Making Good Decisions in Outdoor Gear Purchases

Everett Johnson
Making Good Decisions in Outdoor Gear Purchases

I cannot think of a greater gift than introducing others to the great outdoors. Sharing our passion of hunting and fishing with family members and friends not only enriches their lives, it brings a great sense of accomplishment for the giver as those we introduce thrive and grow in their own passion.

I remember like it was yesterday, I trailed my father along streams, lakeshores, and into marshes and forests. He and my mother started me fishing at a very early age. Pennsylvania requires youngsters be 12 years old before they can become licensed hunters, but that never stopped me from tagging along.

My dad started taking me rabbit and pheasant hunting before I could see over the weeds. My legs would play out and he'd carry me back on his shoulders. Duck trips to the marsh came a little later but still before I was allowed to carry a shotgun and shoot. The first trip is still clear as a bell.

I was totally "eat up" as they say, and made a pest of myself until he finally gave in. We had an hour drive to the marsh and Dad's '57 Ford had holes in the backseat floorboard. Mid-November can get damn cold near the Great Lakes and money was scarce, my outfit didn't really fit. Squeezing already frozen feet into too-small, borrowed hip boots, and donning layers of sweatshirts, I proudly took my seat in the jon boat with Dad and Tony Kozenski. Tony was a duck man's duck man, and one of my outdoor idols. I remember icicles in his mustache rising and falling with each note as he sweet-talked greenheads with that old Herter's call.

Tony's dog wore beads of ice on her coat and we crouched low as flock after flock circled the spread. I would have been in heaven if I wasn't in pain. Squirming and toe wiggling brought no relief as we huddled in the boat under cattail mats from dawn to dusk. To whimper would have earned me a warm stay at the house the following Saturday; no way I'd let that happen.

Older and wiser, it occurs that any "normal" kid would have gotten a bellyful in that cold November marsh. But like those hip boots, "normal" never fit me. I've always been nuts for hunting and fishing and a hardcase in general.

So let's say it's your turn; you have a kid or wife or girlfriend you would like to introduce to the sport of winter wade fishing or waterfowl hunting. Will you risk their success and enjoyment to gear and clothing that doesn't fit or has them shivering all day? If getting them hooked is the goal, that first outing needs to be a dandy, at least in terms of personal comfort.

Today's anglers and hunters are absolutely blessed to have so many gear and clothing options. Modern fabrics like Gore-Tex and high thermal value fleece make keeping warm and dry very easy. Unless you are on an extremely tight budget, the last thing to dress somebody special in is cotton and neoprene.

Neoprene makes a great waterproof barrier. Yea verily, it'll keep the bay out of your britches. Trouble is, it holds body moisture in while keeping other moisture out. Sweaty clothing inside non-breathable waders is a perfect recipe for cold and clammy. Cheap breathable waders are no better. I can't begin to tell you how many winter wade fishermen I have seen soaked and shivering. I don't care if you've only worn them three times, you get what you pay for!

The best investment I ever made in waders came in 2003 when I bought my first pair of Simms breathables. Fact is, they're the only pair of Simms brand waders I've ever owned. They've gone wade fishing and duck hunting hundreds of times. Torn on crab traps and poked by oysters, patched and sent back to Simms for rebuilding twice; they still keep me dry. The original price was $199.95, the rebuilds cost me $50 each.

Another brand that offers exceptional quality and selection is Caddis. They make waders for men, women and even kids. Women don't dig wearing waders designed for men; they're big in the wrong places, ugly and uncomfortable. Kids, unless nearly grown teens, simply cannot make-do in your spares or hand-me-downs.

Pam's sister, Melinda Scheps, wanted her seven-year-old to join his dad wade fishing. When she posed the question of waders for Spencer, Pam sent her to Fishing Tackle Unlimited. FTU has a fully-stocked Simms Saltwater Concept Store full of waders, jackets, underwear and outerwear. They also carry the Caddis brand that includes men's, women's and youth sizes. Just for the special lady in your life who enjoys making fashion statements, Caddis offers pink and turquoise waders. Tell me that won't win you some points.

Shopping from catalogs and online sources is an option, no doubt. You might even save a few bucks. One thing you won't get, though, is the chance to find the perfect fit. This is especially applicable to waders that will be worn over layers of fleece and wading shoes that will be worn over breathable waders. You might guess at the size in the book or on the screen, but trying them on with heavy socks and lacing and zipping everything is the real test. There is also no substitute for courteous and expert sales staff to help you make the best choices.

Gifts of high-quality fishing gear make great gifts for wedding anniversaries, Mothers and Fathers Day, birthdays and other occasions. You don't have to wait 'til Christmas rolls around. Be good to the special people in your life; give them gear that works if you truly want them to become your outdoor companions. You will be rewarded with memories of great trips you can cherish the rest of your life!

Simms Fishing Products dealers:

Cut Rate Fishing Tackle 8933 Katy Freeway
Fishing Tackle Unlimited 12800 Gulf Freeway
Angler's Edge 5000 Westheimer

Rockport Tackle Town 3010 Hwy 35 North
Seaworthy Marine Supply 102 South Fulton Beach Rd.

Tackle Box 3305 Ben Jordan

New Braunfels
Gruene Outfitters 1629 Hunter Road

Caddis dealers:

Cut Rate Fishing Tackle 8933 Katy Freeway
Fishing Tackle Unlimited 12800 Gulf Freeway