Time To Stuff Those Stockings – A Short Gift Idea Review
December 7, 2015
Well, we’re a full week into December, which means my self-imposed 11 month ban on Christmas celebration is officially set aside. The tree is set up and decorated in the living room, there’s egg nog in the fridge, and I even listened to Christmas music while driving down the highway this weekend.
It’s also time to get serious about thinking about maybe getting out to do some shopping for Christmas gifts. By “shopping”, I mean skimming through catalogs, reading reviews, and getting some ideas that I’ll forget just in time for the panic that sets in on December 23 or 24 when I go rushing out to the stores and malls to buy whatever semi-relevant gift items I can come up with amidst the mad press of fools and slackers who have waited until the last moment to get their gift buying done.
If you’re in that same boat, maybe I can help a little.
This year, I haven’t reviewed as much gear as usual. I missed the SHOT Show, which has always been a primary source of contacts for gear reviews. Also, and mea culpa, I haven’t kept the Hog Blog very active over the past year or so, and that tends to make manufacturers and PR firms a little less interested in working with me (and even when the blog is active, most of those companies tend to favor the myriad outdoor television programs over a little Internet page). I’ve been limited to scanning press releases and then begging for stuff to field test or review.
That said, here are four ideas, ranging from a neat little stocking stuffer to an “under-the-tree” gift that should give any hunter on your list a very, merry Christmas.
The Range Master Survival Bracelet from Survival Straps.com.
Survival Straps is an American company with a philosophy to produce a U.S.-made, quality product, and to use the fruits of their success to support various charitable organizations, such as The Wounded Warrior Project. According to their press materials, the company has raised and donated almost $1,000,000 to veterans services charities.
They make several variations on the paracord “survival” bracelet, including this most recent addition to their “Custom” line, the Range Master Bullet Bracelet. I received one of these for review.
Ostensibly, the wrapped, 550 paracord is available for emergency use, in the event the wearer needs a length of the versatile line to get out of a tight spot. However, the truth is that it’s mostly just a cool-looking bracelet… especially the Range Master, with the tumbled and polished, nickel shell casings (9mm, .40S&W, or .45acp) on each end. I’d feel sort of bad unwrapping the nicely made thing. The folks at Survival Straps also think it would be a shame to have to unwrap one of their bracelets, which is why they offer a free replacement in exchange for the story of how you used it in an emergency.
The Range Master sells from the Survival Straps website for $39.95. It’s not cheap, but each bracelet is made-to-order with a range of options in color, size, and caliber. I think it’s a cool, and somewhat unique gift idea, and perfect to stuff in the sportsman’s (or woman’s) stocking. And if you don’t like that style, there are any number of other options.
RefrigiWear Cold Weather Gear
So this one is a mixed review. RefrigiWear has been in the business of manufacturing commercial-grade outerwear for about 60 years, but I don’t think they’re particularly well known in the outdoors market. I know the press release I received was the first time I’d heard of them. At any rate, after a brief email exchange with their PR representative, I was told they would send me “something” for review.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but after looking at their HiVisibility line, I was sort of hoping for one of the safety orange vests or jackets, which I could certainly see as being useful in the upland field. None of them are purpose-built for hunting (no shotshell loops or game pockets), but they look like solidly made, warm gear.
What I received instead was the Vertical Puffer Vest, which is a synthetic down vest, baffled to provide flexibility, and fronted with a tough, microfiber outer shell. Now, I like vests. They’re excellent for layering when it’s really cold, and they also leave my arms free when I’m working. This particular vest is really nicely made, and it feels like it should hold up well to the sort of abuse through which I put my outdoors clothing. It hasn’t really been cold down here yet this year, so I haven’t even worn the thing, except to try it on around the house.
With this in mind, I would be challenged to categorize this gear as “hunting equipment”. But if you’re looking for cold weather gear that is both versatile and durable (and could certainly be worn for hunting), I think these guys have a pretty good product. The Vertical Puffer Vest retails for around $66 on the RefrigiWear website.
Barnett Razr Crossbow
I’ve written about this beauty a couple of times already (here, and here), but I wanted to include it in my Christmas write-up, because I think the Razr is the kind of gift many hunters daydream about. Not really a gun, and not really a bow, it’s a deadly hybrid of the two. I think it’s not just cool to look at, but it’s a real blast to shoot. I’ve yet to take game with it, but I’m eagerly awaiting first blood.
With a MSRP of $1600, the Razr is near the top of Barnett’s line, and it incorporates a lot of technology into a lightweight, accurate unit. The weight and balance are far nicer than many other crossbows I’ve handled, neither too heavy nor too unwieldy, and as crossbows go, it’s relatively quiet. Note that I said, “relatively,” since it’s still got a pretty snappy report.
If that price point is a little too weighty, Barnett offers a series of less expensive options that still provide quality performance. Everyone may not be crazy about crossbows, but for those who are, this is a good way to go.
I’ve saved the best for last…
I have been a voracious reader for as long as I’ve been able to hold a book, and one of the things I used to look forward to every Christmas was the small stack of books I always found under the tree. Since I have also been crazy about hunting and fishing for just as long, many of those titles were about hunting and fishing… including many of the greats such as Gordon Macquarrie, Robert Ruark, Nash Buckingham, and so on.
I also came along in time, fortunately (or not?), to still see some of the great writing that graced the pages of magazines like Outdoor Life, Field and Stream, and Sports Afield. I looked forward to my dad’s monthly subscriptions, and as likely as not, would abscond with them before he ever even knew they’d arrived. (He was not amused.) Sadly, times and the economy have changed, and the days of long-form magazine writing have waned. On the literary front, there doesn’t seem to be much outdoors-related stuff available either. All, however, is not lost.
Vin Sparano is a name that some faithful Outdoor Life readers may recall (he was Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor through most of the 1980s and ’90s). Sparano has collected and edited a huge anthology of outdoors writers, published in the volumes Classic Hunting Tales, Tales of Woods and Waters, and The Greatest Hunting Stories Ever Told.
I received copies of all three recently, and dove in with relish (no mustard or ketchup though).
First of all, they’re huge volumes, and to tell the truth, I’m still working my way through Classic Hunting Tales right now. But it’s everything I’d hoped it would be, including stories from way back in the earlier years of American “sport” hunting right on up to more contemporary stuff. All of my favorites are still there, including Ruark, Carmichael, Macquarrie, and a host of others. There are 25 tales in this volume alone.
If someone on your shopping list loves to read, especially if they haven’t had the opportunity to build a solid library of classic, outdoors writing, this collection is an absolute must. The writing is appropriate for many ages, and I can’t think of better stuff for a younger (pre-teen or teen-aged) reader… as well as for the more mature readers on your list. Each volume retails for about $25.
So there it is! I’m sure it won’t fill Santa’s bag, but it might give you something to start with.
I’ll say it again before the day, I’m sure, but for now and just in case, Merry Christmas!