by Cara Gardner

Leatherman Tools ($30-$70, Mountain Goat Outfitters)

Think of these as "non lethal" Swiss Army Knives. Made arguably better and more versatile than its classic European counterpart, the Portland-based company's 13 Leatherman pocket tools can cut, pinch, screw, grab, saw, open, measure and much more. One of Leatherman's larger tools, "The Crunch," boasts 15 features and is the only tool on the market that offers locking pliers. A newer line, "The Juice," has five models, each with its own color and unique blade combination, though all are made with anodized aluminum. All Leatherman tools fit in briefcases, cargo pants, shorts pockets or even a beaded evening clutch (hey, you never know). They come with a 25-year warranty, and the company gets high marks for its devotion to customer satisfaction. A friend just mailed his damaged Micra Leatherman in for repairs and he received a brand-new, upgraded tool free of charge. You never know when you'll need a wine opener, a screwdriver, a clamp or a pair of scissors. Leatherman gadgets are for the resourceful and handy person on your gift list.

Pelican Micro Cases ($20 and up, Huppin's)

You've probably seen the vault-like cases professional photographers and biologists use to store delicate equipment. Well, the company that manufactures those sturdy, unbreakable cases markets much more than just big pro gear. Pelican Micro Cases are small and fit easily into backpacks, closet corners and car pockets. Designed to protect cell phones, digital cameras, watches, laptops, guns, survival tools and any fragile, expensive or electronic item you could possibly imagine, Pelican Micro Cases are airtight, watertight, pressure secure and corrosion proof. They are filled with thick, perforated foam that can be worked to cradle objects of any shape and bulk. Worried about keeping an intact survival kit? Put the items in a Pelican. Drag it through a swamp, drop it from an airplane, kick it along on a mountainous hike -- the Pelican case is not only unbreakable, it's also guaranteed to protect your items or the company will pay you for what was damaged. Even if you're not testing its durability in the Amazon rainforests, Pelicans are perfect for storage in floodable basements or mildew-prone attics. These cases are for the practical, plan-oriented person on your list.

Smartwool Socks ($18, Mountain Gear)

Another easy stocking stuffer is a pair of Smartwool Socks. These aren't your average toe-warmers, either. Smartwool has temperature control, so they keep your feet cool in the summer and cozy in the winter. You don't need to layer them with anything to head out in the snow. They are knee-high and have extra support in the ankle, making them perfect for any activity -- and if you're worried about the itchiness of wool, don't. Unlike the scraggly, rough quality of many wool products, Smartwool is soft, not unruly and thick.

Camper's Dream

Ice Cream Maker ($19, REI)

REI can't keep this item on the shelves. Apparently, Inland Northwest campers don't want to forego dessert just because they're in the great outdoors. And with the Camper's Dream Ice Cream Maker, they don't have to. What's more, this isn't anything like the old-fashioned crank-and-wait-and-crank-some-more ice cream maker. Fashioned out of sturdy, semi-translucent blue plastic, the Camper's Dream Ice Cream Maker resembles a soccer ball -- only it's not meant to be kicked around. Instead, all you have to do is open a hatch, pour in the ice, rock salt and ice cream ingredients and then roll, shake and pass the ball around until you've got that dreamy cream ready to eat. Use it during backyard BBQs, at birthday parties, or as a general fun activity for kids.

Motorola T5950 Walkie-Talkies ($80, Radio Shack)

Lost in Wal-Mart again? Waiting in the lodge and your significant other isn't off the slopes yet? Rather than use precious daytime minutes or waste time trying to find a cell signal in the wilderness, send a shout out with a walkie-talkie. The Motorola T5950 is top-shelf. Durable and weather-resistant, these sporty, bright yellow talkies aren't your old school two-way radios. You can have a conversation with the other person as far away as five miles, though only the first two miles are within the Family Radio Service. Want to chat further away? Pay $50 bucks and you can reach up to five miles out for five years -- for your entire household. The T5950 boasts 22 basic channels, with 99 sub-channels (for those private conversations) within each channel. Each set comes with a rechargeable battery kit and desktop charger. The talkies have hands-free devices, weather alerts and vibra alert. Walkie-Talkies are most useful for hunters and winter sport enthusiasts, but really, they're so portable, durable and fun -- why not chat back and forth with them all the time?

Publication date: 12/09/04

American Original: The Life and Work of John James Audubon @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 19
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