Christmas shopping for outdoors lovers can be difficult.
Below are a few suggestions that could help you get the perfect gift... including if you're shopping for yourself.
Fujifilm FinePix XP 20
Figuring a point-and-shoot in my pocket to be better than more expensive cameras at home, I bought an XP 20 in November.
Bo Rader, Wichita Eagle senior photographer, suggested one when he learned I was wanting an inexpensive camera that was impervious to the elements and could be used underwater.
I've always wanted such a camera for things like float tubing, wading streams and duck marshes — the kinds of places where most cameras could easily be ruined.
The XP 20 is far from as good as my bigger Canons, but it can take impressive photos. So far, so good for weathering water, too.
The $140 camera has 14.2 megapixels and a lens that can stretch to 5X. It's about the size and weight of a large pocket cell phone.
In sunlight or moderate clouds it has shot some great photos, even with the lens at 5X. Even cropped way down, some images have remained remarkably clear and the colors crisp.
On really gray days I've had to concentrate on holding the camera still to compensate for a slow automatic shutter.
The camera's flash is slow but nice for filling in shadows on outdoors shots. It works well indoors, but it's nothing special.
In Kansas, it has taken some nice shots of friends or dogs with game, sunsets, scenery and wildlife that was close on a bright day.
The big test came on a family vacation in Kauai. One of the main reasons I bought the camera was to take it snorkeling.
It seems to be waterproof. I had it submerged for an hour or so on four occasions.
Underwater photography is tricky, but the camera did its job.
The only problem came when the shutter button wouldn't depress. Figuring it was clogged by sand or salt, I hit the camera full force with water from a garden hose for several seconds. It's worked fine since.
(I never dreamed I'd fix a camera by getting it soaked.)
The camera shoots video, but I've yet to try it. Word has it the instructional DVD is pretty good, too, but I haven't tried it, either.
The rechargeable battery seems to lose juice quickly when it gets very cold or the flash is used often.
My only real fear of taking the XP 20 afield is that it doesn't float. It can withstand water, dust, cold and shock, but it's not protected if my klutzy self drops it in deep water.
Gander Mountain Academy gift card
Gift cards for the new Gander Mountain Academy could be very appreciated presents for shooters.
The 7,000 square-foot facility had a grand opening this weekend within the downtown store.
Wichita is the sixth of Gander's 100-plus locations to get such a facility.
What I'd envisioned to be just another pistol range proved to be much more.
There is a standard, 30-foot live-fire range where shooters can bring their own firearms and rent time. It's clean and as safe as it can possibly be.
More impressive were the facility's three simulated shooting ranges.
We're not talking Xbox.
Factory-made Glock and Beretta handguns have been modified to shoot lasers instead of bullets. Air cartridges give the pistols enough noise and recoil to feel realistic. They are as accurate, too.
One option is a standard target range where customers can fire unlimited laser shots at projected targets.
In these days of high ammo costs, that's a big deal. It's a nice setting where family or friends can spend a half-hour or more taking turns shooting.
Another option is a 180-degree laser range that offers a variety of challenges.
The top simulated range is an adults-only, 300-degree "shoot, don't shoot" range. It's as realistic as any used by the military or law enforcement.
Education is a big part of the academy. Specially-trained and qualified instructors teach a wide variety of shooting lessons and classes.
Any standard Gander Mountain gift card will work.
For more information on prices and making reservations, go to www.gandermtnacademy.com.
"The Complete Guide to Kansas Fishing"
"The Complete Guide to Kansas Fishing," Big Earth Publishing, $23
The 184-page book is probably the most comprehensive Kansas fishing book published. Even experienced anglers can benefit.
The book is the idea and work of co-authors Amy Bickel and Jason Probst. Both are avid anglers who work for The Hutchinson News.
They came up with the novel idea that each would fish 12 of Kansas' 24 major reservoirs and provide chapters on the lake for the book.
They usually fished with a local expert, adding great detail. Personal anecdotes of fishing with family or other friends adds color to the reading.
The chapters rate the top fishing opportunities within each reservoir, giving advice on best times, places and tactics to fish.
It gets as exact as GPS readings for some favorite habitats. There's a map of each reservoir and some have detailed topographical information.
Several smaller lakes are rated in similar coverage. There's a list and location of most public fishing lakes in Kansas.
A nice touch is that the book was proofread by Mike Miller, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism information chief, to make things as accurate as possible.
The book includes large color drawings of major fish species to help with identification.
There are chapters on the best ways to take kids fishing and the many opportunities for fishing in rivers.
The introduction covers things like preventing the spread of invasive species, general regulations, trout fishing locations and how to contact a lake's fisheries biologist.
The book details current creel and size limits for each lake and lists nearby bait shops.
A warning, though, that some fishing and boating regulations have been recently changed and many get revised annually. Anglers may have to do some checking outside the book to stay legal. The best source is www.kdwpt.ks.state.us.