Best Outdoors Gear from Florida Rambler’s Gift Guides
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These recommendations are gleaned from eight years of reviews, outdoor gear that stands the test of time. Most are used by us in the field; others were recommended by readers and have received positive reviews. We would recommend them to our friends and family without hesitation.
If you disagree with our recommendations, or wish to expand on our descriptions, we encourage you to tell us why in the comments below.
Shock Absorbing Hiking Stick by WILCOR — I bought this hiking pole a few years ago on a whim at the Acadia National Park gift shop, and I kick myself in the butt every time I forget to bring it on a trip that includes hiking, even relatively short nature trails. The pole adjusts from 27 to 52 inches and comes with a rugged rubber tip, but the piece de resistance is the spring-loaded, shock-absorbing tip that gives just enough (it’s adjustable). Adjustments are made with simple twists. The cork handle absorbs moisture and fits comfortable in the hand with a wrist strap that will keep it on board should it slip from your hand while climbing a ravine. Made of lightweight aluminum, you won’t see any disadvantage over more expensive carbon-fiber poles. $19.95 on Amazon.
Tripod Mount Adapter For Cell Phones by VASTAR — Our smartphones are rapidly becoming the camera of choice for travellers and outdoors enthusiasts, rivalling even the best digital SLR cameras in the field, especially for sunsets and landscapes, even selfies. This inexpensive adapter firmly secures your phone to your camera tripod for a steady shot. Videos become easier to manage for a level playing field. The heavy-duty plastic clamp with a cushioned seat screws right onto the standard camera tripod for a flawless fit, either vertically or horizontally. Expands from 2.3 to 3.5 inches to fit iPhones, Samsung, Blackberry and more (I use it with my iPhone 7, including the waterproof case). Don’t leave home without it. Pocket change for an amazing stocking stuffer. $5.99 on Amazon.
Waterproof Cell Phone Case with Float. I dropped my iPhone in the water on a recent kayak paddle and nearly panicked. Fortunately, it was in shallow water and I was able to retrieve it. For days, I considered what I would do if it fell in the ocean, deep lake or river. I didn’t so much need a waterproof case (the iPhone 7 is waterproof), but I feared it would sink like a rock where it would be difficult, if not impossible, to retrieve. There are more expensive waterproof cases out there, and my nephew (a professional kiteboarder) heartily recommends Lifeproof, but at half the price, I felt the Tendam waterproof case with an easily detachable rescue float that slips over the wrist was a smarter choice for kayaking. So far, it works like a charm. Check it out. This link takes you to the case for iPhone 7/8, but you can navigate from there to match your own phone. $24.88 on Amazon.
GoPro Hero5 w/Waterproof Housing. The hottest outdoors gift of 2018, the GoPro Hero is the No. 1 best-selling action camera. Embraced by outdoors enthusiasts for its versatility, light weight and professional quality, the GoPRo will follow you anywhere — high in the sky to the Keys’ coral reefs. Mount it on your snorkel mask, kayak, jet ski, bike, boat, surfboard, helmet or car with accessories designed for your GoPro playtime. Walmart bundle includes head mount. Weighs just 2.6 ounces.
Florida Atlas and Gazetteer (Delorme). Year after year, this comprehensive guide for exploring the back roads of Florida is the top seller in our Amazon store. The Florida Atlas and Gazetteer will take you to places you’ll never find on your smartphone, tablet or state road map, and the detailed large-format maps even drill down to forest service roads in Florida’s national and state parks, forests and wildlife preserves. You’ll find off-the-track campgrounds and recreation, bike trails and secret, secluded beaches. The bible for traveling in the Sunshine State. $23 on Amazon.
Ultra Lightweight Sleeping Bag For Warm Weather, Backpacking by Redcamp — 1.5 Pounds. Ultralight and Softer: Size is 75″ x 32.5″/ 190cm x 83cm. Perfect lightweight sleeping bags for adults of 6 feet tall. High-quality and durable fabric, stands up to years of use. This backpacking sleeping bag for camping is comfort in 68°F/20°C and fits temperature range 59 – 77 °F/15 – 25°C. Zip two together. $25 on Amazon.
Wenzel One 12 x 20 Camping Pillow. For travel or camping, this pillow made by Wenzel is a good choice for your next expedition, and it rolls up tight to save space (stuffs to 10″ x 6″ for backpacking). The large size and flannel cover make for a comfortable night’s sleep on an airplane or at a campground. $8.76 on Amazon
Coleman 30″ x 80″ Comfortsmart Deluxe Cot. My brother has one of these cots, and he raved about how comfortable it is. I’ve slept on enough hard ground over the years to truly appreciate the kind of comfort this cot affords. For Florida camping, a raised cot allows air to pass above and below your body, a desirable feature on warmer nights. We get plenty of those. This foldable cot has a foam mattress, a spring coil suspension and a steel frame that will support up to 300 pounds. Obviously it’s not for backpacking or kayaking, but it’s great for car camping and should easily stash in an SUV. Total weight of the cot is under 20 pounds. $70 on Amazon
Garmin eTrex Handheld GPS Navigator I have one of these units and find it invaluable when wandering into the wild, either on foot or through the Everglades and wetland prairies in my kayak. It tracks your path and brings you home if you get lost. Sure, you could use your smartphone for many nav purposes, but most phones rely on cellphone towers to pinpoint your location, not often available in the wilderness. The eTrex uses far more reliable bearings from satellites for navigation, and even captures and preserves your position when the tree canopy gets too thick. This unit also features paperless geocaching to help you plot your course. This rugged handheld GPS is waterproof (IPX7) and poweered by two AA batteries for 20-25 hours of use. The 2.2-inch display is easy to read, and the overall weight of the unit is a mere 5 ounces. With a worldwide basemap, you can even use it outside of Florida! Buy it Now on Amazon — the etrex 10: $84 — eTrex 20: $154 — etrex 30: $199
Baits, Rigs & Tackle’ by Vic Dunaway This is the Florida fishing bible, written by one of the state’s top fisherman and most prolific fishing writers, Vic Dunaway. This essential resource covers everything from rods and reels to baits and lures and how to rig them for the fish you are targeting. Much of the focus is on Florida fishing, both fresh and saltwater, but the lessons learned here are valuable anywhere there’s a fish waiting to be caught. The latest version includes a DVD. The illustrations are colorful, the book is well-organized, and the writing is easy to read for both novice and experts. $17.95 on Amazon
Florida’s Fabulous Canoe and Kayak Trail Guide This is the guide I recommended to Bonnie in my introduction to this list. I purchased it recently from the Visitor Center at Canaveral National Seashore and was blown away by the descriptions and information written by freelance writer Tim Ohr and the outstanding photography by Pete Carmichael. Ohr describes the trails as if you were there, and he provides valuable information about options for landings, where to put in and take out, as well as colorful sidebars on human (and not-so-human) characters he’s met along the way. He gives tips on where to camp, but provides little detail. The maps and photographs are stunning, taking this guidebook to heights not achieved by any other in my outdoors library. This book is truly fabulous. $9.52 on Amazon
Coleman WeatherMaster 6-Person Family Cabin Tent. My basic advice for purchasing a tent for use in Florida is to get one with twice the capacity you need. If you have a family of 3-4, you need a tent that sleeps 6-8. Why? Air circulation. This is Florida, and circulation is critical most of the year. You want windows on all sides to enhance circulation, and a roof vent with a rain fly to allow upward ventilation. This 6-person tent from venerable Coleman fills the bill at an affordable price. A two-room tent that sleeps six, it has a 17-by-9 footprint and 6 ft. 10 in. center height. Oodles of room for a Florida family of four. Stock it with those Coleman Comfortsmart cots at the top of this page and you’re golden. The floor-less screened room offers outstanding circulation that carries into and across the tent and through the completely vented ceiling, which is covered by a fly. With a screened foyer, mosquitos will have a hard time gaining entry. What’s not to like? $188 on Amazon.
ALPS Mountaineering Meramac 2 Person Dome Tent. The thing I like about this tent is that it’s airy, and that’s important when you are camping in Florida. Made of polyester taffeta, it’s also light, weighing in at just 6 pounds 14 ounces. The free-standing, 2-pole design features shock corded fiberglass poles, allowing you to set this tent up anywhere without stakes. The weatherproof fly with a ridge pole is essential in Florida, where the weather can change suddenly and unexpectedly throughout the year. There are a lot of lightweight tents out there, but what attracted me to this particular tent was the high ratings and high number of positive reviews. Best of all, it’s inexpensive. $52 on Amazon.
Thermacell Patio Shield Mosquito Repeller & Lantern. There are a lot of mosquito gimmicks out there, but this repeller is no joke. It really works. Scent-free and DEET-free, the repeller creates a 15-foot mosquito protection zone with the lantern on or off. The perfect companion for camping or the patio. Light intensity varies by model. Read more about it. $14.99 on Amazon.
Thermacell Portable Mosquito Repeller. Carry this on a hike or set it on the picnic table to create a 15-foot mosquito protection zone around you. Scent-free and DEET-free, portable and lightweight. No open flame, no smoky candles, no mess. It really works. Read more about it. $24.99 on Amazon.
WildHorn Outfitters Seaview 180° GoPro Compatible Snorkel Mask. Easier than ever to breathe comfortably through your mouth or nose while snorkeling. A 180° viewing area — the biggest of any snorkel mask on the market today. Integrated GoPro Mount you can easily attach your GoPro camera to capture and share your adventure. DRY SNORKEL TECHNOLOGY stops salt water from getting into your mouth and prevents gagging. Fog resistant design. 12 Colors, 3 sizes. $70 on Amazon.
Cressi SUPERNOVA DRY, Adult Diving Dry Snorkel The Supernova Dry snorkel has a unique Splash Guard at the end which greatly reduces the entrance of water during use on the surface. The special Valve on top seals the tube as you dive, almost totally preventing the entrance of water when the snorkel is submerged. The end part has a corrugated piece that is smooth on the inner side and keeps the snorkel away from the mouth during use when scuba diving.. $19 on Amazon.
Ocean Kayak Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak A friend who sells kayaks has one of these in his fleet, so that should tell you something. It’s only 9 feet long and weighs 43 pounds, making it easily transportable on a car top or a pickup. Ideal for snorkelers and divers because you can store your gear on the stern. Very stable for a small kayak, and an excellent surf rider. And it consistently shows up on “Best Kayak” lists. $650 on Amazon.
Honda EU2000i Portable Generator. Both Wirecutter and Consumer Reports rate the Honda EU2000i as the best portable generator that money can buy. I have an earlier version of this generator that I purchased more than 10 years ago, and I can attest to its quality and longevity. This EU2000i is super quiet and weighs only 47 pounds. We carry it in our RV for dry-docking and use at home when the power goes out. With 2200 watts and 120 volts, it will power a refrigerator, a fan and a light. For more power, buy the companion EU2200ic companion generator for a 30-amp connection that will power the A/C unit in your RV. $1,000 on Amazon.
Quick-Set Escape Shelter, Popup Gazebo, 11.5 X 11.5-feet. A pop-up shade canopy with a no-see-um-proof screen and a waterproof roof is essential for Florida camping. But the best features is that it sets up in less than a minute. I have owned two canopies over the years, happy with both with one exception: setting them up is a hassle. This one will be my next canopy. With 94 square feet of space, the Quick-Set Escape Screen Shelter can fit a standard picnic table inside. $233 on Amazon.
Ocean Kayak Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak. A friend who sells kayaks has one of these in his fleet, so that should tell you something. It’s only 9 feet long and weighs 43 pounds, making it easily transportable on a car top or a pickup. Ideal for snorkelers and divers because you can store your gear on the stern. Very stable for a small kayak, and an excellent surf rider. And it consistently shows up on “Best Kayak” lists. $650 on Amazon.
Airhead Complete Folding Grapnel Anchor System. Ideal lightweight but anchor for kayak snorkelers. 3-1/3 pound 4-fluke folding anchor will hold in mud, sand, gravel and rock. 25-foot long marine-grade rope. Durable nylon storage case is padded for added protection. An Amazon best seller. $21 on Amazon.
Yakgrips. Let’s start off with this inexpensive and very practical stocking stuffer for the paddler in the family. I’ve had a pair of Yakgrips for years, and they are comfortable, prevent blisters and calluses, ease the pressure on your hands and really take the edge off long-distance or day paddling. You need take-apart paddles so you can slide them on the shaft, and that can be a bit of a challenge because they are a tight fit. But once on the paddle, they stay in place and never have to be removed. They come in five colors to complement the color of your paddle and/or boat. $19 on Amazon.