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Put this under your tree
By Tom Reed

Reprinted from The Leader, Fall 2000, Vol. 16, No. 1

If you make your living in outdoor education, or if you pursue outdoor activities such as climbing, backpacking and kayaking, sometimes it's pretty hard to explain to your relatives the "whys." Even harder is giving them an idea of what to get you for Christmas. This summer and fall, five things have made my life in the woods just a little bit easier, a little more fun and a little more comfortable. So, if your Aunt Edna asks you want you want for Christmas....

Brunton 4022W 8x25 binoculars. These babies are compact, lightweight and high quality. That's often a combination that's hard to find in optics. This summer, I stuffed a pair of these into my backpack and carried them for a month in the Wind River Range of Wyoming. I used them again and again--to check out birds, to scan the mountains for climbing routes, to spy on our students . . . they were great. A feature I really liked were the pull out eye cups. In this manner, Brunton has figured out a way to make their binos usable for those of us who wear glasses and those who don't. Pull out the cups with your glasses off, leave 'em in with your glasses on. They come with a neoprene case that is nice, but sometimes I found that it got in the way when I wanted to use the binos quickly. So, I took the cover off. For more information: www.brunton.com

NOLS coffee press. Hello, my name is Tom and I'm addicted to the bean. Okay. Got that off my chest. I believe that the last decade has brought us two revolutions that have drastically changed the face of the country. Forget computers and high tech. Forget CDs. The best thing about the last 10 years? Good beer and good coffee. Along with this have come various implements for enjoyment of these beverages. They haven't improved on the beer mug, but they have improved on the coffee mug. My favorite is the compact, lightweight plastic coffee press or bistro. Put your ideal amount of java in there, add hot water, press it down and you've got your fix. Perfect for use in the backcountry. For more information: go to the school store.

Camelbak H.A.W.G. Here's a wild idea: packing water on your back with the ability to be able to drink it through a tube without taking that pack off. Talk about a revolution in outdoor sports. I frankly don't know how I have survived without this. Last fall, while chukar (that's a gamebird) hunting in Nevada, I used a Camelbak for the first time. I carried the standard 3 liters of water in the bladder, but this pack also has enough room so you can pack extra water containers for your bird dog, lunch, and shotgun shells. I rarely even notice it's on my back. It's easy to refill too. Warning: if you put iodine tablets in the bladder, you'll permanently stain it just like you will with plastic water bottles. When I'm backpacking, I still like to carry a water bottle though. Perhaps this is because I like to take the darn pack off once in a while and take a break. But for activities like hiking, this piece of gear is the bomb. For more information: www.camelbak.com

Patagonia R1 layers. I used an R1 Flash Pullover while elk hunting this fall in Wyoming's Absarokas. Loved it. It's the kind of layer you can wear over long underwear, or over a t-shirt, or even as an initial layer. I've used it while running, reading in front of the woodstove on a chilly fall evening, and hiking around in grizzly country. It's warm, yet breathes and gives me the freedom of movement I need in an upper layer. Patagonia offers several R1 pieces including a zip-t, a vest and pants for both men and women. More info? www.patagonia.com

Petzl Micro headlamp. You know the old chant when it comes to backpacking: ounces equal pounds, so if you can save the ounces, you can save the pounds. I like headlamps for use in the backcountry, and I really like this headlamp because it uses only two AA batteries and therefore, it's one lightweight sucker. It's also compact, so it fits right into the top of your pack. It lacks the range and intensity of the standard Petzl headlamp and also the battery life, but for summer backpacking or other similar uses, I'd say this is the perfect stocking stuffer. For more information: www.petzl.com


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