Gear rundown and photos from Kristine Fischer
It’s that time of year again. Temperatures are dropping, mornings are graced by light frost and the air is looming with that crisp, familiar “stillness”. These are among many subtle hints that winter is on it’s way. This alone is enough to drive the average person inside, where warmth and comfort are readily available. However, late fall and winter can provide endless outdoor opportunities, given the proper gear.
I loaded up the truck, and ventured west to the Valentine Refuge last weekend to get the kayak out one last time and coax some of the lakes biggest, baddest fish to the surface. The refuge consists of a series of large, shallow bodied lakes hidden among the sandhills, with abundant wildlife and some of the best fishing Nebraska has to offer. With a forecast consisting of 23 degree temps and relentless north winds, it was promising to be a test of true grit.
Take a look at the essentials that helped me stay out on the water longer, and made the nights at camp feel like home.
Insulation / Warmth
Marmot Helium 15 sleeping bag
November nights camping along the Snake River promises to bring relentless north winds and freezing temperatures. That's why I turn to Marmot, a company who specializes in high quality backpacking and camping gear, to keep me comfortable. Known for its packability and insulation, the Helium 15 is my go-to sleeping bag year round.
Weighing in at 2.1 lbs, it's 800+ Fill Power Goose down gives the product superior warmth without adding excessive weight. It's curved baffles help keep the down even throughout the bag, and it is DWR coated to help keep the bag dry.
Who is this product for? This sleeping bag is primarily designed for the backpacker, or anyone who has limited space for gear. It's a true three-seasons bag, making it incredibly versatile.
Fish Monkey Tundra Insulated Mitt
One of the most difficult things for an angler is finding a pair of gloves that has both warmth and dexterity. We need to be able to tie a palomar knot, while retaining as much warmth as possible. Enter Tundra Mitt.
Fish monkey nailed it with this insulated, fleece lined, waterproof mitt. It's built-in hand warmer pockets allow for added heat in the harshest of climates, with the ability to quickly pull back the mitt to perform meticulous tasks on the water. Fish monkey also added neoprene cuffs for additional protection, making this glove a must have when fishing the frozen tundra.
Who is this for? This mitt is for those who dare to brave the cold to pursue their passion, particularly those who need the ability to use their fingers while keeping the majority of their hand warm in the meantime.
My go to when heavy gloves and wool socks just aren't enough. The company offers warmers for hands, body, toes, and feet. These cold weather essentials are air-activated heat packs, providing warmth for up to 5 hours.
On this particular trip, I stuck two hand warmers in each coat pocket, creating an oven for my hands after landing a fish.
Who is this product for? Whether you're planning on summiting Denali or watching your kid’s soccer game, these can come in handy. They sell individually or in value packs.
MSRP $1.49-$2.99 each
Fishing / Paddling
Having enough stability to walk up and down the deck with ease and chuck giant streamers for pike, this kayak was the perfect choice for the Valentine Refuge.
These kayaks paddle and track very well, and has built-in rod holders and dry storage. I did everything from bow fishing to sight fishing big pike in tall reeds in this low profile, 12.5' boat.
Who is this product for? Its snag-free deck makes it ideal for fly fishermen, but it's the perfect boat for anyone wanting to stand and fish comfortably on small ponds and lakes. I have also spent some time bow fishing off of this kayak, as its ideal for shallow water bow fishing situations.
Costa Pawleys (580) Green Mirror
Being on a large body of shallow water mid-day can prove to be problematic without proper sunglasses.
As an angler, you're looking for something durable enough to withstand a beating, and the ability to differentiate fish from clumps of grass. These polarized, scratch-proof, mirrored lenses do just that.
Who is this for? The Green Mirror lens from Costa is a solid choice for shallow freshwater or inshore anglers. Their (580) glass is their most innovative lens, reducing glare and offering the best protection.
Bending Branches Angler Pro Plus
The Sandhills are known for vehement winds coating all area lakes in giant white caps. That being said, having an aerodynamic, lightweight paddle to conserve your energy means you're able to stay out longer and fish harder.
The Angler Pro Plus is lighter than its predecessor, the Angler Pro, and also has larger blades for a better stroke. The 100% carbon shaft doesn't feel as "cold" as other aluminum paddles.
Who is this paddle for? Your avid angler. This paddle is designed by anglers to meet anglers needs. It is significantly lighter and more powerful than less expensive options, making a long day on the water more enjoyable.
Lifestraw Go with 2-stage filtration
I used to catch a lot of grief from my peers for cupping my hands and consuming copious amounts of lake water, regardless of how discolored it was. Thank goodness, those days are long gone. My Lifestraw Go accompanies me on every trip, and keeps me hydrated and safe with its hollow fiber membrane technology that removes 99.9% of all bacteria and protozoa.
The filter is functional for up to 1,000 liters. They added a carbon membrane to improve taste and odor. Both filters are replaceable.
Who is this for? I find this product useful on most all camping and fishing trips, where I don't have access to purified water. You can literally fill the water bottle up in between casts, screw on the filter, and enjoy drinking water in seconds.
But first, coffee. I don't know many outdoors enthusiasts who don't also indulge in some java. Unfortunately, trendy mountain coffee shops aren't prevalent out in the middle of the Sandhills. That being said, in just over two minutes, I can make my own Aztec coffee right in my kayak with the Jetboil Flash.
Using ISO fuel, this iconic piece of cookware makes food and beverage service easy. The Flash boils 2 cups of water that can be added to freeze-dried meals, hot cocoa, or made into coffee with the purchase of a French press accessory.
Who is this for? The space saver, backpacker or anyone wanting to "cook" out in the field. With as little space as this device takes up, it can be stored in a backpack or tucked behind the seat of a kayak.
Lodge Cast Iron 12" skillet
One of my favorite parts of this trip was making camp chili and cinnamon rolls for the crew, a midwestern tradition. This was made possible with the help of my 12" cast iron skillet, pre-seasoned and ready to warm up 8 giant rolls over the fire.
These skillets are low maintenance, requiring just water and a stiff brush to clean them. Just be sure to bring an oven mitt when cooking over an open fire.
Who is this for? The car camper. The skillets aren't light, so backpacking with these would be taxing. However, they make a great addition to any campground area or outdoor picnic.
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