CategoriesGear

Hemp Clothing For Urban and Outdoor Adventures

I love hemp clothing. They’re unbelievably comfortable and seem to resist all my attempts to make them stink while hiking, camping or traveling. Right now, I have a pretty wide variety of hemp clothing that I put through the ringer, even some hemp underwear that get a blog post of their own. I hope with the updated laws about growing hemp in the U.S. that we’ll start seeing more options from this sustainable material. I’ll test more hemp as I get my hands on it!

Here’s what I’ve learned about the various brands of hemp clothing I’ve tried -- and FYI, everything I have is a hemp/cotton blend.

hemp clothing
INI Cooperative Escargo pants … a fine piece of hemp clothing.

ONNO Hemp T-shirts

I wore one of my ONNO hemp t-shirts for 36 hours. During that time, I hiked, pooped in the wild, chopped wood, made fires, dunked myself in a river -- the list goes on. When I emerged back into civilization, I was coated in dirt. When I jumped in the shower, the water soon ran brown.

But that ONNO shirt didn’t have a trace of nasty odor. Apparently, hemp clothing has antibacterial properties, much like bamboo (which I also love). I found my ONNO t-shirts at a store in Prescott, Ariz., called Man At Leisure. I bought one, wore it, loved it, went back to Prescott and bought two more -- the staff there is also incredibly nice; somehow, they remembered me from my months-earlier visit. If you can’t get an ONNO hemp t-shirt at Man At Leisure, get one somewhere.

The downside? It’ll make you hate almost all your other t-shirts. I seriously dare anyone out there to make a better hemp t-shirt.

INI Cooperative Hemp Clothing

I went on an online hemp hunt for women’s clothing. My wife was wicked-jealous of my ONNO shirt. I stumbled across INI Cooperative’s Escargo pants (Oh, and here’s what I got for the wife, if you’re curious). The problem is, I’m pretty sure they’re discontinuing these pants. That’s a shame because they’re on the verge of awesome.

I picked up two pairs half-off the normal price starting with a 34-inch waist. These run small, I can tell you for certain. Not just in the waist, either. If squats and deadlifts are part of your workout routine, the INI Escargo pants will feel hipster-tight in your legs. I ordered the 36-inch pair in camouflage hoping they would be just-right. They are in the waist, but the range of movement in the legs is still not what I’d want for outdoor use.


On the plus side, the hemp-cotton ripstock fabric is unbelievably soft. The zipper is serious quality, and there’s a well-placed cell phone pocket on the right thigh. I’d love to see INI bring these back using dudes who do lower-body exercises and eat steaks as fit models rather than Ichabod Crane vegans. So close to being a gold-standard example of hemp clothing.

I also picked up an INI Cooperative hemp button-down shirt called the Cole Slaw (don’t ask me to explain that name). I ordered my usual extra-large size -- and it’s a perfect fit in length. But I have to assume INI has a customer in mind who hates lifting weights. This shirt is really tight in the shoulders. It’s also going to require a bit more washing too soften up. But it looks cool as hell, which counts for something.

REI Hemp Shirt (Discontinued)

Oh, REI -- what have you done? You made me my original hemp clothing in the form of these button-down shirts, and then you took them away. Oh, well, I still have like four of them.

You probably missed out on these. They were perfect for my casual workplace as well as nights out. They are practically indestructible aside from buttons popping off occasionally. I have the very first one I ever bought, and it does not look worse for wear at all.

sustainable clothing
Women can have their cool Wama hemp underwear, too.

Royal Robbins Green Jean

My pair of hemp-blend Royal Robbins pants are grey, but the model is called the Green Jean because of all the recycled bits in them. And they fit perfectly, feel great and look pretty darn good.

If I’m gonna complain about anything, it’s this: How ‘bout a nice pocket somewhere to stash a smart phone? My INI pants have them, as do my Kuhl pants. There’s really no reason for anyone to make pants missing this feature.

Now, these pants are meant more for urbane, civilized duty. I won’t take these to my next Aboriginal Living Skills School course or on my next camping trip. Great for work, excellent for the brewery -- but I can’t see treating them too mean.

CategoriesTravel

Nobody Needs Reviews of Business Class Flights

business class flights
A United Dreamliner preps for a flight from Houston to Chicago

I read reviews of business class flights for one reason – to shake my head at the complaints the reviewers dredge up. Even as a guy who loves air travel, I’d never miss reviews of business class flight if they fell into oblivion, never to return to earth. Here’s why.

The Writing is Awful

Here’s a passage from a recent review of a business class flight: "The giant GE-90 engines powered the Boeing 777-300ER off the ground and into the air for the scheduled 13-hour, 30-minute flight to Taipei."

business class flights
The Travel Class cabin of an Asiana 777 – this is where airlines show what they’re made of. And Asiana? Made of awesome.

That is some of the nerdiest over-writing ever. And believe me, it doesn’t end there. Reviews of business class flights are filled with horrible shorthand like "pax" (passengers); jargon like "hard product" (I could joke about this all day); and over-analysis of each course of the dining options, with photos included. Speaking of photos, almost every business class flight review I see has way too many of them – stuff like seats, amenity kits and (I’m dead serious here) video screens. Yes, photos of video screens. SMH, as the kids would say.

Nobody Should Have Any Complaints

business class flights
The 747 … the Queen of the Skies. Flying everywhere you want to go for a little longer.

Look, no matter what airline you fly, a business class seat is going to be one of the nicest transportation experiences you will ever have. Fact. That’s it. Some of the nitpicking I’ve seen is absolutely revolting.

One knock I saw on an airline’s business class was "not enough privacy." Another was "poor location for the seat remote control." Oh, and cheap plastic cutlery. The horror!

business class flights
Foreign airlines seem to step it up, even in economy class.

I can’t believe how people can be so whiny about not being pampered enough. One hundred years ago, we were getting around on steam engines. Fifty years before that, covered wagons. And here we are traveling at 38,000 feet and spanning the world – can we no longer endure two meals with cheap plastic cutlery without sniveling as we polish our monocles? And don’t even tell me that business travelers need to know what they’re getting for their money: Most of the time, it’s either their employer’s money, or an upgrade.

Reviews of Business Class Flights Are Irrelevant

Most people travel in economy, maybe in economy plus. The differences back there vary much more widely by airline. I’ve flown domestic airlines and experienced them as just adequate – nothing horrible at all. But the foreign carriers I’ve flown really step up their game. There is a huge difference in economy class among the airlines I’ve flown.

And that’s really the bigger, more relevant story that travelers need to know: which airlines bring the A Game to economy class. Some will be willing to pay more for the better airlines, while others would prefer to lose a measure of comfort to save a few clams.

CategoriesTastes

Four Perfect Hot Drinks for Winter

Hot Drinks for Winter
Lingonberries – great for making a warming winter drink. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A very good friend of mine loves eating breakfast nearly as much as his own wife and children. He even wrote a song called "Breakfast" that became a favorite of his band’s fanbase.

Me? I love a good meal at any time of day. But I reserve a huge chunk of my enthusiasm for beverages. I’ve written extensively about my forays for fermented beverages and my coffee crawls. So I was really excited to read a post about warm winter beverages on a friend’s blog. Inge, who recently moved to Trondheim, Norway, is in a good position to talk about beverages that will chase the chill from your bones on a snowy day. Her post is all about drinks you can put into an insulated container for your forays into the outdoors.

Her post inspired me to link to it, and to add a few hot drinks for winter.

Hot Drinks for Winter
You can do more with bone broth than just make soup – drink up! (Photo b y Justinhealth.com)

Hot Lingonberry Juice

If you ever wind up at the ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden, odds are the staff will serve you some hot lingonberry juice. I heard about this from my friend, Cody, who said it’s perfect for making you feel warm when the snow falls hard and heavy. I still haven’t tried it -- but I will the first chance I get. Well, hey – I don’t really have to go to Sweden. I just need to go to Ikea and get some concentrate and follow this recipe.

Bone Broth

If you don’t drink mulled wine during the winter, then you know nothin’, Jon Snow. (photo from imaginationlane.net)

Unfortunately, bone broth is all the hipster rage right now. But there’s a good reason for it aside from being trendy and retro: The stuff makes a great soup base. I make my own all the time, usually from beef bones, salt, rosemary, garlic and a splash of red wine.

Now, if I were hiking in the cold and wanted something super-nourishing to keep me warm and full of calories, this would be one of the hot drinks for winter I’d choose. Protein, salt, some fat – this stuff is rocket fuel. And salt is essential during exercise – you sweat, even in cold temperatures. Replenishing what you lose keeps cramps at bay. There are a loads of recipes out there, but I just take the ingredients above, toss them into a slow cooker and let set it to low for about 36 hours. I just eyeball the proportions. But you can turn to your favorite search engine to find a more precise recipe.

Ginger-Orange Infusion

I was in Vietnam taking a tour of the Mekong Delta when I got introduced to this drink. Some beekeepers served it, using tiny green oranges, some ginger and a healthy dollop of their honey. Even though it was warm out, I could tell this would be one of the best hot drinks for winter.

I started making it home – I cut the ginger up pretty roughly, using a slice about the size of my pinky finger. I use the juice of half a large orange, add about 25 ounces of water and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Just add honey to task. You’ll get a few healthy sized cups of this. I’m honestly not sure what this drink is called, so I didn’t even search for the recipe.

Mulled Wine

I am not a wine drinker. I’m a hard-core craft beer lover, and I’ve never tasted a single wine that tasted anywhere near as good to me as even a run-of-the-mill microbrew. Mulled wine served hot and spiced, though, is a really hard drink to beat on a winter night. And I know this list is mostly for something to take on winter outdoor expeditions, but we’ve gotta have some fun, right? Apparently, mulled wine is on a lot of the menus in Sapa, Vietnam. It’s pretty chilly there in the winter, so it figures they’d know some perfect hot drinks for winter.

Like bone broth, there’s no shortage of mulled wine recipes online. Chances are you’re in the right ballpark if you see cinnamon, cloves, orange zest -- stuff like that. But here’s one link for a Swedish version called glogg. Who can’t resist a name like that? Not me.

CategoriesUncategorized

A Look at Beliefs About the French

I don’t highlight passages in books. I just don’t. First off, it makes a mess on my Kindle screen. And usually, I don’t know -- the spirit just doesn’t move me.

But a passage in They Eat Horses, Don’t They? by Piu Marie Eatwell had me scrambling for a highlighter. Unfortunately, a pen was the best I could do – anyway, the section I highlighted on page 53 made me laugh loud and hard; I won’t spoil the surprise for you, but I will say it involved a  McDonald’s franchise in France, bricks, angry French farmers and Roquefort cheese.

Eatwell’s book is subtitled The Truth About the French. She takes beliefs about the French and dissects them based on her research and experience living in France. She gives a conclusion about whether the belief is true or false.

Beliefs about the FrenchI’ve heard many of these beliefs about the French before, but Eatwell has a access to a few unfamiliar to me -- probably because she’s English.

The myths range from France’s ranking as garlic and cheese consumers, to the alleged style sense of French women. And oh, yes – there is a section on sex. These are all pretty commonly known beliefs.

The beliefs that were unfamiliar to were the "archetypal Frenchman wears a beret and striped shirt and rides a bicycle festooned with onions." That, and the view that France is a very egalitarian society. I’d never once heard that before, and it was something that even my good French friend of more than two decades has never hurled at me in claiming Gaelic superiority. When I think of egalitarian, I think of the Scandi-Nordic countries. Oh, and the belief that the French eat horses – news to me, as well.

Eatwell digs into these many beliefs about the French over about 300 pages; she has a distinct English flavor to her writing -- there’s a bit of almost ironic formality sauced with smirky humor. I really enjoyed her style, and she seems like she’d be an extraordinarily amusing dinner guest.

beliefs about the French
You might feel like eating a chunk of Roquefort cheese after reading this book. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Francophile visiting my home earlier this year read some of the book, and agreed with some parts while disagreeing with others. I found many of the objections, though, typical of the over-romanticizing of the French. Americans indulge themselves in this bad habit about a great many foreign countries, so I wouldn’t put too much stock in that. Eatwell has the advantage of research of the most valuable type: time in-country. Lots of it.

Here’s the best measure of whether Eatwell succeeds with They Eat Horses, Don’t They?: She made me – a traveler who really doesn’t care about visiting France and is content to leave it to the unadventurous – laugh often. I read it straight through with no cheating interludes with other books.

CategoriesTravel

Random Cool Travel Tidbits

random cool travel tidbits
The all-female Kenya Airways 787 Dreamliner crew! (Photographer unknown – let me know if it’s you!)

Sometimes, I just run into a few cool travel tidbits that I don’t know very much about, but still deserve your attention. Or someone else shared something that says everything that needs to be said. Let me share a few that I’ve run into recently.

On Twitter, I learned that Kenya Airways had an all-female crew fly its first Boeing 787 from the manufacturing line in Washington to Nairobi. Captain Irene Koki Mutungi, the first female African qualified in the type, was in command. I hope that she’ll be the captain of many more flights – when I get the chance to visit Kenya, I’ll hope she’s at the controls. You can follow her on Twitter.

Tidbit #2 is just a little idea I developed as a craft beer fan. Sometimes I run into a tasty example of locally brewed beer that I want to take home to share with friends. Obviously, it has to go into checked baggage where it’s subject to the rigors of baggage handling incidents. So what to do? Well, I wrap a sock or to around each bottle and slip it into the shoes I pack. I wear a size 13 US, so I have room to spare! I shared this with a friend when I was in Brazil – since she was kind of shocked by my ingenuity and determination, I thought a few of you might be able to use this tip.

Things to Know About Curitiba
Club de Malte – a good place to find items to fill your shoes in Curitiba, Brazil.

Hey, speaking of Boeing 787s from African airlines! Ethiopian Airlines used one of its shiny new Dreamliners to bring medical cargo from the U.S. to Ethiopia. That’s a very smart use of a delivery flight.

Fourth in the lineup is a movie called The Final Member. This is a story about the curator/founder of the Iceland Phallological Museum and his quest to add the ultimate exhibit – a human penis – to his collection. It was really fun to see a guy I’d met on the screen -- and holy cow, I’ll never hear the words "Tickle me, Elmo" quite the same again. You won’t believe the too-strange-to-be-true characters and situations in The Final Member.

whale penis, husavik, iceland
Willies on display!

And next – fellow blogger Amy talks about the odd mindset of people who want to travel, but can’t quite get off the dime. She mentions failed strategies to save for travel, and offers her own tips that might help you go from wanna-be to for-real traveler. I agree with her words, and I’d also add a few tips on how to free up some travel money: Get rid of your cable/satellite TV subscriptions, and don’t buy a fancy car. Seriously, I still can’t fathom why people have huge car payments when most of what they do is go to work. Most of us have to choose – seeing the world or looking fancy for no good reason. If you have some flashy car and moan about not being able to go to Australia, well, that’s the choice you made.

CategoriesTravel

WOW air Versus Icelandair

A few days ago, I saw a friend get really excited on Facebook about WOW air offering cheap flights to Iceland. Apparently, WOW air had advertised $99 fares to Keflavik, the nearest international airport to Reykjavik.

Immediately, I knew there had to be a catch of some sort. So I wanted to crunch the numbers and on a WOW air Versus Icelandair showdown.

I whipped up itineraries to get me from Phoenix to Keflavík International Airport during the summer months when I could go do cool things like hike, camp and experience the Inside the Volcano tour. I made sure the itineraries on both airlines matched. Here’s what I found comparing WOW air to Icelandair.

Now boarding in Bergen - the daily flight to Keflavik, Iceland.
Now boarding in Bergen – the daily flight to Keflavik, Iceland.

WOW air

WOW air’s site didn’t allow me to book directly from Phoenix, my home city. So I have to break this out separately, starting with the WOW air fare from Boston.

Roundtrip: $461.39 with tax. This includes one carry-on item. I can purchase extra weight allowances, but I can still take only one carry-on item and can’t exceed 26 pounds – and even that weight gets you a nominal penalty; I usually check my backpack and carry a small day pack and a camera bag aboard. There are also fees for sports equipment, picking seats and cancellation protection.

Fees Lurk Everywhere

What other fees and charges might lurk? I checked the Fees & Charges page on the WOW air website, and found it -- blank. Same with the FAQ page. If you’re checking luggage, you’ll pay an extra $48 per bag, per leg – if you check in online (it goes up if you check bags at check-in and even more if you check at the gate – $67 or $95). That brings the price to $557.39. But hang on a second – I always have to carry-on bags and my one checked bag. That means I have to check a second bag -- so now my round-trip online price is $196 added to the original fare. For those counting at home, we’re at $657.39.

English: A pair of Douglas DC-8 of Icelandair ...
Icelandair has been at this air travel thing for awhile. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By the way, WOW air flies the Airbus A320 series of aircraft. The airline configures them with 30-31 inches between each seat (airplane nerds call this "pitch"). What about onboard entertainment? Here’s what WOW air says: "There is no organized entertainment on board, except for the thrill of sitting high up in the sky enjoying the flight with us." I’m not sure if WOW air provides blankets and pillows.

Bottom Line for a “Cheap Flight”

Before I can take advantage of this cheap flight to Iceland, though, I need to get to Boston; I’m looking at about $335 on US Airways. I’ll need to add $50 to check your first bag for a round trip. Call it $385. I’m now at $1042.39.

Wow air versus Iceland Air

The Icelandair Difference

Icelandair scores big for allowing me to book from Phoenix. My cheapest option is $1260.43 with connecting flights on JetBlue. I could also pick different options to fly Alaska Airlines.

Better Planes by a long shot

Icelandair flies some pretty shiny Boeing 757s with on-demand entertainment at each seat. Meals aren’t free, but the non-alcoholic beverages are. Pillows and blankets are available, but I’d have to ask for them on non-trans-Atlantic flights.There are 32 inches separating the seats.

Flights to and from North America also get two free checked bags weighing up to 49 pounds. By the way, every time I’ve booked an international flight on a foreign airline that included connections on domestic airlines, I have not been charged for baggage on the domestic airlines. So that’s further good news for the big guy in the WOW air Versus Icelandair comparison.

Wrapping up WOW air versus Icelandair

Who wins the WOW air Versus Icelandair showdown for cheap flights to Iceland? WOW air is still $200 cheaper. But I can’t speak to its service, and the SKYTRAX website has customer reviews ranging from one star up to nine.

Wow Air versus Icelandair
IcelandAir’s “Surtsey” pulls into Gate 2 at JFK’s Terminal 7, ready to take another load to Iceland.

The same is true for Icelandair – but I can tell you that anyone who rates Icelandair below 7 stars is likely to be a whiny, high-maintenance, impossible-to-please complainer; this is a classy airline with some of the most-immaculate aircraft I’ve flown in. Here’s a review of my flights with Icelandair.

And honestly, if a leg of your flight gets delayed, would you rather deal with the airline that booked you for all flights, or multiple airlines? It’s easier to set things right if you book every leg with one airline.

What can a low-cost airline offer?

I’d still be very interested in trying WOW air just out of sheer curiosity. And sometimes, ultra-low-cost carriers rise above that label – just look at Norwegian Air Shuttle, which blows many legacy airlines out of the water.

Still, I can see where the extra $200 goes on Icelandair. Take the WOW air deal if you’re really desperate to get to Iceland and don’t have a lot in the piggy bank, I guess. Or take Icelandair and just drink fewer overpriced beers and liquors while you’re there.