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Hydration Help Part 2: Watery Vegetables

Hello campers and welcome back to our blog series on edible hydration!  Last time we dazzled your minds and mouths with several juicy fruits that tasted great and were water-filled to boot, so now we move on to fruit’s favorite sister-food-group: vegetables.  Just like fruits, there are several wonderful veggies that can help supplement your daily water quota that are full of healthy vitamins and minerals, so let’s check them out!

  1. Cucumbers
    1. First on our list are cucumbers, that lovely green garnish to any salad or that tasty snap that comes from a pickle.  In terms of raw hydration potential, cucumbers top out at almost 97% water by weight, making it the #1 source of edible hydration around!  No fat or cholesterol are present in cucumbers either, and they’re full of multivitamins and minerals.  Campers and hikers will love cumbers for their longevity too, as cucumbers can remain fresh for days unrefrigerated so long as the skin remains unbroken.
  2. Celery
    1. One of the most popular snacks of the health-conscious consumer, eating celery also means you’re helping hydration along nicely with every bite.  Celery stalks are about 95% water besides having a nice crunchy texture and sharp taste, making them a perfect on-the-go form of edible hydration.  Keep in mind that celery isn’t as packed full of vitamins and minerals as our other hydrating foods, but you will still get your fiber and water intake when you need it!
  3. Radishes
    1. Arguably one of the best vegetables across the board for their incredibly-diverse health benefits, radishes are also known to have one of the highest water content by weight of any vegetable.  Coming in at 95% water, staying hydrated by eating a few radishes will keep you hydrated while simultaneously adding antioxidants, fiber, potassium, and Vitamin C.

Hydration Help Part 1: Watery Fruits

Everyone knows that drinking a tall glass of H2O is the best way to stay hydrated, but since fresh water sources aren’t available on the trail, your stomach can help!  Well…more specifically the stuff you put IN your stomach; eating certain types of foods can naturally increase your body’s absorption of water, helping you stay hydrated.  Eat a few of these easy-to-find foods to help beat the heat!

  1. Watermelon
    1. It may be a bit of a misnomer, but as watermelon contains 92% water by weight, it’s a safe bet that eating this lovely fruit will have your hitting your daily hydro intake without filling up your water bottle.  More importantly though the calcium, salt, and magnesium present in watermelon helps regulate the body’s consumption of water, meaning you stay hydrated more efficiently.  Storage can be a bit of a problem, but that doesn’t mean watermelons aren’t the perfect summer treat to beat the heat!
  2. Strawberries
    1. That sweet-and-juicy taste of nature’s red ruby is one of the best fruits to both satisfy your sugar craving and stay hydrated at the same time.  By weight a strawberry is about 91% water, making it the Hydro King of the berry world.  Besides being filled with water, strawberries also are filled with Vitamin C and contain plenty of fiber, making it the perfect immune system booster to fend off illness.
  3. Cantaloupe
    1. Coming in at respectable 90% water by weight is the cantaloupe, that orange-colored mildly-sweet melon we all know and love.  Although grapefruits technically come in at 91% water, cantaloupes come in at third place on our list of hydrating fruits because of the number of total health benefits they provide.  Cantaloupes provide high beta-carotene, antioxidants, potassium, fiber, and choline ( a nutrient recently discovered to be responsible for nerve impulse transmission, memory, sleep, and learning).

Nature’s Smartphone Photographer: Some tips Part 2


Hello and welcome back to our because-we-love-you series of tips on photography with your smartphone!  Last time we talked about some ways to improve your smartphone photos through an understanding of perspective, cropping and focus, and we’ve already heard great results from our campers that have tried them out!  For this round we will be focusing (no pun intended) more on image quality, photography basics and a few other tempting but terrible things to avoid when roaming the wilds.  Together with our other list of smartphone photography tips, we hope to see a lot more budding shutterbugs in the campgrounds this year!

Fear the Flash
Unless you’re trying to capture Bigfoot shuffling near your tent at night, using a smartphone’s built-in flash is a great way to ruin a perfectly-good picture.  Don’t misunderstand: flash-photography is real and can be incredibly useful, but the problem with smartphones is that the built-in phone feature is NOT designed to function as a true camera flash.  Essentially the tiny LED under your camera lens is a mini-flashlight that is designed to conserve batter life, not brighten a room.  Rather than the strobe-like burst of light that visually alters exposure and balance for the better, smartphone flashes are dull flickers of light that wash out and blur their targets.  Take a self-portrait in a dark room with your phone and you’ll most likely get a yellow-skinned red-eyed demon that is emerging from nothingness instead of that classic selfie.

Raw is better than Cooked
Just like when taking photos with a traditional camera, you will most likely be much more satisfied with how much you can play with your images if you take them unaltered or unfiltered.  Unless you have a good grasp of photography or are hunting for specific image styles, using app-based filters often removes much of the original luster and energy you were trying to capture in the first place.  Once again, remember that photography is all about capturing the moments so be sure to preserve the freedom to craft your photos as creatively as possible.  Oh, and never replace your original with an edited photo!  Save it as a new picture instead.

Never be afraid to steal…frames
We’ve all had this moment: you find yourself with the perfect opportunity for a photo but no matter how hard you try, it just won’t come out like you want.  Instead of filling up your phone memory with a frustratingly large amount of garbage, it can sometimes be better to switch your phone to video and start filming a scene instead.  Smartphone cameras are impressively sophisticated for their size, but the software that governs the cameras is fairly rigid in its operation.  Autofocus, balancing, and exposure sensors all operate dynamically in video-mode, whereas camera-mode tries to find the best combination of settings for that single shot.  So long as you make your phone as steady as possible and there’s not a lot of movement in the subject, it’s completely acceptable to take a few seconds of HD video and then steal a few frames from it for a final photo.


Nature’s Smartphone Photographer Part 1


It wasn’t all too long ago that the world of photography required specialized equipment and years of training and expertise in order to capture those breathtaking gems, but in the age of the smartphone it’s possible to take professional-quality photos on the fly (and without a college degree).  Still even smartphone photographers can use a few tips to improve their game, and so for your viewing pleasure we proudly present some suggestions and life-hacks to make that next pocket-photo look stupendous!  Go and photograph the world, campers!

Don’t be afraid!  Get up close and personal!
Phone cameras lack the raw optical zoom of their pro and semi-pro counterparts, but the camera sensor itself has a fairly wide depth of field that allows you to photograph objects with ease…provided you are near enough, of course.  Getting close to your subject also means that lighting is less of a problem, as less surface area to contend with means there’s less chance of odd light distortions causing your balances and focus to go out of whack.  It can be a bit frustrating if you’re used to the magic of optical lenses, but don’t knock the up-close-and-personal approach until you’ve tried it!

Never cut the crop
Despite their small size, smartphones have the wonderful ability to take photos and videos in HD.  This means the resolution of your photos will be very nice even without zooming in from 500 yards away.  To that end, it’s important to appreciate one of your best photo-editing tools: cropping.  Try taking a wide or panoramic shot before cropping and scaling it down, and you will see results that turn out much better than trying to make that digital zoom feature perform to professional standards.  It’s also worth noting that taking photos is all about capturing the moment, and it’s much easier to take the time to isolate those moments from wide-angle shots than it is to try and zoom and pray.  Bottom line: take non-zoomed photos and make friends with the crop feature and you will be all the more happy for it.

App-reciate your Options
While all stock phone camera apps are not created equal, third-party camera app developers are in business for a reason.  Just like traditional digital cameras, smartphones have limits on the software that controls their functions, but UNLIKE traditional digital cameras, smartphones allow app developers to tweak that software and put the control back in the hands of the user.  Some camera apps allow users to manually adjust the auto-focus separately from the exposure, or save multiple images of the same shot at a time using settings that you control.  Regardless, playing around with free aftermarket camera apps is guaranteed to open the door to some exciting possibilities.


Pick Your Poison: How to Prevent Poison Ivy Rash!

Summer is one of the best seasons for exploring the outdoors, but even the most experienced hiker or camper can fall victim to that dreaded rash-inducing menace: poison ivy.  Though the plant itself can be identified with its three-leaf growth pattern, there is no other guaranteed-easy method to proving that this itchy irritant is loose in your area.  Even when dead, a poison ivy vine is capable of holding oils that can cause an allergic reaction!  But don’t despair: even those with allergies to poison ivy can fight back by learning the science behind how the itch occurs, and with these tips you can keep yourself from ever having to suffer that dreaded rash ever again!

How it Occurs
Urushiol (the chemical name for the itchy oil) is found in poison ivy, poison sumac a poison oak, and is especially harmful to humans due to the autoimmune reaction is creates on the skin.  Over 85% of people are naturally allergic to urushiol, and even those who aren’t can still show symptoms from enough exposure.  The oil itself is greasy, nearly invisible and hardly water-soluble at all, transferring to surfaces like skin, hair and clothing with ease.

Why it Itches
Just touching poison ivy by itself isn’t typically enough to cause the allergic reaction, but rather leaving behind or not completely removing the oils off of your skin is what inevitably causes the red, blistering itch.  Once the oil has remained on your skin for any length of time, the body metabolizes it through the skin before recognizing the urushiol as an antigen, which in turn sends white blood cells to fight the intruder.  The problem is that the white blood cells attack the surrounding tissue as well as the oil, damaging the body and causing inflammation.  With that knowledge it’s clear that the trick to beating the itch actually lies in the oil itself, and how to keep it at bay.

How to Prevent P.I.
If you think you’ve been exposed to poison ivy (or even after a hike through the woods), the first step to preventing a reaction is to remove your clothing and immediately wash it in a degreasing detergent.  NEVER sleep or sit on furniture in clothes that may have been exposed to poison ivy, as urushiol easily rubs off on to other surfaces and can remain a danger for years.  Next wash your hands and forearms with degreasing dish soap, being careful to attend to the creases and spaces between your fingers and on your hands as these areas are the most common places for urushiol to collect.  Once your hands and forearms are washed, repeat one more time to make sure the oil has been completely removed.  Next it’s a good idea to carefully wash your face, ears, and neck with degreasing soap as well since these areas may have been exposed to accidental contact.  Follow up the whole cleaning regiment with a shower, and you can be sure the last of that nasty oil runs down the drain!


The Curious Camper: What is a Sunburn?


Most likely every camper has felt that telltale sting of red on their skin before, but many people never stop to ask just how does sunburn occur in the first place.  Is it an allergy?  It is literally cooking us?  Sunlight is essential to Vitamin D production after all so it can’t be all bad, and yet that blistering angry red skin after a day outside seems to indicate otherwise.  That’s why we hit the books and started researching how sunlight turns to sunburn in us humans, and the results are pretty interesting.  So for all of our curious campers out there, here’s an in-depth look at the red-skin menace and why it happens!

All UV Radiation is Not Created Equal
Before we get into the specifics about sun on skin, it’s important to point out that the radiation in the sun’s ultraviolet spectrum is actually three different waves put together (UVA, UVB and UVC) and only one of them actually causes sunburns.
-UVA waves typically have less energy than their younger brothers (no pun intended), but still has enough strength to punch through the earth’s atmosphere and reach the surface.  All of those long, tanned and handsome types should be grateful, as this type of long-wavelength UV energy is primarily responsible for tans.
-UVB is the middle child and has a nasty bite when it comes to skin damage.  The wavelength and energy are just the right balance to not only slip through the atmosphere but also damage the DNA of skin cells, and this UVB is the wicked culprit that causes sunburns.
-Last but not least is UVC, which while possessing the most energy out of all of the ultraviolet radiation levels pretty much has no impact on our skin, thanks to the absorption of it all by our atmosphere.

Sunlight Burns AND Tans?  UV’e Got to be Kidding!
In fact, we are not; surprisingly the true culprit behind sunburns is not the UV energy itself, but rather your own body’s immune response reacting to the ultraviolet rays.  As UVB begins to destroy the DNA of our cells, the body senses this damage through special skin cell receptors (called melanocytes) and starts producing extra melanin, a natural pigment that’s purpose is to absorb UV radiation before it damages too many skin cells.  For those of us that remember our grade school science classes, the darker the color the more that color absorbs light, hence the “tanned” look.  This protects our skin if the sun exposure is in small amounts over long periods of time because melanin production is a slow process, but when too much UVB happens all at once, skin cells begin to die faster than the body can produce new melanin-filled ones and so the immune system kicks in.  Blood flow rushes to the area to encourage healing and jump-start cell production (hence why sunburns are red and warm), and eventually all of the dead skin cells peel off.  The trouble is that if this skin renewing process occurs too often the DNA damage can be permanent, resulting in skin cancer.  So lather up the sunscreen and be safe!
We hope this has satisfied all of those curious campers out there who are looking for answers, so until next time, respect and enjoy nature!


Hiker’s Wisdom: Your Guide to Camp Recycling Part 2

Welcome back to the second part of our blog series on recyclables! Last time we tackled the Plastics # 1, 2, and 3, most of which can be recycled with your curbside recycling bin. Today we will finish out the list of recyclable materials and leave you with the knowledge of a true protector of Mother Earth. Let’s get started!

Recycling Symbols: Plastics LDPE #4
LDPE (also known as Low-density polyurethane) is the plastic used in most shopping center plastic bags, carpet fibers, frozen food containers and other items. Only recently have local trash pickup and recycling centers begun to accept this type of plastic for recycling, so check with your local disposal companies to see if your home is on the list of approved pickup sites. LDPE #4 is considered a safe plastic too, and is often transformed into trash cans, mailboxes and tote bins.

Recycling Symbols: Plastics PP #5
Ketchup bottles, pill containers, ice cube trays and some sport water bottles are all items made from polypropylene, known by the symbol PP #5. With very few exceptions this plastic is considered one of the safe plastics, and can be recycled at your local pickup centers. When recycled, this material is turned into vehicle headlights, brooms and mops, and even electric plastic fan blades.

Recycling Symbols: Plastics PS #6
Most campers will know this plastic very well by it’s layman name: Styrofoam, and this is one of the more toxic plastics currently on the market today. Egg cartons, meat trays, and disposable cups and plates are all made from PS #6, and while non-toxic at room temperature will release dangerous toxic chemicals when heated. Because of the health risks involved, most curbside recycling centers will not accept it, meaning you should either purchase alternatives made with recyclable materials or contact a specialty recycling center for disposal.

Recycling Symbols: Plastics Other
When plastics are essentially a grab-bag of materials, these items are placed and labeled with the “Plastics Other” symbol. These items are made of materials that contain polycarbonate and bisphenol-A, also known as BPA. The toxicity of these materials are now becoming widely known for causing hyperactivity and reproductive issues, and have begun to fade from the consumer marketplace. Bullet-proof vests, iPod cases and sunglasses are all still made with this material however, so be careful when using these items. Recycling them is difficult, but they can be eventually made into plastic lumber and other products requiring inexpensive durability.


Hiker’s Wisdom: Your Guide to Camp Recycling Part 1

Hiker’s Wisdom: Your Guide to Camp Recycling Part 1
As nature-lovers, we all understand the importance of recycling and keeping our earth preserved for future generations, but recycling itself is more complicated than people think.  Not every plastic is created equal, and while some containers and bottles can be recycled and placed back into circulation, still others lack the chemical properties to be fit for use in food and other health-related products.  Therefore to help Mother Earth and of course our fellow campers, we’ve put together a two-part series on learning just what those little recycling symbols and numbers really mean.  Trust us: you will learn something you didn’t know before!

Recycling Symbols: PETE Plastic #1
Arguably the most common type of consumer plastic, plastic symbol “1 PETE” is used to make soda and water bottles in addition to certain types of food packaging.  This plastic is considered to be one of the “safe” plastics in that it is not rated for high toxicity, but due to the type of food and drink stored in the plastic, it is common for bacteria to thrive and grow over time.  Luckily this plastic is capable of being recycled into furniture, tote bags and even fleece jackets, so toss those 1 PETE plastic bottles in the recycling bin!

Recycling Symbols: Plastic HDPE #2
For this type of plastic, HDPE is used primarily in the storing of laundry detergent, milk jugs, shampoo bottles and juice bottles, and is considered non-toxic.  This type of plastic can also be recycled at local recycling centers, usually turned into plastic pens, jacklets, lumber, fencing, and even park benches and picnic tables.  Any items with HDPE # 2 can be recycled locally as well.

Recycling Symbols: Plastic V or PVC #3
Items with the “V or PCV #3” symbol are plastics that contain phthalates and DEHA, elements that have been known to lead to serious health issues in adults, pregnant women and children including carcinogens and developmental problems.  Usually this symbol can be found on PVC piping, clear food wrap and even some detergent bottles, and are not usually accepted at local recycling centers.  Though it can be eventually turned into items such as floor paneling and synthetic decking, check with your local recycling center before tossing it in the bin.
Well that’s it for now, but stay tuned to our next blog post on recycling plastics for the final four plastic symbols and their recycling potential.


Hiker’s Wisdom: Trail Tips for Beginners Part 2

Hello fellow campers and welcome back to another installment of Hiker’s Wisdom!  Last time we focused on what new hikers can do to prepare for the trail by wearing the proper attire and how to pack a first-aid kit for emergencies, but this time we thought we’d zero-in on the best way to select a backpack and the proper communication equipment for hiking.  Gear is important, but so is how you carry it all and having a solid means of communication in an emergency is just good sense.

How to Pack your Back
There are literally hundreds of backpack brands and models available on the market, but choosing the right one tends to come down to three basic elements: size, capacity and load distribution.  Size refers to the actual length of the torso (waist to the top of the shoulders), but NOT to an individual’s height.  It might seem overkill to measure your own torso length ahead of time, but since size directly affects pressure points on your back, your body will thank you after a few hours on the trail.  From a capacity perspective, professional hiking backpacks are measured in liters and should not take into account any compartments that are not capable of being entirely sealed with zippers.  For short day trips or overnights, backpacks of between 30 to 65 liters are acceptable whereas week-long camping trips can be anywhere from 70 to 100 liters.  If you’re not comfortable judging by looks, read the tags; hiking backpack capacities are always listed as one of the first items in backpack identification.  Last but certainly not least, take a look at how easily and convenient it is to load your pack and adjust the weight across your entire body and posture.  Backpacks get their true comfort from distributing the weight of your gear across your hips, minimizing the strain on your shoulders and arms.

Find a Partner in Crime
Preparation and studying can only get you so far, which means the best possible source of information on all things hiking will be a close friend or relative that has seen a few trails.  Knowledge gained in the field supersedes anything learned from books or survival classes, and having a friendly and reliable source nearby not only makes the hike more fun but keeps your encyclopedia on hiking with you at all times.  For extra fun gather a group of between four and seven people, as group hikes allow you to distribute gear more easily amongst many people, have more members to find help in an emergency and (most importantly) make great memories that will last a lifetime.


Hiker’s Wisdom: Trail Tips for Beginners Part 1

No matter what age you are when the majesty of hiking calls your name, everyone begins their career as a backpacker in much the same way: scratching their heads.  What should I bring on the trail?  Do I need a first-aid kit?  Which sleeping bag should I buy?  Often times the sheer amount of unknowns can be enough to scare off novice hikers, but never fear!  We’ve taken the liberty of putting together a nice little backpacking survival guide that identifies myths, provides guidance and offers tricks to make your first hiking experience as amazing as can be!

Dress for Success
There are many little blunders that occur on a person’s first hike, but the most common and easily corrected mistake of them all is choosing the wrong wardrobe for the outdoors.  When choosing a pair of pants, keep to fabrics and clothing that are breathable but also repel moisture.  That means avoiding denim and/or jeans, as these fabrics retain a lot of water and can draw off body heat.  Convertible pants that allow the pant legs to be removed via zipper or Velcro are ideal, but slacks or shorts work just as well.  When it comes to footwear, full to mid-cut boots offer the best protection and traction in the outdoors, but for light to moderate trails many hikers prefer hiking shoes.  Whichever footwear you prefer, do NOT skim on your socks; synthetic knee socks will protect your feet from blisters while offering a barrier against insects like ticks and fleas.  A smart hiker will also bring a hat, cap or bandana for protection against the sun, and a rain jacket or slicker tucked away in your backpack for unexpected squalls is a good idea as well.

Pack for the Trip
All too often new hikers find themselves severely over or underprepared when they arrive on the trail simply because they didn’t do enough research beforehand, and nothing shows a hiker’s skill level more than his or her first-aid kit.  Most novice hikers either forget to bring a first-aid kit on the trail, or else buy the biggest and most expensive medical kit available that takes up nearly all the space in their backpacks.  Unless your hike will last several days away from civilization and you plan to go with a large group, hikers only require the most basic of first-aid supplies: various-sized bandages and Band-Aids, ibuprofen, gauze, Benadryl, antibiotic cream and sanitizing wipes.  If you think your hike will require more medical supplies than that, consider changing your hiking location to something less dangerous!