There are a handful of items that every man needs to own — not should own, but needs to own. These objects are not a suggestion; not simply a list that would be nice once we get around to it but are the gear that is part of the required inventory of man-law — the unwritten rules that define the masculine system of life.

And since these objects need to be part of our possessions, they should be a part of sons and grandson’s inventory as they grow up — our children may not remember what video game they received on their twelfth birthday but they will remember who gave them their first pocket knife, their first wallet and their first toolbox.

Now this list — the required man-inventory list — includes the following items:

One good pocket knife. A decent one, in the forty dollar range.

One silver money clip —- yes, you can still keep your wallet but every man needs a good money clip.

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One set of inexpensive but reliable hand tools.

One reliable wrist watch.

And one, high quality, thermos.

Now in this brand conscious world, you may think that the word thermos is a misnomer because it describes the company and not the product — just like Kleenex or Xerox — because the actual item is called a vacuum bottle or vacuum flask. But in 1963 the U.S. declared Thermos to be “genericized trademark” and is actually now synonymous with vacuum bottles.

So feel free to use the word thermos as much as you want.

The first thermos was invented in 1892 by a German physicist named James Dewar who came up with the idea of a bottle within a bottle and was at first referred to as the Dewar flask or Dewar bottle. Between the outside of the thermos and the inside is a vacuum of air that prohibits the heat from the inside bottle to migrate to the outside. So the heat — or cold — of the liquid becomes trapped inside the thermos.

Now, because of the popularity of the thermos, you would think that James Dewar became a very wealthy man. But Dewar never registered a patent for his invention and it was subsequently patented and produced by — yup, Thermos, who in 1907 rolled it out for commercial use by the truck load.

The thermos changed everything. In a time when commercial refrigeration was still decades away and microwaves were pure science fiction, a thermos could transport hot or cold liquids and soups for hours. In fact, when World War II broke out in Europe, thermos turned all its English production to the war effort and every time a British bombing run went out, the men were equipped with a thermos full of hot coffee or soup.

Now, in our modern world a good thermos is more important than ever for several reasons. By taking a thermos full of coffee to work every day instead of stopping at Starbucks, you save over a thousand dollars a year. Also the waste is drastically reduced — how many half cups of cold coffee do you throw out every year? With a thermos, a cap full of coffee is exposed and the remaining stays warm in the bottle — there are many times I am drinking my morning coffee from my thermos in the afternoon. And a thermos can be used for more than just coffee or tea. A wide mouth thermos is great for carrying soups — homemade soups; see the post on how to make homemade soups — and stews. And how can you compare a lunch of a bologna and cheese sandwich to one of a piping hot cup of homemade soup with crackers?

For the outdoorsman, sitting in a tree stand or standing in a cold trout stream, a thermos of hot coffee is mandatory. And for those of us who spend most of their time in a car, a thermos is not only financially attractive, but drastically cuts down on the number of coffee stops we need to make — where the number of bathroom breaks remain the same.

Now there is a world of difference between a thermos and a good thermos.

A simple thermos can be purchased from a dollar store and is actually just a glorified travel mug; a thick plastic bottle with a cap. And will keep your liquids warm for an hour at best — the stainless steel bottles aren’t much better.

The use of a thermos only has one rule. Prime it. Before you pour in the hot coffee, fill it with hot water first and let the inside bottle warm up. With a good thermos, the heat of your priming water will drastically increase the length of time the liquid will stay warm. I know several guys who microwave a few cups of water until it boils and prime the thermos. These are the guys who can actually get the coffee to stay warm for 24 hours —- my limit is about eight.

A good thermos will run you about thirty bucks and will last forever. The big brand names are obviously Thermos and Stanley and they each make several good models.


Everett De Morier has appeared on CNN, Fox News Network, NPR, ABC, as well as in The New York Times and The London Times. He is the author of Crib Notes for the First Year of Marriage: A...