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Gear 'Em Up

Mount Ashland opens this weekend, summer steelhead are still biting in the upper Rogue and winter steelies are due any minute. With only four weekends left before Christmas, who has time to shop?

To help you keep your priorities straight, the staff at Oregon Outdoors scoured the shelves of local outdoor stores for stocking-stuffers under $25. With the wide range of activities people enjoy in our region and the incredible mix of gadgets available at local stores, the task was tougher than running Pucker Rapid in a jon boat. But we persevered, confident in the knowledge that our efforts will allow you to spend more time outside and less time waiting in holiday lines.

When it comes to inexpensive gifts for your favorite trail tromper, you can't beat a trip to the BLM-Forest Service Interagency office at 3040 Biddle Road in Medford. You can pick up a number of free maps of national forest-ranger districts and BLM lands, along with printouts for interesting features such as the Thundering Waters tour, which gives directions to 25 area waterfalls. Not all the maps and guides are free, but they're all a bargain. Ranging from $4 to $9 each, you can get maps of the Pacific Crest Trail, Land of Umpqua, Crater Lake National Park, Sky Lakes Wilderness, Red Buttes Wilderness, Kalmiopsis Wilderness, a Rogue River Float Guide and more.

If your loved one is a mushroom hunter, they already know about David Arora's big, fat, authoritative book, "Mushrooms Demystified," which is great at home but way too big to pack in the woods. To solve that dilemma, Arora came out with a hip-pocket guide called "All That the Rain Promises and More," a handy, photo-illustrated guide that serves as a companion to his voluminous tome, but also is a great, little stand-alone guide. It's easy to read, covers most of the mushrooms you're likely to find in Southern Oregon and refers to the pages in "Mushrooms Demystified," where you'll find further information on various species. Bloomsbury Books and Northwest Nature Shop in Ashland both carry it for $17.95.

Sol Light Co., a Hood River company, has come up with a lid that turns a clear, plastic water bottle into a camp lantern. The lid, which screws onto a bottle with a 2-inch-wide mouth, has four light-emitting diodes on the inside and a solar panel on the outside that charges a AAA battery. When it's turned on, the LEDs refract through the water and throw enough mellow light to illuminate your campsite. They're available at Northwest Outdoor Store, 980 Biddle Road (next to Bi-Mart) in Medford for $24.95.

There's a sockmaker in Vermont that's so cocky it offers a lifetime guarantee. On socks. Darn Tough socks, made with very finely woven, high thread-count, Merino-wool blends, come in all different styles: boot socks, hiking socks, ski socks, running, ankle, no show, whatever. They claim they don't get enough returns nationwide, over the course of a year, to fill a single box. If that's true, they're tough enough for Southern Oregon, and they only cost around $19.99 a pair at Northwest Outdoor Store in Medford, Rogue Valley Runners in Ashland and Ashland Outdoor Store.

Pelican, out of Torrance, Calif., makes nearly indestructible cases used by the military, law enforcement and people heading into extreme environments. Because this year's guide focuses on stocking stuffers for less than $25, we'll point you to the Pelican 1010, a $15.95 case that'll keep a cell phone or global-positioning system dry and safe even if you dump your raft going over Rainie Falls. The Pelican 1120 camera case goes for $20.95 at Northwest Outdoor Store in Medford.

Headlamps are handy, even more so if they clip onto a favorite baseball cap. The Cyclops Tilt five-bulb model is contoured to hug a hat brim and won't obstruct your vision while out walking on these dark winter evenings. Capable of bending to a maximum 45 degrees, it helps you direct light where you need it. The Cyclops even comes in camouflage for the guy who can't be separated from his camo cap even when the hunt's over. Regularly priced at $22.99 at Sportsman's Warehouse in Medford but keep an eye out for sales.

We've all been there. You and your sweetie discover a hidden garden or grand panorama. You want a photo of both of you in the magic spot, but there's no one to snap the pic and you can't find a rock to balance the camera for a timer shot. That's where the GorillaPod comes in. The Gumby-like legs with powerful magnets in the feet wrap in any direction, so they'll cling to branches, fences, trekking poles, handlebars. Check them out at www.joby.com but buy them for $24.95 at Northwest Outdoor Store or Total Camera and Video in Medford.

Every driftboater and powerboater who fishes for salmon or steelhead on Southern Oregon rivers knows the power of a Kwikfish. But to say they are electric is not a stretch. Tackle giant Luhr Jensen actually sells these lures with small flashing lights imbedded in them to attract salmon and steelhead during low-light conditions. The light begins flashing when it touches water, and the battery lasts 400 hours — longer than it takes to lose most Kwikfish to a snag or a broken-off hog. About $12 at most larger tackle stores.

You don't always need a new knife, but you always need a sharp one — especially after trying to fillet a couple limits of Howard Prairie Lake trout. Even the best fillet knives get dull after a few fish. That's why a good and easy portable sharpener is important to have. Chef's Choice makes a great diamond-abrasive sharpener that has separate sharpeners for European and sports knives, plus a honing stage for that last finish. It sells mostly at $30, but get a $5 gift certificate somewhere and it wiggles down to stocking-stuffer range.

We haven't worn ours yet, so this isn't a testimonial so much as a test case. But if toe socks work as well as Scott Keith's sales pitch at Northwest Outdoor Store, our feet will be happier on the ski trails this winter. Toe socks, made by Injinji, are like gloves for your feet. The idea is that having each little piggy snuggled into a sleeve keeps toes drier, warmer and happier. At $11.99, sounds like a bargain.

Winter weather can all but extinguish your attempts at lighting a fire. A laser torch makes the Solo Adventurer lighter just as effective in the season's windy, rainy conditions. For $18.99 at Sportsman's Warehouse, the regular windproof model is upgraded to waterproof, plus it comes in hunter-orange with imbedded compass and safety mirror.


No one wants to be left out in the cold. But should you face spending a night outdoors exposed to the elements, Heatsheet's Emergency Bivvy is a literal lifesaver. The 36-by-84-inch polyethylene sack reflects back 90 percent of the occupant's body heat. Contained in its own stuff sack, the sheet weighs just 3.5 ounces, a minor addition to your gear for its major prevention power. Buy it for $14.99 at Sportsman's Warehouse.

A day-use parking permit good for 12 months at 26 of Oregon's most popular state parks is on sale for $25 from now until Dec. 31. Normally priced at $30, the annual pass is a great bargain, and for the first time the permit is now transferrable to other vehicles. To buy one with a credit or debit card, call the Oregon State Parks Information Center, 1-800-551-6949, or go to www.oregon.gov for a list of vendors.

Gear 'Em Up