Black Hat

Every guy needs a good hat.

Personally, I’ve been a Tilley Hat loyalist since my years as a boy scout in the early 90s, but it was only in the last couple years that I expanded my collection beyond the single version of this Canadian outerwear icon that I’d bought way back when.

And this year I added to that collection with an order of a simple black bucket hat that arrived in a nondescript cardboard box through my mail over the summer.

What object will forever
remind you of 2021?

As with my new one, my previous Tilley hats have all been bought with purpose.

I own a great brimmed hemp hat that I purchased a few years ago and is really a wandering and travel hat, the head gear I wear on hikes and camping, into the woods and out into the wilds.

I also own a great big orange sun hat made by Tilley. This is my backyard hat. I wear it when I mow the grass or work in the garden or sit by the fire cooking steaks, and it keeps the sun off while staying pretty cool.

This past summer. I got it into my head to get myself a local adventure hat. We weren’t going far over the past year, so I wanted a lid that I could take along with me as I walked the dog, went to the park, or stepped over to the farmer’s market without looking like I was about to embark on a wilderness adventure.

I landed on a simple black bucket hat with a floppy brim and a comfortable sense about it.

It quickly filled that role and became my go to hat for summer and fall, and my favourite purchase of 2021.

Forever is a long time, but right now I think the object that will forever remind me of the year we left behind is very simple, faithful hat that I toted around the neighbourhood upon my noggin for the better part of a strange and adventure-sapped year.

Thirty one topics. Thirty one posts. Not exactly a list… but close. In December I like to look back on the year that was. My daily posts in December-ish are themed-ish and may contain spoilers set against the backdrop of some year-end-ish personal exposition.

This is not an endorsement. This is simply commentary on a product I have purchased myself. Do your own research and do your best to buy local products that support businesses that deserve your business.

(Un)inflatable Winter

At the risk of writing a (slightly) political article alluding to some opinions about supply chains and the state of the modern world, I wanted to share what (finally) arrived on my doorstep yesterday.

A box.

In fact, it was a large box, and a box I’d ordered … in June.

In June, we were undergoing record heat, the days were long, and ahead of us were all sorts of free summer weekends filled with plans and potential for getaways to the mountains or nearby lakes or anywhere our pandemic lockdown selves could reach in a car without crossing borders.

We optimistically ordered an inflatable kayak. And not just any old blow-up boat. We did some research, trialed some rentals, talked to people who know about these things, and ultimately invested in a fairly mid-to-high-end kayak made of sturdy materials and meant for real, practical outings.

It never shipped.

We received a notice about it being low in stock, then out of stock, then anticipated back in stock any day, and then a simple we’ll update you about your order when we have more information.

After a month of waiting we cautiously ordered a second (much cheaper) inflatable kayak … if only because we had lodged it into our hearts that we wanted to get out on the water in one form or another. Summer was short. Summer is always short. Had the first one shipped in the meanwhile we would return the second. Or, alternatively, keep it for the kid (there are three of us and a dog, after all.) But it seemed like summer was slipping away while we waiting for an invisible manufacturing or shipping problem to resolve itself.

The replacement arrived quickly, and so July and August were peppered with outings in our bright yellow inflatable dinghy-come-kayak, more of an oblong boat or a canoe-shaped raft toy than a proper adventure tool.

No word on the first kayak.

We went out once in September but already the weather was starting to cool and the risk of falling in the water and chilling too much was not sitting well with my practical sensibilities on the noob kayaker front.

Still, no original kayak arrived.

October came and dwindled. On some of my morning runs I noted that the creeks had a layer of ice on them already as the overnight temperatures consistently dipped into the sub-zero freezing range. I packed up the big yellow kayak into our winter storage space and resigned myself to start thinking about snowier sports.

Then on Halloween, a shipping notice arrived in my email, and a few days later a big cardboard box was dropped off on the front step.

The original kayak had arrived.

Just in time for winter.

Just in time to drop it into my storage space … and dream about next year’s kayaking adventures.

Guinness Sourdough (Part Three)

A little more than a week ago I ran a bread-making experiment involving a loaf of sourdough and a can of Guinness stout. The results of that experiment were a less-than-ideal loaf of sourdough with a strong taste that didn’t quite make the repeat list.

I thought a quick follow-up was due.

So, yeah… the family didn’t rush to make that loaf disappear, and sadly the bread went a bit stale as the week wore on.

Yet, the bread did not go to waste. No. Not at all.

In fact, I turned about half the loaf (or what was left after I’d made a couple cheese sandwiches for my lunches) into crunchy, tasty croutons.

Here’s how…

Recipe

1/2 loaf of slightly stale sourdough bread
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
salt & pepper to taste

I cubed the leftover bread into bite-sized bits and spread them on a baking sheet with a bit of parchment paper. Drizzle the olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle the garlic and seasoning and, again, toss to coat. Salt and pepper to taste.

I baked the sheet of bread bits at 275Β°F for about 25 minutes (testing for dryness along the way) then cranked on the broiler and toasted them for a few more minutes until they were a lovely golden brown colour.

I assume they will store for about a week in a sealed container, but honestly they didn’t last long enough to know for certain. Yum!

Gear: Collapsible Cookware by Sea to Summit

This week in my Thursday Tuck & Tech post (where I’m making an inventory of the gear I use or would like to add to my collection) I’m looking at some of my essentially un-cast iron cookware.

…because apparently cast iron is too heavy to haul up onto a mountain on a four day backpacking trip.

Yet, we still gots-to-cook.

When I was in the Scouts in my youth our troop spent many weekends in the woods. Looking back we ate incredibly simply: oatmeal, sandwiches, hot dogs, and other things that could be boiled or suspended from a stick over a fire.

We had some go-to cookware that was worn and battered by years of use. It was a nesting-doll set of thin steel pots and pans that all wrapped up neatly into a pack a little smaller than a football, tucked into a mesh bag, and rattled around from the backs our packs as we hiked in and out. They were light(ish) and a simple way to get things cooked outdoors.

So, naturally, when I moved out and started buying my own camping gear, decades ago now, one of the first things added to my collection was that identical set of steel pots and pans. You go with what you know. And they followed me up more than one mountain in my twenties.

But they were pretty simple and underwhelming as far as modern backpacking technology.

We’ve since ramped up our adventure gear game and invested in a collection of much lighter, much more compact cooking pot… and matching cups, bowls, plates, and a pretty slick collapsible coffee strainer (which I’ll likely be writing about at a later date!)

This set has followed us up on a couple of long multi-day hikes. The pandemic put a cramp on our plans for 2020, but in the couple years since we built this collection I’ve had enough practice with it to give an honest evaluation.

The silicon design has a weight that is competitive with any metal pan, and while they’re not cheap, they’re not titanium-expensive either.

Our firefly stove was able to boil up a pot of cold filtered stream water in less than ten minutes (good heat retention!) though with the silicon sides not being flame friendly, I couldn’t run the stove at full blast else risk some side flames creeping up past the metal bottom plate.

One of the negatives is that it would have been nice to pick these up as a complete set instead of piece-by-piecing our set together (from three different camping shops.) Now that our set is relatively complete that was really a small thing that I won’t need to do again. I write that only because we opted not to buy the frying pan (which I assume would likely have been part of said set) as our go-to meals on multi-day hikes tend to be rehydrated food. A pot of boiled water and some bowls serve for nearly all our adventure meals. Yet, a reliable frying pan could probably inspire some backpacking-friendly ideas in those meal plans… especially for the cast iron guy.

Overall, this set can’t compare to camping with a cast iron dutch oven, but my back routinely thanks me for the lighter approach to our adventure cooking.