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PAUL SMITH: Goodbye to the Sobeys bag


So it’s adios to the iconic Sobeys bag, and it will be missed I’m quite sure.

I just watched a not so serious and crazy video on YouTube about multiple and innovative, albeit some ridiculous uses of single-use plastic shopping bags.

It’s a Newfoundland production by a group calling themselves “The Outhouse TV,” and it’s pretty funny and well-worth three of four minutes of one’s designated to waste time.

Anyway, a few of the boy’s highlighted uses I have actually utilized on a regular basis, and others not so often.

Fact is though, single-use plastic shopping bags are about to become extinct, and although I reuse them, the environmental conscience side of my brain is very happy.

Good riddance to at least a fraction of the plastic trash that plagues our planet.

It’s not that big of a bother to bring a reusable bag into the shop with us. I know, I’ll just use a backpack, or the free Corona tote I got at the liquor store.

Hey Outhouse guys, what about picking up a meal of cod tongues down at the local wharf? I’m sure many of us have brought home fish in a Sobeys bag.

All of us woodsy people must surely have carried a trail lunch in a Sobeys bag at one time or another. I don’t mean instead of a grub sack, as my old fur-trapping buddy would refer to a modern backpack.

Big or small, it was still a grub sack to Clide Collins. You do know that you have to keep your food supply compartmentalized inside your pack, amongst all the other stuff that goes in there.

There could be rabbits or ducks if you’re hunting, traps if you’re trapping, trout if you’re fishing, spare socks, sleeping bag and tent and, well, you get the picture.

Typically, for a day of winter rabbit hunting I’ll pack my lassy bread in a sandwich bag, my hard cheddar and Christmas fruitcake in another, and then teabags in a third.

Then the whole works with a tin of beans goes into, and you guessed it, a Sobeys bag, or Dominion, or Powell’s.

I also throw in a few extras to separate and isolate game, ducks, grouse, and the like. I’m going to have to change my ways.

Any advice?

You’ve all heard about us Newfoundlanders using plastic grocery bags to keep our feet dry during slushy winter periods. Did anybody out there ever get that to actually work? I’d love to hear your stories, because my few attempts to keep my feet dry with shopping bags failed miserably. And that was back when the bags were much thicker and more durable than they are today.

The wet feet and failed plastic adventure that most sticks out in my mind is from the late 1970’s.

Like I said, the bags were thicker, and I always carried an ample supply in the woods with me for trout, garbage, dirty socks, and whatever else.

This was a deep backcountry double-nighter February camping trip to fish for trout through the ice. We travelled a nearly full day on snowshoes to reach our destination, a small log cabin by the side of a gully near Matty’s Pond. The snow was deep and we were exhausted.

Luckily we had plenty of grub, including my mother’s fruitcake to restore our calorie reserves. That night the weather turned mild and it pelted rain. I was in the top bunk and I can still recall the rhythmic endless pounding on the corrugated metal roof. The owners must have towed that in by snowmobile I figured. We woke up to flooded ponds and the reality of those bloody useless 1970’s vintage Ski-Doo boots. They were tight for about three inches of water if you walked real slowly. We resorted to Sobeys bag boot liners.

Did it work? Let me just say that we became very familiar with the hissing of soaking socks hung over a hot wood stove. The smell is also quite distinctive, wet wool drying I mean.

But spirits remained high. We had caught a few trout so we fried them up while drying all our wet gear. The ambiance and bouquet of aromas progressed nicely, with a day of trekking through deep snow blended into the mix.

I guess you have figured already that the cabin had no shower or bathing facilities. Anyway, we warmed up and filled our bellies. The weather was still mild and the ponds remained flooded. We faced a long hike out the next day and it wasn’t looking pretty. The snow was packed down and the trail walking would be fine but the half a foot of water on the ponds would prove brutal. Walking on slippery ice with wet feet is nobody’s idea of fun.

Bright and early the next morning we started our trek home with fresh Sobeys bags. I could walk maybe 20 minutes before I’d spring a leak and the cold water would soak in short order. I ran out of bags and resigned myself to cold and wet feet.

No, a Sobeys bag is no substitute for Gore Tex. But we survived with a great story to tell decades later. Because nobody today has to suffer like that. There are great boot options on the market like I wrote about last week. So long to the Sobeys bag. You served me well often, and not so well on other occasions.

Incidentally, I got a bunch of emails asking about where to buy Zamberlan boots in Canada. One man told me that he couldn’t find them anywhere locally. I’m not sure, but that’s what I’m told, and please inform me if this is wrong.

Anyway, Mountain Equipment Co-Op and Amazon Canada sells a limited selection within Canada. You can also order directly on Zamberlan’s USA website, www.zamberlanusa.com.

I’ve been using Zamberlan boots for nigh on 10 years so I can vouch for the quality, performance and comfort. Zamberlan has been making extreme outdoor boots in Italy since 1929. They are a third generation family run company of folks who hike, climb, camp, and make boots. They know what we need and strive for the very best product with no compromise.

You can’t beat that. Watch the video on their website. It’s pretty interesting. There are also other great companies who make boots, some Canadian. I’ll speak to those another time.

There’s more snow coming. Get out in the woods and enjoy.

Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay, fishes and wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted at flyfishtherock@hotmail.com or follow him on twitter at @flyfishtherock.

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