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Shopping Smart

How to choose gear that will satisfy a gift recipient or serve you well on your own boat

With the holidays approaching and the winter layup period under way, there’s a heightened interest in boating equipment, for gifts or for personal use next season.

When scanning the horizon for 'the right' boating gear, prudent buyers will incorporate several factors into their purchase decisions.

We asked our experts to outline their approaches to purchasing equipment.

Not surprisingly, there is common ground. Each puts quality ahead of price, demanding products that will stand up in the marine environment. They use the Internet for research but also like to get a hands-on feel, and they routinely sound out other boaters. And each has trusted favorites among manufacturers and products.

Choosing the right gear, by Bill Sisson, editor --

I learned the hard way many moons ago that buying the cheapest fishing tackle I could find wasn't such a good idea. What I did discover back then was that the best stuff typically costs more and, even then, you had to be diligent about taking care of it. Those remain good lessons. ...more

Click here for our holiday gear guide

Internet research vs. hands-on trial, by Frank Kehr, technical writer --

"As good a resource as the Internet is, however, I don't buy parts or accessories from manufacturers or secondary suppliers online unless I'm completely familiar with the product, its application and its manufacturer. Sometimes you just need to go to the store and put it in your hand. That telescoping boat hook may not lock very well in the extended position. Try it out in the store and compare." ... more

Value is measured in product longevity, by Tom Neale, technical editor --

"When I buy for my boat, I don’t necessarily have to buy a product specified for marine use. I’ve used many products successfully on board for years that came from NAPA, Sears, Walmart and many other sources. However, it is often critically important to buy certain products specifically made for marine use not only for durability but for safety". ...more

Is it durable? Practical? Fairly priced? by Chris Landry --
"I usually opt for the most durable or the longest-lasting products simply because I would rather use my boat than work on it. My Garmin combination GPS/sounder is 10 years old, a dinosaur in terms of marine electronics, but it still works well, as does my decade-old, fixed-mounted Apelco VHF radio." ...more

This article originally appeared in the December 2009 issue.