The fancy gun is an SKB Model 400 12ga, setup for field use: full choke on the left, modified on the right. My girlfriend’s Polish father just handed it to me one morning during a visit and said, “On condition of good behavior.” It’d been his user for a few decades, taking goose, doves, pheasant and things like that. SKB is a Japanese arms manufacturer that’s little known, but which made world class shotguns. The scroll work on this thing is unbelievable and it’s a light, responsive sweetheart of a gun. So far, I’ve only managed to knock down a bunch of clays with it, but no birds. Took it on a turkey hunt back in March — it patterns super well with #5 — but despite climbing a cliff, fording a river and spending two days marching through the Sierra Nevada, we found no toms. Gonna fix that this fall. The girlfriend and I have an agreement where she’ll put everything she knows into cooking any game I bring home, so it’s nice to add even more of a family connection to that.
There’s nothing ostensibly special about the old gun. It’s just an old farm gun knocked out in the early 1800s and was last fired by my dad, probably during the 1950s. It’d been in his family since new and is what my great, great granddad used to defend the family farm from the marauding Union Army. He died holding it and they burnt that farm. It’s not clear how the ram rod was lost —it’s a possibility it was fired during the commotion of the last few minutes of that battle — but my dad whittled the new one when he was a kid. One day, I hope to be able to get it restored and maybe even take it hunting, but for now it’s just a reminder of where I come from.Shop Now$500+
This is my favorite knife, and one I’ve carried outdoors for the best part of a decade now. As you can see, it hasn’t led an easy life, but has always proved a reliable companion and has never failed to help me start a fire. There’s fancier knives out there, but nothing else is this rugged or just plain useful as this hunk of 1095 steel. I’ll be wearing it when I take my first bear in August; it’s old faithful.
In a former life, I started a little motorcycle blog that eventually became the most well-read publication in that space. In the process, we sort of re-invented how motorcycle media worked and made everyone else doing it look silly.
It sounds flippant, but part of that was demonstrating that motorcycles can be stylish, in the contemporary, urban sense. Where every other picture you see in magazine is a fat guy riding a bike in skin tight, day-glo leathers, we made that world look good.
This is the jacket I was wearing most of the time and it sorta became famous with me. Vanson is the original American motorcycle jacket maker and this was one of their very first styles, but it had never carried body armor. I slept in this thing every night for two weeks to break it in, then spent a couple hours stitching armor into its lining. Wore it absolutely everywhere for about five years and created enough demand that Vanson finally issued their own armored version two years ago — the AR3.
This thing’s been crashed in several times, destroyed once and repaired at the factory. Those scars are now part of what makes it so special to me, I’ll keep this thing for life.Buy Now$599
Wiley The Dog
A few years ago I was approached by an older, more financially successful friend who wanted to partner on a new business. So, I sold him my company for peanuts and set about trying to launch a new one with him. I’m not sure if it was his original plan or not, but he ended up completely destroying my life. Part of that was by making, then breaking promises and expecting me to be what gave, every single time. So, one night when I ran across a pile of broken safety glass in a dark corner, crashed and destroyed my body, I had no health insurance. I ended up not only losing every penny I had (and more), but was hurt so bad that I was unable to really walk for a few months.
Some good friends saw how low I was and decided to give me a puppy so I’d have something to care about and something to come home to. Wiley saved my life.
He sure was hard work for the first year or so, but now that he’s two and a half, he’s really proven to be about the best dog ever. Got me into a fight with a mountain lion when he was a puppy, but now he’s a little killer. Fought his first bear on a backpacking trip over Christmas last year, and’ll go for any person who looks at me cross. On camping trips, he patrols the area all night, scaring off any rednecks or animals that might try to come near. Then he’ll come home and roll around in the yard with the 10-year old girl that lives across the street before falling asleep while she uses him as a pillow.
It’s fun sitting at a fancy restaurant with him. Other guys might have nicer cars or more expensive watches, but no one else has a big, scary dog who’s perfectly behaved.Adopt a Dog$0
Big Green Egg
My girlfriend gave this to me for my birthday last year. I guess she wanted to encourage me to get a little more into cooking. And boy has she succeeded. Now, I cook the best steaks in the world, have mastered the brisket and make some of the tastiest grilled vegetables you’ll ever eat. Because of that, I now cook more often than not.
The ceramic, egg-shaped container keeps moisture in while allowing minute and powerful control of airflow. You can get it up to 1,200 degrees 20 minutes after lighting it to put the perfect sear on a steak. Or, set it at 225 for 12 hours and smoke a perfect brisket.
Hopefully this year I’ll bring home some wild salmon. I’d really like to figure out how to smoke those.Buy Now$669
For Thanksgiving last year, a bunch of us went up to Big Sur and camped at a remote wilderness site on top of those mountains. A native american girl showed up, mourning her old horse with an acid trip, and spent the night sleeping in one corner of our campsite. In the morning, she woke up, handed me this, explained that she’d made it from the feathers of turkeys and pheasants and the skin of a doe, all of which she’d killed herself, then just wandered back into the forest.
It’s a fan priestesses use to wave smoke into the face of people during ayahuasca ceremonies. One of those was one of the most powerful experiences of my life, giving me the balls to quit that toxic job and launch a new career as an outdoors writer.Shop Now$10+
This was made for me by my good buddy Greg Auerbach, who makes these collages of famous characters out of their newspaper clippings and spray paint. I’m a big fan of Hemingway’s writing and larger-than-life character, but this is also a reminder that I need to watch the ego and avoid becoming a womanizing alcoholic. It hangs over my bed.
Greg was struggling to get started riding motorcycles, I gave him a little help and this was his way of saying thank you. We’re good buddies now and my house is filled with his paintings.Buy Now$500+
Tom Brown’s Field Guide
Earlier this year, I wrote an article about a couple of Army Rangers opening up factories in Afghanistan. At some point during their tours there, they realized that to succeed in their mission — defeating terrorism — they needed to help that country, not continue to hurt it and decided to set about doing that. Anyways, the article was well received and sales from it helped put five Afghani girls in school for a year, each.
To say thank you, they invited me to join them on a bear hunt this coming August. One catch though: they don’t shoot guns anymore, so it’d have to be on a bow. I didn’t know how to shoot a bow, so I’ve been pretty busy trying to teach myself.
Right now, I’m reading the Shooter’s Bible Guide To Bowhunting. It’s the best, most useful book on the subject I’ve read yet.
For anyone interested in getting started hunting or just learning how to see all the animals there are outdoors, you won’t find a better book than Tom Brown’s Field Guide To Nature Observation And Tracking. He’s the master.Buy Now$11.33