2014 was a big one for me – bought our first house, a new baby boy arrived in August, I quit my band after a decade of touring and started a new business. With all this change I found myself doing lots of grown-up (i.e. old man) things – cleaning gutters, walking dogs, changing diapers, working long hours and a fair bit of fishing as well. As the new year begins I took stock of the items I use every single day and this is the list I came up with – no sponsors, no pretense – just the stuff that got used and gets used all the time. —Al James
Normally I would say leave well enough alone, but Yvon Chouinard and his Patagonia crew tinkered with their already awesome Nano Jacket and made it better. The Nano-Air has the same lightweight, super-warm design, but now it has a little stretch in the fabric and the texture of the material is much better – softer and lighter. It’s still water-resistant and breathable like the original Nano, but the fit and feel is far superior. This is my go-to for layering up on a steelhead trip, trail running in the elements and for walking the dog every morning and night in the Oregon rain and cold.
When you marry a Mainer you have to resign yourself to the fact that there’s going to be a lot more maple syrup in your life. When our secret stash of Maine Grade D black tar syrup ran out, I started looking for another source and came upon Bobo’s Mountain Sugar. It’s a small family farm run by Tina Hartell and Skye Chalmers in Weston, Vermont and they make fantastic maple syrup. Their tagline is “A Taste of Tree” and it’s right on the money. Their grade B syrup (Dark and Robust) is smoky, earthy and flavorful – suitable for pancakes, granola bowls or (my favorite) after-dinner shots.
I wrote about my Tudor Heritage Ranger back in July and any doubts I may have had about owning and wearing an automatic watch have been abandoned. I love putting this watch on every day and I reference the Heritage Black Bay for this list because that would be the next watch I buy. Like everyone else I dig a Rolex Submariner, but a Tudor Heritage Black Bay with snowflake dials just says something different.
The rugged functionality and iconic style Bean Boots are no secret, but the 9” Lounger is my versatile choice for easy on and off throughout the day. Gardening, firewood, dog walking, runs to the market, driving to the fishing spot before getting into waders, whatever – keep these by the door and you’ll find you use them over and over. Although I’m a fan of these boots in any iteration, these slip-ons are my favorite, my most used and abused.
When fly reel builder Steve Abel sold the legendary Abel Reel Company a decade back he held onto his designs for reel bags and other fishing luggage and continues to make them to this day. Made in the U.S.A., constructed of the best material, these are the only reel cases I use to hold your my precious oversized steelhead reels, my Hardy Marquis Salmon 1 and 2.
After almost a year of daily use, the Cavett chair and ottoman from C&B has become irreplaceable. This duo sits by our fireplace and is easily the most popular spot in the house. If you read the fine print, it’s made in North Caroline, USA and it is extremely well built. After researching a myriad of similar chairs from other companies, the Cavett won out and it has been one of the best pieces of furniture we’ve ever found – classic, comfortable, sturdy and better with each nick and boot scuff.
These hooks, made in Los Angeles, have a dead simple design that fits with any style of home – new, old, craftsman, modern, etc… They’re beautiful, tough and timeless. I’ve built coat racks out of these in our mudroom and put them straight into the wall in the bathroom. Scout Regalia makes a lot of nice products, but this could be their iconic design for the next fifty years.
My favorite novel of the year is the debut from Smith Henderson, a former fellow at UT’s Michener Center for Writers, a PEN Emerging Writer award winner and a recipient of the Pushcart Prize. All accolades aside, Henderson is damn-fine writer with a knack for just enough detail to build brilliant characters, but an efficiency that keeps the story moving along quickly. His debut is about Pete Snow, a social worker in way-out, rural Montana, who finds a kid who has wandered away from his possessive father – a wild mountain man who has been targeted by the F.B.I. as a domestic terrorist. It’s engaging, real and hard to put down. File under: Phillip Meyer, Willy Vlautin, Denis Johnson.
This bad boy does exactly what it’s supposed to do – keeps coffee steaming hot and beer or other beverages ice-cold. “As cold as science allows” according to YETI. Over-engineered and built for the end times, my Rambler rides shotgun every morning whether it’s off to the office or the boat ramp. It’s double-wall vacuum insulated, BPA free and completely bulletproof.