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Getting the ultimate gear

The right gear for the right outing is essential for any outdoorsman

by: CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Ron Raasch

I hate shopping. Let me clarify that. I hate shopping for clothes or groceries but if the store contains outdoor gear, I can shop all day and not even require a list. I'll traipse up and down every aisle, examining every item.
   There's just so much gear on the market today and so little room in the garage, the shop or under the bed.
   My favorite type of gear is anything that has multiple use such as a flashlight/lantern or sunscreen/bug dope. Marketing people should capitalize on this. Instead of just having a scent for hunting or fishing, why not add breath freshener, tooth whitener, pimple ointment, hair grower and Viagra? I can just picture the commercial.
   One of the toughest chores concerning outdoor gear is actually removing it from the packaging, which consists of a hard plastic mold. You risk slicing off a finger or other bodily extremity during this extraction process. Ironically, this is how knives are often packaged, which raises the question - Which came first, the knife or the packaging?
   It seems there are more knives and lights on the market than any other gear. And, if you're thinking why somebody doesn't think of combining the two - they already have. I believe they have attached an LED light to just about anything you can think of.
   When I see some of the latest gear today, I sometimes think that technology perhaps should have stopped with the bow and arrow or the horse and buggy.
   For example, I've actually seen as many as 11 different things crammed into one piece of gear including a black and white TV, AM/FM weather band radio, dual fluorescent lamps, spotlight, emergency siren and red blinking light, LCD digital clock, thermometer, compass and sonic mosquito repeller. I believe it's probably cheaper and lighter to buy each item separately.
   And yes, I have one. The only thing I haven't had a chance to test yet is the mosquito repeller. I figure turning the radio on loud enough should keep the bugs away as well as anyone camping nearby.
   What about something like a Fishing and Hunting Combo? I envision a rifle with a jig pole in the stock or a fishing rod with .22 in the handle.
   Other cool combo gear includes binoculars with a built-in digital camera or rangefinder. The ultimate hunting equipment should be able to tell the range, take a photo, shoot, retrieve, field dress and mount the hunter's quarry. The ultimate fishing equipment should be able to locate the fish, cast out, hook and retrieve, clean and wrap the fish. The ultimate camping gear should have a light, heater, stove, shower and refrigerator all in one unit.
   The most popular color for gear these days is, of course, camouflage. Today's camo is almost too realistic and doesn't seem to give the game a fair chance. The animals are born with natural camo to blend in with their surroundings. Imagine the average hunter walking around the woods naked (I know, not a pretty sight). The game would see the "white-tailed" hunter approaching from three miles away and head for cover.
   Many hunters these days are more concerned about how they look than how they hunt. Their camo socks, boots, pants, shirt, jacket, hat, and rain gear can cost $1,000. They are also more concerned about certain parts of the gun than how to find game. "Yeah, this titanium trigger guard was made in Indonesia and this 4-12X40 variable scope was made in . . . ."
   Real woodsmen can have better luck wearing only a loincloth and using a slingshot than most hunters can do with the best of gear. Some can even track salmon upriver or a bird through the air. The average hunter tracks game by rolling down his window and looking for tracks in the road. He probably couldn't recognize elk sign if the animal were standing in its own tracks.
   Selling gear, as with any product, is all about marketing. Outdoor gear always has catchy names such as BuckBait, FishFood, H2Ocean or The EagleEye 2800 (is that the price?). Many of these products hook more anglers than fish and target more hunters than game.
   If you love outdoor gadgets but have a budget tighter than a pair of size 32 jeans on Michael Moore, then the best solution is to befriend the Gear Man. He's a good guy to have along on any outdoor adventure. He is comparable to a super hero, pulling the right thing out his pack at the right time like Batman with his utility belt.
   If your light goes out, he'll have one that will shine into the next county. If you break your binoculars, he'll have an extra pair that will see into the next state. If you lose your favorite fly or lure, he'll just dig into his bag of possibles and say, "Why don't you try one of these?"
   You'll never have to worry about forgetting something. As a matter of fact, you'll never have to bring anything along.
   Gear Man has more outdoor catalogs at home than all the books in the Library of Congress. He has more batteries (in all available sizes) than the local Wal-Mart to run all of his gadgets. Making friends with him also assures you of some good gifts.
   There is so much hunting gear on the market that most hunters don't have room in their 60- to 70-pound packs for nonessential things such as water and lunch. Those who can afford it, hire sherpas while on their outings. The sherpa brings out the GPS, maps and compass to keep the hunter on course. Then out come the binoculars, spotting scope and rangefinder when an animal is spotted.
   When close enough for a shot, the sherpa hands over the gun, ammo and shooting stick. Once the animal is down, the assistant brings out the knives, saws and other field-processing equipment. Finally, the camera gear is presented to the hunter for photos.
   It used to be that hunters simply had a gun. Nowadays, however, many households have a different gun for deer, elk, antelope, varmints, moose, bison, elephants, ducks, geese, chukar, pheasants, road signs, bin Laden, etc.
   There's nothing funnier than watching a guy shop for a new gun. The salesman hands it over, the potential buyer holds it up, examines it closely with a knowing look on his face, then nods his head. In reality, this is like looking under the hood of the space shuttle - the guy hasn't the slightest idea of what he's holding; he's just trying to impress the clerk or his buddy with him.
   With the limitless amount of gear available, I do pass up items that seem too expensive or purposeless. I recall one time in an outdoor store, while eyeing a rather pricey useless-looking piece of gear, when a salesman came up to me. He said something like, "You know, we're running a special on this - 3 months, no interest."
   I replied, "Heck, I don't need three months to decide; I have no interest in it now."
   Scott Staats is a freelance outdoors writer. His column can be read every Tuesday in the Central Oregonian. He can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.