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Gear up, roll out: The next generation of packing, tracking and sighting equipment

Mar. 8, 2012 - 04:54PM   |   Last Updated: Mar. 8, 2012 - 04:54PM  |  
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Whether you hunt, hike or dive, there's no limit to what gear makers will try to sell you. Here are some of this year's most innovative new tools and toys for the great outdoors. See the gallery above for photos of this cool gear.

Packing

Tenzing TZ 6000 Hunting Pack

The new Tenzing packs are scaled by model, from a basic fanny pack all the way to this ample 6000 model, so named for its 6,013-cubic-inch carrying capacity when fully expanded.

It's an incredibly versatile pack. Weighing just a little more than 7 pounds, it has a rigid internal aluminum frame and a back pad with a channel for air cooling. The fabric is reinforced with Dyneema fibers, known for resilience against rips and punctures. The shoulder, chest and hip supports have excellent adjustment, and the hip supports are padded.

You can stash a lot of gear in the 20 compartments and pockets. Pile on more with the additional compression straps. An expandable, breathable mesh meat pocket easily carries out those precious backstraps in the first trip without sacrificing the ability to carry all the gear you hauled in. Another nice feature: The yellow-coded zipper pulls clearly show you where to access the main compartment.

Incredibly, the unit's lid detaches and can be used as a separate fanny pack. There is a compartment for a 3-liter hydration pack, a separate sleeping bag compartment and a foldout boot that supports a gun or bow carried upright, centered on the pack. Comes in Realtree Max-1 camo.

• Price and availability: $400; out in May and available for preorder now.

• Website: http://www.TenzingOutdoors.com">Click here.

Hunter Safety System Hybrid Vest

Forget the complicated mish-mash of loops and straps on many harnesses that come with tree stands. Hunter Safety System's comfortable, easy-to-use tree stand vests revolutionized tree stand safety several years ago. The new 3-pound HSS Hybrid vest combines favored features of the bigger Pro Series and the Ultra Lite X-TREME.

With the harness incorporated into the vest design and easy buckling of the straps around your legs, you can be in the vest in seconds and easily wear it while entering the woods.

The Hybrid design minimizes bulk when worn over hunting clothes and features six pockets, including two fleece-lined hand-warmer pockets, two security pockets and a pair of quick-access utility pockets.

• Price and availability: $150; available this spring.

• Website: http://www.huntersafetysystem.com">Click here.

Rocky Athletic Mobility clothing

Many companies now call their clothing lines "systems," with the aim of outfitting you in everything from your underwear to your waterfowl parka. Rocky Brands now has a collection consisting of a base layer, an intermediate "Level 2" layer — with the super-lightweight, yet incredibly warm Athletic Mobility Level 2 Vest — and the outerwear Level 3. The vest contains 60 grams of Primaloft insulation in the polyester RipStop shell. Look for it this fall in Realtree AP, Mossy Oak Infinity and black.

• Price and availability: $90; available in August.

Rocky also has the new Athletic Mobility Level 3 Touch Screen Glove with synthetic leather palms, neoprene knuckles and cuffs and a more tactile, easy-sliding material on the bottom of the index fingers and thumbs.

• Price and availability: $29; available in August.

• Website: http://www.rockyboots.com">Click here.

Tracking

Bushnell BackTrack HuntTrack

I used the original BackTrack on a remote Canada hunt and wished it had a barometer. Bushnell now offers that, an altitude indicator, five times as many waypoints (25) and the ability to drop "breadcrumbs," tracking precise routes to each location.

It's water resistant and has a self-calibrating digital compass, time, temperature and current latitude/longitude coordinates. Input GPS coordinates for directions. After the trip, upload and save up to 48 hours of data to a PC or Mac using HuntTrack's free software.

• Price and availability: $130; available in May.

• Website: http://www.bushnell.com">Click here.

DeLorme inReach

Anyone who's been where the only communication is by satellite knows it can be expensive and unreliable.

The inReach Satellite Communicator, recently recognized by Popular Science and at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, offers affordable two-way satellite communication, message delivery confirmation, remote tracking and SOS emergency capability anywhere in the world. When paired with either an Android phone or DeLorme's Earthmate PN-60w handheld GPS, it delivers two-way messaging via contact with Iridium satellites.

• Prices: $250; subscriptions are $10 a month for the "safety" plan with 10 text messages; $25 for the "recreation" plan with 40 texts and unlimited tracking points or "breadcrumbs" friends can use to track you online; and $50 for the "expedition" plan with 120 texts and the unlimited tracking points.

• Website: http://www.delorme.com">Click here.

Flextone Thunder Chicken Ό Strut Turkey Decoy

This decoy looks realistic both from front and rear. Designed for easy carry and made to work with the included folded jake tail fan or a real gobbler's fan, the decoy shows only the front quarter of the turkey breast and sets up easily on a metal stake. Paired with a hen decoy, it can be a lethal combo.

• Price: $40.

• Website: http://www.flextonegamecalls.com">Click here.

Camp Chef Wireless Thermometer

If you cook with Dutch ovens or smokers, tracking the doneness of meat can boil down to guesswork, and opening the smoker to insert a meat thermometer releases heat. Camp Chef's new wireless thermometer lets you check temperatures from up to 100 feet away. A stainless steel probe is placed inside the smoker or Dutch oven and attached to a wired transmitter. The receiver can be left on the base or taken with you to remotely check temperatures. An alarm sounds once the desired temperature is reached. The unit has an LED light for viewing in the dark.

• Price: $31.

• Website: http://www.campchef.com">Click here.

Sighting

FLIR Scout PS-Series thermal cameras

Hunters, ranchers, rangers, outfitters and hikers all want to see what's roaming about at night. The image quality from these portable thermal imaging cameras is crisp and the operation easy, with only three buttons atop the palm-sized units.

They weigh just 12 ounces, are weather-tight and run on an internal, rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Choose from multiple resolution options, and digitally zoom and "freeze" images for sustained inspection.

FLIR touts the ability to assess terrain, scout the best dusk and dawn hunting spots, locate lost livestock, track downed game or find wandering members of your party. They also can be used on the water.

• Prices: $2,000 for the PS24; about $3,000 for the PS32 with greater resolution, 2x digital zoom and the ability to detect a man-sized target at 500 yards, versus 350.

• Website: http://www.flir.com/">Click here.

Caldwell DeadShot FieldPod

This game-changer takes a basic lightweight aluminum tripod and adds a matching upper platform that can be used as an adjustable field bench rest.

Caldwell, as maker of the wildly popular Lead Sleds, knows bench rests. The DeadShot FieldPod can handle rifles to shotguns to crossbows. You can adjust the height from 20 to 42 inches, and easy tension adjustments let you shift aim up and down or left and right. It weighs only 5 pounds.

This can be extremely valuable in ground blinds with young or smaller-stature shooters who may have trouble getting a suitable rest. Experienced shooters will also welcome the bench rest stability, especially in long-range scenarios.

• Price: $130.

• Website: http://www.BattenfeldTechnologies.com">Click here.

SeaLife Mini II and DC1400 cameras

Introduced late last year, the Mini II dive and sport camera is a highly-affordable, 9-megapixel that's waterproof to 130 feet. It is rubber armored and made for scuba divers, snorkelers, boaters, hikers, paddlers, fishermen and hunters. Underwater lights and strobes will help in less-than-clear waters.

• Price: $300.

The new 14-megapixel DC1400 adds the ability to shoot 720p video. Switch among functions and six underwater modes easily with the five easy-to-use "piano keys" on the camera's back next to the 3-inch LCD screen. Depth-tested to 200 feet, the camera has 5x optical zoom and a "Super Macro" auto focus lens that lets you get an inch from the subject. The external polycarbonate body is rubber-armored. Take the camera out of its waterproof housing to shoot on land, choosing from 27 scene modes and image stabilization. Weighs slightly more than a pound; powered by a rechargeable lithium battery; has 20MB of built-in memory and can accommodate SD cards to 32GB.

• Price: $530.

• Website: http://www.sealife-cameras.com">Click here.

S4Gear LockDown Optics Deployment System

This innovative binocular harness held my 10x42 Leupold Mojaves through most of last deer season. A harness is indispensible for comfort and easy access to your binoculars, but the LockDown also offers lens protection and a secure tethering system that keeps the glasses snug to your body. Available in grey/black or black/Realtree AP combos and two sizes to accommodate optics ranging in height from 4 inches to 7.5 inches.

• Price: $45.

• Website: http://www.s4gear.com/">Click here.

S4Gear JackKnife Smartphone Bow Mount

For those who absolutely can't live without sharing all your moments via social media, even in the great outdoors, S4Gear offers the JackKnife, which lets you mount your smartphone on a bow's sights. Devices that mount cameras and video cameras have been around for years, but with smartphones and instant uplinks to social media, what you film can be shared almost instantly. And depending on the quality of your phone's camera and playback, it enables hunters to rewind and verify the quality of a shot before beginning tracking.

• Price: $45.

• Website: http://www.s4gear.com/">Click here.

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