Ice Cream, Fishing Gear, Vintage Pickup

Staff Favorites: John O’Connor, Outdoors & Fitness Contributor

Editor’s Note: It’s pretty clear that we’re passionate about gear. And with this series, we want to share with you our own personal favorite pieces. Over the next few months, we’ll bring you our staff’s 10 personal favorites — goods we personally own and use. The selection will run the gamut, from heirloom pieces to practical gear that can be easily procured. Last but not least, each will share one “holy grail” item that still remains the stuff of dreams, out of reach, but hopefully only temporarily so.

This winter I’ve had to make peace with domesticity. Married with kids, you either embrace it or you go nuts. To me, embracing it means remembering the futility of resistance: you’re on this thing, it’s fast-moving, bucking, and probably the whole enterprise is deranged, but you might as well ride it out to the end, straight into the volcano’s flaming maw. That sort of thinking, I’ve found, can actually crystallize your visceral pathways. An evening cocktail, a spoonful of homemade ice cream, a slow-cooked Texas-rub brisket, the eerie particle fog of a 28–gauge shotgun blast, acquire new tenors. The old griefs get superseded by bubbly optimism; existential dread turns inside-out; the symptoms become the cure. Spring, suddenly, is just around the bend.

Cuisinart Electric Ice Cream Maker, Ice 70

Strawberry and chocolate are behind me. I’m entering new realms here: blackberry brandy and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups ice cream; Fernet Branca and Haribo Sour Gold Bears sorbet. It gets weirder still. I don’t see why sweet potato custard with a corned beef swirl wouldn’t be absolutely delicious. This is a million-dollar idea.

‘Making Cordials & Liqueurs at Home’ by John P. Farrell

An overlooked gem from 1974, a great year for drinking — among countless examples, it was John Lennon’s famed “Lost Weekend” era, a year he spent more or less constantly shitfaced while recording songs with Harry Nilsson, David Bowie and Stevie Wonder. Everyone was clearly having a lot more fun in the ’70s. And Farrell piles on, telling you how to make your own Absinthe, Schnapps, Drambuie, Raki, Aquavit, Chartreuse, fruit cordials, and even a legendary love-potion, Strega (if two lovers share it, it’s said, they’ll never part), in the comfort of home.

Orrefors Cordial Glasses

I got these cheap at an antique shop and found out afterwards they’re actually quite expensive. A guy named Nils Landberg designed them in the ’50s. It’s probably evidence of how far I’ve gone down the cocktail rabbit-hole, but after a year like the one we just had, I like nothing better than a homemade juniper berry cordial before, during, and after dinner. It’s just the thing to soothe the nerves.

Rival 5 Quart Crock-Pot

I’m finally starting to get into the holiday spirit. Got the brisket down pat. The prime rib is coming along. Carved ham is up next. Although, of course, I also hate the holidays and can’t wait for them to be over.

Stio Hometown Down Jacket, Durrance Down Jacket, and Azura Insulated Vest

I woke up this morning to a wind chill of -1 degrees, on a street-cleaning day, which was also a day that neither my car nor my wife’s car would start. I had to jump both, without gloves, while the tow truck circled me like a shark. To get through it, I layered all three of these babies. I might as well have been in the Bahamas. Stio is out of Jackson Hole, where average winter lows hover around 4 degrees Fahrenheit, so they can be trusted on warmth.

Chaco Roland Boots

Chaco’s mostly known for sandals, and I’m not a sandals guy, but the brand’s winter boots are the most comfortable things I’ve ever set foot into. It’s like strapping a family of rabbit chinchillas onto your feet. I wear them constantly, and I almost never leave the house.

G.Loomis Classic IMX Spin Jig Rod (SJR843)

I’ve got big plans come spring. This seven-foot, medium-heavy spinning rod has “trophy tiger muskie” written all over it.

Innova Alfonso Inflatable Canoe

Per the above, my local pond gets stocked with tiger muskies, a mean-tempered pike-muskie hybrid that can grow up to 50 pounds and fights like a marlin. Thankfully, the Alfonso feels sturdier than an actual canoe, takes a trolling motor, cooler, tackle box and two more people, and deflated it fits into the back of my car.

Franchi 48 AL Semi-Auto 28–Gauge Shotgun

I haven’t been hunting in a few years, and technically this belongs to my stepfather, but it’s the gun I use when we pheasant hunt because it holds five shells, and my 12–gauge is a single-shot. Shamefully, I usually need at least two shots for pheasant.

Elite Energy 35 Bow

I’ve never killed anything on a hunt with this, unless you count paper targets. But it’s such a phenomenal piece of machinery that it makes me feel momentarily like a capable person, instead of just someone who makes really good Belgian waffles.

The Grail

International Harvester Scout Traveller

They only made these from 1976 to 1980, again proving my point that the ’70s were more fun. Known as a “utility pickup,” the Scout Traveller presaged SUVs by several decades, and in my mind, they’ve never improved on it. There’s a beautiful four-door army green one parked outside my apartment most afternoons. Sometimes I just sit and stare. The mailman will often pause on his route to whistle at it. The road beckons.