent samples of are the Terrasoles (terrasoles.com) sandal and shoe collection. She sent along four pair, two that fit me and mysteriously one each of the other two pair fit my daughter, Carrie, and her husband, Mike. One Sunday when they were over for a Summer turkey dinner a couple months ago, Carrie saw the box on the buffet. Both she and Mike were instantly drawn to them. We found that the women’s size 8 was just right for Carrie and the Size 10 sandals suited Mike just fine. It almost seems that they were in cahoots with Slater.
We all three liked our Terrasoles. Their literature says that they are fine for a day fishing on the lake or hanging around the campsite after taking off your hunting boots. It is a fitting line and very true. It seems that all the Terrasoles are made in Vietnam. They are much better made then the Ho Chi Min sandals that I remember. Their retail prices range from $30 to $50.
One more company to tell you about with four or five products, and that company is Hunter’s Specialties (6000 Huntington Court NE, Dept. GWK, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402; phone: 800-728-0321; online: hunterspec.com) and their name justly defines their products. I have seen products from these guys that other companies are way behind on.
The first one is their Scent-A-Way Shower Kit. For many years we never really thought too much about what we smelled like when out in the woods. We have always known that animals have much more refined senses than humans do. They see any little movement, and hear any little sound, and smell us when we invade their backyards. So we need to do something to cover-up or remove those smells that can alert the game that we are present and stalking them.
This kit contains an antiperspirant, both shampoo and conditioner, toothpaste, mouth rinse and a bar of soap. The shampoo and conditioner will clean your hair while it removes odors and leaves your hair scent free, not like most commercial shampoos can. The soap eliminates bacteria which causes odor and conditions and soothes your skin with Aloe Vera. The antiperspirant/deodorant gives extended protection without masking odors with perfumes or scents. The mouth rinse and the toothpaste both have a natural wild mint flavor to them and are enjoyable to use. All this comes in a camo carrying case. While all the products are made in the USA, the bag is made in China.
The shower kit retails for $29.99 and is available at Cabela’s online catalog.
The next Hunter’s Specialties product is one of their videos. Each year they come out with sequels to many of their fine outdoor hunting productions. In this case I’m talking about the DVD Predator 6. This DVD is over two hours long and keeps you watching from beginning to end. Al Morris and Garvin Young are the hunters on this DVD and I really envy them their job sometimes. There are 40 recorded kills with 60 animals. Some of these coyotes are called to within yards of the hunters. The coyotes are taken with rifle, shotgun and even by bow. A Johnny Stewart Wildlife Call is used throughout the DVD. We will be talking more about the calling machine in a moment. The DVD is priced at $12.99. There are several other DVDs in the Hunter’s Specialties line-up, so look for them also.
When hunting, Mother Nature isn’t always good to the hunter and she doesn’t always leave us convenient lanes of fire. Those we have to make for ourselves. Hunter’s Specialties has a couple of different options for you in this regard. Several months ago Mike Capps sent me their Ratchet Pruner. I’ve used this all over my yard for months now and am really quite happen with its performance. I like the way the handle is made and the ratchet allows you to cut branches up to about ∫ of an inch, that I otherwise would have had to get a more heavy-duty cutter out for. They are available at Cabela’s for $19.99.
HS also has a combination set of a pruner and a folding saw. The pruner is heavy-duty with Teflon coated blades and over molded rubber hand grips. The saw unfolds for use and locks into place. Closed the saw measures just 9 inches and is 16 inches when unfolded and in the locked position. It comes with two bladesone for making those firing lanes or cutting off branches to set up your tree stand and the other to be used as a bone saw while gutting your deer. The saw fits into a black nylon case that can be attached to your belt. Be careful with this saw, both blades have some really wicked looking teeth. Cabela’s has the combo kit with the carrying case for $29.99.
Our final suggestion for that coyote caller in your family is The Hunter’s Specialties Johnny Stewart PM-4 Wireless Preymaster Digital caller. This unit certainly beats the pants off my old caller that limited me by it wire length and battery charge. The wet cell battery that I used to have to carry weighed a ton and got even heavier coming out of the woods. Besides there were all the cassette tapes that you didn’t want to get wet. This new digital unit is the cat’s meow.
The Preymaster has a wireless range of 100 yards and even up to 250 yards under ideal conditions.
The handheld remote transmitter has a water resistant keypad and a raised button so that you can operate it wearing gloves. The remote uses one 9-volt battery. It comes with a lanyard for easy carrying.
The base unit has three slots for Preymaster memory cards for up to 12 available sounds at any one time. The Preymaster comes with three cards of four sounds each. The base operates on four AA batteries. The base unit will play continually until it is shut off.
There is a clip on the back of the base to attach the remote transmitter and a mount on the front to hold the speaker. A 10-foot extension is included so that you can mount the speaker high up while the base remains safely on the ground.
The base unit is 8.1x2.84x1.3 inches in size and weighs just over two pounds. The remote is even smaller at 6.1x2.55x.87 inches. The remote with a battery weighs 6 ounces.
There are about a dozen or so additional call cards that you can purchase for deer and even turkey. Be sure to check the laws in your locale to see if electronic calling is legal. Each additional call card retails for $22 at Cabela’s.
The Preymaster Digital Caller has a retail price of $200 and is available at Cabela’s as well as most other catalog and outdoor stores.
Coyote season has just opened here in New York state so I’m going to have to get myself out now and see what results I can get. I did use the caller a couple of months ago during a visit to the range, for the sake of learning how to operate the caller and to see what distances seemed correct for its use. The sounds are so real.
That is going to wrap it up for another Christmas. I hope that you all enjoy the season and remember why we really celebrate Christmas; it’s not for the presents. When talking with any of these manufacturers, be sure to tell them that John at Gun Week sent you.
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