You can roll the dice with Christmas again this year by answering the “What do you want for Christmas” question with an off-handed, “Oh, anything will be fine.” Or, you can let friends and family know exactly what you want by giving them a detailed list. To that end, here are a few of our suggestions on what we might hope to open come Christmas Day.
I always travel with a soft-sided cooler, which makes bringing meat and fish home from hunts hassle free. Well, hassle free until your cooler comes out of baggage claim dripping blood from a bunch of goose breasts that thawed on the flight. Don’t ask me how I know this. The Yeti Hopper ($300; yeticoolers.com), though expensive, might be worth the cost not only for its insulating capabilities, but also the water- (and blood-) proof zipper.—D.D.
Polder Digital Thermometer
A digital thermometer is the wild game cook’s best friend, so be sure to ask Santa for a good one. If you’ve been nice, go ahead and put a Thermapen ($96; thermoworks.com) on your list. If you lean toward the naughty side, maybe request something a bit less expensive, yet still serviceable like those made by Polder (starting at $13; polder.com). —D.D.
Gerber Freescape Camp Kitchen Knife
I’m always looking for an excuse to get a new knife, and Gerber gave me one with this new blade designed specifically for kitchen duties at camp ($46; gerbergear.com). The edge is super-sharp, and will power through a cookbook’s worth of chopping, dicing, and mincing. And when you’re finished with your food-prep work, this blade can also handle other camp chores, such as cutting cord or feathering sticks. What’s more, it even looks cool. —C.K.
Camp Chef Pellet Grill & Smoker LS
Traeger owners have been bragging about their grills for years, but 2014 could be called the year of the pellet grill as tons of other manufacturers have jumped into the market. Users tout their set-and-forget ability to smoke just about anything, and from my limited experience with them, smoking fish and game is pretty effortless. I figure it’s time to get on the bandwagon, so I’m asking for a Camp Chef Pellet Grill and Smoker LS ($660; campchef.com). —D.D.
For a yearlong gift that delivers a new cooking experience every month, consider Spice Post. This unique service mails out two new spice blends each month focusing on different cuisines of the world, ranging from Jamaica to Louisiana to Africa. Each spice comes in its own re-sealable envelope for maximum freshness and the monthly mailing includes a brief description of the spice blend and suggested recipes ($100 per year; spicepost.ca). —D.D.
Pat’s Backcountry Beverages Brew Concentrate
This gift, my friends, is a no brainer. When it comes to backcountry adventures, we all know that every inch inside you pack is precious. There’s simply no room for anything that isn’t essential—such as a six-pack of your favorite brew. And that’s too bad, because how many times have you sat down to dinner after a long, grueling day and wished for just one cold beer before you climb into your tent? Enter Pat’s Backcountry brewing kit (patsbcb.com). This gift comes in three parts: the Carbonator Bottle ($40); the Activator 12-pack ($6), which are packets that trigger the carbonation process; and, most importantly, the beer-concentrate packets, available in either Pale Rail or Black Hops. I’ve experimented with the kit at the office, and although it took me a few tries to get the carbonation process just right (the instructions are very specific), once I did the results were simply amazing. Trust me: This is very good beer, and there’s something very satisfying about making your own beer. If these beers tasted good at my desk, I can’t imagine how great they’ll taste at camp. —C.K.
A Couple of Cookbooks
Since this blog is about all things meat, why not add a couple of protein-centric cookbooks to your Christmas list? I got my hands on a copy of Meat: Everything You Need to Know ($26.48; amazon.com) by noted New York butcher Pat LaFrieda and am blown away by how he breaks down butchery for the layman. Personally, I also hope to find a copy of The Cook’s Illustrated Meat Book ($26.68; amazon.com) under my tree. The 500-page tome has more than 400 meat and poultry recipes just begging to be adapted for wild game. —D.D.
I love to read, so it’s no surprise that books typically take up a good chunk of my Christmas gift lists. I can’t think of a better book to enjoy in a comfortable chair this winter—with a glass of bourbon close by, of course—than Good Dog ($15.28; amazon.com), a new collection of dog essays from the talented crew at Garden & Gun. The subtitle of this book says it all: T_rue Stories of Love, Loss, and Loyalty_. Not surprisingly, many of the stories are about hunting and gun dogs, and Field & Stream readers will recognize the names of many of the contributors in the book, including Phil Bourjaily, T. Edward Nickens, and Jonathan Miles. This collection will make you laugh, tear up, and long for next year’s hunting season. Good Dog is a truly wonderful book, and it belongs on the bookshelf of every bird hunter who has ever those very words, “Good dog.” —C.K.
Oliso VS97A Vacuum Sealer
My vacuum sealer—now seven or eight years old—is on the fritz, I’m afraid. When the time comes to get a new one, I think I’ll go with this model from Oliso ($200; oliso.com). What’s great about the vacuum sealers from Oliso—aside from the fact that they perform remarkably, sucking every last bit of air from the bag—is that their bags are re-sealable several times after you open them. This would be great for stuff like venison burgers or sausages: I could be a bunch into one bag, open it and take out as many as I want to cook at one time, then re-seal the bag without having to use (or waste) another bag. Brilliant! Oliso had hunters and fisherman in mind when they designed this system. It comes with a water-resistant carrying case, so you can toss it in the back of your truck—and it’s got a power adapter that’ll plug in to your vehicle’s lighter. Seriously, that’s brilliant.