Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wintergolf essential: vacuum flask

If you come here on the regular, you might have noticed that over the last couple seasons I've been growing fond of that great winter sport known as golf. Winter golf--it's more or less just like regular golf, but there are a few key items essential to winter golf happiness. One of these is the stainless steel vacuum flask.

"Vacuum Dewar Flask" by Acdx - Own work by uploader, based on en:File:Dewar_Flask.PNG. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
In the late 19th century a Scottish scientist named Dewar (not the whiskey guy) happened upon a technology that would eventually revolutionize the act of beverage-drinking when he discovered that nesting one container inside another slightly bigger container, and separating the two by a vacuum of air, produced a receptacle that kept hot liquids hot and cold liquids cold for an unnatural length of time.

Dewar's original purpose was to find a way to keep his science experiment fluids at the right temperature, and didn't bother with patenting or commercializing the miracle design. Then a few years later some German people figured out that the technology might be awesome for toting drinks and soups and what not and debuted the "Thermos" (named after the Greek word for hot), which is now of course synonymous (or synecdochical if you want to get all pedantic about it) with the vacuum flask.

For most of our lifetimes "Thermos" was the first and last word in beverage heat retention. Problem with Thermoses though, was their glass construction made them heavy, cumbersome and vulnerable to shattering. Not the kind of the thing that would immediately come to mind for stowing away in your carry bag.

Still, the product was a success both commercially and spiritually. Now man could transport his beloved hot beverage to places our ancient forbears would never dream of. This was nothing short of a major milestone along mankind's great progression from unicell to eventual godlike consciousness.

Fast forward to the modernish age. Sometime during the Bush I administration, the Japanese made the next great advance in beverage technology when they began to develop stainless steel vacuum flasks for the consumer market. Now with super thin-walled construction, the vacuum flask suddenly became lightweight, compact and able to get knocked around a little without falling to pieces.

And thus practically overnight the vacuum flask went from an impracticality to an indispensable item in the wintergolf bag. (And, for lots of other people who do other activities, I suppose.)

It's hard to overstate the comfort you get from sipping a hot drink of choice when you're out in the cold outdoors. A hot beverage is one of the precious few things that separates us from beasts, really. If one of Early Man's most monumental advances was figuring out how use fire to brew a hot cup of tea, the next gigantic leap in that same progression was figuring out how to take it to-go and keep it nice all day.

It's one thing to get your layers set and your head and extremities insulated. But that's heat retention. Supplying one's own auxiliary heat source, well now we're taking it to the next level. Heat retention, as essential as it is, enables us to merely tolerate cold weather whereas bringing the heat emboldens us to venture further out into the inhospitable unknown and do it with gusto.

Here's my favorite vacuum flask. There are many just like it but this one's mine. It's from Japan. You know what they call a Thermos in Japan? They don't call it a Thermos. No, they speak Japanese, they don't know what the fuck Thermos means. Evidently when Far Easterners think of insulated beverage containers, the name "Zojirushi" comes to mind. This company has been in the vacuum flask game since mid-last century, so they must know their shit. I can tell you the product works very well. At times too well. It takes getting used to because if your drink was too hot when it went into the flask, it's going to stay too hot, for a few hours, and inevitably you will scald yourself repeatedly trying to take sips.

As far as contents I go with plain old hot black tea. I would imagine coffee is good in there--if you're into the hard stuff. Listen, I'm not going to go all Golf Digest on you and try to tell you what you should be putting in your mouth. Everyone has a hot drink they like, don't look at me. The bottom line here is, if you like playing golf in temperatures below 60ยบ, the vacuum flask is now a vital accessory in your bag.

1 comment:

  1. The only thing that comes to mind is Tora Tora Tora! But I must have one. Coffee in a cup just spills all over the place.



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