Best Graduation Gifts
The best gifts for your graduating hunter, angler, or outdoorsman
There’s no set of rules for graduation gifting, but it’s good to get something that they’ll be able to keep for a long time. You want them to remember this milestone, even if they don’t care to remember the work that went into it. For most grads some jewelry or new clothes will do. But if your grad is a hunter, angler, or outdoors person—a new piece of useful outdoor gear is your ticket.
Hard working outdoor gear tends to take a beating. Even if it’s well made, even if they take especially good care of it, very few things will last a lifetime. And sure, a beautiful shotgun can become an heirloom, but the price will reflect that. A great rule of thumb is to get your grad a luxury they wouldn’t get themselves. That could be cooler they’ll keep forever, a knife that never leaves their person, or maybe it’s just a nicer pair of waders for next season.
Stick to gear you know they’ll use, and it’s hard to go wrong. Here are our favorite ideas for the best graduation gifts to get you started.
- Everything Else
If your grad is a hunter through and through, a new firearm or bow will always go over well. It’s the big ticket item and something that can truly last a lifetime. Of course, if you’re not dropping $1,000+ (they’re supposed to put that diploma to use and get a job, anyway), there are plenty of other options.
Our Editors’ Pick in this year’s bow test, the RX-7 has an amazing “HBX Pro” cam system that builds off of Hoyt’s new HBX binary cams. In the bow test, it narrowly lost out as the fastest bow, was one of the most accurate across the board, and was a crowd favorite in the subjective categories. Altogether: the bow does everything incredibly well, and it just feels good. If your grad loves bowhunting, this is an investment they would be grateful for, and you’d find them using it season after season. (If the price tag is too steep, the Xpedition Smoke won our Best Value, coming in just over $1,000) —Luke Guillory
The A400 Xtreme Plus is another winner of our editorial test that doesn’t come cheap but is worth every penny. This gas-operated, semi-automatic shotgun was a winner among all four of our testers. It was the standout in terms of recoil reduction, making it a comfortable gun to shoot and easy and reliable to shoot. It’s another big investment gift, but one that they’ll surely keep forever. (Look at our review of the Winchester Super X4 for a great shotgun under $1,000) —LG
If you want something that your grad will hold onto, like a bow or shotgun, get them a great jacket. This 3-Layer Field Jacket from Filson is waterproof, breathable, and durable as hell. It’s functional, with a rear zippered game bag, and comfortable, with adjustable hood and cuffs as well as fleece-lined hand pockets. Perfect for upland hunting or wearing around town, your grad will wear this one into the ground. —LG
If your grad is a waterfowl hunter, a pair of waders is a great mid-price gift. Sure, a pair of waders will only last them so long, but they’ll be grateful they didn’t have to buy them for this next season or two. Cabela’s SuperMag Chest Waders are made of waterproof and insulating 5mm neoprene, and they offer comfort in the form of Thinsulate insulated boots and fleece-lined pockets. Even if they get abused over a season, your grad might just ask for a new pair next Christmas. —LG
If your grad is like me when I graduated college, their waterfowl hunting gear is probably on its last legs. They’re also probably strapped for cash. So get them something they will use regularly and will likely last a lifetime. Sitka’s Delta Wading Jacket is perfect for waterfowlers that experience wild temperature swings throughout the season—which is just about everyone these days. The uninsulated Gore-Tex shell stops even the most persistent wind-driven rain and allows you to layer to match ever-changing conditions. It has kept me dry through coastal torrents with winds better than 50 mph, allowing me to arrive back at the marina no worse for the wear. —Ryan Chelius
Browning’s Strike Force HD Pro X checks all the boxes for a trail camera at a reasonable price. It’s got a fast 0.22-second trigger that captures 20MP high-def photos or 900p HD video with sound. It’s got a generous 80’ detection zone, 120’ flash range, and though it’s compact (4.25”x3.25”x2.5”), it has a nice 1.5” viewing screen. On Amazon it comes with a 32GB memory card, but it can handle memory cards up to 512GB. (You can pick it up from Cabela’s without a memory card.) —LG
Hear me out, this isn’t a headline grabbing gift, but it’s ultra-functional, a gift that your grad could be using for a long, long time. If your graduating hunter is ever traveling anywhere with a firearm, packing it up in a Pelican rifle case will make their lives infinitely easier. Pelican’s signature high-impact polymer exterior is built for hard use and weather resistance. The customizable five-layer interior foam keeps things locked in, and a four-button closure plus stainless steel padlock hasps keep anyone else locked out. Although they’re built for a lifetime, Pelican cases come with some of the best warranties out there, and their Vault cases are backed by a three-year limited warranty. —LG
I’ve spent a lot of time in waders over the years, and I haven’t come across too many that I thought were truly great—until now. This last season, I had the privilege of hunting in a pair of Chene Gear’s excellent bootfoot waders. The full-length zipper makes them extremely easy to put on and take off, but the star of the show is the boot. Despite slipping on and off easily, the boot stays put in even the stickiest of mud. I walked tens of miles over coastal pluff mud last season, and none of it managed to pull one of them off. Quality comes at a cost though, and these breathable wonders aren’t cheap. But with a lifetime warranty, they just might be the last pair of waders your grad needs. —Joe Albanese
The favorite classic from our behemoth Best Pocket Knives story, the Buck 110 has made it’s way into American Icon territory. A great way to gift it is by getting it engraved or customized. The easiest way is to buy Buck’s own Customizable 110, where you can pick out more specialized blades or premium handles, though your custom choices can quickly take you over a $100 budget. Another great option is to just get a Classic 110 and have it engraved with your graduate’s initials and year. —LG
Trout bum, bass bum, striper chaser, whatever your grad may consider themselves, you can grab them a great fishing gift at any price point.
The Yeti Tundra has become the standard that all other coolers are held against, and it frequently gets mentions when we write about the best coolers on the market. They’re just great coolers plain and simple. They’ve got a durable single-piece, roto-molded construction, and they’ll hold ice for days. It’s a massive upgrade on that cheap cooler they picked up Freshman year. For a graduation gift, we’d suggest the Tundra 65 as it is the perfect size for keeping drinks and food, as well as your catch. —LG
The Chelem sunglasses from Bajio are not only fashionable but also a pair of top-performing fishing shades. They have a medium-sized frame with grip concealed contact points on the nose and temples. The glasses sit securely and lightly on your face for a comfortable feel and sharp look. The polarized color-enhancing lenses filter out blue light and make these great sunglasses to fish all day with. My favorite part about the design is the stylish look that you will be happy to wear around town as much as you will on the boat. These frames will fit a variety of face types, including both guys and girls. They come in three different frame colors and either polycarbonate or glass lenses. —RC
If your grad wants to be on the water rain or shine, or if they’re a surf fisherman, Grundén’s Gambler is as bulletproof a fishing jacket as you’re likely to find. An 80D 100% nylon face is paired with a GORE-TEX knit backer is what makes this jacket so durable. Additional features like a stowaway hood and submersible single cuff design keep you completely dry, and the GORE-TEX stretch panels get rid of any restriction while casting. It’s also good at blocking wind, allowing it to work double duty if the weather is turning. It’s an investment, but it’s as good as a fishing jacket gets. —LG
Does your grad take pride in getting to those most remote fishing spots? If yes, get them a quality fishing backpack. The Wild River Nomad gets the nod, because it can handle a wide array of situations. It’s got plenty of storage with side pockets, large front pockets, and a pliers holder. It can hold six 3600 tackle trays or four 3500 trays. There’s even an internal LED light for when your early starts and late finishes mean there’s no light.
If they’ve already got a fishing pack they’re attached to, get them a packable rain jacket like the Mountain Hardware Paclite. It packs down small enough that there’s no reason not to toss it in the bag. A GORE-TEX membrane means it’ll keep them dry in the worst rain and wind. —LG
Maybe the price on that Grundén’s jacket caused some (well deserved) sticker shock, but you can just as easily please your surf fishing grad with a solid spinning reel. Penn’s Spinfisher VI straddles a $200 budget, with sizes over 6500 being more than $200. It’s a workhorse reel that’s sealed and can handle the occasional splash. It’s not the most durable surf reel, but no surf reel is expected to last forever. And at the price, you won’t find much competition; count on this one making your grad happy. —LG
Being versatile is the mark of a great combo, and when it comes to bass fishing, Lew’s Baitcast Combo does just that. It’s a pretty simple, middle-of-the-road combo with a medium heavy 7’2” rod that can do just about anything and a reel up to Lew’s usual bass fishing standard. The reel has a premium 9+1 bearing system, making it incredibly smooth. While combos are usually marketed towards beginners, you might want to steer towards one as a gift, so the package works out of the box and without any grief for your grad. —LG
Something that your grad can hold onto for a long time is a great fishing vest. Assuming they take care of, your grad could be wearing it into the next decade. The Simms Guide Vest is what our Editor-in-Chief uses, and for good reason. It’s made of durable Cordura nylon ripstop with a polyester lining, has a water-resistant finish, and features an always dependable YKK zipper. In terms of space, it’s got an incredible 26 pockets, so your grad can haul every single accessory, fly, or new tool they spent that first paycheck on. —LG
I picked up my Simms’ wading jacket right around the time I graduated, and I’m still using it some 15 years later. Get your favorite grad their next favorite fishing jacket and bibs, and they’ll probably be wearing it decades later as well. I recently picked up the ProDry Jacket and Bibs, and they have served me well out on the ice and on the salt. If it’s blowing, I’m going, and the PrDry fishing system has kept me dry—even when rogue waves battered the skiff. The Gore-Tex shell has repelled everything Mother Nature has thrown at it, while still allowing sweat to escape. —JA
But maybe your grad found themself a great new job in the middle of the city. If that’s the case, get them something that will keep them from going crazy in that too small apartment. The Deluxe Fly Tying Kit from Cabela’s plus a materials kit will give them everything they need to start tying their own flies, a great way to keep looking forward to the next trip when stuck in the city. —LG
A Sheffield Pewter flask is as English as Afternoon Tea, mushy peas, or fish and chips. So naturally, your grad will feel a bit more sophisticated when they offer their partner a celebratory drink out of this trout-engraved flask. It holds 2.5 oz., a reasonable size which makes it easy to fit in most pockets. It will last as long as they keep track of it, and for only a few bucks extra, you can get it engraved for a personal touch. If your grad is into antiques, there are plenty of these old flasks on the internet. Just try an eBay search for “Pewter [any species] flask,” and something should come up. —LG
I usually don’t like to fish in bibs because they’re too bulky and restrict movement. But my perspective changed when I tried on the Grundens Charter bibs in early April. These bibs have all the bells and whistles you’d expect in quality rain gear like Gore-Tex construction, nylon reinforced knees, and adjustable suspenders. But what stood out to me the most was the lightweight design.
Fishing conditions can change on a dime and I have come to fully embrace a strong layering system for all of my hunting and fishing adventures. This allows me to shed or add layers depending on the weather. The Charter bibs are lightweight and breathable, which means you can wear them with shorts during early summer or layer up underneath when the temperature drops. Either way, you’ll be dry and comfortable. —RC
It didn’t take many days on the water to know that these were some of the best fishing pants I’ve ever worn. The comfortability of the breeze pant is the first thing I noticed. The elastic waistband and drawstring make for a perfect fit and the stretchy material makes for easy mobility. Combined with the breathable design and strong sun protection, this pant is everything an angler needs. —RC
Maybe your grad is picky about their gear. Maybe they’re just more of a generalist. In that case, grab them something that anyone can use outdoors. A new shirt, a nice bag, the possibilities are truly endless.
Tecovas can make one hell of a boot but don’t sleep on their shirts either. This men’s long sleeve plaid shirt has quickly become a top choice in my closet. It is lightweight, breathable, and makes for a stylish outer layer. It comes in four patterns, but the crimson navy plaid is by far my favorite. —RC
I travel a lot for work and my YETI Crossroads backpack is always with me. The pack is made from water and abrasion resistant nylon that can handle being tossed around. The backpack is extremely spacious and I can fit all of my clothes plus my camera gear in the main compartment for a weekend trip. The laptop sleeve can fit both my 13-inch and 15-inch laptops, and the EVA foam construction makes for comfortable travel. —RC
I never knew how much I needed an axe until I had one in my truck. I mounted this Gerber Bushcraft Axe in the bed of my Tacoma and I quickly put it to use. As an outdoorsman who graduated two years ago, I can confidently say I would have loved this as a gift. I used it on a recent trip to chop wood and feed our campfire throughout the night, and it came in handy when field dressing a turkey after a successful hunt. It comes in at just over 26 inches and has waterproof storage in the handle for a lighter or dry kindle. It has a strong grip and is easy to swing. Any grad who spends time building fires or chopping wood will love this axe. —RC
I spend somewhere in the neighborhood of 175 days a year in waders, so I look for every opportunity to escape. In the warmer months, I prefer to wet wade whenever possible. But doing so means you must have capable footwear that can go from wet to dry and back again while providing equally competent footing. I recently picked up a pair of Chaco’s Lowdown Sandals and have been impressed with the grip they provide on wet jetty rocks, sand in the surf zone, and asphalt alike. Pick your grad up a pair and they’ll use them all summer long. Also available in women’s sizes. —JA