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Budget-friendly fishing rods and clearance hunting clothes won’t cut it if you’re looking to impress a hunter or angler this holiday season. Sometimes you have to dig deep into your wallet and splurge a bit to give the best gift possible. That’s why we put together this wish list of premium hunting and fishing equipment.
We cover the things you would expect—like flagship waders, shotguns, and fly rods—but we also went a little outside the box with ideas like paddleboards and cowboy boots. Either way, everything on this list is high-end and made to perform in the field and on the water.
The Swiftcurrent Expedition zip-front waders are comfortable, durable, and roomy enough to add layers without being too bulky. The fleece-lined pockets are perfect for cool mornings and the zip-front stash pockets are great for storing tippet, leaders, and flies. In addition to the hand warming and stash pockets, there’s an interior waterproof flip-out pocket for your phone along with two larger interior stretch pockets.
The waders are made from durable polyester with a breathable barrier and DWR (durable water-repellent) finish. You’ll notice these waders are a bit heavier when you put them on. I attribute this to the strong construction, but the breathable technology allows you to stay comfortable in summer with enough room to layer up on colder days. My favorite feature is the foam knee pads. I almost always kneel in the river to take photos and handle fish. The pads help prevent my knees from getting banged up. —Ryan Chelius
I’ve hunted with the Benelli 828 over/under all across the country. It has excelled in the chukar hills of Idaho, the duck marshes of Maine, and the thick grouse covers of Northern New York. What makes this a premium upland shotgun (besides the artistic engravings and classic wood design) is the lightweight construction. I carried the 828U up treacherous terrain and across rock slides. It was easy to toss over my shoulder and my heavy hunting vest was more of a hindrance than the gun.
The 828U is also one of the best pointing shotguns I have ever used. It mounts effortlessly and I can acquire my target without any problem. I prefer the short 26-inch barrel because it is easy to swing and maneuver in thick cover. I’ve hunted everything with this gun from chukar and grouse to ducks and pheasants. It hasn’t let me down yet, and for the quality of the wood stock and forearm, plus a nickel engraved receiver, $3,000 doesn’t seem too bad. —RC
If you are set on splurging for a fly angler, get them this rod. The R8 core took home the best overall award during our 2022 fly rod test on the Delaware River thanks to its ability to do everything really well. It was a standout on the casting lawn—delivering accurate casts at short and long distances. It’s light with enough power to bomb casts, which is rare to see in a rod. The R8 also excelled on the water whether fishing nymphs, streamers, or dry flies. Most fly rods are a compromise, but the R8 core does it all. If you don’t believe me, take it from our editor-in-chief, Colin Kearns: “This thing is an animal. During our distance tests, I could consistently reach out to 80-plus feet with ease. It’s one of the most powerful, and smoothest, fly rods I’ve ever cast.” I can back up Colin’s remarks by saying this is also one of the best fly rods I’ve ever fished with. —RC
This summer, I nearly stepped on a coiled-up rattler while scouting a mountain quail spot. The moment I got home, I started looking for real upland hunting boots to replace the ankle-high hiking boots I’d be wearing. I settled on the Filson Rangeland Boots—and am glad I did. They’re inspired by old military issue boots and have a classic look with modern performance. The full-grain leather and tin cloth uppers are durable and stylish. I’ve used these to hunt quail in rugged habitat and the Vibram Jankuat soles provide great traction and stability, which is a must when you’re traveling in steep terrain with a gun in your hand. If you’re looking to give the upland game hunter in your life a truly high-quality pair of hunting boots, you can’t go wrong with these. —Sage Marshall
You are looking at my important piece of big game hunting gear. I lived out of my Sky 5900 pack on a recent five-day backcountry elk hunt. It held every piece of gear I needed, including freeze-dried meals, extra layers, safety equipment, and optics. The pack’s weight on a medium Xcurve frame is 5 pounds 8 ounces, and it has a 150-pound load rating. I appreciate the front panel zip that allows easy access to the entire main compartment. The Sky 5900 is a good middle-of-the-road pack for both weekend hunts and longer multi-day trips. It evenly distributes weight across your back and torso with adjustable shoulder and belt straps. When your entire life is on your shoulders, it’s worth the extra money to have a strong frame and reliable bag. —RC
The Mathews V3X came in as runner-up in our 2022 compound bow test by a half-point. It performed admirably in the field and our hunting editor, Will Brantley, who conducted our bow test, took an 8-pointer with the V3X the day after he got it in the mail. “For all the at-home tuning systems that I’ve seen in the past few years, this one is the simplest and, for most bowhunters, the most practical,” says Brantley. It was the most accurate bow of the test and performed similarly to the well-received Mathews V3. —RC
This three-season lightweight tent is perfect for backcountry hunters and campers. Coming in at just under 3 pounds, the Aspect 2 served me well on my five-day backcountry elk hunt this past September. It packed down effortlessly and took up minimal space in my pack without adding too much weight. The tent is easy to assemble and quick to pitch. At 6-foot-2, I had plenty of room to lie down with extra space for my pack and other gear. The two dry vestibule areas came in handy to protect my boots and other equipment from getting wet. The light webbing construction makes this tent extremely lightweight and perfect for backcountry adventures. —RC
The Sitka Delta Zip Wader might be the most splurge-worthy piece of waterfowl equipment out there. It took home the editor’s pick award in our best duck hunter waders of 2022. We’ve tested them across the country from the Alaska coast to the Texas delta. The waders excelled on each hunt and are some of the most versatile on the market. What makes them so good is that they’ll keep you comfortable—with the right layers—from early teal season all the way to late January. The Lacrosse boot on these waders is durable, comfortable, and warm, but my favorite feature is the knee pads. I often find myself kneeling to hide and humping over beaver dams. The extra cushion in this high-wear area is a huge plus. Add the fact that these waders are 100 percent serviceable and it truly makes them a once in a lifetime purchase. —RC
This is the perfect splurge-worthy gift for the saltwater kayak angler in your life—because it just might save their life. Saltwater kayak angling can be dangerous, especially when you’re fishing in cold oceans and bays that can cause hypothermia and cold shock if you fall in. Owning a good dry suit is highly recommended—but not enough people have one. The Kokatat Supernova Angler is pricey but it’s worth shelling out for. Its Neo Cinch Collar is more comfortable than the latex alternatives, which means you can wear it for hours on the water without a problem. The Gore-Tex Pro fabric is lightweight, dries fast, and doesn’t get tangled in hooks. Overall, it’s durable, looks good, and will give you peace of mind no matter the water conditions. What more can you ask for? —SM
Yes, I am recommending you gift them a drift boat—and yes, it will be the best gift they have ever received. This three-man raft from Flycraft was built to have the luxury feel of a drift boat with the ability to access skinny water. The boat can fish two anglers standing with a rower and only draw three to four inches of water. It has 360-degree rotating seats and lock standing braces to keep you stable while casting. It is rated for class three rapids and can handle up to a 3.5 horsepower motor. The raft can be thrown on a car rooftop or in the bed of a pickup for easy put-ins and take-outs. —RC
While I still can’t lasso a cow, these boots make me feel like I can. They’re made from calfskin and come in four colors and a variety of sizes. I went with the bourbon cafe and absolutely love how they look. They fit true to size and are extremely comfortable. Paired with my Stetson hat and mustache, all I am missing is a horse. —RC
I hunted out of the Old Town Discovery 119 canoe for a week straight and absolutely loved it. It is light enough for one person to throw on top of their car or in the bed of a truck. The boat paddles smoothly and tracks almost perfectly. The low gunnels are ideal for humping over beaver dams and getting in and out to set decoys and retrieve ducks. You can hunt right from it—almost like a layout blind—or hide it easily and set up on the bank. Where this boat really excels is jump shooting. After the morning flight died down I took this boat through the winding creeks, putting up mallards, woodies, and teal. I was able to paddle and move this boat through less than an inch of water. Now, that’s not easy by any means, but duck hunting never is. The flat bottom design of the Discovery 119 allowed me to push through the muck and skinny water to get to the ducks, which is something I know other boats wouldn’t have been able to do. —RC
Fishing doesn’t usually come to mind when you think of paddle boarding, but the Bote has changed the game. I took my HD Aero paddle board fly fishing and it performed much better than I expected. I was skeptical about the stability of the paddle board and assumed it would be difficult to cast from. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Once you get a feel for the board, it is extremely easy to paddle and the tackle rack (included in the package) turns this into the ultimate fishing board. It is easy to stabilize yourself with the bar when casting, and the rod holders are a plus. The package also comes with a Kula cooler which can serve as a higher casting platform to get a better view of the water in front of you. Besides the fishing, this thing is just fun to paddle. It is perfect to share with the family on vacation, and when it’s time to get serious about fishing, just throw on a couple accessories and you are ready to go. —RC
Polarized sunglasses might be the most overlooked piece of fishing gear out there. They not only give you better visibility into the water column but they also protect your eyes from harmful UV light and stray hooks. The new Jose Pro sunglasses are a tribute to the legendary angler Jose Wejebe, who broke barriers in the angling community. There are five glass lens options and two frame colors. I got my pair with copper silver mirror lenses, which do well for the rivers I fish in the west. The lenses also have scratch-resistant technology to improve the durability of the glass. The Jose Pro is extremely comfortable to wear and I love the adjustable nose piece. They provide great coverage on the water and I even forget I have them on—the true testament to a good pair of fishing glasses. —RC
Flying with firearms is intimidating, but not as difficult as most people think. All you need is a lockable hard-sided case. Pelican has emerged as one of the top air travel firearm case manufacturers. The 1755 air long case is one of the best long gun cases out there. It measures 55” x 14” x 8” with crush-proof and waterproof technology. It is perfect for rifles and other guns that you don’t want to break down. The durable stainless steel wheels and overmolded handles make it easy to transport through an airport. It has press and pull latches that secure the case and multiple locking points that make sure it’s TSA approved. —RC
Tailored towards brightness and light transmission, Maven’s B.6 binoculars excel in low light conditions. I use my 12×50 B.6 binos for both elk and mule deer hunting. They have a wide field of view which makes them ideal for locating game. I pair them with the Maven CS.1 spotting scope to help dial in animals from a distance. The B.6 comes in both 10x and 12x magnification with a magnesium frame. Add Maven’s lifetime warranty and this will be the last binocular your hunter will ever have.
While not directly related to hunting or fishing, the Solo Stove Yukon fire pit is a must-have for anyone who loves the outdoors. The vented bottom allows more air to get inside for a more efficient and faster-lighting fire. Our gear editor, Amanda Oliver, is a big fan of her Yukon—she likes that it’s smokeless, easy to light and clean, and big enough that the whole family can fit around for a late-night bonfire and s’mores on a crisp fall night.
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