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Gear Guide 2004

Whether you’re on a tight budget or you have the urge to splurge, our resident gadget guru knows where to find the good stuff.

By Gibbs Milliken

Outdoors enthusiasts are demanding consumers — they value tradition, yet they also want the latest technology. Manufacturers are stepping up to the plate with many outdoor products that incorporate new technology into traditional styles. Familiar shapes and forms hide the advanced engineering and materials found in a wide range of field equipment.

The use of lighter and stronger materials like titanium is becoming a standard for durability. This non-corrosive metal is found throughout the industry, from knives to cookware to fishing rods. Other outstanding new products offer versatility by combining several functions in one unit.

Here’s a selection of quality sporting gear you might want to consider adding to your wish list or that of family and friends.

The Buck TacLite Pocketknife, with a partly serrated blade, is a small and convenient liner-lock design. The knife is easily opened with one hand by pressing a thumb stud or centrifugal flip of the wrist. A stainless spring-clip allows attachment to a belt or pocket for security. The tactical design is given warmth with a handle made of polished impregnated wood laminate over stainless steel. ($55, TacLite Knife, Model 886WD, Buck Knives, (800) 326-2825, www.buckknives.com)

Sticky Weight is soft tungsten putty that is applied to fishing line at any point and in any quantity to sink a lure at the proper rate and level. Use a tiny amount, and the fly or plug will drop slowly in the water column. Use a big glob and it will run deep for working the bottom. Sticky Weight is non-toxic, reusable, and easy to apply with warm fingertips molding it into an elongated non-snag weight. ($4.99, Sticky Weight 1 oz. packet, Lead Masters, (888) 800-8935, www.theoriginalstickyweight.com)

The Leatherman Charge Xti Multi-Tool comes with titanium handles and all locking elements plus interchangeable heads for the most-used screw types. Included is a hook-blade for cleaning game, crimper on the pliers and a host of other features. This heavy-duty 4-inch unit with154 CM knife steel and an ergonomic grip makes it the new standard for excellence in multi-tools. ($125, Charge Xti, Leatherman, (800) 847-8665, www.leatherman.com)

The Miox Water Purifier represents a revolution in water treatment. Ultralight and compact, it’s easy to use with no pumping, maintenance or chemicals required. After pre-filtering water to remove debris and gain clarity, just pour in, shake and press a button. Through a special electronic process, the unit purifies small or large quantities of water without iodine. The system fits in your pocket and provides reliable purification to inactivate viruses and bacteria including Giardia and Cryptosporidium. ($129.95, Miox Purifier Kit #356040, MSR Corp., (800) 531-9531, www.msrcorp.com/filters)

Designed by professional photographers for daily wear in the tropics, the khaki ProMaster Vest has a body of soft, light cotton fabric with mesh panels for good ventilation. Inside and out are numerous pockets to hold items for hands-free work. Epaulets on the shoulders keep camera and binocular straps from slipping off, and travel documents are secure in nylon-lined, zippered pockets. Also shown is the Buzz-Off Shirt that repels insects with an odorless, non-toxic impregnation. ($59.95, Photo Vest, Promaster, www.promaster.com ) ( $79, Buzz-Off Lite Shirt, Color: Juniper. Men’s and women’s sizes. Ex Officio, (800) 644-7303, www.exofficio.com)

Canon 8X25 Image Stabilization Binoculars are compact and lightweight. The electronic stabilization reduces hand shake, giving you ultra-sharp images at 8 magnifications. They are great for everyday field use, but the surface finish is slippery. There is a simple fix for this by applying soft-textured adhesive patches in either camo or solid neutral color. ($299, 8X25 IS Binoculars, Canon USA, (800) 385-2155, www.usa.canon.com)

Going into backcountry? A sturdy survival knife is an essential. Nothing compares with the rugged foot-long Tracker Knife designed by survivalist Tom Brown. It combines a heavy full-tang blade, functional cutting edges and virtually indestructible construction into a versatile wilderness tool that just might save your life. ($299, Tracker Knife, Tops Knives, (208) 542-0113, www.topsknives.com)

Ray-Guard Wading Boots not only protect the angler’s lower legs from stingrays, but also have a heavy-duty foot and sole to prevent cuts from other underwater hazards. The interior has a comfortable neoprene liner that seals out most sand and shell particles. The on- and-off process is easy, with internal liner zippers and external snap-buckles. ($119.95, Ray-Guard Boots, Everlast Corp., (361) 798-1530, www.foreverlast.com)

G96 Lens Cleaning Fluid is an excellent product to keep eyeglasses and optics clean and clear. The liquid is applied to a soft, lint-free cloth or tissue and, with careful application, quickly removes debris and smears without harming lens surfaces or coatings. ($2.60, Lens Cleaning Fluid, G96 Products, (877) 332-0035, www.g96.com)

The Islander FR4 Big Game Fly Reel is a classic design with extra backing capacity to handle heavy, long-running fish like tarpon, tuna, jacks and bull reds. Durable enough for many years of reliable service, it has excellent fish-fighting control using an exposed palming rim plus a large cork disc drag. This reel is impeccably made of stainless steel parts and the finest solid aluminum frame and spool fully anodized for protection against saltwater. ($495, FR4 Fly Reel, Islander, (250) 544-1440, www.islander.com)

An Outback Leather Hat is a good choice for comfortable head protection. It is designed to fold flat and can be stowed away in carry-on luggage or pack. The perforated crown provides air circulation and the soft leather remembers to pop back into the proper shape of an Australian wide brim hat. ($34.99, Outback Hat, Minnetonka Moccasin, (800) 299-8447, www.minnetonka-by-mail.com)

Blend yourself into the environment using a Hunter’s Specialties 5-Color Camouflage Kit. The set comes in a flat pocket-size case with built-in mirror. Simply apply makeup to your face and hands imitating colors and patterns in the surrounding landscape. After the hunt, remove the paint easily with soap and water or their moist Camo-Off Cleaning Pads. ($7.99, Camo-Compac #00278, and $4.95, Camo-Off Pads, Hunter’s Specialties, (319) 395-0321, www.hunterspec.com)

MirrOlure Surface Walkers are among the hottest new baits on the Texas Coast. The “He Dog,” “She Dog” and others in this series attract redfish and trout like magnets with their dash, flash and high-pitched rattles. When the waters are right and the fish willing, these “walk-the-dog” jerkbaits often produce a good catch. ($6.99 each, Surface Walkers, MirrOlure, www.mirrolure.com)

Justin Lightweight Chukka Boots are perfect for day treks. They offer soft comfort and good traction on most surfaces, from sandy trails to rocky pathways, plus they serve as great casual wear in the urban jungle. The high-top, moccasin-foot design in tan cowhide echoes styles worn for generations to keep irritating sand and debris out of the shoes and away from the feet. ($99.95, Chukka Boots #970, Justin Brands, (800) 358-7846, www.justinbrands.com)

A quality spincast outfit for both novice and advanced anglers is the oscillating spool Daiwa Goldcast Reel mounted on a 6 1/2-foot Shakespeare Intrepid Rod of high-modulus IM-7 graphite. Beautifully finished with a natural cork handle, the 2-piece rod is lightweight, casts and balances nicely with this high-speed ball-bearing reel. ($49.95, Goldcast GC120 Reel, Bass Pro Shops, (800) 227-7776, www.basspro.com. $24.99, Intrepid Rod, Model: CA4366-2MH, Shakespeare, (800) 334-9105, www.shakespeare-fishing.com)

New this year is the 5HP Briggs & Stratton Out-board Motor in a four-stroke (four-cycle), air-cooled engine that is quiet-running, lightweight (56 pounds), easily portable and ideal for propelling small hunting and fishing craft into backcountry shallow water. It comes ready to run, with prop, gas can and other accessories. The motor is available in either a standard black or Advantage Wetlands camouflage finish. ($849, Camo Motor, #AA0101–0020–01, Briggs & Stratton, (800) 999-9444, www.briggsandstratton.com)

The Winchester Lever-action 410 Shotgun has the familiar look and feel of its ancestor, the famous Winchester Model 94 saddle rifle. Whether at home or in the pickup, it is, in truth, a modern equivalent for varmint shooting. The barrel hides the interchangeable chokes, and it will take slugs and fine shot. Carried for hunting or target shooting, it is a remarkable innovation on a classic, time-tested design. ($789, Semi-Fancy Model 9410, Winchester, (800) 333-3288, www.winchester-guns.com)

The Hoppe’s Premium Gun Cleaning Kit is a universal set for pistols, rifles and shotguns and contains all the necessary cleaning materials and accessories in a traditional wood chest. ($94.40, Cleaning Kit BUOXH, Hoppes, (800) 962-5757, www.hoppes.com)

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