Be careful with catalogs this time of year

It’s that time of year again when I start flipping through the outdoor gear catalogs, wishing I had a zillion dollars to spend.

Late October is a bad time of year for me. If I were independently wealthy, it wouldn’t be so bad. But I’m not. I’m a journalist, so it’s a little painful.

It’s rough because this is when the Christmas catalogs start hitting the mailbox, and they’re chock-full of gear I wish I had. From the catalog companies’ standpoint, this is a perfect time to roll those wishbooks out. You’ve had just enough time to get out in the field and realize how inadequate your current gear is, and plenty of time to try to craft the perfect hint to your significant other. It’s a masterful move by these crafty catalog people.

Take my situation, for instance. I only have one tent at the moment, and it’s a dinky little two-man backpacking number. It’s fine if I go hunting by myself, but if I take the kids with me, I wind up with a small, stinky foot crammed up my left nostril somewhere around midnight. But a number of those catalogs have very nice five- or six-person wall tents that would be perfect for my family or a couple of my good friends and myself. I could even toss in a packable wood stove and make it even more comfortable. The trick is figuring out how to drop that hint to my wife. I think this year I’m going to go with the old stand-by of marking my favorite tent and wood stove with sticky notes and leaving the catalogs laying around the house.

It’s important to avoid marking too much stuff. You don’t want to look greedy, and you also don’t want to confuse your spouse as to what you really want. But you do have to throw in some extra stuff so your better half can have the illusion of surprise. Make sure your decoy wish-list items are things you’re absolutely sure she or he wouldn’t ever buy you, though, or you might get one of them, instead. My go-to decoy is the camo couch in the housewares section.

Good luck with your wish-list this year.