Journals We Think Are Particularly Cool
A secret fishing hole. A hidden point break. The best carnitas tacos in town. There’s nothing like a good tip from somebody you have at least marginal confidence in. So, in a spirit of generosity towards what might be viewed as “competitors,” we thought we’d turn you on to some of our favorite (other) journals. One, because we love finding great reads, and Two, because we remain confident that even if we tell you about the other guys, no one is doing anything close to what we’re doing. So, here we go; this is what’s on our nightstand or in our bathroom…
A quarterly gem on some of the coolest vehicular adventures and the requisite gear for them (thus, over land journal). Put out by some guys who self-describe as, “Adventurers. Constantly traveling. Testing and using gear in real-world situations. Gaining experience, which we readily share.” It is an understatement. By adventures they mean stuff like (in the Spring 2015 issue) four dudes who drive—yes, drive—across Antarctica in specially equipped Toyota Hilux trucks. Some of our earlier favorites were a single gal in her 30s who rode a revved-up moped across Vietnam in search of the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail, and, a bit closer to reality, great BMW GS bike trips across Death Valley. Fabulous photography, good adventure writing, truly helpful gear reviews. And the ads alone are worth it, because they are on some of the coolest adventure gear on the planet.
In fact, it was this journal that sealed our plans to make our second film series about a GS bike adventure through the backcountry of Colorado this August (stay tuned!). I was on a return flight home from some business trip I didn’t really want to be on, dog tired, crammed in the middle seat between two robust Ukrainians, and I took out this journal for a little medication. I opened to a review of “dual sport” adventure bikes, and as I read, that wonderful “still small voice” whispered inside, You should do it. We now have six used GS bikes in hand and plans are under way. Good proof for the inspirational power of any read.
There are fly fishing magazines and then there is The Drake—a hip and stubborn departure from the fish-porn of most mags, featuring, yes, great articles on where the good fishing is—all around the world. (Fly fishing in India? You betcha. Tiger fish in Tanzania? Just mind the crocs.) But also great features closer to home, like Yellowstone cuts and Adirondack brookies and Olympic Peninsula steelhead and the bass in your local pond. Thoughtful essays on protecting the creation we love, new developments in gear and also fisheries management, good book and trend reviews, all done in a rather sassy “canned beer” sort of culture (like the recent article on how to find killer carp on the fly ten minutes from your own downtown, while sleeping out of your car).
Again, the ads are almost worth the price (“Five dollars. Ten for bait fisherman.”) The advertisers got the groove and the ads are funny, irreverent and feature some very cool gear. Articles are all written to fit a very specific time slot—about the time it takes to take care of…business, if you catch our meaning. Very Drake.
Hang on—if you do anything outdoors, this magazine is worth your nickel. Yes, it is obviously on hiking, trekking and backpacking. But it also features phenomenal intel on good wilderness and great beauty not far from your door, with maps and websites offering more. Regular features on first aid, survival, gourmet camp cooking, physical training, outdoor photography techniques and more give you an idea of why even non-backpackers will dig this rag.
And yes, even if you simply want great beta on day hikes, this is the place to look. Now, we don’t particularly appreciate it when they run a feature on some of our favorite “hidden spots” (now hidden no more), but hey—we are generous enough to recognize that the more people love the outdoors, the more they are going to care for it and frankly, we think being outdoors is really good for human beings and does all sorts of wonderful things for the soul. Dreaming of backpacking through Scotland? They got you covered. Jordan? No problem (well, other than armed conflict, which is outside the magazine’s responsibilities). We love their regular “off the beaten path” info on the National Parks.
Plus, their gear reviews are famous. Like, they really go out and test all sorts of stuff in all sorts of climates and conditions and tell you what works and what doesn’t and where the really good deals are. Sunglasses, headlamps, running shoes, knives, rain gear, stoves, UPF clothing, camp showers, tents…you get the idea. These guys have been around forever, and we’re really glad they survived the widespread magazine collapse of the late ‘90s.
Eastman’s Bowhunting Journal
Okay, okay—this is no doubt a highly specialized niche. However, if you hunt at all or have even considered hunting, this is a great place to get an education. Lots of “DIY” stories each month on regular guys out there trying to make it happen on public land (as opposed to, for example, Safari Journal, which we also enjoy but frankly has a pretty high bar when it comes to the kind of adventures they feature).
We like the blue-collar culture of the journal, which positions itself as “The Original Resource for Hardcore Western Bowhunting.” Look—even if you don’t hunt, there is a part of your soul that needs something to break the malaise of those 42 hours in your cubicle each week, and the features in this mag will take you to those places vicariously.
Plus, the beta they provide on how, where and when to apply for hunting tags across the Western states, by species and units and trends, is a staggering amount of research you could never pull off for yourself. Give the Robin Hood in you a treat.
Put out by the guys that do Wine Spectator (let’s not forget Cana!). Look, we’ll be honest—both magazines have their serious faults. They are high-gloss, slightly arrogant, utterly worldly and definitely trying to give you the “you just got welcomed into the back room of a very cool bar” vibe. Leather chairs and all. We admit that right up front. But both rags are worth the reviews—here, regular cigar reviews, and we really appreciate the fact that while they flaunt their Cuban connections they also reveal where the killer smokes are for under $10, which is, well, wonderful. We learned about Brick House here, and Flor de Las Antillas, along with a bunch of our other faves.
Good articles on famous “smokers,” including a recent fascinating interview with Liam Neeson, who we also happen to love. (Did you know his nose got broken in a former boxing “career” attempt, and that’s why he has that tough-guy look? I mean, c’mon. That’s just, well, cool.)
We take the whole James Bond affectation tongue in cheek. Think of this one as plundering the Egyptians.
Mars Hill Audio Journal
Yep, time for a curveball. No bows, winches, reels or Honduran wrappers here. This is a very insightful audio journal bringing some of the best Christian thought on the arts, culture, science, politics—stuff that actually matters in the world. (Not that this other stuff doesn’t matter, but there is a hierarchy of importance, yes.)
Ken Myers was an up-and-coming NPR reporter, bright guy, perfect radio persona. NPR came to him, knowing he was an intelligent and reflective Christian, along the lines of a C.S. Lewis, and they offered him his own show helping explain the Church to the world. He went and thought about the offer, came back and said, “No. My calling, I now realize, is the opposite—I want to explain the world to the Church.” So he started his own thing.
And explain he does, via interviews with leading thinkers on everything from genetic engineering to Tolkien’s mythic writing to the imagination of our aforementioned hero, C.S. Lewis. Great, great stuff. Perfect for your car or your iPod. Your brain will grow. Your soul will, too.
Okay, we’ll stop there. For now. Holding off on our desire to rave about Rock and Ice or Surfing or some other goodies that maybe we’ll come around to next time. Meanwhile, if you’ve got a great recommend, post it on And Sons social! Share the joy.
After all, we only come out once a month, and we know you promptly devour And Sons, and then what? Here are some great additions to your water closet.