mystery tackle box art

From surprising samples of brand new fishing tackle to the best tools for tackling any outdoor job, tracking down a Christmas present for the outdoors enthusiast on your list should be a breeze.

Finding the right gift for the outdoors enthusiast on your list can be a challenge, but most worthwhile adventures are. These ideas offer a great place to get you started.

Part of bass fishing’s deep, lifelong appeal stems from the broad variability of the species and the countless ways to tackle the decision of which tackle to use. One gear company has made that voyage of discovery a monthly treat.

Northeast Mississippi is rich in access to well-managed public water bass fishing. It’s home to lakes overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks that are dream destinations for bass anglers nationwide. The hundreds of private ponds dotting the region offer great and handy bass excitement as well. This depth and breadth of possibility, along with year round appeal, are a big part of what make bass fishing a delight. New anglers can get started with almost anything at all and should catch some fish. Expanded knowledge leads directly to improved rewards over time, and a hundred lifetimes wouldn’t be long enough to learn it all.

Tapping into this fount of knowledge, Mystery Tackle Box has made home-delivered surprises a strong business model, one avid bass anglers will enjoy.

As the name suggests, subscribers receive a curated box of gear each month, never the same thing twice. Each selection is chosen to correlate with the time of year. Along with an assortment of hard baits, soft plastic baits and related hooks and weights, each box’s haul comes with illustrated instructions for use, detailed information on which spots in an average body of water would be best for trying out the new gear. These curated boxes arrive monthly by mail and are happy surprises for their subscribers every time. Check them out online at

If you want a box to put under the tree ahead of the coming months’ deliveries, several local stores have sealed Mystery Tackle Boxes for sale now.

prAna hiking pants

My best find in the realm of outdoor gear last year was prAna’s Stretch Zion hiking pant. Breathable, water resistant, very quick drying and comfortable, I wore one pair of these continuously on a week-long, 40-mile, winter backcountry trek at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Washing them much more regularly, I’ve worn the same pair dozens of times since then and they’ve held up perfectly. They’re excellent for any type of walking, climbing or hiking adventure that does not include pushing through briars. I’ve not tested them against briars and don’t intend to. They seem too light weight for that. For all other purposes, they’re ideal.

Quality socks

Socks might be the most cliche’ Christmas gift ever, but good socks built for the outdoors are always welcome. Socks that include some percentage of wool in their construction and are made with hiking in mind make a big difference in the enjoyment of any foot-powered adventure.

Razor-edged pocket knife

Such knives are made by a wide array of brands and in a great number of styles, but folding knives of this sort that can be safely carried in a pants pocket like a conventional pocket knife may be the handiest. Havalon and Outdoor Edge are two reliably-good brands.

Hydrating backpack

Not a backpack with a hard water bottle that tucks into a pocket, this is a backpack with a 2-liter bladder inside, with an attached hose that runs out the top of the pack, through loops along one strap, then culminates in a straw-type fitting for direct drinking. It’s a great way to make sure you always have water close at mouth.

Whether you’re sitting in a treestand or hiking through the woods, this is something that’ll keep you well watered since you can have a sip whenever you want it along the way. Because it fits into your pack, you don’t create empty bottles to crackle and drop. You don’t have to stop and dig in your pack to get your water out or put it back in, so the handiness of it keeps you from ever getting miserably thirsty.

The Thermacell

Better than any sort of spray-on, wipe-on, rub-on repellent ever invented, anyone who hunts, fishes or does much of anything outdoors, especially in the spring and fall, would love a Thermacell, or love another one, or a box of refills or all three. The Thermacell uses a little bottle of butane and a tiny ember of well-shielded, internal flame to heat a pad treated with mosquito repellent. The pads last a few hours, the bottles of fuel last several dozen hours and the device itself lasts until you lose it or back over it with the truck. The whole thing is a self-contained unit you can carry around or strap into a holster, even when it’s running. And it works. It looks like it would be a disappointing gimmick, but it works like absolute magic.

Good orange vest

For most hunters, an orange hunting vest is an afterthought, but a good one can add enjoyment to days afield as well as safety. Many hunters will put a great deal of research and no small expense into finding warm, dry, comfortable outerwear to use in the woods, then they’ll stretch into a flimsy, ill-fitting orange vest and suffer until they take it off.

A cheap piece of hunting gear is a disappointment forever. One vest that’s not a disappointment is available online from L.L. Bean. At $35, the Big Game Hunting Safety Vest is a joy to use. It’s made of quality, silent material, has a good and tough zipper, and its pockets are handy and useful. It’s a pleasure to wear.

Good filet knife

One of the best tools relatively new on the market and continually proven effective at its job is the Bubba Blade line of filet knives. Bubba Blade knives all feature a unique gripping system that make them easy and safe to use in a way other filet knives just don’t. They feature flexible blades made of excellent steel that holds an edge like nothing else, and they come in a wide variety of sizes. While the 12-inch standard filet knife has made itself known throughout the fish-cleaning world, the company’s offerings have begun to extend to more high-volume production tools like their electric filet knife, available in either lithium-ion rechargeable or AC-powered models.

Portable heater

Heaters for the deer stand and the duck blind have been around for decades, but recent advances have made them more lightweight, reliable and affordable. Burning propane stored in separate, safe bottles, these heaters make a world of difference on a cold morning in the woods or on the water. They’re fueled using the 16-ounce bottles of propane that have become standard in the camping world and have therefore grown available cheaply and everywhere.

The heaters usually include a push-button-style electric start, a comfortable handle for carrying hot or cold, and are surprisingly wind-resistant when used in open-air environments.

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