Have some last minute shopping to do for the outdoorsman on your Christmas list? Like to buy things made in the USA? I do, and luckily I get to have a career outdoors that lets me use all kinds of outdoor equipment made by great people, right here. So this year I thought I’d put together an All-American list of great gift ideas from products and people that I personally know and love to use. Prices range from stocking stuffers to things you can put a ribbon on and park in your driveway. Happy Holidays.
1) Farm to Feet Merino Socks
Socks – sure, they’re the easy go-to gift for somebody who has everything, but Farm to Feet’s merino wool socks put a smile on your face when you slide them on your feet. Made in North Carolina, from wool sourced right here, for everything from hiking to hunting to equestrian. I personally love the Slate Mountain Over the Calf hunting socks. They are nicely cushioned and fitted for a hard day in the mountains, dry quickly by a fire or in the sleeping bag, and particularly stand out when pulled all the way up and worn under knee boots since the full length helps prevent that clammy feeling that can build up in tall boots. Check them out, happy feet will thank you.
2) Princeton-Tec Vizz Headlamp
I’m still amazed when anybody who sees me at night working hands-free with a light mounted on my forehead and says they’ve never seen a headlamp before, but it happens. They’re always in my pack, in my trucks center console, or by the front door. My favorite headlamp for the last few years has been the Princeton-Tec Vizz. Made in Princeton, NJ, Princeton-Tec makes lights for all kinds of applications, from hunting, fishing, diving, tactical, backpacking, biking, you name it. The Vizz is rugged, waterproof, crazy bright at over 200 lumens, and I spend a lot of time hiking and using the red light mode as it won’t spook game in the woods.
3) Liberty Water Bottles
There are a lot of water bottles out there, but not a lot Made in the USA. The ONLY metal bottle manufacturer here in the US is Liberty Bottles from just outside of Yakima, WA. Their bottles are fully recyclable, made here, and highly customizable. You can go plain, or funky, or build your own, and remember that a good water bottle that you reuse helps keep all the disposable plastic ones out of the rivers, lakes, oceans and backcountry that we all love. I like the 24 or 32oz bottles, and you can even get an Orion Coolers one to match that cooler under the tree (hint hint).
4) Buck Knives Alpha Crosslock
Buck Knives is one of the most iconic brands in the outdoor industry, and yes, they’re still making knives right here in their factory near Post Falls, ID, with a guy whose last name is Buck. There is always one in my pocket, and my favorite knife that goes with me on every trip in the field is their Alpha Crosslock – AKA the ‘Portable Butcher Shop (PBS)’. It’s got everything you need to break an animal down in the field, do chores around camp, skin a rattlesnake, or cutting the salami and cheese in style on a shore lunch. I’ve used the knife to quarter caribou, saw to cut oars, and gut hook to cleanly remove the hide from whitetails without getting fur all over the meat. Available in green, or my preference of hi-visibility orange so you don’t accidentally leave it behind.
5) Stetson Wool Hat
There’s just something distinctive about a Stetson hat. With a factory still in Garland, TX, Stetson is still doing distinctive right. My personal choice is the Cromwell from their crushable wool line. It’s easily packable, comfortable in a wide range of conditions, cleans easily, and doesn’t interfere with your bow string when you draw. Old schoolers knew something.
6) Justin Boots
Justin Boots started in TX, and today has four factories ranging from TX to ME and MO. With many styles still handcrafted in the USA, Justin has always been the name in cowboy boots. What better way to match that new Stetson under the tree than with a pair of Justins. I’m kickin’ the American Tan Cowhide AQHA with Q-Crepe rubber outsoles for better traction in winter conditions and slippery kayak/cooler factory floors.
7) Filson Mackinaw Wool
Filson (Seattle, WA) started outfitting gold rushers with wool back in the late 1800’s as they headed up to the Yukon. Guess what, wool is still one of the best outdoor materials known to man. Try as we may, it’s just hard to beat the natural odor fighting, warm when wet, cool when hot, water repellant natural properties of good old fashioned wool. Sheep know what I’m talking about. When I put on my Filson Mackinaw Bibs or Field Pants, or classic Big Game hat, it just feels good.
8) Rinehart Targets
Hunter or not, archery is fun for the whole family. It teaches practice, patience, skill development, and is something you can do in your own back yard. My favorite targets to shoot are life-size 3D targets from Rinehart. There’s nothing better visually for training your eyes and learning to judge distances off-hand than practicing on something that looks like the real thing. The targets are incredibly durable with self healing foam, and molded in Wisconsin. There are sizes and animals to match any budget or species preference. They are simply awesome targets, and there’s a reason you’ll see them at the premier 3D archery course stops around the country. My personal favorite is the life sized caribou – it puts a little bit of Alaska in my backyard.
9) Leupold Scope
Leupold (Beaverton, OR) has been making top of the line hunting optics for generations. With their Gold Ring warranty, they’ll stand behind them with a lifetime warranty too, no questions asked, guaranteed. From hunting scopes to tactical, they have scopes for every application. When I am rifle hunting, there’s a specialized Leupold scope on my barrel to help me see and make the best possible shot I can, whether it’s my Marlin 45-70 with a VXIII, TC Pro Hunter/Muzzleloader with the Ultimate Slam, Ruger Scout with VX-R Scout scope, or long range practice with my Remington 700 5R with a Mark-4.
10) Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Membership
There’s nothing more Made in America than land, and we’re not making any more of it. Protecting our public land and waterways is also something distinctly American. So what better to give this holiday season than a membership into the passionate group of people at Backcountry Hunters & Anglers in Missoula, MT. BHA is dedicated to one thing – protecting our public lands for all of us to use. Whether you’re a hunter, fisherman, paddler, hiker, birder, or whatever, you need places to do those things, and keeping public lands in your hands is what this group is all about. Memberships are available from yearly to lifetime.
11) EXO Mountain Gear Backpack
There are lot of good backpack companies out there. There aren’t a lot Made in USA. But not only did the folks at EXO Mountain Gear (Boise, ID) figure out a way to make a backpack in the US, they did so with a really functional and innovative pack system that is loaded with features, adaptable, and versatile. I’ve been using their EXO 3500 and new 2000 pack for a couple seasons now, with zero complaints. I’ve used them from week-long backpack hunts to day trips or carrying my briefcase on airplanes. They’ve carried well, moved well, and done everything I want a pack to do – be light and out of the way when I don’t need it, and step up to the job and work hard when I need it to.
12) Orion Cooler
Sure, we developed and manufacture these (Sparta, TN), but this is my ultimate gift and when we launched Orion the whole point was to make the ultimate, unique, cool, cooler for the outdoorsman. So that’s what we did. We believe in them, we use them, and we stand behind them. So, live it up this Christmas, use the Orion as a gift box. Fill it with other stuff on this list. Serve some eggnog with some extra kick from the Utilitop Minibar accessory. Whatever you do, it’ll certainly make the recipient happy, and all of us here at Orion who have put everything we can into making you the best cooler we can.
13) Feathered Friends Sleeping Bag
I got my first custom down sleeping bag from Feathered Friends (Seattle, WA) when I was in college for mountaineering trips out West. I took that same bag to Alaska a couple years ago for a caribou drop hunt in the Brooks Range. Quality down sleeping bags keep you warm like nothing else, and last forever when taken care of properly. The folks at Feathered Friends know what they’re doing, with the highest quality down and materials to make some of the finest, lightest, warmest sleeping bags on the market. They stand behind them, and even offer a cleaning service. My personal go-to is a custom, full-length zipper Winter Wren with extra 800-fill down. It’s over 10 years old, has been from Chile to Alaska to Newfoundland on adventures from the backcountry to river bummin’ in rental cars, and keeps me as warm as the first night in it.
14) Simms Waders
If you don’t like being wet, fly fishing may not be your thing, but you can stand tall knowing you’ll stay dry and comfortable all day in Simms’ Gore-Tex waders. Made at their factory in Bozeman, MT, Simms waders are durable, well featured, and the ‘guide standard’ for quality waders. I’ve lived in rivers from sunrise to sunset, in cold, remote places, and never once thought twice about wader failure. One of my favorite ‘smart’ features are the seams being moved to the front/back vs the inseam so they don’t chafe and wear down from a lot of hiking on extended backcountry trips. I’ve been sporting the G3 Guide Waders for a few years and still going strong.
15) Orvis Fly Rod
I love Vermont. My wife Ashley is from there. We miss a lot of friends and family we have there. But every time I pick up my Orvis fly rod, I have a little bit of Vermont in my hand. Made at their rod factory in Manchester, VT, Orvis has been making premium fly rods for decades, and know a thing or two about how to cast a fly and enjoy time on a river. They have rods suited to every fishing style, from short 7 foot, ultralight Superfine ‘Trout Bum’ rods for super feel on tight Appalachian streams, or stout 8 or 9 foot bass or bonefish rods, to 10 or 11 foot switch and spey rods. All skillfully crafted by Vermonters, in VT. They stand behind them too with an unconditional 25 year guarantee. Big bass or trout can break them, or your dachshund, and you’ll get a new one. I can vouch for all three 🙂 My personal all-around go-to is then Helios2 8’6″ 5WT.
16) Kokatat Dry Suit
What do you need for the ultimate, cold-water, full body protection? A good Gore-Tex dry suit. Who makes them in the USA? Kokatat, from Arcata, CA. A good dry suit isn’t just a ‘nice thing to have’ in cold water paddling, it’s a life-saving necessity. There’s nothing worse than getting cold, weak and tired when it matters most. Stay comfortable more, paddle more, paddle better – it’s that simple. I got my first Kokatat dry suit when I moved to VT in 2001 and learned what really cold weather paddling was. I still have that dry suit and it’s still doing its job. This year I added a custom Idol drysuit that can zip in half and give me just the drytop upper for transition season use, or zipped together with the pants for full cold water protection.
17) Power-Pole Micro Anchor
What can frustrate a fly fisherman faster than anything else? Wind. What can frustrate a kayak fisherman faster than anything else? Wind. What can help eliminate them from your kayak fishing equation? The Power-Pole Micro Anchor. Made by JL Marine Systems from Tampa, FL, the Micro has become a go-to tool for the shallow water kayak fishing I prefer. With the push of a button on my life jacket, the spike deploys down, stopping me in my tracks. Whether light current or wind, I’m right where I want to be, when I want to be, as long as I want to be. It’s simply helped me catch more fish, and have more fun. With the wireless battery pack, it’s a completely wireless, remote, sealed, incredibly advantageous system to have on your fishing kayak. The Micro has helped me catch wary brown trout on rivers, and bonefish on the flats. We believe in them so much, many of our kayaks come with inserts pre-molded in so you can quickly install some bolts and go fishing, no drilling required.
18) Bear Bow
Fred Bear can be attributed with practically building the archery hunting industry. He did so not only by making nice bows, but also by using them, having fun, being friendly, and sharing his adventures with the world to inspire people to get outdoors and learn and benefit from all the things it offers. His iconic bows are still crafted at the Bear Archery factory in Gainesville, FL, and their headquarters is in Evansville, IN. Shooting his traditional bows like the Takedown I often carry just puts a smile on my face. I’m also hunting with the new Moment compound this Fall, and after some quick tuning the first arrow out of it from a tree put some tasty wild hog in my Orion. For a stocking stuffer and history lesson, check out the DVD set of Fred’s classic adventures, and get lost in historical hunting footage and woodsmanship skills rarely seen these days.
19) Jackson Kayak
Sure, we make Jackson Kayaks too, but faces just light up when they see a new kayak under the tree Christmas morning. Whether you’re a whitewater kayaker, kayak angler, or like a casual paddle across the home lake at sunset, the Jackson Kayak team in Sparta, TN is making a kayak for you. For the youngsters who like getting fishy, make sure to check out the Skipper kids fishing kayak. For the fisherman who has it all, the new Cuda HD will take him to fish anywhere. The Karma Traverse is awesome for exploring rivers for new places to fish and overnighters. Brand new on the market and a ton of fun for getting vertical and enjoying on your local rivers is the new Antix. Bottom line, there’s a kayak for everyone.
20) Winnebago Micro Minnie
This one won’t fit under the tree, and it’s really a gift for the whole family, but if you want to go big and park the Christmas surprise in your driveway, try putting a ribbon on a Winnebago. The folks in Forest City, IA have been making the best RV’s on the roads for generations, and nothing inspires you more to get off the couch, go somewhere and do something than a base camp that travels with you. From compact driveable units like the Travato, to full size behemoths, or towables in various styles, there’s an option for everyone. My current mobile office and lodge is the Micro Minnie towable travel trailer (Model 1706FB). It’s compact yet fully outfitted with a full bathroom/shower, kitchen, dining area, bedroom, awesome gear storage, outdoor amenities like awnings, speakers and propane hookups for grilling, and tows easily behind our RAM Rebel or most SUVs.
There you go, over twenty gift ideas sure to make the outdoorsman in your family smile Christmas morning. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line and I’ll do my best to be Santa’s little helper. Happy gift hunting and Happy Holidays.