The ordinary member of the human race takes up an occupation because of economic need, and, if he or she is lucky, because the skills required of the job more or less match those which he or she possesses. There are a few blessed and curious souls, however, who fall in love with the idea or ethos of an occupation first, and pursue that occupation as an outward manifestation and real fulfillment of that idea.
Quite often the aspirant to a specific occupation will adopt the clothing, ornaments, equipment, and other external trappings of his desired occupation before he officially enters the field; thus, a would-be author might affect a tweed jacket and pipe or an aspiring soldier might dress in olive drab, khaki, or camouflage military wear. The soul and body of the aspirant will be surrounded and pervaded by the idea of his goal, by the ethos of his dream occupation, and will thus be goaded into taking actions that will achieve his ends.
It is sometimes, therefore, surprising to the wide-eyed initiate when he discovers that what he thought was merely a glamourous and stylish accessory is in fact of very real and practical value in his chosen field. This is especially true in the field of exploring.
One day, not so very long ago, the redoubtable Viktor and I happened into an Army/Navy surplus store. For us, even a poor military surplus store is a buffet of wonders; an excellent store, such as this one, is a bonanza.
Looking around its generously-stocked shelves I was reminded of that famous exchange when Howard Carter first peered into the Tomb of Tutankhamun. Lord Carnarvon asked, “Can you see anything?” And Carter, mesmerized, replied, “Yes…wonderful things.”
And so as I wandered the narrow aisles that day, I espied high upon a shelf a collection of pith helmets–a veritable United Colors of Benetton array, in stacks of blue, white, camouflage. My fancy took to wing and I began to imagine the various seasons, climates, and locales where one helmet would be preferable to the others. I imagined traveling the world with my pith helmets comfortably encased in a trunk custom-made by Louis Vuitton for that express purpose.
I was sorely tempted to purchase at least the stealth pith helmet (in dusty camouflage tones), but I feared that if I purchased only that one and not all the others that it would create in me a lingering feeling of inadequacy and incompleteness, of sartorial inferiority and indecision. And as it is, my collection of unusual millinery already includes one pith helmet, albeit a rather plain one.
I bravely plowed on.
There were, of course, many more different sorts of head-gear and head-covering for sale, from cowboy hats to biker bandanas to Indiana Jones fedoras. Indeed, in that part of the store, there was not a surface horizontal or vertical that did not bear some sort of hat upon it.
Further on in this wondrous place I discovered a switchblade comb, and a belt pouch for the storage of one’s hand cuffs. And suddenly there, in amongst a rather chaotic assortment of bags, pouches, and ponchos, appeared an object for which Viktor and I had devoted six months of arduous hunting: the Hard Hat Shade!
The clouds parted and a massed choir of cherubim and seraphim floated down to sing their heavenly praises. It was a glorious moment indeed to find such a specialized piece of equipment in this store of fascinating martial flotsam.
For months, the stoic Viktor and I have suffered in the blinding sunlight because the hard hats we must wear for our work and exploration are without brims.
Now when we are exploring or doing an archaeological dig in an Equatorial region we have had our local equipment bearers hold up tarpaulins to shield us from the sun’s punishing rays, but U. S. Customs always give us a devil of a time when we try to bring our bearers back home with us, so we have been forced to look for inanimate sources of protection. And we usually find sun umbrellas to be impractical out in the field because of the frequent winds.
The more practical of you might object, “Why not order such a product online?,” to which I would offer the explanation that adventure gear should be acquired during an adventure. Convenience, we have so often found in our line of work, is not the hand-maiden of discovery.
The Hard Hat Shade has a brim that spans a distance of fifteen inches from edge to edge. It has a handy flap that drapes over the neck in the manner of a French Foreign Legion kepi. (No one should end up looking like a redneck merely because his occupation requires him to spend his adventure time outdoors.)
The overall effect is that of a beekeeper’s hat without the veil. And since the Hard Hat Shade comes in bright white it will go perfectly with any explorer-wear ensemble that you might choose to wear between Easter and Labor Day.
This is a must-have for any serious explorer.