Roughing It Today

I’m not sure how people who enjoy the great outdoors developed their affinity. Camping and boating trips with the family when I was young were the basis for mine. Nothing on these trips was very exotic; they entailed a tent or the family’s 18-foot sloop and not a lot more. We didn’t have every convenience or fancy equipment—that’s not what “roughing it” meant. It was expected that you would return home smelling like wood smoke or covered in salt spray. So when I made a recent trip to the local Bass Pro Outdoor World store to get some ideas for boating stories, I was stunned at the volume of stuff meant to make that outdoor experience more comfortable.

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Missing the bigger picture!

I applaud the products that add to our enjoyment of boating and being outside. I wouldn’t want to do away with mosquito repellant, warm clothing or a good sleeping bag, for instance. I could even grudgingly bring myself to agree to one of those sleeping cots that keep you off the cold ground, but come on, who really needs the cot encased with mosquito netting—I guess the guy who forgot the repellant. The more boats, motors, and equipment I saw, the more I noticed the creature comforts: the cushions, heaters, fancy grills, and battery-powered beverage coolers.

So as the stores ramp up for Christmas, here’s my quick guide to buying basic holiday boating gifts:

  • If it is made of fleece—OK.
  • If it is used to catch, gut, or keep fish—OK.
  • If you sleep under it or in it and not on it—OK.
  • If it is furniture–skip it.
  • If it is electronic and doesn’t measure something, find fish or your position–you don’t need it.
  • If it is cookware designed to prepare meals for 6 or more–forget it. (Especially no turkey fryers or smokers.)
  • If you wear it and it’s not warm, wicking, or waterproof—wait.
  • If it has fur or a Martha Stewart label–leave it.

So as you roam the stores this holiday season looking for just the right gift for that outdoors man or woman on your list, think about whether this will bring them closer to the outdoors or just insulate them from the experience. Get out there, enjoy nature. You know I’m the first one to encourage you to be properly prepared, but when it comes to bringing your home’s interior to the great outdoors, I say stick to the basics—a little wood smoke and salt spray is a good thing. When you bring the inside out, are you really getting out?

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