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Seven Million Toasters: A Tribute to Coghlan's 50th Birthday

Coghlan's celebrates 50 years of service to the Outdoor Industry.

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by Ryan Jordan | 2009-01-23 11:23:00-07

Seven Million Toasters: A Tribute to Coghlan's 50th Birthday

My First Camp Toast

One of the very first camping products I purchased as a young boy was a toaster for a camping stove. An assemblage of wires connected to a plate that sat atop a gas stove, it afforded one the opportunity to enjoy ... toast ... while camping.

The first time I used it over my Svea 123, I was in awe, watching the bread slowly brown. Then, I turned it over with caution, not wanting it to slip from my clumsy pre-pubescent fingers and become tainted with the soil that loomed below. Then, I watched the other side brown. This was magic! When my toast was done, I carefully dressed its crunchy surface with butter, cinnamon, and a load of refined sugar.

With some trepidation, wondering (hoping! praying!) if my camp toast would taste like Mom's, I took my first bite. I chewed. And chewed. And swallowed.

And noticed a funny thing.

A white gas aftertaste.

I fed the rest of the toast to the squirrels.

The Big Green Wall

I wrote the company upon my return to home and told them about my experience. I received an envelope, with a typed reply stating that my toast might taste better if it was used on a propane stove or campfire.

I eventually figured it out, and enjoyed toast on fires and camp stoves for many years in my youth.

That toaster was manufactured by Coghlan's, perhaps one of the most recognizable brands in our industry. Coghlan's green packaging reliably adorns the walls from Wal-Mart to back-alley camping stores to summer camp trading posts across the U.S.

When I was a kid, I had two favorite stores. One was the REI store that sat atop Seattle's Capitol Hill. This is where I got my adventure fix: peering at photographs of famous Seattle mountaineers like Lou Whittaker climbing impossibly tall peaks across the globe, holding a fiberglass-shafted ice axe in arrest position on the show floor (“hey! what's that little kid doing with that thing?”), and crawling into a TNF Mountain Tent dreaming about being battered by storms at the South Col.

My other favorite store was a long ways from REI. I don't even remember the store name, or the location. I just remember that Big Green Wall.

The Big Green Wall was home to every single camping accessory that a young boy needed: tent stake mallets, stoves configured from folding metal and little cans, egg storage containers, pocketknives, long-burning emergency candles, lensatic compasses, and of course, camp stove toasters.

My dreams were spent at REI. My allowance was spent collecting gear from the Big Green Wall, home to Coghlan's accessories.

Norm Coghlan's Legacy

Norm Coghlan founded Coghlan's as a gas appliance store in Winnipeg in 1959. Norm's customers would inquire about better ways to toast their bread on camping stoves. Coghlan's had the answer, and soon developed their very first accessory: the Camp Stove Toaster.

Soon, in response to customer demand for niche-market camping accessories that filled very specific needs, Coghlan's grew its accessory line. Today, two warehouses in Winnipeg and St. Paul ship more than 450 different accessory products to 30 countries worldwide.

Coghlan's integrity as a brand is undeniable. They have had a long history of outstanding customer service to both end-users and its retailers. When I was twelve years old, I purchased a Coghlan's pocketknife and I couldn't figure out how to use one of the tools on it. I wrote a letter to Coghlan's and received a handwritten reply back with carefully drawn pictures showing how to use ... the can opener.

Coghlan's remains a family-owned company today and is an inspirational model to me as I ponder my own role as the CEO of a growing company in which my family is engaged: a place where my wife used to pack shipments in our garage, my son assembled and sealed dropper bottle kits, and my mother-in-law still ensures the smooth processing of our accounts payable. I often wonder what Norm Coghlan might be thinking as he looks back on 50 years of family ownership.

Coghlan's remains the oldest client of Opportunity Partners: more than 250 of Coghlan's products are assembled and packaged by people with disabilities. In addition to the powerful social contribution, Coghlan's participation in the Opportunity Partners program allows them to bring products to market at economical prices, ensuring that camping accessories are affordable to the masses. That Coghlan's does not discriminate against the privileged is perhaps their most powerful contribution to growing our industry, where trends towards more technology, more innovation, more cost, and more dependence on affluent customers is resulting in sweeping layoffs and production cuts. Coghlan's may not be a completely recession-proof brand, but it has the right economic model in place to keep our industry thriving as we tighten our purse strings.

Coghlan's continues to add new products (while preserving their oldies but goodies) to their lines. While not revered among the lightweight backpacking community as a “cutting edge” brand making the lightest products, it would be hard to find any one among us that hasn't been touched in a positive way by a green-packaged Coghlan's accessory at some time in our lives.

Two summers ago, my (then 9-year old) son purchased a Coghlan's pocketknife from the Big Green Wall at the Trading Post of K-M Scout Ranch in Lewistown, Montana. Last summer, he saved up and purchased a Coghlan's wood saw. We don't find Coghlan's in Barrel Mountaineering, but there is a Big Green Wall in Bozeman's definitive camping store, the Powder Horn, and it never fails to draw us in.

Happy 50th Birthday, Coghlan's, and congratulations for recently shipping your seven millionth Camp Stove Toaster.

Thank you for your service to our industry and country, and for inspiring us to enjoy the outdoors without breaking our bank.

Do You Have a Coghlan's Story To Tell?

Maybe you too have been touched by Norm Coghlan and his vision. Let us know by participating in the forum below.


"Seven Million Toasters: A Tribute to Coghlan's 50th Birthday," by Ryan Jordan. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2009-01-23 11:23:00-07.


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Seven Million Toasters: A Tribute to Coghlan's 50th Birthday
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Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Seven Million Toasters: A Tribute to Coghlan's 50th Birthday on 01/23/2009 11:41:20 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Seven Million Toasters: A Tribute to Coghlan's 50th Birthday

Brian Barnes
(brianjbarnes) - M

Locale: Midwest
RE: "Seven Million Toasters: A Tribute to Coghlan's 50th Birthday" on 01/23/2009 13:23:45 MST Print View

Well done! A welcomed reprieve from analyzing ounces and evaluating intricacies...

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Seven Million Toasters: A Tribute to Coghlan's 50th Birthday on 01/23/2009 15:52:00 MST Print View

I would be interested to find out if there is anyone here that has done car camping and NOT owned or used that very toaster.

Chris Townsend
(Christownsend) - MLife

Locale: Cairngorms National Park
Seven Million Toasters: A Tribute to Coghlan's 50th Birthday on 01/23/2009 16:08:11 MST Print View

I've never used that toaster! Or ever made toast on a camping trip - with car or without. Over the years I have used plenty of Coghlan's gear though. The orange plastic toilet trowel was a permanent item in my pack for many years.

Jerry Cagle
(xclimber) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Re: Seven Million Toasters: A Tribute to Coghlan's 50th Birthday on 01/23/2009 17:35:05 MST Print View

Kudos to Coghlan's and to you for a great story. Do you still have the hand drawings showing how to use the can opener?

Edited by xclimber on 01/23/2009 17:35:55 MST.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: Seven Million Toasters: A Tribute to Coghlan's 50th Birthday on 01/24/2009 08:03:53 MST Print View

Nice article Ryan, it brought a smile to my face this morning. I think we all have purchased a Coghlan's product in our times.

Elizabeth White
(knoxtnusa) - F

Locale: Southeast USA
Tribute to Coghlan on 01/24/2009 10:00:33 MST Print View

Thanks for sharing your story and providing insight into the ubiquitous Coghlan label.

Douglas Johnson
(Sponge) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Toaster on 01/24/2009 13:12:44 MST Print View

I could never get the toast to taste or brown even remotely similar to home...I probably have purchased three of those contraptions throughout my camping life. The kids love it though!

Tony Burnett
(tlbj6142) - F

Locale: OH--IO
that old toaster... on 01/26/2009 10:56:22 MST Print View

One of my earliest memories of camping in our tiny green canvas pop-up in the early 70s (I was 4-5yo) was that silly toaster thing (or one very similar, I seem to recall ours had a "back" to it that looked sort of like a cheese grater). I think we might have used it just a handful of times. I do recall asking my parents to use it several times only to be denied (I'm sure it was PITA to use).

I do think we held on to it as I recall seeing it often while loading/unloading the camper later in life. Hmmm...wonder if they still have it???

William Puckett
(Beep) - F

Locale: Land of 11, 842 lakes
Re: Tribute to Coghlan on 01/26/2009 17:39:57 MST Print View

So, is there a Coghlan's item that still is a valuable and useful addition to your kit?

Though I've never had to use it, the Magnesium Firestarter has been on a lot of miles in my essentials bag.

I periodically will haul out the big refillable plastic toothpaste-style tubes for peanut butter/jelly combo.

Edited by Beep on 01/28/2009 10:27:46 MST.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Chubby & Tubby on 01/26/2009 18:25:40 MST Print View

Ryan, the other store could have been Chubby & Tubby either in the Rainier Valley or the one on North Aurora. Both are gone now, but I use to love just walking up and down the Coghlan camping aisle.

My favorite was also the REI (original store). I think my Dad purchased a membership there (his number was in the low hundreds) so he could drop my brothers and I off for a while and get us out of his hair. It was a lot cheaper then the Seattle Center and more entertaining, he could also do it anytime of the year, ski season was my favorite!

Almost every time I'm in Fred Meyer, much to my wife's dismay, I still have to walk the Coghlan camping aisle. They don't offer anything ultralight that I'm interested in, but I still have to go, just to get the old feeling back.
Thanks for the article.

Bobby Moore
(Mooremoorebobby) - F

Locale: So Cal
Toasting on 01/28/2009 02:46:14 MST Print View

I love my toaster. I got one a couple years ago. Nothing is better than some spam and mayo on toasted bread :) So in order to maintain my lightweight lifestyle... I make my buddy carry the toaster. I'll carry the bread. Haha!

victoria maki
(clt1953) - F

Locale: northern minnesota
toaster on 01/28/2009 05:27:17 MST Print View

what a fun story. yes, i do use the toaster. have gone through quite a number of them over the last 30 yrs. not backpacking but in our pop up truck camper. congrats to coghlan's success over the years.

Michael Landman
(malndman) - F

Locale: Central NC, USA
Coghlan on 01/28/2009 08:36:38 MST Print View

Nice article.

I use their food squeeze tubes (big toothpaste tubes)for my "Ultralight Joe's Moose Goo", a mix of 2 parts honey, 2 parts PB and 1 part corn flour. On tortillas, it is a staple lunch for me on the trail.

b s
(smyth) - F
Norm Coghlan and MY vision on 01/28/2009 08:44:29 MST Print View

I've carried a Coghlan featherweight mirror for years to help me with my contact lenses. Might just be me, but I just can't seem to put them in without one. Fairly light, durable, and I can hang it and work with both hands. It's still one of the most important pieces of gear in my kit. Thanks Coghlan.

Kathy A Handyside
(earlymusicus) - M

Locale: Southeastern Michigan
Memories on 01/28/2009 11:33:56 MST Print View

Our car-camping equipment list has always included the Coughlan's Camp Stove Toaster. This thing is great! I use it at home - it does better toast than my toaster oven or any home toaster I've tried. It's a great little piece of gear that carries with it memories of a lot of fun camping trips.

Sunny Waller
(dancer) - M

Locale: Southeast USA
Coghlan's on 01/29/2009 07:15:05 MST Print View

OMG... you are supposed to put the peanut butter and jelly into the same tube!!!! I have used those tubes for at least 30 years while climbing mtns..backpacking and paddling...I use to take people out on trips outfitted with my gear...I am the "packing queen" and never thought to combine the p&J into one tube...too funny. I am 50 and also grew up "cruising the green wall".

Its also nice to see an article about the quality of basic stuff. As we become more gear specialized I have noticed the tendancy of many to view basic gear with arrogance and slight contempt. I started out backpacking sleeping in a tube tent that probably cost under $5 because I could not afford a tent. I also used the orange trowell...the orange round matches container.. the folding cup-not a good idea..the mirror..the saw... the list goes on and on..

Robert Kay
(ksaccounts) - F
Coghlan's wall on 02/02/2009 10:04:59 MST Print View

I can't walk by a Coghlan's big green wall without picking up something that catches my eye -- only to reject it when I get home because it's too heavy! Like with Ryan, it's a nostalgic reaction that always happens. There are so many cool things on that wall that I just gotta have some of them. I'm at the point where I can start my own green wall now and invite the neighborhood hikers/campers in to browse. You know which ones I'm talking about -- the neighbors who think we're nuts for adding up ounces and cutting the handles off the tooth brushes.

Edited by ksaccounts on 02/02/2009 10:08:07 MST.

. Callahan

Locale: Stoke Newington, London, UK.
A toast to Coghlan's 50th Birthday! on 02/08/2009 11:33:20 MST Print View

What a lovely story, I really enjoyed it!

Thanks for that! (o:

Yup! Got those tubes, magnesium block, windshield, and doubtless more.

Some things just have to be done.....

Gordon Smith
(swearingen) - MLife

Locale: Portland, Oregon
Happy 50th Coghlan's! on 02/11/2009 06:16:06 MST Print View

Coghlan's makes at least one item that's fairly high-tech, the "Digital Dangler":

I have one and I love it! It records minimum and maximum daily temperatures, one of only a handful of backpacking appropriate devices that can do that. Weighs two ounces, weather resistant, durable. Best of all it costs about $10. It's always hanging from my pack.