The Power and Glory of the Heated Robe

5th Century B.C. – India

If looks could kill..

If looks could kill..

If you were to take a trip back to Ancient India you’d see something quite remarkable.  Young men walking around with long, flowing robes of bright orange colors.   The robe signified the man’s rank as a Buddhist monk with one shoulder being exposed but what’s spectacular about the robes is the material they were made of.  Buddhist monks would take everyday garbage consisting of used up fabrics and create a robe that measured six by nine feet with the most amazing colors.

Literally one person’s trash was another’s treasure.  Buddhist monks turned the robes orange by cleansing the trashed fabrics in a mixture of leaves, roots, flowers and sometimes spices.  From India the trend caught on with the Shaolin Monks of China.  One of the major differences is instead of having one shoulder exposed both were covered.  This was one part traditional custom and another part for practical purposes.  China gets much colder in winter time than does India… much colder!

Now it could be argued the everyday plain old boring bath household robes we think of today took a major turn in terms of their use.  Instead of being mainly for show they were also used for home heating as well.  Ottoman Sultans in Turkey wore them not only to show their rank but because they were on military campaign in Eastern Europe they needed warmth as well.  Here is a picture of Sulieman the Magnificent (or Lawgiver) in a traditional Turkish Robe.  Known as kaftans, these robes can still be seen in the Topkopi Palace in Istanbul and resemble the robes we wear sipping cocoa by the fire today.

Sulieman's Magnificent Robe

Sulieman’s Magnificent Robe

Even in film the robe took on an important role in everyday life.  In “The Lord of The Rings” trilogy Gandolf used the powers of his robe to not only defeat the oncoming orcs but taught the hobbits life lessons all while never changing his robe once.

As the use of robes expanded into religious ceremony and academia, they began to become more useful for keeping warm in one’s home.  In the 1870s tea gowns became ultra popular among women featuring a blend of style and comfort during indoor tea time.  Now we know the robe as something we throw on when it’s cold in the home.  Most people feel the thick, furriness of their robe and head immediately to the couch and start watching their favorite TV program.

But still there was something missing.  Every time you needed to change channels, get a drink or chase away the magazine salesman at the door you got cold all over again.  Of course, now that we’re in an era that thrives on technology you can get a classic robe combined with an electric blanket.

Meet the Huggy Buddy!  Click here

The Weird History of Long Johns


victorianerawomenLong Johns… A Fashion Statement?

England 1879 – A new garment revolutionizes women’s fashion… and keeping warm during chilly nights.  Long Johns can be traced back to the 17th century but they gained prominence in the late 1800s.  Victorian era women in Europe and North America used the funny underwear with a trap door (for convenience) to enhance their looks.  Let the good professor explain…

Here’s how University of Alberta professor Anne Bissonnette tells it:

“With women, we traditionally had an accumulation of undergarments or underpinnings,” Bissonnette says. “It all accumulated at the waist.”

Professor Bissonnette explains that Victorian era women in terms of beauty were judged on how thick their waist lines were.  As the temperatures dropped and women needed extra layers for warmth Long Johns saved the day by keeping waist lines from expanding and women stayed toasty.

Don't make fun of  my Long Johns!

Don’t make fun of my Long Johns!

But where exactly did the name “Long Johns” come from?

Pictured here, Sullivan routinely wore garments that closely resembled Long Johns during his fights.  In fact John L would tuck the legs of his undies into his shoes stretching them out.  Is this where the name came from?  Who really knows?  Another theory of the Long John saga puts the name on a famous 17th century knife fighter with the nick name “Long John” who wore the trapped door garments.

But Long Johns continued making key contributions to our civilization during World War II.  If you asked soldiers in the brutal Ardenne Campaign what their trustiest piece of equipment was… almost hands down it was their Long Johns.  While keep the soldiers warm against the nasty winter weather they faced their Long Johns did give them two major issues:

1) They itched.  Some soldiers swore they would itch their skin right off (but they were glad for the warmth)

2) Sweat.  Long Johns made of wool were so warm they in fact got too hot and caused the soldiers to perspire which added to the discomfort

None the less the story of Long Johns continues on into the 21st century without the worry of itching, sweating and the thickness of waist lines.  Instead of itchy wool you can get a polyester blend material that even John L Sullivan could easily win prize fights in.

Take a look at the new Tri-Zone base layers:

Tops – Link

Bottoms – Link


The Unofficial History of Long Johns – The Toronto Star

Long Johns – World Wide Words

The Long History of Long Johns – St. Albert Gazette

Snow, Tragedy and Motor Sports at The Donner Pass

March 11, 1911 –  Just three years before 1911 a new craze had gripped the United States and Europe.  Automobile racing.

Picture from

People didn’t smile for pictures in 1911

In 1908 a race sponsored by the New York Times and a French newspaper created the “world’s most grueling race.”  This became known as the New York to Paris Road Race.  Thirteen cars were entered but only six ended up racing.

They would travel from Lincoln Square in New York City to San Francisco then to Valdez, Alaska.  From there cars were shipped to Japan then drove through the Siberia Tundra in Russia and then finally after 22,00 miles in Paris.

During the trip drivers faced bad weather, muddy roads and something we all face today:  bad drivers.

There is one really funny event that happened during the New York to Paris race.  Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, basically the guy that pushed World War I along put a car in the race.  He claimed it was superior to any other car in the field.  It was towed out of the mud by the American Thomas Flyer car driven by Schushter.

Did you think any era was immune to bad drivers?

The Donner Pass

Won't cost you a thing but your life..

Won’t cost you a thing but your life..

From the turn of the 1900s and beginning with the New York to Paris Road Race increasing numbers of people began to travel towards California.  Local hotels began seeing an economic opportunity and staged their own races where “gasoline buggies” and bikes would race.

So in the spring of 1911 the Tahoe Tavern in Tahoe City held it’s own race offering a brilliant silver trophy.  Mark McLaughlin who writes for the Tahoe Tribune writes extensively about the race and said (link):

When businesses realized future tourism dollars were going to arrive by car, not passenger train, they began to pressure the state and county governments to improve mountain roads. Years before the first highway was constructed over Donner Pass, intrepid drivers were fighting their way over this portion of the rugged Sierra, using block and tackle and tying ropes around their tires for traction.

This race would have a lengthy delay.  When the March 11th storm hit, it left 40 feet of snow drifts on the ground completely blocking the pass.  A winner of the race until June of that year.

Nature can create weather patterns of legendary proportions.  Just ask Napolean.  Or the residents of New Orleans.

Courtesty of

Courtesty of

But the racers in 1911 were lucky.  What they may have remember is another group of people who tried to get through the pass which at that time had no name.  But the story of that family and their companions gave rise to one of the most tragic episodes in the migration of humans from one place to another.

Nearly seventy years before, the Donner Family left their home to journey west in the hopes of finding riches in California.  The gold rush was one of America’s first get rich quick schemes and the Donner Party was one of its most tragic victims.  In February 1847 with no food, no hope of getting through the massive snow drifts…the Donner Party engaged in cannibalism.

Such was the mystique of this pass.  Massive movements of people, historical road races and yes…tourism.  Two things remain constant about the pass:  motorists and violent snow storms.

I can personally tell you that travelling through the Donner Pass you’re surrounded by beauty.  Even in June you can see snow capped mountains, sparkling waters and majestic pine trees.  In a place with such amazing beauty you tend to forget that much of the history in the west passed through the Donner Pass.

Here’s a question for you.  If you were to go on a winter road race in through the Donner Pass, what gear would you bring?

Here’s an idea:  12V Heated Jacket Liner with Wireless Remote:  Link


Donner Pass Race, New York to Paris – Tahoe Daily Tribune

New York To Paris The Hard Way

What the Donner Party Ate In The Final Days

Hello Fans…Your Game Time Temperature Is -59 Degrees Below Zero

January 10, 1982 –

That day a huge football game was scheduled between the visiting San Diego Chargers and host Cincinnati Bengals.  Not just an ordinary regular season game, this match up decided who played in the Super Bowl.  But this game would be unlike any before it.  Yes, there have been cold football games, but this one possibly was one of the coldest in the history of professional football.

The first person on the field for the Chargers was Hank Bauer.  Bauer made it a point to run out on the field and begin his pre-game routine of fielding punts and kickoffs.  Just one problem…

Picture from Sheila Gray

Probably didn’t keep you warm

Warming up was going to be virtually impossible.  See the ambient temperature outside was -9 Fahrenheit.

Oh but it gets worse.  Add 35 mph winds and now you have an actual temperature that’s -59 below zero!  The prior week San Diego played the Miami Dolphins in South Florida and the temperature there was in the 80s with high humidity.  In fact so humid that star tight end Kellen Winslow was helped off the field from exhaustion.

Just to give you an idea how cold that is, the coldest inhabited place on earth is a place called Oymyakon, Russia where on February 6, 1933 the temperature was recorded at -90F below zero.

By the end of the game, anything having to do with being warm would become a joke you told friends or over drinks.

Just to keep his feet warm, Bauer kept his cleats on top of the heater near the Chargers’ bench.  The cleats began to melt but Bauer said he couldn’t feel any heat coming from his footwear.  Players on the Cincinnati side wanted to show some bravado by not wearing more layers of clothing and exposing their skin to the brutal conditions.  After a few minutes in the cold they opted to rub Vaseline on their arms to keep the skin from cracking.

Even Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts had icicles hanging off his beard.

While the players struggled with the frigid conditions, fans didn’t fare much better.  Fans like Bengal supporter Gary Berliner sat on the floor of the men’s restroom wrapping paper towels around his feet.  Why?  “It’s a wood product, it’s the best insulation,” Berliner said.  He had multiple pairs of socks on which caused his feet to perspire and of course made them even colder.

Now if you had a ticket to a major sporting event and had to go, what piece of clothing or equipment would you bring to stay warm?

Heated Stadium Seat Cushion – take a look by clicking here


“A ch-ch-chilling recollection of the Ice Bowl”  by Frank Luska

“Cold reality: ’81 AFC title game a struggle from start to finish” by William Bendetson

Coldest Inhabited Place on Earth –

Fans’ Burning Spirit Helps Them Survive – Martin Hogan Jr. Jan 11, 1982

How JFK Ran The Country In Severe Back Pain

Eight Different Medications Just To Get Through The Day…

So let’s just imagine you’re the President of the United States and every morning you make a trip to your doctor’s office.  You have brutally severe back pain.  The doctor gives you eight, yes, eight different medications ranging from pain killers to antispasmodics and even antidepressants.

Everyday starts off this way because otherwise, it’s going to be incredibly painful and impossible to function normally.  Top that off by dealing with politicians, ruthless despots and problems at home.  Such was the life of John F. Kennedy and how he dealt with severe back pain before and during his presidency.  Now the causes of his back pain were widely debated.  Theories ranged from football and war injuries to steroid injections taken as a child for digestive problems.

Just to give you an idea how secretive his back pain was, JFK’s medical records weren’t released until around 2002…a full 39 years after his passing.  You probably had a better chance breaking into the CIA offices than you did learning about his medical problems.  The same was true for Franklin Roosevelt, even photo opportunities were carefully scripted to cover up illnesses and ailments.

The types of treatments JFK had to endure were as intense as the pain in his back.    One story relates to his first year as president in 1961.  Kennedy could be heard screaming in pain when Jacqueline Kennedy rushed in from another room to call for the White House doctor Dr. Janet Travell.  All the good doctor could do was numb his pain with an injection of procaine deep into the back muscles.

But this only worked as a temporary measure.

Treating back pain today isn’t all much different.  In fairness, treatment depends on the type of back problems you’re having but here’s a list of treatments by WebMD.  So what do you do when you’re in severe back pain and trying to still go to work?  The easy answer is to see a doctor, get plenty of rest and stay away from the office.  But let’s be honest, most of us just don’t have that luxury.

JFK had to tough it out.  He had a country to run and domestic and international problems that weren’t going to wait for his pain to go away.  Imagine Fidel Castro or Nikita Khrushchev saying, “hey wait the President of the United States has back pain.  Let’s wait to threaten the western hemisphere with nuclear weapons!”

So what’s your method for dealing with muscle pain at work?  Leave some comments below and let us know!

Portable Back Heat Wrap:  Check it Out!


NY Times, “In J.F.K. File, Hidden Illness, Pain and Pills”

Practical Pain Management – “JFK Pain Story”