Gear Review: Filson Tin Cloth Packer Hat
Photo by Lance Nelson
My buddy, Jon Osborn, knows a thing or two about needing to rely on his gear - personally and professionally - being both an avid outdoorsman and a career cop assigned to the city's tactical team. He also epitomizes, simultaneously, the ruggedness and romance of a bygone era; something he captures beautifully in his writing.
I asked him to review some of his favorite gear for this site, and it's no surprise that the Filson Packer Hat was the first on his list.
Here is his review, in typical Ozzy fashion. Enjoy.
Ask why someone hunts or fishes and you’re bound to receive a variety of answers – some straight-forward and simple, and others, deep-rooted and complex. Common replies include: “spending time outdoors with family and friends,” “getting exercise in the fresh air,” and “taking an active role in food gathering.”
”Escape” is a lesser cited, although equally logical response, especially in this day and age. But escape from what? Crowds, cities, and asphalt? Certainly, but what about intangibles such as depression, boredom, apathy, and primal atrophy?
Or maybe we’re simply trying to circumvent all the rampant political and civil unrest, or the looming shadow of a pandemic that seems to linger indefinitely. Our weary souls are desperate to trade the homogenous grays of the urban landscape for mountains, rivers, prairies, and boundless, boreal forests. That alone seems like motive enough.
Any of these reasons should come as no surprise. Sportsmen have always been romantics, forever reminiscing about a bygone era when the fish were larger, and the game, more plentiful. Anyone of this mindset remains convinced they were born a century too late, certain they belong among those sepia-toned photos featuring endless stringers of brook trout, sagging buck poles, and incredible limits of gamebirds. We’re envious – not because that generation took so much, but because they lived in an era when there was so much.
Filson was created for adventurers like us, and fortunately, the company’s vision has remained steadfast throughout the past century. Enduring goods of the finest quality have always been their focus. Take this bold advertisement from 1914 for example:
“If a man is going North, he should come to us for his outfit, because we have obtained our ideas of what is best to wear in that country from the experience of the man from the North – not merely one – but hundreds of them. Our materials are the best obtainable, for we know that the best is none too good and that quality is of vital importance.”
Homesteader and railroad conductor-turned-entrepreneur, Clinton C. Filson settled in Seattle, Washington in the 1890s. Like all great magnates, Filson’s timing was impeccable, and the growing company found itself smack-dab amid Gold-Rush mania. Prospectors heading north needed durable garments and Filson began producing goods that fit the bill. It was an era when quality clothing was synonymous with survival.
As the Gold Rush tapered off, Filson switched focus, producing goods for timber cruisers, hunters, and anglers, staking their claim on durable wool, waxed cotton, and leather – the cutting-edge materials of the time. Today’s product lineup includes watches, boots, and various other accoutrements, but their iconic Tin-Cloth Packer Hat ranks among the best ever.
What I Like
These days – especially where I live, in the Midwest – clothing isn’t as much about physical survival. Nevertheless, a vacation from the modern condition remains crucial to mental survival. Fortunately, Filson garments fit the bill perfectly in both cases, offering functional, stylish products, durable throwbacks from a bygone era.
Besides protecting my bald dome from the rain, snow, and sun, my Packer often serves double duty as a potholder, water bucket, and mushroom gathering container. Its waxed-cotton armor repels deer flies, horse flies, mosquitoes with aplomb, and the brim keeps blackflies at bay like no ball cap ever can.
A rugged, fedora-style hat trimmed with a rakish leather band and a 2 ¼ inch brim, offered in a variety of colors, including tan, brown, olive green, and black. Fabric choices include waxed cotton or wool.
Waxed cotton boasts a signature scent all its own, and mine blends an amalgam of campfire smoke, chainsaw exhaust, morels, river water, and honest sweat. Quite an aroma, to be sure, and one not easily earned. That hat is stewed in experience, reeks of memories, and has definitely gained “character with use,” just as Filson claimed it would.
These bullet-proof hats are built to go the distance. Mine is entering its third decade of hard use, and no worse for wear. I’ve hardly treated it with kid gloves, either. When it’s not perched upon my head, it’s probably marinating in the swill sloshing around on the canoe floor or bouncing around my pickup bed amid sawdust, setter hair, and grouse feathers.
What I Don’t Like:
Concerning water repellency and durability, there’s always a tradeoff. The more “waterproof” the fabric, the less robust and breathable. For example, Gore Tex is gas-permeable but comparatively fragile, whereas genuine rubber is sturdier than nylon, but doesn’t breathe a bit. Waxed cotton sort of splits the difference between the two, combining exceptionally resiliency with decent water-shedding properties.
That said, heavy aerobic activity transforms the Packer into a cranial hot box. If hiking or fast-paced hunting is the activity of the day, choose another lid.
Anglers, canoe campers, duck hunters, and horseback riders – but especially dreamers and renaissance types looking for a much-needed escape. This hat is the balm for anyone seeking a respectful “tip-of-the-hat” to a simpler time and place.
Stars: 5 out of 5.