Jay Cassell Picks The Coolest New Hunting and Outdoor Gadgets, from Survival Kits to Flashlights, from SHOT Show 2011

_by Jay Cassell According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, last week’s SHOT show in Las Vegas was the biggest ever – almost 60,000 attendees, all in the industry, from gun makers to flashlight manufacturers, from gun shop owners from around the world to members of the media, also from around the world. The crowds were noticeable, too; the aisle were bustling, business was getting done, and there were new and exciting items in almost every booth. One of my goals this year was to find cool gadgets, stuff on the cutting edge of technology that can help us all better enjoy hunting and shooting. So, here goes – 16 items I singled out as stuff that_ Field & Stream_ readers and viewers would enjoy having. How did I make my selections? Simple: If I liked it, if I could and would use it, if it was different, then it made the grade._ Sport Ear Micro Blast The Micro Blast from Sport Ear can be tailored to fit your hearing needs. After giving you audiology tests, Sport Ear analysts determine which levels of your hearing need amplification, and tailor the Blast accordingly. A company spokesman told me that these devices also cut down ringing ear – tinnitus – in more than half of the people who use them. Custom fitting is available. $1100, from Sportear.com
**Little Sure Shot Gun Rest
The Little Sure Shot gun rest is the model of a easy, simple idea that really works; clamp it to a walking stick, tree branch, or sapling, and you have instant stability for your shot. Use it with rifle, shotgun or handgun. Available in orange, brown, black, green, pink and desert camouflage, the manufacturers suggested retail price is $19.95. Thunderboltcustoms.com
Pocket Survival Pack Plus Not too long ago, I used to pack my own, homemade survival kit whenever I was heading into the woods – for an afternoon of hunting or fishing, to perhaps a three- or four-day overnighter. My kit consisted of a piece of Duraflame log, some matches, aluminum foil, and a small compass. I guess I never figured that I’d ever really need it. Since then, I’ve read so many true survival stories to know that people get into serious trouble in the woods all the time, and not having a good survival kit is just plain stupid. The Pocket Survival Pack Plus, designed by survival expert Doug Ritter, is Adventure Medial Kit’s newest entry into the survival kit market. According to company spokesman Simon Ashdown, Ritter invented this kit to enhance an outdoorsman’s ability to survive if price weren’t a factor. Coming in at $80 ($45 more than the company’s popular Pocket Survival Pack), this kit includes an Led light, compass, knife, rope, wire, duct tape, plus food gathering and gear repairing implements. The fact that it only measures 5×5 inches makes it even more amazing. AdventureMedicalKits.com
New Motorola Talkabout Motorola’s new Talkabout two-way radio has all the features of its predecessors, including an LED light and NOAH weather station radio, plus 22 channels and eight repeater channels. It’s yellow (how many camouflage radios have you lost in the leaves?), it’s submersible, it floats (when used with NiMH batteries), and can also run on AA batteries. At 5.6 ounces without batteries, it’s a bit larger than previous models, but that’s because of the built-in air pockets that make it stay afloat. Range is a hefty 35 miles. Motorola.com
MagLite XL200 MagLite has the XL50, XL100, and now the all-new XL200, with 173 lumens, a push-button tail cap, and five lighting modes, including a brightness dimmer, nightlight, emergency safety stobe, spotlight to floodlight mode, and single beam mode. Available in black, red, silver, blue, and gray, it runs on three AAA batteries. This isn’t your father’s Mini-MagLite anymore! Cost – $60. Maglite.com
Energizer Carabiner LED Area Light Energizer yet again has another great array of lighting products, from headlamps to flashlights. One item that caught my eye is their new Carabiner LED Area Light, which is perfect for hanging in your tent, or for camping in general. With three LEDs that put out up to 50 lumens; a beam distance of 19 meters on flashlight mode, and a run time of 5 hours on high area light mode, it’s small and handy enough to throw in your daypack. It comes in three different colors and is priced at $20. Energizer.com
**Princeton Tec’s MPLS Tactical Headlamps
** Maker of such cool headlamps as the Fuel, Remix, Eos, and Byte, Princeton’s Tec’s latest entries into the field are MPLS tactical headlamps. Two of the seven new lights within the MPLS platform – the Point-MPLS and Switch-MPLS – are versatile task lights that offer faster, more effective tactical lighting solutions. Both the compact Point and Switch feature 45-degrees of rotation and a sturdy flexi-arm boom that allows for quick directional light movement without removing the light. Each light easily adapts to a variety of mounting options: helmet rail systems, helmet mount, MOLLE/PALS and Picatinny. And, LED options include: blue, green, red, white and infrared. Price is $53, from PrincetonTec.com
Browning HuntMaster VXT Flashlight Browning always has a lot of cool things going on at their booth. Amidst all the new Maxus and A-Bolt shotguns, X-bolt rifles, commemorative 1911 pistols (including a semiauto 22, originally designed by John Browning himself), and knives, I found a cool gadget in the new HuntMaster VXT flashlight. It features a huge 70-lumen green LED (15 times more powerful than other green LEDs), plus a 225-lumen white LED beam. The beam size is adjustable, from spotlight to floodlight, and has a memory feature that returns it to the previous setting. I want this in my pack next deer season. Enter the dark morning woods using the green LEC, then find your way out at dark using the white beam. Runs on two 3V lithium batteries. $100, from Browning.com
Leupold RCX Trail Camera Just what the world needs, another trail camera, right? Wrong, actually, as Leupold finally enters the trail camera market with its RCX Trial Cameras. The $300 model, the RCX1, has 8 megapixels; the $400 model, the RCX2, has 10. Both feature high-res videos, silent shutters, wide angles of view, extended range flashes, and less than one second between triggered photos. One final cool feature: Both models come with a remote that lets you access the camera without having to remove it from the tree. Leupold.com
Zippo NLF Team Logo Firestarter We all know the venerable Zippo hand warmer. It’s been around for decades, and every one of us has at least tried it. (I like it for ice fishing, football games, duck hunting, and cold-weather turkey hunts, but not for whitetail hunting, as it does give off a slightly gaseous odor.) But the company has added to its line, and now has a lighter as well as an emergency fire starter, with the logo of your favorite football team on the case. The fire starter, perfect for a survival kit, costs $30 with RealTree camo and your team’s logo, $20 for a blaze-orange cover. If you’re out in the November or December woods hunting and missing your team playing, at least you can think about the. Zippo.com
Bushnell Backtrack Point 5 If you’re GPS challenged, and end up putting your fancy GPS unit you’re your pack and pulling out a compass instead, help has arrived with the Bushnell Backtrack Point 5. The company calls it the easiest to use GPS in the world, and they’re right. It allows you to mark up to five 5 waypoints at the press of a button; additional features include a digital compass with latitude and longitude, time, altitude, and temperature. It works on two AA batteries, and has a carabiner clip so you can hang it on your belt. $89.99. Bushnell.com
Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Kits Gerber adds to its new line of Bear Grylls survival gear with two new survival kits, the Basic Kit and the Ultimate Kit. The Basic, at $30, is a lightweight (4.2 ounces) survival pack that the company says will get you through an emergency situation, while the Ultimate, as $55, is designed to get you through more extreme situations. The Basic has eight items, including matches, whistle, a small knife, fire starter, and cord; while the Ultimate, weighing 9.4 ounces, has 15 pieces, including a mini-multitool, fishing kit, mirror, survival blanket, and fire starter. These things were designed by Bear, and they do look like the real deals (though I would liked to have seen compasses in each). Gerbergear.com
SOG FastHawk Tomahawk SOG Specialty Knives (SOG stands for Studies Observation Group, a covert operation that originated during the Vietnam war) always has some of the coolest knives and tools at the SHOT show. Its Jungle Warrior and Canopy survival knives are well-thought-out, super strong, and are designed to chop, slice, saw, and pound. $70 and $80. I want them – but, even more, I want to own the new FastHawk Tomahawk, which is perfect for hunting, packing, and camping. It’s lighter and easier to carry than the company’s Tactical Tomahawk, yet it’s still as powerful, versatile, and functional. It weighs only 19 ounces, measures 12 ½ inches, and is made of 420 stainless. It has a ballistic polymer handle and comes in a nylon sheath. Price is $50. SOGknives.com
**Plotwatcher Pro
Day 6 Outdoors has a new and improved Plotwatcher, the Plotwatcher Pro, which takes SD cards (no flash drives, thank you) and 8 AA batteries instead of four. The unit can be set to take photos from every second to every 5 minutes. It also has a wakeup feature, so you can set it to turn on and off at specific times. The 2 ½-inch LCD screen lets you see what’s been going on in your area right away. The stake for last year’s PlotWatcher was made out of plastic and was too flimsy to be of much use. A company rep revealed a neat trick, however, when he said you can use the stake to bungie it in a tree. Good idea; even better is the fact that the new PlotWatcher has eliminated the stake and replaced it with a screw-in step–another good idea, though the strength of this unit is that it lets you watch a field or trail 24/7. Day6outdoors.com
Pendleton Gun Safes Pendleton, a 2010 Best of the Best winner, has upgraded its safes to make them more streamlined and totally fireproof. For my money, these are the best safes around. Check out the insides! Just press a button and the round shelving unit rotates, moving the guns you’re looking for to the front. No more grappling with all your firearms to pull out the one in the back! Safes start at $5500. Pendleton.com
Brite-Strike Tactical Blue-Dot LED Flashlight I couldn’t help but go tactical at the show, especially when I passed by Brite-Strike’s booth. Their new Tactical Blue-Dot LED flashlight, designed “by police officers for police officers,” is pretty much bombproof. It’s rechargeable, has wide high and low beams, plus a strobe. It has an ergonomic body, with a blunted front crenelated strike crown and aggressive rear crown for police work. As far as I’m concerned, this can do equal duty as a hunting flashlight. It’s tough, it’s bright, and it’s got a durable clip so you can hang it on your belt. $250 for the light, charger, and battery; $40 extra for an additional battery. Brite-strike.com