A healthy outdoor Christmas all year

Ed Hoffman with a Louisiana redfish. This is not the way to hold a big fish, except for a brief moment of boating and weighing, but Ed does show the way to dress safely or fishing.
Ed Hoffman with a Louisiana redfish. This is not the way to hold a big fish, except for a brief moment of boating and weighing, but Ed does show the way to dress safely or fishing. (Bill May photo, Bill May photo)

This piece is a "two-fer," giving proven advice on staying healthy in the outdoors and ideas for last-minute holiday gifts that are practical and, singly and in combinations, reasonably priced.

So, take a look at our model, Ed Hoffman, formerly first trumpet of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Ignore that gorgeous, Louisiana redfish for a while and concentrate on Ed. His gear and clothing demonstrates years of outdoor experience and technology. We've come a long way from grandpa's old fishing hat and shirt and the dopey illustrations of fishermen still shown on some greeting cards.


You may look at Ed and figure he's overdressed or trying to emulate the "combat gear" of today's football and even baseball players. But there are practical, healthy reasons for what he's wearing.


Large, polarized glasses serve two functions, first, providing eye protection from UV rays, flying hooks, terminal tackle and fish and, second, cutting through surface glare to spot fish and other critical underwater objects. Since Ed wears prescription glasses, he's wearing glasses that fit over his regular glasses and also protest the sides of the eyes. Fitovers is a generic name. Amber is probably the best all-around shade; gray works better in some situations and yellow in others. Prices range from $16 to $60 to "you don't want to ask." The Cocoon brand is a good choice in the roughly $50 range.

The glasses will need to be temporarily removed at times since they "black out" some devices, such as some cameras and depth finders. So a "Croaky" or leash, if not included with the glasses, is a good $5 to $10 investment to keep the glasses from going overboard.

Face and Neck Sleeve

This is a light cloth sleeve or "tubular bandana," often referred to generically as a "Buff," which is actually a brand name. Balaclavas and face masks are other variations. The sleeve can be worn in a variety of positions, but typically is worn as shown, covering the neck, ears and chin and pulled over the head to anchor a cap or protect the forehead. It provides excellent protection from the sun and wind, and you rarely see a guide without them these days.

The sleeves come in a variety of colors and typically sell in the $20 range. A version called "Endura Cool" claims it cools the head and neck in hot weather.


A basic, adjustable baseball cap, with a dark underbrim suffices when worn with the neck sleeve as shown. The neck sleeve also anchors the cap, so it won't blow off in a moving boat. I regard the glasses, neck sleeve and hat as one unit providing maximal protection and comfort. Baseball caps range from giveaways to about $20.

A hat may be worn over the neck sleeve, but it had better have a chinstrap. If one foregoes the neck sleeve, a wide-brimmed hat, or cap with a long neck and ear flap known as a legionnaire's hat are options.

Sun Gloves

These cloth gloves protect the hands from the sun and may also provide some protection from hooks and fish finds. I recommend fingerless models with some kind of gripping material like rubber on the palms. Whole sleeve models are also available, but a long-sleeved shirt seems more practical.

I use weight lifting gloves made by Rejuvenation. These are cloth and leather and are hotter than regular sun gloves, but provide great support for my arthritic hands and a good grip for kayaking.

While I do recommend some form of sun gloves, they can be awkward at times for knot tying and snagging hooks.


Prices usually run in the $20 range.

Long-sleeved Shirts/Full-Length Pants

Wear these. "Flats" clothes are comfortable in the warmest weather. Sun-blocking versions are available, and expensive: I question whether they're worth the extra cost except for prolonged exposure under the most extreme conditions.

Line Clippers on a Neck Lanyard

These things cut monofilament and fluorocarbon lines and even do an acceptable job on braids. (The special scissors designed for braids do a better job.) They will save your teeth. Ask my dentist; ask any dentist or guide. This item is a bargain at $10 to $20.

Fish Gripper

A Boga Grip is the premier item for holding and weighing fish. The downside is they are very expensive, and they don't float. More reasonable versions with scales and some cheap versions without scales, such as the one Ed is using in the picture work well on toothy and abrasive fish. These cheaper versions, some with reasonable scales, run from $10 to $40.

Sun Block

This is still needed, at least for areas of exposed skin, e.g., the nose and cheeks. With a limited shelf life, these should be replaced annually. Some also contain insect repellent. A typical cost is $10.

Insect Protection

Specialized head nets are available, and there are places where they are needed, e.g., some of the great fishing waters in New England and Canada. On our recent trip to southern Louisiana, the guides all swore by "Amber Romance" made by Victoria's Secret. (Though tempted I didn't ask who made this discovery and how.) But all six fishermen and three guides on that trip tried it, and it worked, plus it doesn't contain DEET. A spray bottle cost about $10.

Hand Sanitizer

If they're good enough for hospitals –- and I've had a lot of experience with these institutions in recent years –- they should be good enough for outdoorsmen. A small bottle kept in the pocket may keep a small cut or fish spine puncture from becoming a big problem. The cost is a few dollars.

Small Packet of Tissues – This is another pocket item that serves a variety of purposes. Individual packets cost less than a dollar.

Bill May is a Times outdoors writer. His column appears every other Sunday. Reach him at 410-857-7896 or