Tuesday, November 21, 2017

2013 outdoors holiday gift guide


PINELLAS PARK — I'm not a guy who checks his email while out in the woods. I carry a smartphone in the backcountry, but not because I need to stay plugged in.

This time of year, there are only two things I really care about when camping: a hot cup of coffee and avoiding hypothermia.

The former is easy: just bust out a backpacking stove and fire up the java. But the latter can be a little trickier, especially during the winter, when a cold front can bring wind, rain and freezing temperatures.

That's why I use my smartphone to check the weather radar. Problem is the battery is better-suited for a Barbie phone than one used by an outdoorsman. It usually works the first day and then I find myself looking for the nearest marina or ranger station to hook up to an electrical outlet.

But now, thanks to the new PowerPot charging system, I can have the power I want, plus a cup of joe anywhere I go. The PowerPot, a lightweight, thermoelectric generator that converts heat into DC electrical power, is the answer to all my dreams. In 25 years on the outdoors beat, I've seen my share of innovative products, but the PowerPot is the first one in a while to make me say, "Hmmm."

The concept is simple. Add water to the pot, put it on a heat source (i.e., backpacking stove), plug the wires into the pot and your mobile electronic device, and in a matter of minutes, you're powered up. The PowerPot is equipped with a standard USB (5V) port found in most devices on the market.

The PowerPot works with cellphones, GPS units, iPods and lithium ion batteries. It will also run speakers, lights, fans or other low-power USB appliances. It is relatively lightweight (18.2 ounces with the lid and cord). The pot is expensive — $149, and that is without the stove — but there is nothing else like it. To learn more, go to thepowerpot. com. What else makes for a great gift? Read on:

Best Camp Chair: My gear guru buddy, Darry Jackson at the Bill Jackson Shop for Adventure in Pinellas Park, is always looking for the latest gadgets when he goes to the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City.

"You have got to check this out," he said recently. "This is the most comfortable chair I've ever tried."

I spend a lot of time sitting around campfires telling scary stories, so I've become something of a connoisseur of camp chairs. The Strongback Elite chair ($79.95, strongbackchair.com), with its frame-integrated lumbar support, did not disappoint. It costs more than your typical big box store variety, but I figure if you break it down by the hour, or even minute, then this chair costs just pennies per snore session.

Caffeine King: Did I mention that I love coffee? If Santa is listening, I hope he brings me the new Jetboil Flash Java Kit ($99, jetboil.com). Brew two cups of perfect coffee in just two minutes with this device that packs down to the size of a water bottle. Stick it in the hull of your kayak, tackle box, or keep one in your top desk drawer and head out on your coffee break and brew a batch in the parking lot. This is a must for every caffeine-addicted outdoors person.

These are just a few of the items on my wish list. To see more in a photo gallery accompanying this story, go to tampabay.com/ outdoors.


Captainís Corner: Get ready for gag grouper migration

With falling water temperatures and bait fish making their way into the near shore waters off of the coast, we can expect the fall migration of gag grouper to be in full swing with the next two or three cold fronts that make their way into the centra...
Published: 11/18/17
Updated: 11/20/17

Captainís Corner: As visibility improves, so does spearfishing

Spearing in the Gulf of Mexico is improving day by day. First, the underwater visibility is getting much better. For more than a month, after Hurricane Irma, the offshore water clarity was so poor that most divers stayed home. The water is now much c...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/18/17

Captainís Corner: Snook bite remains aggressive

We are in the midst of prefrontal conditions, so there should be good fishing today. Bait seems to have moved on the last full moon and judging by the amount of bait fry that has filtered onto the flats, it spawned also. Load up the wells with the sm...
Published: 11/17/17

Captainís Corner: Calm seas closer to beaches rewards with kingfish

Strong east winds have made it challenging for offshore anglers. The first few miles are quite tolerable since the land buffers the shoreline. After that, sea conditions have been tougher. Anglers searching for kingfish have been rewarded with calm s...
Published: 11/16/17

Captainís Corner: A little wind doesnít stop hot fishing in November

Despite many windy days, November fishing has been amazing. The water is cooling off, and the fish are becoming more aggressive. Itís getting to be the time of year when the cold fronts start to make their way out of the north. When this happens, win...
Published: 11/15/17

Captainís Corner: Fly fishing success possible, even in wind

When your day to fly fish arrives, do you hope for a day without wind? Knowledgeable fly fishers know there are many ways to deal with different wind situations. Avoid open water, and select an area that offers protection. Stay close to shore and use...
Published: 11/12/17
Updated: 11/14/17

Captainís Corner: Low tides and cold fronts make for rewarding fishing

Fall and winter low tides combined with cold fronts passing through can lead to highly rewarding fishing. It takes winds blowing 20-plus miles an hour out of the northeast combined with an astronomical low tide around the new moon and full moon phase...
Published: 11/12/17
Updated: 11/13/17

Captainís Corner: Reef fish abundant offshore; mackerel, kings better near shore

Before this recent cold front, we were able to travel where we wanted, and the calm seas allowed us to make the mistake of running past the best depths for our type of fishing. The 40- to 50-foot depths produced almost nonstop action from reef fish, ...
Published: 11/12/17
Captainís Corner: Mackerel still going strong in bay area

Captainís Corner: Mackerel still going strong in bay area

The fall king mackerel run is still going strong. The fish have seemed to come in waves; one week there are numerous fish more than 30 pounds, and a week or two later no one can find any more than 20. It also seems the fish are not moving south all t...
Published: 11/11/17

Captainís Corner: Cold front should push fish into backcountry waters

The approaching front is forecast to drop temperatures for a couple of days. This should push more fish into the backcountry rivers and creeks that feed the bay. Once the front passes and the weather stabilizes, fishing should return to normal. This ...
Published: 11/10/17