December 15, 2013

Allen Afield: The desired gifts of the outdoors Magi

By Ken Allen

Buying Christmas gifts for folks close to us may challenge our minds, even a purchase for a dear spouse or companion whom we know well, and I’m talking the “perfect” present, not something predictable like perfume, aftershave, scotch, etc.

If someone participates in life-recreation sports such as fly fishing, hunting, backpacking, birding, skiing, bicycling or running, then those pastimes can help gift buyers come up with a great idea. For sure, folks deeply involved in a pastime love receiving presents for it.

A tip helps folks choose the ideal gift, too. If frugality or pragmatism discourages a loved one from spending money on a product he or she wants, then a wise shopper intuitively picks up on that choice and buys it.

A special, wooden-frame, fish-landing net with a narrow, fine-mesh cloth sewn on the bottom of the bag strikes me as a perfect gift for fly rodders. Folks can land fish with the net and also seine insects in the fine mesh for matching the hatch. After getting the net wet, it can hang on the back of a fly-fishing vest to air dry.

However, the last time I looked, this angling tool cost over $100, a luxury bordering on a wasteful expense. But that landing net-insect seiner makes a great Christmas gift, and once someone owns one, it becomes a must-have item for life.

My adult bicycling phase began 24 years ago with a $7.50, 3-speed from a lawn sale. My evolution into the sport went through bike choices from the heavy 3-speed to a 4-figure road bike. I also learned to buy bicycle shoes and clothes for comfort and to pick out bike-tinkering tools. Any item in those last two categories make a perfect gift.

I’ve never participated in a sport like bicycling with products that can make such a huge difference in efficiency and comfort, and the first choices are shoes, shorts and biking jerseys.

Bicycling shoes have stiff soles, so every ounce of leg energy goes into the drive-train. With flexible, cushioned soles, say cross-trainers, that power transfer occurs less efficiently, so from day one with my first pair of bicycling shoes, I went faster and climbed hills more easily than I did the day before with inadequate soles.

Bicycle shorts with a chamois pad between the butt and saddle add greater comfort. Like the shoes, the chamois pad instantly increased pedaling enjoyment by partially eliminating the sore derriere.

While bicycling in hot weather during the first 15 years, I wore cotton T-shirts. Then Jolie, my intrepid companion, bought me a genuine bicycle jersey with two features that impressed me from day one – a wow experience in the first 30 minutes.

The synthetic cloth expelled moisture and let in air far better than cotton, so on hot days, my torso immediately felt much cooler. Three, deep pockets on the bottom backside offer bikers an easy place for storing or retrieving keys, cell phone, rain jacket, etc.

Fly fishing includes a product almost as impressive as bicycling shoes – waterproof, breathable waders. They make a huge difference, particularly more expensive models that fit better than cheap monstrosities that make fly rodders feel as if they’re wearing a wooden barrel with metal-stovepipe legs.

Why the adverb “almost” in the above paragraph: Bicycle shoes are crucial to the experience 365 days a year, but fly rodders can wade comfortably wet in summer.

Waders are crucial for winter and early spring. Quality, breathable waders keep us dry and less sweaty – the best of both worlds. A gift that makes fly-fishers smile widely.

Recently my youngest daughter told me that she hasn’t bought new running shoes since graduating from high school seven years before. I suspect that Katie is like me and gets attached to possessions. My fly-fishing vest is exactly 25 years old and has already endured many repairs, but like my daughter’s shoes, the vest has sentimental value. Eventually, though, it’ll need to go, but not today.

For my daughter, running shoes, quality running socks, and pants and shirt made from a synthetic, breathable material would make fine presents under the Christmas tree.

Ken Allen of Belgrade Lakes, a writer, editor and photographer, may be reached at:

KAllyn800@yahoo.com

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