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A Beanie a Hobbit Would Wear — How The Lord of the Rings Influenced Red Hat Factory

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on August 16, 2021 in Red Hat Culture Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

I was 12 years old when I first came across a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring in the school library. Rarely has any piece of literature had such an impact on me — and anything that influences me, influences the brand I am heading.

The Tolkien rabbit hole is deep. It might begin with The Hobbit, take you through The Lord of the Rings, maybe even into The Silmarillion, and if you’re lost in the vortex, you might end up passing through 12 volumes of the History of Middle Earth, before you’re done.

Just kidding. You won’t be done yet. There’s always more to discover.

Alan Lee’s “The Gates of Moria.”

From the moment I saw Alan Lee’s iconic illustration of the gates of Moria — which was the cover art on that Fellowship book I found in the library — I was enticed into this vast universe. The poignant language, the ethos, the characters, the events — it has all deeply impacted me.

You might have noticed both subtle and less subtle references to Tolkien’s works around our page and in our social media. What is it that makes the tales of Middle Earth rhyme so well with Red Hat Factory?

Trees, trees, trees — Tolkien’s love for nature

If you spend some time in Middle Earth, you’ll soon notice that Tolkien was a lover of the wild, and rather reluctant to embrace the changes the industrial revolution brought about.

“How I wish the ‘infernal combustion’ engine had never been invented.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

Sauron, the ultimate evil of the Third Age and the heart issue and namesake of the Lord of the Rings, is all about industrializing. Bending nature to his will rather than working in harmony with it. Using machines to mow down vast forests to fuel his machines — developing in his followers a mind of metal and wheels.

Hobbit holes in New Zealand.
A couple of friends of ours took the trip to the Hobbit holes in NZ in 2019.

This subject could turn into a long winded political discussion, but I’m not heading that deep.

The idea is that the Lord of the Rings, through the intent and spirit of the author, conveys a love for the vast untouched wildernesses, as well as the simple undisturbed rural lifestyle of hobbits. It comes from a complex root system of beliefs, as do all convictions. But I’d rather just mention the branches.

What beanie would a hobbit wear?

The hobbit lifestyle is one of a classic farm life — inspired, if not almost completely modelled on the rural lifestyle of the English countryside, that seemed to slip more and more away though Tolkien’s lifespan.

J.R.R Tolkien in the 40’s.

“I am in fact a Hobbit in all but size. I like gardens, trees, and unmechanized farmlands; I smoke a pipe, and like good plain food…”

J.R.R. Tolkien

There’s a lot to be said about health and how closeness to nature, and physical hard work in symbiosis with the earth seems to be the age old remedy.

Goop published a great article on longevity, and as a wool-peddler I just wanted to point out that among the earth’s longest living human’s, are shepherds. The benefits of wool has no end, it seems.

“Even as Silicon Valley and scientists all over the world try to crack the code for living longer and aging better, the best ways to increase health and extend longevity remain decidedly low-tech.”

An article on Goop

A hobbit, therefore, would probably endeavor to enjoy the four hours it takes to knit a Red Hat Factory beanie, while chit chatting with their neighbor. A hobbit would wear handmade, because the infernal combustion engine driven massive knitting machine needed to do it mechanically would scare the life out of them.

Influence matters

Here I am, sitting in front of my very industrialized computer, writing an article on being in touch with nature. What’s the point?

Hobbits in New Zealand
A hobbit friend of mine being in touch with New Zealand’s nature.

We as brands do put some sort of message out there whether we try to or not — and though we are imperfect, and it will be, or come across as hypocritical at times, I want to advocate a simple lifestyle through our brand. Your life is not made better by following the latest fad — rather by seeking out and understanding timeless truths.

We believe that before trying too hard to keep up with the Kardashians, you need to wind down and be true to yourself. To enjoy what you’re doing — or do what you’re called to, some would say.

That is why we decided to tell the stories of fishermen, leathercrafters, climbers, painters and denim hunters, who all do what they do with great passion.

Hobbits unite!

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on August 16, 2021 in Red Hat Culture Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

Can’t Travel to Norway Due to Covid? — Let us Ease the Pain

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on July 2, 2021 in News Reel Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

Not being able to travel to Norway due to Covid is hard on us all — especially as natives living abroad, missing our family. And for you wanting to visit: It’s after all the best country on God’s green earth (yes, we’re patriots). We put together a list of our photographic adventure trips to Norway, so you can feel like you’re there.

Besseggen Hike — Norway’s Most Infamous Hike

Besseggen Hike Covid Read

Not only does the Besseggen hike go down in our book of favorites, but the weather made for some great photos that I often return to flip through.

Lofoten — The Wild North of Norway

Norway, Lofoten Covid Restriction Read

Maybe the most famous cluster of islands in all of Norway? On this family trip to Lofoten, we went with no photo equipment except our phones, but when the nature presents itself in such a way, even a phone can get some classic shots.

Røldal — a Sweet Trip to an Intimate Valley

Røldal, Norway, Covid Release Read

My good friend Asbjørn’s cabin, at an undisclosed location outside of Røldal on the western Norwegian coast. We spent several days there, and explored everything from waterfalls to mini-glaciers.

Lysefjord — A Guide to Norway’s Most Iconic Fjord

It’s the location of the first mountainous experience that blew me completely away. It has since become our go-to location when we are starved for mountains. The Lysefjord is only a four hour drive from my parents’ place in South Norway, and even the road across the mountains to get there is a sight to see.

Lost in the Mist — Our First Adventure Story, from a Misty Mountain Road

Norway Travel Covid Reads

Low quality photos, high quality trip. This day trip to the mountain road of Brokke–Suleskard was a highlight of the summer — rain notwithstanding.

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on July 2, 2021 in News Reel Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

Lysefjord — A Guide to Norway’s Most Iconic Fjord

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on June 28, 2021 in Adventure Stories Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

Up, up, up. Anticipation is building. We’re only one ridge away from what we’re waiting for. Then we crest it, and the fjord spreads out far below us. Dots of summer clouds float above their own mirrored reflections, cast off the perfectly quiet, rich turquoise fjord water. We have arrived at the Pulpit Rock. And this, my first experience of Lysefjorden marked me for life.

Path to the Light

I might be biased when claiming it as the most iconic fjord in Norway. Four hours of narrow winding mountain roads away from my parents’ home on the South Coast, this is the fjord closest to home for me. But hear me out.

Many fjords are gorgeous. Many are lush and green. But iconicity is something else. Sharp corners, barren rock, violent heights, make for features that stand out among the green lush forest that ride the lower slopes of the fjords.

Lysefjorden overview.
The Lysefjord in all her glory. Photo is taken from the Kjerag Bolt, and the mountain at the far end of the visible water is where the Pulpit Rock is.

From standing almost a kilometer above fjord level on a boulder stuck between two sheer cliff faces, to peering down from a 600m high plateau that protrudes like a triangle from the fjord wall, the Lysefjord offers some of the wildest, harshest vistas of Norwegian nature.

Put the iconicity to the test: Ask any Norwegian what Norwegian natural feature the two following icons represent, and I’m sure they’ll reply pretty quickly — Preikestolen and Kjeragbolten. Yes, those are the Norwegian names of the features.

The word fjord comes from the same root as ford, and originally meant the path you take to get somewhere. While I couldn’t find particular etymology on the place-name Lyse, in modern Norwegian it means light. I’d gladly stand corrected in if you have expertise on the subject.

I have gone the Path of Light five times at the time of writing this article — visited Kjerag twice, and the Pulpit Rock thrice — and through this article I want to bring you along to these locations, one by one. Let’s start with the triangular icon.

The Pulpit Rock / Preikestolen — Norway’s most iconic feature

Height: 604m / 1,982 ft
Estimated Hiking Time: 2h each way
Difficulty: Pretty chill

The Pulpit Rock, view towards Lysefjorden
When we showed the Pulpit Rock to some American friends in 2019, it was very foggy, but still mind blowing. This is before you round the corner to the plateau.

If you follow any kind of travelgrams, or watched Mission: Impossible – Fallout, you can’t have missed it. The triangular, gigantic shelf that protrudes out of a straight cliff face plummeting 604m (1,982 ft) straight to fjord level.

“Every single time I go there I dream of falling the night after.”

Hiking up the north side of the west-to-east cutting fjord, the two-hour hike is a steady ascent until the fjord finally reveals itself. After staring into the alluring unattainable vista of the fjord, you round a corner and enter the plateau from the side (this is the most common route). The most daring of might want to stand on the edge, feeling that close brush with death, or dangle our feet as we sit down, death at a comfortable thigh’s length.

Like our good, fearless friend Keely in 2019.

If you want more pictures of the place, we put together a collection of Unsplash photos from Preikestolen.

The urban legend that belongs to the Rock, is the following: A gang of people grilling sausages near the plateau (very Norwegian thing to do on hikes). One sausage gets burned. They throw it over the edge. Their dog, too focused on sausage to think, follows it over the edge. Hopefully it’s all just an urban legend. I can hear the slowly fading howl in my mind, and it terrifies me.

The question of death toll often comes up when talking about a ledge-free 600m plateau that carries a jaw-dropping 300,000 tourists a year (roughly speaking — get exact facts somewhere else.) But despite this, there is only one recorded accident leading to death — not counting known suicides.

When you are at such heights, a primal fear awakens that you cannot experience by watching videos or photos.

Every single time I’ve gone, I dream of falling the night after. Or in the moments before I fall asleep I see myself leaning too far out and loosing my balance. When you are at such heights, a primal fear awakens (at least in most of us) that you cannot experience by watching videos or photos. You have to go there — and that’s the charm of it. All sense of adventure was not lost with the advent of social media. Being there IRL is something entirely else.

Kjeragbolten / the Kjerag Bolt — deeper into the fjord and higher up

Height: 984m / 3,228 ft
Estimated Hiking Time: 2,5h each way
Difficulty: Very hard in the beginning, very chill on top

I still have strong memories from this trip. Getting up at four in the morning. Driving across winding mountain roads in one fell five hour swoop, then descending a bit to the starting point of the Kjerag hike. The music we listened to on that trip still awakens my wanderlust, the memory of driving below cliffs unfathomable and slinking down roads unknown, still makes me want to go and be overwhelmed again. To be lost in the grandeur of nature.

And also, while stuck in a passing herd, a cow licked the mirror of our car on one of these trips — oh, the sweet memories.

“First time I went there, my dad put one foot on the rock, then, quivering with fear refused for us to get out on it.”

This first time we hiked the Kjerag Bolt, we almost couldn’t find it. It was getting late in both the season and the day, and there were incredibly few people up in the mountains. And the bolt itself is not a protruding feature — quite the opposite.

Tucked in a crack 984m (3,228 ft) above the Lysefjord, it leaves you with a relatively small chunk of rock between you and the abyss. First time I went there, my dad put one foot on the rock, then, quivering with fear refused for us to get out on it.

Many years later (2020), me and my wife went there alone, and we had to do it. To step out on it yourself is one thing — to see the most precious person in your life do 964m high airtime between the cliff and the rock, is pure horror. But we survived. Even worse, the narrow rock ledge you have to step to get out there, is worn slick by all the adventurers that step onto the bolt year after year.

While the Kjerag Bolt hosts a lot less tourists than the Pulpit Rock — about 70,000/y — one might expect the death toll to be higher, given the narrow ledge one has to traverse to get out. But, first of all, I don’t believe 70k people actually step onto the rock. Secondly, if you do, you are immensely careful. Something that is proven by the clean round number of zero. Zero deaths from this rock.

Leaping onto Kjeragbolten
My wife’s careful step out on the Kjerag Bolt ended up looking like a fearless leap.
Standing on Kjeragbolten.
Don’t let my son see this. I couldn’t handle watching him go there. Oh, the irony.

The Kjerag Plateau, Nesatinden and BASE jumping — just as impressive as the bolt

While the Pulpit Rock is way more impressive than the hike there, the same is not true for Kjerag. Instead of coming in from the north, the Kjerag hike goes parallel to the fjord. It is an awe inspiring stroll on top of the world.

Looking out over the Lysefjord from Nesatinden towards Kjerag. Also wearing the Southlander and a custom knit sweater from my mom (custom stuff like that can show up on Mom’s Market).

When you finally approach the Kjerag area, you must make sure to enter the rim of Nesatinden. From there you see the three iconic steps of the Kjerag Plateau, and a gorgeous open vista of the fjord. I saw BASE jumpers leap from the plateau both times I was there, so based on my experience there is a 2/2 chance you might see someone throw themselves off the cliffs like madmen.

Kjerag  plateau viewed from Nesatinden.
Kjerag, viewed from Nesatinden. Seeing someone leap off these cliffs right beside you is gut wrenching.
If I’m not completely mistaken, here is the actual “nose” that gives name to Nesatinden (the Nose-pinnacle).

Brokke–Suleskard — the ice road to adventure

Brokke–Suleskard. Snow piles.
My sister and my father visiting the infamous Brokke–Suleskard road right after spring opening. Photo: Maria Rasmussen.

Ever since that fateful drive across the mountains in ’05 — the one that cemented the mountains so deeply into my psyche that they can’t be uprooted — I’ve loved this road. It is a beautiful stretch of road, that goes from Setesdalen, east of the Lysefjord, directly westward across the mountains. It is narrow, winding, high, and best of all, full of free roaming sheep.

When the winter-closed Suleskard-road open, early each spring, there are these massive residues of snow left from the plows. And all over the mountains, there are patches of snow that stay all summer through. It’s a very eerie feeling, when for the first time, as a Norwegian child, you can have a snowball fight in July.

From where my parents live on the South Coast, this is the best road to take. One could take the coastal highway around, but understand this: There is a highway, and then there is a high way. We always choose the highest one. In 2019, when we drove the 41 km from Brokke to Suleskard, with our friends, we managed to get a few high altitude shots that I believe captures the experience quite well.

Get in the fjord — enjoy wild, raw Norway

Walking on the top of the fjords, wind blowing unchallenged across the barren rock makes you feel alive. Photos can’t capture it, words can’t describe it. Make sure you don’t use this blogpost as a mere painkiller against your wanderlust. The lust is there to drive you outdoors so you can feel the burn in your muscles as you scale these mountains yourself.

If you have any questions or additions to this article, feel free to leave a comment, and we’ll answer to the best of our ability.

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on June 28, 2021 in Adventure Stories Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

Should I Wear a Beanie in the Summer?

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on May 20, 2021 in Essentials Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

When I wore my red beanie cap to Tanzania in 2016, I admit I was more than just a little stubborn. Maybe a light cap to shade my eyes would have been a better pick. However, there is a good argument to be made for why a beanie is a great all-year-round EDC.

Wearing a beanie in summer in Africa.
Me stubbornly wearing a beanie cap on Mt. Loleza, Mbeya.

Cool summer evenings, windy mountains — beanie at the ready

For some reason we tend to think of summer as this static 30℃/90°F cloudless state of being. But depending on where you live or what you do, this might be the case only half the time.

In Norway the weather is shifting pretty quickly, so we’re taught from childhood to be prepared for anything. That’s probably why I always throw my beanie cap in the backpack whenever I plan to spend the day outside.

By the lake a late summer evening, wearing a beanie cap.
A cool summer night by the lake merits both a jacket and a beanie — it’s all about being ready for every weather.

A proper summer consists of midnight swims, cool evening strolls, scaling windy mountains where a sudden drizzle of rain takes you unawares. It is not all about laying in the sweltering sun working on your tan (something I absolutely hate personally — laying still is not my forte.)

A beanie is the perfect heat regulator

So much of your body heat escapes through the head. There is a reason why a beanie is properly called a cap. You’re the thermos, the beanie is the cap. Whenever your beverage get’s cold, screw the cap on to preserve the heat.

When it comes to heat regulation, there’s nothing better than wool. Moist cotton beanies feel terrible in my opinion. If you’re going for the rough sort of summer — wet hair from midnight swims, facing the rain on a mountain top, sweating your way up a hill — wool is the best at handling moisture.

Norwegian wool sweater and beanie in the mountains
This clouded summer day in 2020 called for a beanie.
Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on May 20, 2021 in Essentials Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

Why Do We Love Brent Underwood and Cerro Gordo So Much?

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on May 8, 2021 in Red Hat Culture Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

When I first stumbled upon Brent Underwood and his revitalization project at Cerro Gordo Mines, I quickly realized I wasn’t the only one who was drawn to this adventurer and his vlogs on the YouTube channel Ghost Town Living.

The weekly videos have become something I look forward to, and watch with glee — my 1,5 year old son in my lap, equally interested (at least for the first 5 minutes.)

Both as someone heading a brand that shares many of the same values, a basic human being, and a thinker, I find myself pondering again and again what it is that makes Brent and his abandoned ghost town so enticing.

The charm of old things — 150 years of mining history

Old things have a charm that can’t be reproduced. Time is the most valuable asset of all time. When you see wooden buildings carry over a 100 years of patina from wind, rain, storms and stray bullets — you know none of that can be reproduced any time soon.

“Time is the most valuable asset of all time.”

A cabin at Cerro Gordo
A cabin found in the slopes outside of Cerro Gordo. Might seem like nothing, but Brent sees the potential. Picture: Screenshot from the Ghost Town Living YouTube Channel.

Well… in one way it can, but as soon as you discover it’s fake, the charm is broken.

Wrinkles are a mark of honor in my opinion. Whether it’s creases in our wooden floors from the patter of generations of feet, or whether it’s age and wisdom showing on our faces.

My parent’s house has a scar. Once when I was pretty young, I fell down the staircase, and smashed through the railing. One of the spindles broke, and though it’s now more than 20 years ago, it hasn’t been replaced. I don’t know why, but every time I see it I remember, not only the fall, but the good times of my childhood, and all the fun we’ve had climbing back and forth through the gap in the railing.

Wrinkles add history. And to see somebody care for and restore old and wrinkled buildings is immensely satisfying. Now, it will last, instead of time grinding it to desert dust.

Cerro Gordo has the wrinkles, and Brent Underwood knows how to appreciate them, with a contagious passion.

The long term game — Brent is there to stay

When Brent began broadcasting from Cerro Gordo, he pulled some epic monologues about longevity that hit home with me. Chatting about how startup business culture, often have become about how quickly you can grow your idea to a full fledged company, and sell it.

The idea of putting your heart into something so that you can sell it off to pursue your actual goals, have never rhymed much with me. There is something about the discrepancy between where you put your daily hours, and where you want to be that makes me sad. I want to build something that I’ll enjoy being a part of until the end.

“There is something about the discrepancy between where you put your daily hours, and where you want to be that makes me sad.”

The brothel was almost flattened to the ground. Now it stands again. Mean what you may about brothels, but history should be taught with all its blemishes. And here it is. Restored from the past. Picture: Screenshot from the Ghost Town Living YouTube Channel.

To see something age, you have to own it. Whether that be your family, relationships, your craft, your company. Brent Underwood said that he’s not in it for the short term — he will probably spend his life at Cerro Gordo. And that kind of commitment wins my attention.

(P.S. Should you want to back out earlier, Brent, that’s ok too.)

Till the very end — memento mori

I was both lucky and unlucky to experience the loss of a loved one very early in life. Death became a close acquaintance early on — one whom has been peeking over my shoulders almost every day since.

You who have experienced something similar knows that encountering death changes everything.

Brent Underwood on a bench.
Memento mori — remember your death. Picture: Screenshot from the Ghost Town Living YouTube Channel.

Memento mori, is an old latin phrase meaning remember your death. It’s about counting your days, so to speak, and spurring yourself to spend them well. What that means might be completely different from person to person, but it’s always worth talking about.

Growing up with that experience in the back pocket — or rather at the core of my being — I’ve often viewed the western culture I grew up in as shying away from death, rather than encouraging counting it into your plans.

Whether you believe in a life after or not, the idea that you have a finite time to make an impact, is only healthy, and might make you take some choices you wouldn’t normally take.

For Brent Underwood to be so frank as to speak out about this, he has my respect again, and it makes the videos feel like they have substance.

Mapping Cerro Gordo

I don’t completely understand the psychology behind this, but there is an immense satisfaction in going back to the same location again and again, and slowly expand your knowledge of one area.

It’s like getting to know a person. First you learn their name and profession, but it’s not until you know their hopes and dreams, fears and history that you truly love them.

I guess I am the type that like to dig deep instead of broad sweeps. My favorite vacation location is Norway, my own country. There are untold secrets hidden in those mountains, and each trip just makes me feel like I could explore so much more. So I find myself back, again and again, driving old roads over, but expanding slowly into new branches.

Riding the paths of Cerro Gordo
Brent exploring the gigantic property of Cerro Gordo. Picture: Screenshot from the Ghost Town Living YouTube Channel.

Watching Brent go into every nook and cranny of Cerro Gordo overground, and also map out each of the myriad of mine shafts gives me a sense of peace. It’s as if I trick myself into feeling like I have a grasp over something in life.

Imperfection is perfection

Some think that perfectionism is when you like things “perfect.” That’s only the kind brother of actual perfectionism. The ailment with the same name, is when you have your eye on a flawless unattainable fantasy, and nothing is ever good enough for you.

“All of us can sort of see ourselves in Brent’s shoes, as he leaves the city to pursue a dream that he has little knowledge of how to attain.”

This is something that infests social media and the internet as a whole. And when we find respite from that — an experience of real humanity among all the edited perfection — it makes us feel right at home. All of us can sort of see ourselves in Brent’s shoes, as he leaves the city to pursue a dream that he has little knowledge of how to attain (his words, not mine.)

Cerro Gord ghost town in sunset.
The view from Cerro Gordo ghost town. Picture: Screenshot from the Ghost Town Living YouTube Channel.

And then we’re able to peek in on the journey as he solves problems. After I’ve watched one of his videos I’m ready to go solve some problems of my own.

I think ultimately, it’s this transparent humanity that makes the channel so satisfying to watch, and will be the thing that I will strive for in my own life.

Things will always be in motion and under construction. “Complete” doesn’t exist, so we might as well learn to enjoy the journey as we each try to polish the little piece of the world that is given into our care — our family, our friends, our colleagues, our crafts and belongings.

Now, what makes you love Brent and the Cerro Gordo project?

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on May 8, 2021 in Red Hat Culture Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

Minimalism — The Slimmer Brother of the More Common Midimalism

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on April 23, 2021 in Red Hat Culture Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

Minimalism is the art of shedding excess.

Well. I’m not going to stay in the minimal typographical mode through this article. I am not a true minimalist. But I believe I can learn something from almost any lifestyle. When it comes to minimalism, there are a few things I as a midimalist want to emulate.

My dad is a maximalist

His garage is a wonderland.

When I, as a child, went there with him, there was no telling what I’d find. Below a stack of shoes from 1978, there would be a pair of beautiful old ice skates from the dawn of time — and I looked on them in wonder, wondering at how fast my dad could make those bad boys skid.

A minimalist drawing of a pair of ice skates.
An innocent pair of skates can open up a world of history. Illustration: Sophia Kühlewind.

Likewise when I found a pair of jumping skis, I imagined his younger years when he flew almost a 100m through the air strapped to a pair of primitive planks.

Building a play cabin behind the garage was a dream, since old planks from old garages and sheds were stacked high in memory of former times, and I was free to use all of it.

I learnt that hoarding is wondrous — it’s an adventure.

Norwegian hand knit sweater, and non minimalist dad.
My dad, the maximalist. You can not get any cooler.

I became a minimalist-curious city boy

Moving to an apartment, I went through a severe rebellion against the hoarding of my youth. When I was a child I had saved all my old toothbrushes for a while, because they had nice pictures of Disney characters on them. I cried when my mom told me to throw them away.

Hey! I was really young — don’t judge me. I was only 17.

Just kidding. (Or am I?)

Anyway. Enough tears shed over Unca Scrooge, printed on my beautiful orange toothbrush, hopefully not decaying along with all the worlds plastic in the middle of the pacific somewhere.

A minimalist drawing of a toothbrush.
The orange toothbrush of legends. Illustration: Sophia Kühlewind.

“Enough tears shed over Unca Scrooge, printed on my beautiful orange toothbrush, hopefully not decaying along with all the worlds plastic in the middle of the pacific somewhere.”

Moving around several times as a newcomer in Stockholm, Sweden, I quickly realized I don’t want much stuff. Stuff is something you have to carry. Deadweight. A liability. In extreme response to my upbringing, I wanted to throw away everything.

*insert maniacal gif here*

My wife however, as so often, helped me realize that we need some stuff. So now I have finally turned into a Midimalism. Neither a minimalist or a maximalist, but somewhere in the boring, gray, middle.

I don’t mind.

Minimalism doesn’t mean “don’t have stuff”

I watched a documentary on minimalism — in fact, it spurred this article. They put it so nicely, explaining that minimalism is most of all about appreciating everything you own.

If you don’t either need it, or deeply want it, don’t buy it. Get rid of the urge to just buy for the sake of buying.

This is something I’ve taken to heart. I find much more pleasure in, rather than buying a book series, buying one book. Then when I finish it, I reward myself with buying the next installment.

This way I enjoy my current book way more, and buying the next one becomes a reward that cost me something.

A minimalist drawing of a book.
Each page a new reward. Illustration: Sophia Kühlewind.

It is about focusing more on enjoying what you have than all the time looking for the next thing. And I think we all can agree that it’s a sad feature of human nature that we tend to look outside of our own four walls for the next kick, instead of celebrating what we have.

I am convinced (and it’s my experience) that the times we practice more gratefulness, for our family, our belongings, our friends, we are so much better off. And therefore it’s something I try, though flawed, to pursue.

Few object — many heritage

Sorry, meme culture destroyed that heading.

If you’d ask my grandmother what has changed with the world during her almost 100 years — and if she was eloquent in English — she would probably talk about instant gratification.

More than ever, thanks to the industrial revolution, so many of us can have whatever the heck we want.

My grandmother has the same handcrafted table and chairs she’s had since she was newly married. They knew the one who made it (before buying local was a trend) and it cost them a lot. It is still in tip top shape. I admire that a lot — the gratefulness and care she, and much of her generation has for everything she owns.

That is why me and my wife love heritage objects. A set of plates from my grandma (once again, in tip top shape) from right after WWII, and it was handed to us with a story including the Rat Catchers and their hunting in the forest during the war to provide for their families (in risk of being caught and mistaken for part of the resistance movement), drama and resentment, kindness and willingness to give.

A minimalist drawing of a pair of wedding rings.
Our wedding rings, from generations ago. Illustration: Sophia Kühlewind.

Our wedding rings that has been worn three generations ago and then refitted to us, is to us way more valuable than any new ring would be, because of the tie to our history that it provides.

I firmly believe in the concept of rather having one nice thing that I really appreciate and care for, than 100 that are meh. Things that have a history, or else that are made with such craftsmanship that they can be passed from us down into future generations.

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on April 23, 2021 in Red Hat Culture Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

The Benefits of Wool — A Tale of Smells and Temperate Body Climates

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on March 23, 2021 in Essentials Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

When we designed the first model of our line, there was never a question around our chosen material. Wool was the one and true answer. Curly sheep hair is inseparable from Norwegian culture and the roots of the brand — but how, and why has it become so?

Norwegian children wear wool. It’s a thing. Parents buy it, sell it, hand knit it, and promote it. There’s nothing like a mom-made wool sweater, or even a pair of cold-resistant inner wool-trousers to get you through the -20℃ winters.

It is ingrained in Norwegian culture to such a degree that I never questioned its benefits before I was about a year into running Red Hat Factory. One day I realized that as a wool-peddler I should probably know a bit more about the specifics of why it’s considered so great.

Wool sweater, hand knit.
My dad, in ’97 wearing a wool-sweater my mom knit around ’83. I have now inherited the sweater.

Even when wool’s wet, it stays warm

I’ve heard it said time and time again, from the age when my mother forced my child-legs into a pair of light blue hand-knit wool trousers and sent me out playing in the snow.

Those pants itched like crazy — an issue longe since solved, more about that in the next section — but they sure kept me warm.

Wool trousers, wool sweater.
Me in a wool sweater, and a pair of deep red, full blown wool pants. These two ladies, from my horde of sisters, are also wearing wool of course.

A practical, and maybe slightly nasty example from adult life, is this. When I’ve been having a fever, and woken up shivering in a cold pool of my own sweat, a standard set of a thin woolen long sleeved shirt + woolen long johns solves the issue. I can sleep through the night, and wake up in a nice temperate pool of my own sweat instead.

Yeah, I told you it was nasty. But that’s life for you.

So, why does wool stay warm even when wet?

You can get into a deep wormhole when researching this, but put super simply, wool is a complex structure, designed to keep sheep at an even temperature in a wide range of weather conditions. Without even touching on the science I don’t understand, it seems wool absorbs your sweat into itself, leading it away from your body, and then allows it to vaporize at a leisure inside of the wool, not touching your skin.

On the flip side, wool is also relatively water resistant from the outside. How does that work? Don’t ask me. Ask Google.

“I basically live inside a set of wool shirt and long johns the entire winter, and could not imagine anything that feels more natural.”

As you understand, I haven’t the faintest grasp on the inner workings of this, but I have a lifetime of experience enjoying the benefits. I basically live inside a set of wool shirt and long johns the entire winter, and could not imagine anything that feels more natural. And, as it turns out, from this picture my mom pulled out of the album — I have done so all my life.

Me showing off a pair of chubby wool-clad legs. Wool long johns were always in fashion.

No woolly itch today

One of our friends and Red Hat Factory beanie-owners said something akin to “I basically live inside of this beanie. It’s the first wool beanie I’ve had that doesn’t itch.”

The thick Norwegian wool I was wearing when I grew up was itchy — and that was the talk of the town among us children. “Hey, ma is forcing me into these itchy woolly hell-pants again.” But those days are long gone.

“Hey, ma is forcing me into these itchy woolly hell-pants again.”

Where does the itch come from, and how has humanity combated this great evil?

Wool clad football player.
Itch or no itch, that’s the question.

The thickness of wool grains is measured in microns (1‰ of a mm), and the infamous itchiness threshold is at 27 micron. While Norwegian sheep naturally produce a rougher grain, to withstand the wild mountain weather, there are ways to grind the wool to a finer grain size — so even Norwegian wool doesn’t have to itch anymore.

Another way to go, is to use wool from more temperate climates. We use wool from South America, where the climate naturally softens up he wool on the sheep, and it is below the itchiness treshold all-by-its-natural.

“Breaking News: Wool Sweater Brutally Murders a Family of Bacteria”

That was the headline of every single day of my life, living inside a full wool attire.

If you’ve used wool a lot, you’ve probably either heard or noticed that you don’t have to wash it that much. A bit of Googling shows that it consistency nails the top scores on low-odor tests. Many venture as far as to name it anti-bacterial.

We’ve already established, I am not a scientific genius, so I won’t venture into any advanced vocabulary, but fall back on my experience. The wool sweaters I wear on the outside, I rarely wash at all, and they never smell. The inner layer of wool — the long johns and long sleeve wool shirt — I wash more, but still much more seldom than other fabrics, and yes it’s absolutely true, they take a longer time to gain stinkage.

Wool sweater, retro.
This wool-covered boy don’t stink.

So, why does wool smell less?

Lanolin, also called wool grease, -wax, -oil, or -fat, is a grease that sheep produce, and that is mixed into the wool. The grease apparently protects the sheep from infections, and is used in a lot of skin creams and such. Sounds pretty rad to me, and makes me think wool just straight off kills bacteria — but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

“And there, deep inside of the wool, the bacteria are kept safely away from each other, so they can’t make more smelly bac-babies.”

One article I read said it’s not that lanolin actually kills bacteria, but the odor-killing abilities of wool actually come from the way it transports sweat away from your body, including all the nasty things that inhabit the sweat. And there, deep inside of the wool, the bacteria are kept safely away from each other and your skin, so they can’t make more smelly bac-babies.

So maybe, you should wash your wool occasionally — but not that often.

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on March 23, 2021 in Essentials Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

Ghost Town Living — The Abandoned Mines at Cerro Gordo

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on November 27, 2020 in Red Hat Culture Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

What if you were offered to buy an abandoned mining town? The price would correspond approximately to your entire life’s savings. For Brent Underwood the answer was yes.

In 2018, the marketing genius, threw his life savings into a pool with a few other investors and bought the historical town of Cerro Gordo, California. Among his partners, he alone is actively living in the mining town as they slowly restore it to former glory.

Brent Underwood
Brent Underwood talking to the camera all by his lonesome. Photo: Screenshot from Ghost Town Living YouTube Channel.

Cerro Gordo was one of the major sources of wealth for the Los Angeles region since it was started back in 1865, until it shut down in the late 1950’s. The first silver was found by a Spanish-speaker named Pablo Flores, who named it “Fat Hill,” a.k.a Cerro Gordo.

Such was the economic impact of the silver mines that in 1869 The Los Angeles Times called it the silver cord that binds our present existence.

Now the silver is long extracted, and lead and zinc as well. And the town is abandoned, crumbling, with many a mineshaft collapsed. But that is about to change. The silver of the 21st century, after all, is tourism, and once again these mines will extract ore.

Follow the journey — Ghost Town Living

I first heard about the mines in my YouTube recommendations, when a video named Day In The Life: Living Alone In An Abandoned Ghost Town popped up. I was intrigued (as the title intended), and with my 1 year old boy on my lap, we hunkered down and plowed though several of the videos in one go.

The Cerro Gordo mining town.
Current day Cerro Gordo from the air. Photo: Screenshot from Ghost Town Living YouTube Channel.

It is reality-tv that inspire one of the values we promote here at Red Hat Factory. Fighting back against the stress of our culture, and embracing the rest that comes with being completely absorbed in what you’re doing.

What is it that has such a draw about the Cerro Gordo restoration project? I think the idea of taking something once great, and slowly bringing it back to life is such a primal human desire. We are made to create and improve, and following others on their journey of doing so is immensely satisfying.

It also helps that the scenery is absolutely stunning, again and again.

Cerro Gordo mining town sunset.
The view from Cerro Gordo. Photo: Screenshot from Ghost Town Living YouTube Channel.

And kittens!

And goats, quad bikes, mine exploration, along with the restoration itself. Can it get more inspiring?

I don’t know, but at least it can get more dramatic…

Photo: Screenshot from Ghost Town Living YouTube Channel.

The 2020 fire at Cerro Gordo

The silver mines hold a long history of hard work, success and tragedy. And recently another disaster became part of the 155 years of history. The American Hotel, which was a hallmark of the mining town, burned to the ground.

The American Hotel at Cerro Gordo.
The American Hotel at Cerro Gordo, before the fire. Photo: Screenshot from Ghost Town Living YouTube Channel.

“Cerro Gordo is not a start up,” said Brent Underwood, and he claims he will die there. This long term thinking resounds deeply with me. From the beginning, Red Hat Factory, has been more than just a start up to grow and sell, and I relate to the feeling of wanting to stick with your passion through thick and thin.

However, I don’t dare to claim I’ll die with Red Hat Factory.

The American Hotel at Cerro Gordo, interior.
Interior of the American Hotel, pre-fire. Photo: Screenshot from Ghost Town Living YouTube Channel.

When the fire struck, I think the commitment showed. They will have to rebuild it from scratch, and winter is coming. But Brent refuses to sell and leave. With his goats and his score of kittens for company, he keeps working away at the place, all the while delivering reality-tv of the best kind.

The kittens of Cerro Gordo.
Brent and his litter of kittens. Photo: Screenshot from Ghost Town Living YouTube Channel.

Each video drops little bits and pieces of history, often based from things he discovers while scavenging the mining shafts.

Mine shaft discovery — hunting for denim in the Silver Mines

A large part of life at Cerro Gordo, as I already mentioned, is exploring mines. The land is so riddled with shafts and tunnels, that Brent can literally head out on his huge property with no plan, and go look for signs of humans, and it leads him to a shaft. The trails of drinking bottles, tuna cans and metal pieces often lead us up to the gaping dark entrances, and in we go.

The amount of tunnels and shafts that crisscross subterranean Cerro Gordo is astounding. Kilometer after kilometer of undiscovered territory, just waiting to be searched for 150+ year old artifacts. Maybe it was just a can of tuna for the hungry miner of 1865, but for us it’s a treasure of history.

The main treasure he’s looking for is denim — and I know a lot of you Red Hatters love denim. If you find a pair of original 150 year old Levi’s jeans, they can go for quite the sums. Levi’s themselves, among others, will buy it back from the finder.

Lost jeans however is a whole another area to dive into. I am aware of the subculture of denim hunters — and if you’re one of them, please reach out to me and tell your story. The Red Hat community would love to hear all about that!

I, for one, am excited to keep following the journey of Brent Underwood and Ghost Town Living as the area slowly gets restored.

Here’s the video that reeled me in.

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on November 27, 2020 in Red Hat Culture Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

How to Declutter Your Digital Life

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on November 10, 2020 in Red Hat Culture Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

Watching a documentary about being to addicted to the screen is kinda paradoxical isn’t it? Anyhow… that’s what I did.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how much of my life really is digital.

I like to listen to a podcast in the morning while I hang out with my son. I work with design and programming the whole day, and then often watch a screen or listen to some kind of audio in the evening.

It’s shocking at times to assess the time you put down on certain things.

Now, I think all-things digital are awesome. The screen can hold an array of great hobbies, or a job you enjoy. But as with all good things, too much isn’t good.

A couple of Saturdays ago, me and my family decided to take a digital off-day and drop both audio and screen time for the entire day. It was such a detox, and so much easier when we didn’t do it alone.

Digital declutter day means hanging with my son. And since we’re a beanie-brand, of course there has to be a Bay Bee on the picture.

We (as a general culture) suffer from sensory overload all the time, and if we don’t get ahead of it, it can consume us. Doing a detox when you’re in a more busy period, is necessary, but can be hard.

I have at times done a few tweaks to my life that turned out helpful, and I thought I’d share them.

1. Only turn on notifications on the most essential of apps

My Facebook and my Instagram (which I need for work) always have notifications turned off. Still I don’t miss a thing, because I check them. The difference is, I decide when it’s time to do it, not digital dings from my devices.

This helped me much more than I had anticipated.

When last summer came around, I was pretty stressed out, and I decided to delete both Instagram and Facebook. It wasn’t that I never would use them, but if I did, I’d have to install them first.

The amount of times I mindlessly took my phone up and swiped from screen to screen, realizing there were nowhere to go, was outright scary.

After that detox lasting about a month, I still use both FB and IG way less (months and months later).

It kinda got out of my system.

2. Get a non-digital hobby

My mother loves knitting, as y’all know by now. Your knit products from Red Hat Factory may or may not have been knit on a roadtrip, on an airplane, during a family birthday gathering or my mom’s fun night out with friends. She knits till her hands burn, and then some more.

If you have a digital hobby, I believe it’s important to pair it with a physical one, because a screen is both a stimulant, and more straining on your eyes than you think.

Woodwork, reading or getting out in nature — whatever’s not on a screen — puts the eyes (and maybe even the soul) to rest.

Maybe it’s time to go on those hikes you watched on Instagram instead of just liking them?

You can read about a great hike in Norway right here.

Hiking Besseggen to rest
From our hike to Besseggen, Norway in 2019.

3. Decide what to do before you do it

Having a lot of ADHD tendencies, this one is the hardest for me, and I bet some, if not all, of you can relate.

I get an idea and act on it very fast. I’ll be sitting working on an article for Red Hat Factory, when an idea for a great Instagram Reel pops up, and suddenly I’m there, looking for material for that Reel. And the article… well, he is crying alone in my drafts.

It’s so easy to just pop open Instagram and start scrolling. What if instead you were intentional. No shame in wasting three hours scrolling through memes if that was what you needed. But randomly ending up in such a rabbit hole because you didn’t think before you picked up your phone, is worse.

I try to start my mornings (being self employed) deciding what to do and making a to do list. Thinking before I jump into it. And when it comes to new ideas for Red Hat Factory, I try to run them by someone else before deciding.

Man in Norwegian cabin
Map out the way before you start walking.

4. Saying “no” is actually more important than you think

One of the best things I did after this summer was going though all my side projects and just shutting them down one by one.

“No, I’ll not do that this season,” and “this one has to go…” and “you must die. Sorry…”

It might sound like you’re killing creativity by shutting down creative side-projects, but if you have too many of them, it might be just what is needed.

In my case I shut down almost everything but Red Hat Factory, and work has been more refreshing than ever since then. All my stray ideas can be snuffed out instantly, leaving space for me to go through with the “non-stray” ones, and give them the time it takes to be done properly.

Wrapping up

I am in no way a “chill out-guru,” but as you might or might not know, one of Red Hat Factory’s value statements is the following.

“Our aim is to honor handcrafting skills passed down through generations, and to reclaim that space of no-stress that gives a worker the ability to perform his or her best while enjoying the craft.”

So seeking out chill spaces is part of our core.

My mom chilling and knitting.

Speaking of staying with one activity at a time. I began (and finished first draft) of this article after beginning to watch a Netflix documentary about social media.

I got 10 minutes and 37 seconds in, before my mind started wandering, and this article came to life.

I could chalk it up to ADHD, but even if life’s various challenges are different for all of us, I still believe that we should play our very best game with the cards we’re given. And playing your best game requires putting as many distractions as possible aside.

Now, what are your best tips for decluttering our digital lives?

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on November 10, 2020 in Red Hat Culture Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

Patching Wool Products

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on October 24, 2020 in Essentials Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

Red Hat Factory beanies comes with a 10 year limited guarantee. If you pay the shipping, we patch it up for free. But how does patching wool actually work, and how will the product look after patching?

The sweater below was knit in ’83, and is still in use till this day. However, that doesn’t come without some patching up.

Norwegian hand knit sweater
My dad’s sweater that’s been passed on to me.

For example, the cuffs of this sweater have been completely reknit from scratch several times, as well as the entire ridge around the waist. Like a nice pair of leather shoes needs their oil, hand knit wool needs some love, and the occasional trip to the shop.

If you have some skill in knitting or in sowing you may patch the product up yourself, but otherwise you may use your guarantee — send it to us, and we’ll fix it, then charge you only for shipping it back again to you.

How often do you need to patch it up?

This varies a lot from person to person, but for a regular beanie, it might not need a single patch in the ten years covered by the guarantee. On sweaters, I’ve personally needed about a patch every third year (per sweater), when I’ve been using one of them almost daily, out in nature, climbing, crawling and living life to the fullest. The most important thing is to patch it up as soon as it gets a tear, before it starts unravelling.

Patches look like patches (though some don’t)

Yes. There are times we won’t be able to perfectly patch it up, so like a scar, it’s going to be healed again, but the memory of the injury will be visible. This, in my opinion, is something positive. The lore of your wool product only grows. On beanies, I’d say that most tears can be mended rather seamlessly. On bigger products, like, let’s say a sweater off of Mom’s Market, might look more scarred.

Wool sweater with patch.
The patch on one of my alpaca wool sweaters’ elbow.

The coloring of different batches of yarn might differ slightly, or your product has lost color with age, so the patches may stand out somewhat color wise. (Which in my opinion is totally epic).

It think that is all you need to know to be ready to adopt a genuinely hand knit piece of apparel, and ensure a long and happy life for it.

A hand knit wool sweater is worth a patch.
Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on October 24, 2020 in Essentials Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.