[Cdt-l] Umbrellas and hats

Larry Swearingen larry.swearingen at frontier.com
Fri Feb 21 13:40:18 CST 2014

I like my Tilley Airflo.  I've had it for about 4 years now and used mostly 
summer paddling rivers in Indiana and Michigan.  The mesh panel provides 
ventilation and it keeps the skeeters off the top of my very follically 
head.  If there are a lot of mosquitoes about a head net works well with it 
I spent 43 years out west and developed a lot of sun damage from being out
on the Pacific Ocean on the beach and sailing, high altitude mountaineering 
backpacking etc.  So I need to keep the sun off as much as possible.  I'll 
wear lightweight sun gloves.  If you could see the backs of my hands you'd 
know why.
If I can use the umbrella (Chrome Dome) when it's hot I will skip the hat 
for better cooling.
I've used a baseball cap and big handkerchief but that still leaves my 
exposed and I had surgeries to remove basal cell carcinomas there so I 
need protection for the sides.
I haven't actually used it on trail yet but I made a longer Sternum Strap 
for my pack
so I can wrap a Clove Hitch around the umbrella shaft to hold it in place 
hands free.
I've got a little biner to hold the bottom down to my waist belt.  It seems 
pretty solid
but like I said it isn't trail tested yet.

Larry  HooDad

-----Original Message----- 
From: Charlie Thorpe
Sent: Friday, February 21, 2014 1:39 PM
To: cdt-l at backcountry.net MailingList
Subject: [Cdt-l] Umbrellas and hats

Hello All -

Full hat disclosure disclaimer:  I don't have any of that pesky hair up on 
top of my head that gets all tangled up and gunky for other hikers <g>.  I 
do sweat a lot when I hike in warm weather and find it very uncomfortable 
when my head gets too hot.  I also tend to get sunburned VERY easily on top 
of my head if I am not careful.  Finding the right head cover while distance 
hiking has been a big deal for me over the years.

I used a baseball cap (really liked the eye protection) with a bandanna for 
neck and ears on the AT.  Worked well for me when temps were cool and I 
really liked how well it stayed on my head in a wind .  I got caught in a 
fierce hail storm between the summit of Mt. Washington and Lake of the 
Crowds hut - flipping my rain parka hood up over my baseball cap easily kept 
everything in place and the cap's bill helped greatly to keep rain/hail out 
of my eyes as I peered through the gloom trying to find the cairns. 
Unfortunately, the cotton baseball cap I used tended to get ripe between 
town stops (rinsing in creeks didn't help much), but I just threw it into 
the wash with the rest of my hiking clothes when I hit town and life was 
good again.

I had read Ray Jardine's first book before my PCT hike, so my son and I 
built hiking umbrellas during our 3-day bus ride from Alabama to San Diego. 
I removed the plastic handle from an old briefcase umbrella and used narrow 
strips of duct tape to tape a space blanket to the outside (top) of the 
umbrella's black nylon fabric.  I taped an old Mini-Mag flashlight holster 
to the upright side of my external frame pack - the metal shaft of the 
umbrella (without handle) fit snugly into it and held the umbrella nicely 
over my head.  My son also did the space blanket thing, but he left the 
handle on his umbrella and preferred to just carry it in one hand or the 
other as he hiked.

We were both surprised by the strength of the sun in southern California and 
really liked the way our reflective umbrellas kept our heads cool without a 
hat.  t didn't take me long to realize that my simple umbrella holder didn't 
let me adjust the umbrella for changing wind direction and sun angle.  I 
found I could take some of the spare #18 braided nylon cord I always carry 
to make an "umbrella angle adjuster" on each side of my umbrella.

I tied one end of a piece of the cord to the end of the umbrella rib over my 
right shoulder, ran the other end around my right shoulder strap, and tied 
the running end back around the cord with a taut line hitch (I like to use a 
three-wrap taut line hitch on the more slippery man-made cord).  I now could 
easily loosen one cord and tighten the other to pull down the umbrella on 
either side dictated by wind/sun (the cords also nailed the umbrella to my 
pack when wind gusts tried to pull it off).  The icing on the cake was that 
I could leave the whole rig in place when I dropped my pack.

I used this rig up through the Mojave (we did the "traditional" route on top 
of the aqueduct), but I sent mine home because I found I didn't need it in 
the big snow in the Sierras.  My son liked his for rain and used it all the 
way through Oregon.  I tried a variety of hats for the rest of the PCT (ball 
cap, boonie hat, doo-rag, etc.) and kept defaulting back to the baseball 
cap/bandanna rig I was used to.

Section hiking the CDT has given me a lot more opportunities to easily try 
out different gear choices on the different sections.  I experimented with 
mesh ball caps and a Columbia broad brim hat with a mesh panel around the 
top, but it was way too easy to get sunburned through the mesh on all of 
them.  I finally bit the bullet and bought the nylon Tilley Airflo with the 
wide mesh panel around the top.  I have used this hat for the last couple 
thousand miles of the CDT, including all of NM and the Divide Basin.  I 
would have loved to have had the Tilley above treeline in Colorado, but I 
had already done those sections before I got it (it did do great above 
treeline in the Winds and in MT).

I can still pull the hood of my rain parka up over the Tilley in heavy 
wind/rain and the brim sticks out in front just like a sailor's ball cap to 
shield my face.  Great ventilation and radiant heat protection (closed cell 
foam panel inside the top of the hat) with NO SUNBURN through the mesh.  The 
gunk easily rinses out of the headband in the creeks (I try to do at least a 
bandanna bath in the middle of each day), but I always still throw it into 
the town-stop wash on general principles <g>.

The double strap arrangement (one under the chin, the other behind my head) 
is very comfortable (I hate tight chin straps) and has worked perfectly in 
the April 70+ mph winds on the Plains of St. Augustine in NM, during a nice 
little blizzard south of Silver City (did the segment from Crazy Cook to 
Silver City in January), and in a brutal fall sleetstorm up top just south 
of Rogers Pass in MT..

I just pulled my Tilley out of the closet and looked it over.  It looks 
absolutely brand new after thousands of miles of hiking and paddling...the 
only signs of wear at all are the way that the little label sewn into the 
inside of the crown seam has frayed and how the marker I used to write my 
phone number onto the inside of the crown has faded over time.  It has 
looked absolutely ratty with fingerprints, stains, and crumpling after a 
good hike, but it always comes back to life after a washing or two at home.

I have found the hat for me.  My (master gardener, paddler, and sometime 
hiker) wife even dropped enough hints for me to finally wake up and get her 
one for her birthday <g>.

- Charlie

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