Friday, December 9, 2011

Gear Review: Barmah Australian Hats

Every outdoorsman has their one ‘can’t do without’ item.  It is like a security blanket or teddy bear for a toddler.  As long as that one thing is with them, he can tackle anything nature throws his way.
For me, it is a hat.  I have always worn hats.  As a child and through my teenage years, you could hardly ever catch me without a ball cap on.  The only exception would be while hunting dove.  Then, you would find me with a green boonie hat with the draw string usually pulled over the top of the hat with one side snapped up.  I have always been a ‘little’ different.
Recently I was offered an item to review that was right up my alley.  After all, I had been wearing one for over 10 years!  Barmah USA makes Australian style hats.  Barmah is based in Australia and their hats are made from such leathers as bronco and kangaroos, are water resistant, and have that flare I look for.  They are also designed to be folded and spring back into shape.  They come with a nifty bag that has imprinted instructions on how to properly fold the hat for storage in the bag.

Gators at night in Georgia
with Barmah.

I have been wearing a Kangaroo Barmah hat in a hickory.  I have also owned one in a limestone green that was sent to retirement.  Barmah supplied me Foldaway suede in a sand color to try as well.  Like mentioned in the previous paragraph, the hats are designed to be folded and spring back into shape.  I have found there are a few tricks if you have a preference to the look of your hat, and I like the front of the hat to curl slightly down with the side curled slightly up.  Letting the hat rest on the edge of a table or desk with the front hanging off for several days will give this desired look.
The hats have been treated with Scotch-guard prior to shipping preventing stains and giving the hat the water resistance.  How water resistant is this hat?  Let’s just say Niagara Falls resistant!  While the exterior of the hat was soaked on a trip to the national landmark, the hat dried quickly and retained shape and fit.

Not even the mighty Niagara
can stop it!

Now I have been blessed/cursed with my father's and grandfather's genes.  This means my head lacks some natural covering.  The Barmah hat provides covering that can be worn in the heat of summer or the bitter temperatures of winter.  While I have not worn the suede during excessively high temperatures, the kangaroo hat does a great job of allowing my noggin to breathe in the heat.  As far as cold temps, both hats keep my head plenty warm.

Even the September sun and dust are under control.

The price points for the Barmah hat varieties are in the $75 or less range.  I’m pretty cheap when it comes to clothing and apparel, but I believe in the worth of the Barmah hat enough that I have bought two.  I can be pretty rough on them, as I wear them in the woods and in the field, and they continue to survive unscathed. 
In a recent interview with the Outdoor Blogger Network, I responded to the question "What is the one thing you cannot do without?" with "My Barmah hat."  In fact, my Barmah hat is not just a hat, it identifies me!

Bill Howard writes a weekly outdoors column for the Wilson Times and Yancey County News and the blog site Bill Howard's Outdoors. He is a Hunter Education and International Bowhunter Education instructor, lifetime member of the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, Bowhunter Certification Referral Service Chairman, member and official measurer of Pope and Young, and a regular contributor to North Carolina Bowhunter Magazine.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Gear Review: Fieldline Glenwood Canyon Backpack

About once each year I try to get away for a two to three day hunt.  I try to ‘rough’ it, camping beneath the stars and enjoying nature.  It presents a bit more of a challenge and separates myself from the ‘rest of the world.’  When I do this type of hunt, it is necessary to have a good backpack that brings comfort and functionality into the equation.  Hiking several miles into the wilderness can take its toll and you need a way to bring in the necessities.
I tested the Fieldline Glenwood Canyon pack recently.  I have other Fieldline products, including a backpack, and they do a nice job of combining low costs with nice workmanship to make their products a really good value.  The backpack I owned is comfortable and spacious but I had to strap my bow on the outside without any support.
First of all, the Glenwood Canyon pack comes in two camouflage patterns featuring Realtree and Mossy Oak.  I mostly use Realtree so that is what I chose for my pack.  The local stores that carry the G.C. pack only had Mossy Oak as a choice.  It has an internal frame for pack support.
The straps on the pack offer a waist belt and a chest buckle strap for better comfort.  The chest strap is attached to two straps located on each shoulder strap to allow it to slide up and down for personal adjustments. They are also well padded to prevent extra fatigue on the shoulders.
Over the left shoulder is an access port for a hydration bladder, which has a separated compartment in the main bag.  On top of the bag is a strapped rain cover with an extra zippered compartment.  It does not provide a lot of storage, but is nice for something like a wallet or map.
On both the right and left sides are zippered compartments that can be reached with the pack still on.  These hold items such as a rangefinder, binoculars, cell phone, and flashlight.  I found it pretty easy to reach in a feel for the items I was looking for.
An angled zippered compartment rests in the center of the pack.  I keep my Knives of Alaska knives there as well as my LED Lenser headlamp.  Snacks would likely fit there as well.  Two adjustable snap straps are located on the outside of this compartment for strapping something like a foam pad or small tent.  The straps can be adjusted to a diameter of approximately 6 to 7 inches.
To the left is another zipper that allows access to the main pack area.  This is nice as you do not have to open the pack from the top and can get to items located in the bottom of the pack without pulling everything out.  The zipper is about 12 inches long.
On the left side of the pack are 2 adjustable straps along the side and a small zipper at the bottom.  After unzipping the bottom, a boot pouch with 2 straps attached to it can be pulled out to accommodate the butt of a rifle or shotgun or the lower cam of a compound bow.  As a bowhunter, I naturally tried it out with my compound.  The boot pouch does not work well with a compound with parallel limbs, but if I strapped the riser with the straps on the side and strapped the string with the two straps in the center, it did hold the bow pretty steady.  It does not work will with the quiver on.  However, for a firearm, the boot works great and the pack held fine.
The access to the main pack compartment is under the rain cover.  There are two straps sown into the access material that are rolled and then fastened to prevent any water from entering.  It also can add several inches of storage.  Inside you also have access to where the hydration bladder would be located.
All the zippers have a rubberized material covering the closed zipper area and also have plastic lined pull strings with large loops.
Here is the best part of the pack; it can be bought for under $30.  As far as holding up, if it is like my other Fieldline Pack it will hold up fine for years if it is used for a few trips each year.  My other pack has been through some reasonable abuse and has held up fine for the last 5 years.  I do not like the absence of straps on the bottom or top to connect a sleeping bag for instance.  The inner compartment has plenty of room for use as a one to three day pack.
Overall, the price is hard to beat providing features of packs that are in the $150-$200 price range.  The functionality for a gun hunter or hiker is great.  I will continue to use this in the future for short multi day trips.

Glenwood Canyon Frame Pack

(Company Specs)

Dimensions : 20 in x 15 in x 8.5 in / 50.8 cm x 38.1 cm x 21.59 cm
  • Top and vertical pack entries
  • Front access scope pocket
  • Stowable rifle carrier pouch with zipper closure
  • Hydration compatible (2-liter Hydration Reservoir sold separately)
  • Top flap includes zippered compartment
  • 2 compression straps to secure your load
  • Ultra quiet zipper pulls
  • 2 large zippered side pockets
  • Gear-lock attachment points on waist belt
  • Yoked shoulder strap system with adjustable sternum slider
  • Adjustable waist and chest straps
  • Vertical front entry opening for easy access to gear
  • Top compartment has been designed with quiet roll-top closure
  • Stowable rifle carrier pouch with zipper closure

Want to read more reviews?  Bill Howard's Outdoors Reviews and GiveEmTheShaft Reviews

Bill Howard writes a weekly outdoors column for the Wilson Times and Yancey County News and the blog site Bill Howard's Outdoors. He is a Hunter Education and International Bowhunter Education instructor, lifetime member of the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, Bowhunter Certification Referral Service Chairman, member and official measurer of Pope and Young, and a regular contributor to North Carolina Bowhunter Magazine.