Fun fact: humans cannot survive without bugs. Yep, those things that creep into your sleeping bags and go splat on your windshield are vital to the health and survival of our earthly ecosystem. The honey bee is a simple example of why bugs are critical to human life: Honey bees pollinate plants that produce crops. Without bees, there’s no pollination, without pollination there’s no crop… you get the idea. Bees are just one of thousands of insects that are pulling more than their tiny weight. That’s why we love bugs (from a distance). Here are just some of the reasons why:
Bugs add an estimated $57 billion to the US economy.
According to the Cornell Chronicle, insects are a primary food source for fish, birds, and mammals, and they do a heck of a job at keeping things clean. The study found that “native insects are food for the wildlife supporting a $50 billion recreation industry and provide more than $4.5 billion worth in pest control. They also provide crop pollination valued at $3 billion and clean up grazing lands, saving ranchers some $380 million a year.” Well, that sure puts our yearly savings to shame!
Bugs make great models.
When engineers need to create a spacesuit for Mars, or create a damage resistant car, they look to nature. In this TedTalk, Robert Full explains how examining cockroaches can inform how robots learn to stabilize on rough terrain, walk upside down, do gymnastic maneuvers in air and run into walls without harming themselves. Way cool.
Bugs are highly civilized.
In a human world that can seem increasing more separatist, some insect societies are a shining example of teamwork. Take ants. Ants live in colonies that will grow and flourish for decades. In this TedTalk, Deborah Gordon explores how ants successfully collaborate, delegate, and even multitask – all without language, memory or visible leadership. Understanding these complex systems can help humans better understand our own complex systems from the human brain to high speed computer networks.
Bugs are delicious and nutritious.
In Mexico, you can buy a bag-full of fried grasshoppers. In Japanese cuisine, bamboo caterpillars are a celebrated appetizer. And in Sardinia and Corsica, Casu Marzu is cheese that’s inhabited by live maggots, and (apparently) it’s divine. Listen to this TedTalk by Marcel Dicke on why insect delicacies are nutritional and eco-friendly additions to our daily diets. Mmmm.
Bugs are beautiful.
There’s inspiration all around, but sometimes it’s the little things that can be the most delightful – seeing the twilight dance of fireflies, watching a spider make its masterpiece listening to the flight of the bumblebee… Bugs just bein’ bugs are some of Mother Nature’s finest works of art. Whether you capture the magic with your fancy human contraptions or just soak in the moment, pause for a moment to witness the beauty of bugs.
Bugs are buddies.
Like even our best friends, bugs can really be a pain in the neck sometimes. When ants invade your hammock or gnats keep you awake (and don’t even get us started on mosquitos), bugs can be a real buzz kill. Luckily, we’ve found a way to coexist: Our Toad&Co Debug styles, featuring Insect Shield® Technology. Our Debug styles have a bug deterring fiber woven into the fabric, creating an odorless, non-lethal repellent that’s safe for humans and furry friends alike (and a billion times more pleasant than DEET or Citronella.) Now we can appreciate bugs without being their lunch.
It’s no surprise that pretty much everyone’s favorite part about summer is the sunshine. Think about it – all the classic summertime activities are better in the sun. Swimming, going for a bike ride, drinking beer. These things only get better when the rays are plentiful. But as with most things in life, too much sun can be detrimental to your skin. When you expose your skin to the sun, you are exposing yourself to ultraviolet radiation (UV), which is the driving agent of sunburn, skin aging, and skin cancer. While sunscreen is a great line of defense against the sun, it’s not the only option. Enter UPF clothing.
Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) clothing enhances your protection against UV rays. You can think of UPF as the equivalent of the SPF in the sunscreen you use. Factors such as garment construction, color, treatments, and fiber type all play into a specific piece of clothing’s UPF rating. Luckily for you, rather than inspecting a piece of clothing for these attributes, you can simply look at the tag on the piece of clothing to see if the style has a UPF rating. UPF ratings between 15-20 are good, 20-40 is very good, and 40+ is excellent. If possible, always opt for a higher UPF rating. Your skin will thank you later!
Everyone can benefit from UPF clothing. Even if you never get sunburnt, your skin will still be susceptible to UV rays when exposed to sunshine. Certain folks have more to gain from UPF clothing than others. If you have fair skin, UPF clothing can help shield you from powerful UV rays. Children are particularly vulnerable to UV rays because their skin is thinner, and more sensitive than adult skin. If possible, choose UPF styles for any children in your life. Additionally, people at high elevations are at a greater risk to the effects of UV rays. If you have any trips to the mountains planned this summer, make sure you have a few UPF pieces packed for your outing.
Taking care of your skin is no joke! Always liberally apply sunscreen before exposing yourself to UV rays, and wear clothing with an excellent UPF rating if possible. Now get out there and enjoy your summer!
We’ve all heard the old saying that “necessity is the mother of invention”. For surfboard shaper Jacob Ells, this age-old adage rings especially true. In his early 20’s Jacob found himself a student at the University of California Santa Barbara, living a stone’s throw from the waves of Sands, Devereux, and Campus Point. Caught between a full class load and a Top-Ramen budget, Jacob was itching for a good board but couldn’t fathom shelling out the cash for a new one. There was only one solution.
With some guidance from friends and a few tips on surfboard design, Jacob got his hands on an old blank and shaped himself a board. It wasn’t exactly a polished work of art, but it was magic under his feet. Pretty soon, he was itching for another magic carpet to ride.
Jacob in the bay, doing what he loves.
For the next ten years, Jacob dabbled in shaping and board design and “product testing.” He spent a few years sailing across the Pacific, surfing countless waves in solitude, and exploring areas of the planet he’d only seen in pictures. Still, Jacob was thirsty for a more intimate knowledge of surfboard design.
In 2014 he decided to turn his hobby into a profession and he hasn’t looked back since. All Jive Surfboards are hand-shaped by Jacob in Carpinteria, California and the continuous quest for knowledge is what drives Jacob. “It’s funny, the more I shape the less I know,” he says.
As for the boards that don’t come out as planned? “My favorite thing is when I surf one of my boards for the first time and it doesn’t work as expected. After years of surfing my boards, they can still reveal new things.”
Intergalactic surf craft hand shaped by Jacob Ells.
That’s just the kind of guy Jacob is – always finding the stoke. He and his family live minutes away from Rincon Point (one of California’s great breaks), and he’s never too busy to sneak in a quick sesh. “The best part about Rincon is that it’s so diverse – I can have the same amount of fun in a variety of conditions.” As a surfer, a craftsman, and one epic dad, Jacob inspires us to get out there and find our stoke. If you’re in the market for a custom surfboard, look no further than Jive Surf. Tell ’em Toad sent ya.
There’s a reason National Parks are called America’s best idea. Setting aside vast expanses of pristine land for timeless preservation provides a refuge for millions of Americans to experience the outdoors and press the reset buttons on their busy lives. So many people are now flocking to the National Parks that 2015 saw a whopping 307 million visitors, almost on par with the entire US population.
A few of the bigger parks in the West, namely Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion, Rocky Mountain, and the Grand Canyon saw a combined total of 21.5 million visits last year. With these thronging crowds, it’s often hard to find the solitude that most of us expect when we visit these preserved places.
Fortunately, there are plenty of parks to share (and spread out) the love. The following national parks and monuments saw only 1.4 million visits combined in 2015. Here’s a guide to six underrated national parks and monuments in the West, where adventure and solitude await.
1. GREAT BASIN NATIONAL PARK, NEVADA
Mountains in eastern Nevada’s oft-overlooked Great Basin National Park. Frank Kovalcheck
Tucked in the easternmost part of Nevada, this lesser-known gem rises abruptly on the edge of the Great Basin Desert. Its remote location means it is certified as an International Dark Sky Park, and most observers are able to see the Milky Way with the naked eye. The park is well-known among astronomers as one of the best stargazing sites in the world and offers events like full moon hikes and the Astronomy Festival held every September.
Here you’ll find playas, mountains, fossils, rock formations, caves, creeks, springs, and Nevada’s lone glacier underneath the cirque of Wheeler Peak, Nevada’s tallest mountain (13,065’). Chose to explore one of three ancient bristlecone pine groves, take a tour of Lehman Caves, or discover pictographs from Fremont Indians.
True to its name, Craters of the Moon National Monument feels eerily similar to a barren moonscape, or at least, what we imagine a barren moonscape to be. Featuring seemingly frozen-in-time lava flows and jet black volcanic cinder cones, this park’s relatively young geologic features are sure to awaken your inner geologist.
For those hitting up the popular park circuit, Craters of the Moon lies on the route from Yellowstone down to Yosemite. The park can be seen in as little as 30 minutes by way of the scenic loop, but why sell yourself short? We recommend shacking up at Lava Flows Campground and giving yourself time to hike the 3.5 mile North Crater Trail and climb a cinder cone or two.
3. WHITE SANDS NATIONAL MONUMENT, NEW MEXICO
Hiking in the New Mexico’s White Sands National Monument. Miguel Vieira
This other-worldly landscape, tucked in the unassuming Tularosa Basin near Las Cruces, is filled with 275 square miles of pure-white, rippled sand dunes. It’s an oasis in the Chihuahuan desert that was formed by gypsum rich soils slowly being deposited at the bottom of the basin from years of runoff and erosion. Visitors to White Sands can bike the roads, hike the dunes, picnic, and even sled the steep slopes.
Adventurous souls can also camp right on the dunes by planning a once-in-a-lifetime overnight backpacking trip. From your quiet backcountry camp you might catch a glimpse of the local nightlife, like desert bobcats, badgers, coyotes, and porcupines that wander from dune to dune.
4. ORGAN MOUNTAINS-DESERT PEAKS NATIONAL MONUMENT, NEW MEXICO
The Organ Mountains outside of Las Cruces erupt from the desert floor in a stunning fashion comparable to the jagged Tetons of Wyoming. Score an epic campsite in the Aguirre Spring Campground with views of the towering craggy peaks above and plan for a full day of exploring this 496,000 acre park.
Those looking for a mellow outing packed with wildlife sightings can hike the two mile Dripping Springs trail to the historic (now abandoned) resort and sanitorium tucked in the valley. Ambitious and experienced hikers can set aside their day to hike up and over the Organ Mountains on the roughly 12 mile out and back Baylor Pass Trail.
5. BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON NATIONAL PARK, COLORADO
Admiring the incredibly steep canyon walls of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Jake Wheeler
Standing at the Chasm View on the rim of the Black Canyon, looking down the shadowed wall of cliffs dropping 1,800 feet into the stormy waters of the Gunnison River, it’s hard not to feel a little overwhelmed at the thought of your own insignificance. Yet, the sounds of canyon wrens calling, the little white-throated swifts twirling and spinning through the updrift of the canyon winds, and the feeling that you can stay at the viewpoint as long as you desire, is grounding in the way only a place with no crowds (a rare thing in Colorado) and no lines can grant.
Easy nature trails ringing the rim of the canyon highlight the park’s wildlife including mule deer, peregrine falcons, and great horned owls. Advanced rock climbers will enjoy the 140 routes throughout the park, all of which are rated 5.8 or above. When the day is done, camp in one of the three campground loops on the rim of the canyon or take the plunging drive into the canyon bottom for an amazing camping experience alongside the Gunnison at the East Portal Campground.
6. GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK, TEXAS
Hard to believe you can find this landscape in Texas. Dustin Ground
Home to the tallest point in Texas and boasting three distinct ecosystems in this single park, you’ll be amazed at how much diversity you’ll see in one hike in the Guadalupe Mountains. Backpackers will love the 10 backcountry camping destinations, ranging from 4.2 to 9.2-mile long trails that weave through cacti, ponderosa pine, and wild rose and feature breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and El Capitan (8,064’).
For day hikes, climb to the top of Texas on the 8.5-mile route to Guadalupe Peak (8,751’). Enjoy fall colors on McKittrick Canyon Trail as you pass the historic Pratt Cabin and the scenic grotto formation. Or find a desert oasis, pool, and waterfall in Smith Spring, just a 2.3 mile hike from Frijole Ranch Trailhead.
TAKE THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED, IN STYLE
The goal of hitting these lesser known National Parks and Monuments is to see fewer people, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to look stylish. Besides, technically savvy clothing that looks good is fun to wear. Versatility is key for the road less traveled – for the ladies we recommend the Totem Anorak over the Lean Layering Tank paired with the Timehop Light Tight.
We know there’s nothing more important for dudes than being comfortable. With that in mind, we created Wingman Denim jeans, which call on durable, stretchy organic cotton for the perfect fit. Throw on the Ventilair Shirt and you’ve got a comfortable, versatile outfit for exploring National Parks and whatever else comes your way.
For optimal health, the latest research keeps pointing us in the same direction: outdoors!
“Time spent in nature may also improve social bonding and reduce social violence, stimulate learning and creativity, strengthen the conservation ethic, and even help raise standardized test scores,” says Richard Louv, author of Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life
We’ve all felt that undeniable sense of peace that washes over you when you walk through a natural setting. The heart rate slows, the breath deepens, even the mind seems to slow its thoughts. We don’t need an expert to tell us that time spent outdoors makes us feel good. But how exactly does that peaceful feeling translate into wellness?
Mounting research shows spending anywhere from three minutes to three days surrounded by nature can benefit your health in a surprising number of ways. Even the simple act of walking through a local park instead of along a city street significantly slows the flow of blood in the prefrontal cortex, the command center of the brain, according to a 2015 study. (Translation: Quieter brain, happier mood.)
Other studies have found that same nature walk also can decrease the amount of the stress hormone cortisol. Just moving your workout from the gym to the outdoors gives you greater feelings of enjoyment, satisfaction and engagement, making it more likely you’ll repeat the activity, says a 2017 paper published in the Health & Place International Journal.
For those who struggle with sleep disorders, spending a weekend camping in the wilderness exposed to lots of natural light during the day and less artificial light at night can restore disrupted circadian rhythms associated with insomnia, reduced cognitive performance, mood disorders, diabetes, and obesity, according to more recent research. Spending as little as two days camping in a remote area was enough to reset participants’ internal clocks so they slept better once they returned home.
The effect on school-aged children and young adults may be among the most impressive connections between nature and wellness. Research from the University of Utah found subjects scored 50 percent better on creativity tests after spending several days in nature disconnected from devices.
Kids today spend more time indoors and on screens than ever before in human history, which means they’re spending a lot less time outdoors. Coining the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” to explain the increasing loss of connection to nature as a chronic condition that results in emotional and behavioral problems in kids, award-winning author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv says the cure is to turn off the screens and play outdoors, hike, fish, or camp. “The evidence indicates that experiences in the natural world may reduce the symptoms of Attention Deficit & Hyperactivity Disorder, serve as a buffer to depression and anxiety, help prevent or reduce obesity, boost the immune system, and offer many other psychological and physical health benefits,” he says.
In his most recent book, Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life, Louv offers practical advice on how to get the most health benefits from nature. “Outdoor play of any sort is preferred to a sedentary lifestyle, but the quality of the nature experience depends on how direct the experience with nature is. Are kids getting their hands wet and their feet muddy? Are they experiencing nature directly? These types of activities can help kids learn to have confidence in themselves and power to make independent decisions,” he says. “One reason for this is the risk-taking inherent in outdoor play, which plays an important role in child development.”
Spending more time outside being active may seem difficult, but it’s more attainable than you think! Start with something small. Consider eating your lunch at work outside, rather than inside or at your desk. If possible, take a short walk after your meal and before returning to your desk. After work, a walk or jog can help clear the mind and decrease some of the stress from your day. If that doesn’t sound appealing, simply laying down your yoga mat outside and going through a few poses can decrease the amount of the stress hormone cortisol. When the weekend rolls around, or if you have a free day during the week, spending more time outside will only increase the health benefits. The more time you spend outside, the happier your body (and brain) will be! And if you are still inside looking for some inspiration to get out there, check out these documentaries for that extra boost!
And if you need any more convincing of why it is beneficial to spend time outside being active, take a spin through Ben Klasky’s TED Talk below. Although his talk is focused on the benefits of the outdoors in children’s lives, the same benefits apply to adults! See you out there.