Survival Romance: A Sporting Gear Treatise

I’ve always been a sucker for the inherent glamour of things made for use—baskets for carrying fish or cruelly force-feeding an unlucky water-fowl liver, for instance, will always be of superior quality to baskets made for décor, no matter how finely crafted.

Disgusting and yet fabulous.

I occasionally collect antique tools (I have a beautiful iron anvil/vise), and prefer the storied ones that bear marks of use: paint rubbed away on grips, gashes and nicks, and oh, most breathtaking, engraving, or initials that allude to a former life of frequent use and great care. I buy knives and tools as presents, and engrave them whenever possible (this past winter, I gave a hatchet named “Ganesh~ remover of obstacles” as a Saint’s Day present, and an engraved mushroom hunting knife at Christmas).

For stalking wild game.

Anytime any tool is even marginally necessary, I have it with me.

In case of emergency, or just to finish a look.

If you’re hiking with me, why YES! I do have a wine opener in the backcountry, in my engraved Leatherman, and am probably wearing a woven survival bracelet, on a 45 minute afternoon walk on the hill above my house.

Accessories can save your life.

The myriad accessories of sport and out-of-doors leisure delight my heart and make my soul sing paeans to sweat and exertion. This, despite the fact, or likely, entirely due to the fact, of my being one of only 2 people with any sort of “sporty” inclination in two, rather large, generations of my family. I was raised by two resolutely indoors-y people. The only thing I ever remember my father wishing to do outside was sit on the terrace, reading the paper, or dine—as he always called it—”al fresco.”

I have the most distinct design vision for the most perfect of mudrooms (slate floors to begin with)—the best of all possible rooms in the house of my dreams. And I can close my eyes and envision the perfect barn or attic, dust floating through a sunbeam, and generations of treasures stored for my delighted excavation.

Entirely too cheery, I like crumbling.

Adjacent to my modestly-sized apartment is an exceptionally large (really, it’s like another bedroom) storage space. Already overflowing, it nonetheless still invites steady accumulation of equipment for every possible leisure contingency. Figure AND hockey skates? Absolutely. A high school skateboard now so impossibly vintage that I’ve been offered a cool three figures to give it up? Check. Wrist guards, knee pads, jodhpurs, and four different kinds of helmets? Naturally, darling. Cricket bat emergency? Of course, I’d be delighted to help.

My best friend competed internationally in Slalom snowboarding well into his 40s, and teases me that I have many more snowboards on hand than he does.

My waxed hunting jacket sees only gentle spring storms in my alpine desert current-home climate, though it is my go-to for visits back to the east coast, and the damp, wild woods of western Massachusetts and Manhattan.

Ideal with tweeds.

Summer afternoons, après the office, the boy and I mix a couple of cocktails and roll out a croquet course on the lawn, send balls into the rough, and bicker over the rules (which we keep immediately on hand) well into the gloaming dusk. I have two or three partial sets of antique balls and mallets that we used until we’d caused an uncomfortable several pieces to crack and split, but recently bowed to the need to keep playing and purchased a sturdier, newer set. Come by any time, we are always up for gin-fueled tournaments (no stains on the whites), and I am more than pleased to dress for the occasion.

I delight in the look of the beautiful old equipment, and the warm feel in my hand of the wood and crumbling leather. I have wooden tennis and squash racquets, though when I play I capitulate to carbon. And although I use a Big Bertha, like everyone else, in my newly attempted, pathetic swings (flailing, really) at errant golf balls, I covet the woods and irons to accessorize the tweed plus fours in my 1920s fashion illustration vision of the game. I already have the right hip flask. Um, OK; I already have a few of them.
I have x-country skis with metal edges, and sturdy trekking boots that seldom see anything more “backcountry” than the groomed trails at the golf course. And though, like Michael’s expressed Facebook desire a few weeks back, I gaze longingly at old fashioned wooden snowshoes, and am thoroughly contented to have the modern ones at my personal disposal (I’ve used both). Though on the ski-lift last week, I sat next to someone with bamboo poles, and in my mittens, my fingers itched with jealous acquisitiveness.

von Braithwaite is right, of course. How much more wonderful if this were all bamboo and gut rather than carbon and aluminum!

If only I wanted to fly fish! I am told, and manage to just hear, before I completely glaze over, that I live near one of the top three fishing places in the world, and my mother near somewhere nearly as good, but naturally the real appeal is all of the beautiful accoutrements of said activity, a veritable Orvis catalogue of gear porn!
And there I vacillate: between the needlessly technical and overly-prepared, and the uselessly, utterly crumbling, but fabulous-looking antique. I have room for both, and a clear need for neither.

Someday soon, I will be taking that long-desired horse safari on the Mongolian steppes. I have already started dreamy lists of all of the equipment that I’ll be required to acquire.

The links of lust:

(also campmor, sierra trading, backcountry, moosejaw…)


About K. Jai Raj

Art dealer ski-bum. I spend disproportionate amounts on borderline-unnecessary tools and gear.


  1. Big love. cricket bat emergency?? i hope not. you’ve got us all covered…

  2. you’re a darling lady, bravo, bravo, more, more! i love you more than words

  3. Pingback: A Guide to Friendly-ing the Skies «

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