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< Inside L.L.Bean

Freeport, ME, January 28, 2021

The World Outside: A Case for the Outdoor Life

WORDS & PHOTOS BY DAVID COGGINS

David Coggins, Fly Fishing in the Snow in Canada

There are few writers who capture the pleasures of the great outdoors as elegantly as David Coggins. A New York Times best-selling author, Coggins has for many years documented his love of the outdoors and his appreciation for practical, stylish gear that makes getting outside possible (and more enjoyable). We at L.L.Bean have long followed his scenic adventures as he highlights the simple joys of life outside and the benefits of connecting with nature. We recently invited Coggins to our beloved Maine to talk all things L.L.Bean, our shared love of fly-fishing, and the heritage gear that only gets better with age.

We are honored to introduce Coggins as our first-ever guest editor in the L.L.Bean Newsroom and look forward to sharing his perspective and experiences over the course of the next several months. We hope you’ll follow along!

To read more of Coggins’ personal work, follow him at The Contender and check out his guides to life and style, Men and Manners and the New York Times bestseller, Men and Style.

If you’re going to be outside—and we all head outside—why not enjoy it? After all, the world is outside, and we’re in our natural state when we find ourselves there. All it takes is a little preparation (yes, bring a rain jacket), a little imagination (yes, take the road less traveled), and an open mind. In a difficult year, when we’ve all stayed close to home, it feels right to dream of far off places under the sun, and even under the clouds.

The case for the outdoor life means the outdoors in all its elements, even when those elements are less than perfect. Scottish people tell you they get four seasons of weather in a day. Though somebody told me it was actually four seasons in an hour. That abrupt shift in mood is part of a dramatic charm on a hike across the Highlands.

A well-dressed man is ready for what comes his way, he doesn’t fear rain or cold. He’s ready to bring his beloved overcoat out for a turn. Similarly, an accomplished angler is prepared to pursue a trout even when the conditions aren’t ideal. The fact remains conditions are temperamental a lot of the time—just ask a fishing guide. The sooner we make peace with that the better.

I’m for seasons—seasons are good. Seasons give symmetry to the year, clues about what to eat, what to wear, and it’s not too much to say, seasons bring rhythm to our lives. Who can’t resist the first day in April that really feels like spring? Or driving in October when leaves change and a hillside of trees is entirely red? That means the cold seasons too! I grew up in Minneapolis and went to college in Maine, so I’m on familiar terms with the wintry side of things. There’s nothing like the first snowstorm of the year, even if some of the magic disappears if you have to shovel your car out the next morning.

I can’t wait to head out to fish right when the season opens in April, despite the fact that weather is usually abominable and the fishing even worse. Does that stop me? You know it doesn’t! As soon as I can get on the water I’m there. It might rain, it might snow, but it’s too soon to complain. I put on as many layers as I can possibly wear—yes I’ve been known to wear three sweaters at a time. If I even see a trout that feels like a triumph, catching one is downright heroic.

Float Plane in Maine North Woods

Brown Trout

I’m still being stubborn in the fall and ignoring the weather report. After all, I need to get any fishing in before the season ends. It seems perfectly logical—perfectly logical—to head up with a friend to try to catch an Atlantic salmon in New Brunswick even if the forecast calls for snow. This was a few years ago now, and the camp where we stayed had no power, heat or electricity. It did, crucially, have a fireplace and glasses for some Canadian whiskey. The weather forecast did not deter us, since we had our hearts set on the salmon, the elusive Fish of a Thousand Casts. On our last day, as predicted, the fishing was indeed brutal and the rain turned to snow. We went through a few stages of emotions, but never grief. I’ll never forget the sheets of snow coming down and then rushing back to pack the truck and get up the hill before we were stranded. What a day!

Now you can love being outside and still love going back inside. After all, that’s where there’s a fire waiting for you and possibly a bar. I’m a big believer of fire-building. I make them on chilly summer mornings at our cabin in Wisconsin and I make them at our small apartment in Manhattan (probably to make me feel like I’m in Wisconsin). They’re perfect company for an immense novel you’ve been meaning to read forever, while wearing a shawl-collared cardigan that looks like it belonged to your grandfather. You don’t even need to read, you can just stare knowingly into the fire and consider what your next outing will be.

Outdoor grill at camp

Milo in the snow

I’m here to say: Weather, in all its variations, is part of a complete life. So be a man or woman of all seasons. When I’m struggling with winter I take the lead from our family’s Bernese Mountain Dog, who is never happier than when he’s covered in white. He wants to head out whenever he can, even in the snow, and that’s a good strategy. So head out to hike, to fish, to camp, to ski or just to walk the dog. The world outside is calling, it’s all there waiting for you.

To read more from David Coggins, head back to the Newsroom.