Best Gifts for Outdoorsmen | Outdoor Life

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Outdoorsmen can be notoriously difficult to buy gifts for. We usually have relatively specialized wish lists, and frankly, it’s easier to just buy what we need ourselves. However, it’s still possible to surprise the outdoorsman on your list with thoughtful, unique, and useful gifts. 

We want things that will be useful to us while we’re out hunting or make us think about hunting when we’re not. Many of us would rather have a witty and utilitarian gift we weren’t expecting rather than what’s plastered on every ad. Buying gifts for an outdoorsman can be tough, but this gift guide should at least get you pointed in the right direction.

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The late-winter lull is a time for projects for many outdoorsmen, and if one in your life enjoys some basic woodworking and an interest in muzzleloaders, this kit is a great choice. It comes with all the parts and instructions you need to build a complete traditional cap-lock Kentucky rifle. Kits like this have been around a long time, but they still make a fantastic gift. Instructions are easy to follow, and you don’t have to be a master craftsman to end up with a perfectly functional hunting and shooting tool. I bought and built one of these exact kits, and with a few basic tools plus some patience, I was able to turn out a rifle that shoots a patched round ball very well, and I even killed several bears with it. The kit doesn’t include stock or barrel finishes, or things like powder, caps, patches, or projectiles, but it’s a great way to get started in the world of muzzleloaders.

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If I could only pick one hunting riflescope for life, this would be it. There are lots of great scopes out there, and picking one as a gift for a scrupulous outdoorsman can be a tricky endeavor. For a hunting scope, it’s hard to go wrong with the VX-3HD. There are a few different options for magnification and objective size, but I find the 2.5-8x36mm and the 3.5-10x40mm to both be a great balance of magnification and weight. They provide plenty of magnification and low-light visibility for normal hunting distances, and they bring a fantastic level of utility for the price. They feature a smooth magnification adjustment, a fast-focus eyepiece, as well as Leupold’s CDS ZeroLock dial. With the scope, you get a generic M.O.A. dial, and a voucher for one free dial custom-made for a particular rifle load. These scopes are tough, dependable, and have a lifetime guarantee. If a hunting riflescope is on the wish-list you got, this is the first one I’d go for.

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Every outdoorsman should be able to put a hair-splitting edge on any knife they own, but some of us need more help than others. Work Sharp has lots of great sharpening tools for just about any edge you might own, and it can be tough to pick the right one sometimes. They are known for their motorized belt sharpeners, which are great, but they have some other awesome sharpeners as well. One of the trickiest things for those of us who suffer from a lack of sharpening talent is maintaining consistent angles, especially when trying to establish an edge. Even with guides, it can be easy to waver and lose consistency when sharpening by hand or with a motorized sharpener. With the Precision Adjust Knife Sharpener, one of the best knife sharpeners the blade is held in a clamp, and the grind angle is set on the sharpener, so you literally can’t screw it up. It’s a little tedious, but it’s one of the best ways to get an even, consistently sharp blade every time, especially if you have to re-work a dull one. At Fifty bucks, it’s a great value too.

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A solid gift for any outdoorsman is a quality multitool that is useful and easy to carry every day. The Gerber Lockdown-Drive is a tool that just about anyone would find useful. It’s pretty much the same size and profile as a normal pocket knife and has a pocket clip, but it’s much more than a knife. It features five smart and handy tools, including a knife blade, replaceable No. 11 utility blade, file with a sharp chisel point, an awl, and a driver that includes a Phillips/flat-head bit, but also accepts other quarter-inch bits. It rides comfortably low in the pocket, and all the tools are easy and intuitive to access. It’s a smart assortment of tools that most outdoorsmen can carry with them all the time and will use often.

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If you’re struggling to find a gift that’s out-of-the-box, timeless, and unique, consider snatching up old issues of Outdoor Life on eBay. There is usually a wide variety available and at good prices. I’ve been cherry-picking old issues for years, and each one is a timeless look into the past. Although I may be enacting some self-sabotage to bring competition to the market, these can make great, unique, and thoughtful gifts. It doesn’t just have to be for the timeless reading material. A few framed classic covers that aren’t available in the OL Cover Art Store, old ads, and articles can make a personal, nostalgic, and affordable gift.

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Socks should be on the gift list for every outdoorsman at Christmas, and good ones at that. For many of us, it’s the only time of year we can count on a replenishment of our threadbare assortment of socks, and one can never have too many. Of course, the specific model and weight of the socks for your outdoorsman may vary on where, when, and how they need to use them, but these Merino wool socks from Kenetrek have become some of my favorites. They fit well, are comfortable in a variety of boots, and don’t sag or ride down. Even better, the Merino wool doesn’t seem to get as foul as regular wool socks after several days straight of hiking or being stuck in airtight winter boots. We may make a show of scoffing at socks when we rip open the package, but trust me, we’ll be disappointed if we don’t get some.

SHE Outdoor Waterfowl Gauntlet Gloves 

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These completely waterproof, elbow-length gloves are perfect for keeping hunters dry and warm while setting decoys or scooping birds in water. Plenty of waterfowl gloves only go to your wrist, leaving open the threat of water splashing over the top or exposing skin to the cold. The superior length, wrist strap, and drawstring closure keep out the frigid, marshy conditions that accompany waterfowl hunts. They’re also lightweight with great mobility. The wearer can even use their phone with the touch screen fingertips. Rugged yet incredibly comfortable, they’re  insulated with 60-gram Thermolite fill and the cuffs are lined with cozy butter pile fleece to keep out the chill. A durable water-repellent (DWR) finish protects against surface moisture, downpours, and dunks. SHE Outdoor Waterfowl Gauntlet Gloves make the ideal gift for the waterfowl hunter in your life that gets after birds in any weather. —Ashley Thess

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These have been around for a while now, but if the outdoorsman you’re shopping for doesn’t have one, this will make the perfect gift. Accidents and emergencies can happen anywhere, and before satellite communication, hunting or traveling in areas without phone service has always left loved ones at home wondering. Now with satellite communicators, you can let your loved ones know that you are OK, and summon help when you aren’t.  There are quite a few of these devices on the market now, but Garmin has been at the front of the pack, and the InReach Mini is among the best of these devices. It’s compact and lightweight, and most of the functions are best utilized with your smartphone via Bluetooth. However, you can still send messages and use the S.O.S. feature without your phone. The Mini is also a functional GPS unit that offers many mapping and tracking functions that you can access through an app on your phone. With different communication plans to pick from, and for the price, this is something that every outdoorsman who frequents no-service areas should have.

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A stable shooting platform is something every hunter can benefit from, and tripods are great tools for that. Good tripods are very expensive though, and if you can make one that you already have work, that’s money in the bank. There are quite a few different shooting support systems for tripods, but one of my favorites is from Spartan Precision Equipment. They started with just bipods but have moved into making high-quality tripods that use the same rifle mounts as their bipods do. The Davros tripod head is a simple ball head mount that can attach to any standard tripod and use the Spartan attachment systems for rifles or optics. This is a great gift for someone who either already uses the Spartan Precision bipods and already has a different tripod, or just wants a simple, quality shooting support system that works for optics as well, without shelling out the money for the entire tripod.

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If there is an outdoorsman who’s a handgun shooter on your gift list, this simple, affordable, and compact cleaning kit will make a great stocking stuffer. It’s not name-brand or flashy, but you get a surprisingly good kit for the money. You can find several similar kits that likely have their components made by the same manufacturer, but the functional quality is better than some more expensive ones. The cleaning rods and jags are brass, and it includes several bore brushes, a brush head that threads on a section of cleaning rod, some patches, and a mesh compartment that could store a couple small bottles of solvent and oil. It would make a great kit for a range bag or to keep in a vehicle, and all you’ll really have to do is keep patches, solvent, and oil stocked.

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At some point, every outdoorsman depends on a vehicle to get them somewhere. This means depending on batteries, and everyone has had their vehicle fail to start. Sometimes it’s a minor inconvenience, but in remote areas, it can be a major problem. A gift that just about anyone would appreciate is a portable jump-starter pack that’s very easy to use. The Cobra 8500 will fit in your pocket but jump-start most V8 gas and diesel engines. It also works to charge your devices via USB cable, and QuickCharge-compatible devices can be charged up to 78 percent faster. The power bank can also hold a charge for up to 8 months between uses. All that makes it perfect for leaving in your truck, boat, or ATV tool kit and having it waiting when you need it. 

The OL crew travels a lot for work and fun and one of the most critical—but often underappreciated—elements of our gear is what’s carrying all our stuff from one place to the next.

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The Eberlestock Atlas has quickly become a favorite. It strikes a good balance between pocket and compartment configuration, size, durability, and weight. The base bag weighs about 12 ¾ pounds and can hold enough gear for a week in deer camp.

The large compartment at the base of the bag can be used to store boots and other heavy or dirty items, while the main storage section holds the rest of your stuff. The bottom compartment can also hold a firearm as well. In fact, the Atlas is available with foam pads that fit in the bottom compartment that can be cut to hold expensive or fragile items in place. It’s perfect for optics, electronics and other gear.

The main bag comes with a Velcro divider that can be placed how you want, and the Atlas has a number of smaller pockets on the exterior as well.

It comes with sturdy wheels and a retractable handle and cinches tight with useful straps and webbing. It’s built to be mobile, versatile and survivable. -John B. Snow

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This knife sharpener has the dual advantage of being easy-to-tune for different blade types and completely idiot-proof. With most knife sharpening systems you usually need to pick one or the other.

The Mesa is simplicity itself. There’s a single slot to run a blade through and two controls. An on-off switch, and a dial that controls the angle of the edge you want on your knife. The dial is marked in degrees and adjusts from 10 to 30 degrees. The lower the number, the more fine an edge you’re going to put on the knife.

Most kitchen knives are sharpened with a 17- to 20-degree edge, which good for all-around use. Many Asian knives have a narrower edge—often around 15 degrees—which can be better for making fine slices with vegetables and fish, but will dull more quickly when dealing with bones in larger chunks of meat.

Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with putting the Mesa at 20-degrees and just forgetting about it. But if you want a more durable working edge that will last longer and can handle chopping chores, go with a broader angle (25 degrees or so), while if you want some knives to have that paper-slicing bevel, go tighter. -John B. Snow

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This collapsible wok from Rose Metal Products stows away flat for easy transport to your campsite. It is simple and sturdy, consisting of two flats that form the frame that supports the wok and holds the propane canister used to power the 10,000 BTU burner.

We’ve used the MoWok for shore lunches and backyard grilling. John B. Snow

The OL crew has used theirs as a quick backyard grilling option and to set up at fishing camp to grill up shore lunch.

The cooking surface is an 18-inch steel disk with two stainless steel handles. It is easy to segregate your meat products to different points around the wok so that you can keep items warm until you’ve cooked up your full batch.

This is an ideal cooking solution for the overlander crowd. -John B. Snow

Final Thoughts on Gifts for Outdoorsmen

If you’re shopping for a gift for the outdoorsman who has everything, I’d be willing to bet there’s something on this list that is just what they’d love to see under the tree. If not, it will at least give you some ideas. A thoughtful, valued gift doesn’t have to be the most expensive, or the “best” piece of equipment out there. If you’re looking for clues about what your outdoorsman wants, don’t get distracted by the big toys, instead pay attention to the little things that will help them when they’re in the field, or remind them of it when they’re not.

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