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
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
Helle Didi Galgalu
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.
Camp Chef Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet
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
Browning Speed Load Interchangeable Blade Folding Knife
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.
Final Approach Hunting Pack
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
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.