The Crusher Hat

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Being a man with pale complexion I had received yet another severe sunburn and was on the market for wide-brimmed hats when I discovered the Crusher. Living in Gothenburg, Sweden, hats are not easy to come by, wide-brimmed hats even worse. So when I bought the previously reviewed Duluth Presentation Jacket, I had a few bucks left over and browsed the web site, and was thrilled when I found the Men’s Crusher (there is a female version too).

This hat has a mesh-sided crown that keeps you cool whenever there’s a slight breeze. It feels like the mesh is creating a form of additional turbulence, because I can’t feel the same cooling effect when I take the hat off my head. It has a three-inch brim which I thought was a bit to small. I have reluctantly had to concede it to be just apt for the task.

Being from Sweden, I am accustomed to using metric, not inches. I expected to be asked of the circumference of my head but instead I was asked for the length of the crown. Thus I found out that I had ordered a hat that was one size too big. Since it was an overseas delivery, I decided to make it work anyway. There is a draw cord (which is actually a leather string) which I pulled over the back side of the brim to tighten it up. The stopper of the leather string was another piece of leather, a bit too big to stop anything, so I replaced it with a rubber band.

This summer when we visited the Philippines it served me excellently. It kept me cool and comfortable in temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (that is 104 degrees Fahrenheit). My Filipino wife decided that it had become too dirty and hand-washed it when I had fallen asleep. When I awoke, the cotton hat had dried and shrunken to a perfect fit.

The Duluth Trading Company calls it the Crusher, and it is aptly named. I have squeezed it into a ball and put it into the pocket of my jacket. I have thrusted it in my carry-on luggage. Nevertheless, it still bounces back into shape when I take it out of its cramped storage; the brim remains easily reshaped in the front and back sides to provide the best cover.

This is by far the best head cover I’ve had in warm climates, and it is made only better seeing as it is affordable.

Finally, a few thoughts:

Replace the little piece of leather that Duluth use as drawcord stopper, it is useless.

Create a plastic rain cover for the hat to make it perfect! I have only found those for western style hats, with brims exceeding 4 inches. It’s effective but not necessarily comfortable.

-- Per-Erik Ekberg  

Duluth Trading Company Crusher Hat
$15

Available from Duluth Trading Co.



Palladium Desert Boot

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I bought my Palladium Desert Boots in a French village shop in 1988. I wore them extensively, including a 6-month trip in Bolivia and Peru. Made of textured canvas, they were always comfortable, hard wearing, fast drying and cool on the feet (and to some, the eyes).

They are good for walking, traveling and general wear, and were allegedly the boots worn by the French Foreign Legion, and I mourned their eventual demise due to harsh chemicals encountered in a Bolivian silver mine.

I was, therefore, very pleased to find a resurgent Palladium online, selling boots of all kinds including these originals for a modest $55.

-- Mark Henley  

Palladium Desert Boot
$55

Available from Palladium



Sewing and Quilting Sources

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The best resource for sewing and quilting needs is Clotilde.com. It’s been around for ages and offers a complete selection of templates, needles, scissors, rotary cutters, patterns, fabrics and on and on. They have the largest array of seam rippers I’ve seen anywhere: lobster-clawed, flat-handled, round-handled, two-sided with an awl, lighted, retractable. They sell many unusual and specialized”feet” for sewing machines with adapters to ensure fit on your particular model.

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The best online source for quilting fabric is eQuilter.com. It’s a very personal, small company out of Boulder, Colorado with the largest online selection of fabrics in all genres: batiks, Asian, novelty prints, solids, tonals, etc. They have great prices and sales, rapid shipping, and excellent customer service. I usually try to patronize my local small quilting shop, but this is my go-to source for things I can’t find locally.

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The best resource for quilting kits is Keepsake Quilting.com. Why kits? It’s easy to overbuy fabric for quilting projects and the fabric is expensive. Also, Keepsake puts together breathtaking combinations of colors and designs. My most recent purchase was #2990 which I had been lusting over for some time and it would have easily cost more buying the fabrics individually. If you want to use your own quilt pattern, try their medleys of fabrics like Nara Gardens #1646 or the Aquatica Medley #7582 or the Intergalactic Medley #7564.

-- Madame Tut  

Sewing and Quilting Source
Clotilde

Quilting Fabric Source
eQuilter

Quilting Kit Source
Keepsake Quilting



Fire Mountain Gems

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Fire Mountain Gems and Beads is, in a sense, the McMaster Carr of the jewelry world. The company’s 400-plus page print catalog, with its to-scale photos of beads, gems, clasps and findings (roughly, the jewelry-making hardware), rivals any catalog in terms of introducing creative possibilities, and enticing you to buy stuff. For me, having the physical catalog makes navigating the extensive website easier.

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If you’re interested in making bead jewelry, I’d recommend taking a beginner’s class at a local bead store to get started and gain a basic familiarity with the tools. I took a wire wrap class at a local shop and then had a foundation from which I was able to learn knotting and stringing pearls watching Fire Mountain’s instructional videos.

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One of my favorite aspects of having even a basic ability to make jewelry is that I’m always able to create a last-minute gift, at least for friends whose taste is similar to mine. I keep a small stash of beads and findings around, and then can put together a pair of earrings in 10 minutes—a personal, homemade gift I didn’t have to go to the store to buy.

-- Bryn MacKinnon  



Macabi Skirt

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I used to hike wearing trail pants that converted to shorts by unzipping the bottoms. This conversion involved stopping, removing my boots, then unzipping the bottom portion of the pants above the knees, putting the boots back on and stashing the unzipped pant legs in my backpack. I thought, There’s got to be a better way.

Then, visiting the website of Sisters on the Fly, I discovered Macabi Skirts. These skirts are a design marvel. It’s easy to convert them from a skirt to pants to shorts of various lengths. A pant clip hangs at the end of an adjustable thin strap, which runs down from the waist in the middle of the skirt. It clips quickly to a hook on the inside back of the skirt. Using the strap, it’s possible to adjust the length in just seconds! Converting to shorts is just one more step. On the inside of each side of the skirt are snap straps that attach at the bottom of the pockets. Again, it takes seconds to adjust. Unlike the zippered convertible pants I used to wear, there’s nothing to store when switching modes in this skirt.

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The supplex fabric is lightweight and soft. It resists wrinkles and dries quickly. There’s a comfortable elastic waistband with a drawstring, and belt loops. One of my favorite features is the oversize cargo pockets on each side of the skirt. It’s possible to stuff them without looking bulky. On the right side there is deep pocket that includes a zippered security pocket that easily fits a passport, thin wallet, and keys. The large left side pocket has an inner pocket that’s just right for a phone, iPod or slim camera.

Two of these skirts are the foundation of my travel wardrobe. In the summer the cool fabric and loose fit combine for outstanding comfort. I wear the skirts so often that I bought long underwear bottoms, so that I can continue to wear them during the Colorado winter!

-- Nancy Mulvany  

Macabi Skirt
$77

Available from Macabi Skirt LLC



Scottevest Hidden Cargo Pants

I often carry far too much stuff in my pockets, and these pants allow me to do so without showing it. They’re durable, and I have not been able to find any other pants that do what these do. I wear these and Scottevest’s Ultimate cargo pants almost exclusively, because after wearing each type a few times, standard pants with standard pockets feel awkward.

The Hidden Cargo Pants are more formal than the Ultimate Cargos, or 5.11 Tactical Pants. The Hidden Cargos feel more like dress pants. The main difference between the Ultimate and Hidden is that the Ultimate have a rougher fabric, cargo pockets, and zip-off lower legs. The main pocket suspension is the same.

Access to pockets is excellent in the Hidden Cargos. The main pockets on each side of the front consist of three pockets in one. There’s a magnetic clasp to access the outer pockets, which are very large (they come down almost to the knee) and are divided into front and back sections.

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As long as you’re wearing a good belt it doesn’t really get too heavy. The design of the pockets means it is far less cumbersome than standard pants, but it can, of course, get cumbersome if you really stuff them full– which would be a feat. Without a good belt, however, the pants can get a bit heavy and slide down if they are loaded with stuff.

What do I fill my pockets with? I always carry around a large wallet, pen, comb, Chapstick, rosary, large thumb drive, Leatherman, phone, palm tungsten T5 (in large metal case) and a handkerchief. I carry it all in the front pockets, as I feel uncomfortable sitting with stuff in my back pockets. These are enough large items to produce a noticeable bulge in standard pants; in the Hidden Cargo Pants, there’s no noticeable bulge most of the time.

-- TJ Wasik  

Scottevest Hidden Cargo Pants
$70
Available from Scottevest

(Updated to Hidden Cargo Pants 2.0)



Optical4less * Goggles4U

With a copy of your eyeglass prescription in hand you can order inexpensive glasses online. For about $40 you can get a decent pair mailed to your house in 3 weeks. The optics are fine; they even do progressives. The frame styles are limited. The quality of construction is decent. Of my many friends who have purchased glasses this way, only one had any fitting issues. The rest, like me, love them. I got a solid pair of prescription sunglasses (above image) from Optical4less, and for the first time my daughters called me cool.

The way I figure it, compared to the $400 glasses often cost, it is worth the small risk of these cheap glasses not working out because you don’t get to try them on first. Even compared to the inexpensive options at Costco, they are half the price. But so far, they are as good as anything 10 times the price. (Of course, you can make online ones more expensive by upgrading lenses, etc.)

Enough folks are comfortable buying glasses remotely that there are dozens of vendors. The website Glassy Eyes reviews different online eyeglass vendors and favors Goggles4U (based in California). I’ve had good luck with Optical4less based in Hong Kong and these are the outfit most often recommended by others to me.

One note: to order online you need your PD, or pupil distance, or how wide apart your eyes are. Some mainstream optical offices, like LensCrafters, don’t surrender this information easily. It’s not hard to measure it yourself.

-- KK  



Ian’s Shoelace Site

Even if you have the least interest in shoes, do yourself a favor and experience this quirky site devoted to shoelaces. Thanks to an active community of contributors, there is an ever-growing abundance of excellent user photos exemplifying almost all of Ian’s already-detailed lacing illustrations. The combination of drawings and photos (and ratings!) has really enabled me to find and create any pattern I wish (Ian’s was the source for the previously-reviewed Surgeon’s Knot). Every article details the pros and cons of each particular pattern, and sometimes an article is supplemented with “work-arounds” which help readers tackle odd situations not covered originally. Quirky, entertaining, and above all, informative.

-- Jacob Musser  

Sample Excerpts:

Some patterns I’ve found most interesting and helpful:

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1) “Granny Knot” Solution: I have a pet peeve for sloppy shoes with crooked bows that sag like motionless helicopter blades (pic above). This page concisely explains how to fix this problem.

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2) Checkerboard: the highest rated pattern on the website is also one of the most unique. I don’t typically wear shoes like these, but now I really want to buy some just for the sake of weaving this pattern!

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3) Hiking/Biking: The new fad at my college is to ride tricked-out track bikes. I recommended this pattern to a friend who rides because he couldn’t wear his favorite pair of shoes on his bike due to the risk of the laces getting caught in the chain.

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4) Straight (Bar): An enjoyable, simple pattern that looks neat on Converse and Vans shoes. Note that the page goes into additional detail regarding the medical benefit of this pattern should you injure your ankle or foot [says Ian: "I've been told that [this is] the method of choice for the Canadian Armed Forces on shoes and ankle boots (though not on combat boots)”]

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5) One-Handed: For those who must tie — or want to try tying — their shoes with one hand.




DutyPro Uniform Trousers

Until someone sees fit to design a proper pair of dress pants that can accommodate a mobile phone, I found an acceptable solution in the pages of Galls, my favorite law-enforcement catalog. Beat cops wear dress-style slacks as a basic part of their uniforms, and some of those slacks come with a “sap pocket” — a small pocket built into the rear of the leg that’s used to hold billy clubs, blackjacks, or flashlights. For civilians, however, a sap pocket is also great for holding cellphones.

Every day I carry a wallet, a chunky set of keys, and a mobile phone. I also spend a lot of time sitting at a desk, so I keep my rear pockets empty to avoid discomfort. That leaves me with two pockets in the front, and three things to carry. The alternatives (belt clips and carpenter’s pants) just don’t cut it for me. Personally, I think belt clips are conspicuous and a little bit tacky. Carpenter’s pants have a slim pocket on the side that’s ideal for carrying a phone. Trouble is, it’s inappropriate to dress like a contractor when working in a professional office environment.

Galls DutyPro trousers pants aren’t as nice as the dress clothes you’ll find at Barney’s or Saks. On the other hand, they’re uniform tough, they’re permanent-press for easy care, and they’re cheap — less than $25 per pair with free hemming included. The rear leg pocket is perfectly sized for an iPhone, and my mobile slides in without creating a bulge or altering the basic fit. Alternatively, if I ever need to carry a billy club into a business meeting, well, I expect these pants will be good for that too.

-- Todd Lappin  

DutyPro Uniform Trousers
$25+
Available from Galls



MA-1 Bomber Jacket

Designed as a year-round flight jacket in the 1950′s, the MA-1 works great as an all-around durable, inexpensive jacket for autumn, spring, and winter. It is wind-proof, water-proof, well-insulated, and the slick nylon lining allows for freedom of movement inside. The jacket is reversible and the lining is typically high-visibility orange (to help locate downed pilots). Just flip it inside out, and you have a warm, high-vis jacket that’s perfect for bike riding in the dark. I have had mine for three years and use it mainly for commuting during cold weather.

This iconic jacket, of course, received some notoriety from its role in William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition. Gibson clothed the main character in a Buzz Rickson black MA-1. Funny thing is the jacket was originally issued only in green or blue, so Buzz Rickson, a meticulous creator of replicas, never offered an MA-1 in black. But eventually, they started making a special edition “Pattern Recognition” black MA-1.

You do not have to spend close to $500 for a Buzz Rickson, though. In order to get a genuine MA-1, you can buy military surplus or get a new one made by Alpha, the original supplier to the government. New Alphas run about $90. I got my perfectly-serviceable, cheap knock-off for $30.

-- John Sullivan  

MA-1 Bomber Jacket
$63
Available from Sportsman’s Guide