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Shredded camo takes fun out of it for bears

For an instant, the thought actually crossed my mind.

Wouldn't it be cool to have one of those?

You'd have to see the picture, but here's a glimpse: It was a tent. A large tent. Actually more like a tent city.

It's called the "Deluxe Alaknak II," and for those of you keeping score at home, it's on page 178 of the Spring 2007 Master Catalog from Cabela's.

Cabela's has long been gearhead central for the hook-and-bullet world. Based in Nebraska, "the world's foremost outfitter" once sold mostly hunting and fishing paraphernalia, but in recent decades has expanded its offerings to lure other recreationists.

The mostly mail-order company's catalogs are legendary browsing material for people who love to trounce around outside, for whatever reason. But recent evidence suggests those Nebraska boys have pushed the camouflage envelope a tad too far.

The latest catalog, sent by two city-slicker Seattle friends who shall go unnamed, was about as thick as those old Sears Christmas catalogs (kids, ask your parents) - and festooned with about four-dozen bright green sticky notes.

Each of the notes marked an item my friends, as they sat around chortling and sipping their chai tea, must have believed was so ridiculously over-the-top, it's the kind of thing that only yours truly might appreciate - or even own.

Hence, the Alaknak, a hunting-camp style tent with a vestibule forming a front porch as large as downtown Chewelah. The tent has a large stove pipe protruding from its rainfly - connected to a portable woodstove, which glows next to walls with drop-down shelves fitted with cup holders.

The deluxe model of the Alaknak is 12 feet wide and 20 feet long. It weighs 106 pounds, pot-bellied stove not included - and sells for more than a thousand bucks if you throw in the obligatory floor liner and rooftop spark shield.

The sticky note pointing toward it contains this thought from my friends: "Comes with its own ZIP code!"

Again, it was only an instant. A brief flight of fancy, in which I pictured myself perched next to that stove, in a camp lounger, with the rainfly hanging open and a hot drink in hand, literally and figuratively laughing at the rain.

That bubble was quickly pricked by sanity. But I was lured farther into the catalog, which becomes more of a parody of itself the deeper you go.

You'll soon come across the "Gobbler Lounger," a camouflaged folding camp chair designed for lounging while you stalk turkeys. Or the outhouse-shaped "Shower Shelter," which Cabela's says is suitable for washing "and other private duties," which we can only assume means filling out your Seattle viaduct-replacement ballot.

Not until the later pages of the catalog, however, does the company's hunting/fishing depravity really shine through. Cabela's no longer is satisfied to outfit your body and campsites outdoors. It has its own home-furnishings section.

Here, you'll find the sort of home wares sure to inspire the sweetest, full-bag-limit dreams. Like drab gray-and-brown camouflage bedding - in shades of the colors of the stuff you used to scrape off your football cleats in high school - in five sizes and six patterns.

Or matching camouflage crib bedding for the little tykes; an assortment of antler chandeliers and table lamps sufficient to send any doe fleeing to the hills; camouflaged poker tables and folding chairs; a fine selection of "throwing tomahawks" - and an MP3 game caller, an electronic device that will simulate distress calls of many small, wounded animals to lure bears and other large predators.

It gets worse/better, depending on your degree of camo sensibility: camouflage clothing for tots and camo versions of every conceivable item of clothing, including the latest in 3D briar fashion, Cabela's fine line of "Leafy Wear."

Leafy Wear really must be seen to be appreciated. It's a matching jacket and pants in camo pattern, but the outer finish is all ragged, with fabric shards that make it look like a hunting suit sent through a high-powered tree-limb shredder. The idea is to give you "depth, shadows and realism," making you look exactly like a man who has emerged from a vat of Elmer's glue and rolled around in a big pile of leaves.

A sticky note pointed toward it, with this notation: "We saw these and the first word out of our mouths was, 'Ron!' "

Very funny, my city-folk friends. But not half as funny as it'll be when I show up wearing Leafy Wear - in the "Fauxliage" pattern, of course - to crash your next barbecue party.

Ask any Cabela's shopper: He who is rendered invisible has the last laugh.

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