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An Off-the-Beaten-Path Gift Guide for Lovers of the Outdoors

sporting goods
Nicole Boling-Trevett and her son Blake

It's that time of year for holiday shopping. While the sporting goods section is filled with toys, don't overlook the value of experiences and memories.

While it might be tempting to wrap up the newest Madden NFL game for Xbox, there will be a new one out next year. Instead, opt for items with longevity, like cleats, to encourage participation in the game and physical fitness. Another option is giving tickets to a game that will create a memory even the largest game system data card can't record.

Here are my three suggestions from the "Sporting Goods" section.

Give gifts for the long haul

I don't remember what I gave my father in 2007, but I do remember taking him to see Alsea Falls on his visit to Oregon.
I don't remember what I gave my father in 2007, but I do remember taking him to see Alsea Falls
on his visit to Oregon.

I don't remember the first rod, reel, lure, rifle, hunter orange or camo apparel that my father gave me. I do, however, recall many hunting and fishing trips into the woods and on the water. While it's a tough sell to tell the kids that the experience itself is the real gift, it never hurts to remind them.

The few items that last long enough to become family heirlooms and relics gain that sentimental value from the experiences and memories they have helped make, not just their durability. When making your purchases, avoid cheap plastic crap and keep quality in mind to increase the potential that what you buy will last. Handing down your own possessions also gives longevity to the gifts you're giving.

Choose gifts that reflect experiences, values or knowledge

I don't remember what I got my girlfriend in 2009, but I hesitantly recall her out-fishing me during our visit back home for the holidays.

Each year, I show gratitude to my family for raising me to be an outdoorsman by giving them gifts from my outings. You may find a great deal on an item from a Black Friday sale, but how interesting is the story of camping outside of a Wal-Mart in comparison to camping out in the woods and wild-harvesting mushrooms, berries, deer or salmon? Is there more labor of love in the hours pined away at work as there is in getting dirt under your nails in the garden to grow vegetables?

I live a long distance from my family and send them as many canned vegetables and fruit, vacuum-sealed smoked salmon and dried mushrooms and herbs as possible. The gifts may be temporary, but my family takes pride in the stories behind them, sharing those things with their friends and witnessing the values and knowledge they passed on to me coming full circle. Instructional how-to reference books and videos are also timeless items that may not have the same mass appeal as gimmicks and electronics, but even someone with a short attention span can refer back to them if their interest is not piqued right away.

Never underestimate the power of a professional guided trip, either. The pressure of producing the experience is eliminated when you fork over the pay for someone else to deal with the hassles of rowing and baiting hooks, or laying the groundwork for a productive hunt or outing of any kind. The experience itself is the most important part, and paying someone else who makes a living of creating positive experiences for clients is often well worth the extra money, even if you and the person(s) you're purchasing the trip for all have the skills and knowledge.

Don't just give presents, be present

I don't remember what I got for Christmas in 2008, but I do remember my mother mocking this sign warning tourists about pushing the limits of their endurance on a trail through the Grand Canyon.

If you could turn back time or own a watch, which would you choose?

This attitude should be reflected in your gifting as well. While a camera might be a great gift for an aspiring outdoor photographer, taking them somewhere to capture the photos is more memorable than removing the bow and tearing gift-wrap off a box. The memory of a hike together will outlast a new pair of boots, and a family fishing trip will easily outlast a good rod tip.

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An Off-the-Beaten-Path Gift Guide for Lovers of the Outdoors