How to Stay Well-Powered (Even When You're Off the Grid)

Whether you’re a seasoned camping veteran, a city slicker looking to reconnect with nature, or at a music festival hoping to keep your smartphone juiced all weekend, it can be tough navigating the big wide world of outdoor gear.

A company called BioLite aims to cover you on all fronts. Their mission to bring "energy everywhere" is focused on developing areas around the world, but their new line of products is targeted at the technologically savvy who want to stay powered during outdoor excursions. Their PowerLight Mini—one of three recent rollouts—is a card-sized portable 135-lumen lantern and power bank with a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 52 hours when used as a light. (For less outdoorsy types, you can use it to add a boost to your phone's battery—gotta keep those tweets flowing.)

Meanwhile, the SolarPanel 5+ is exactly what it sounds like: a personal solar panel that lets you charge your devices with the almighty power of the sun. The device even has a sundial to take the guesswork out of finding a good spot to set up. “Propping a panel up on rocks just doesn’t cut it,” BioLite CEO Jonathan Cedar said in a press release. “When you’re not directly aligned to the sun, you can miss out on up to 30 percent of the watts your panel could be producing.” 

Finally, the CookStove is a “streamlined version” of BioLite's flagship CampStove. The device uses combustion technology to provide a smokeless fire fueled by sticks, twigs, or pellets. The rechargeable battery inside keeps the fan spinning for up to 30 hours on a single charge, and there are four fan settings that control the intensity of the flame. Check out the video below to learn more about the features of the stove and how it works.

All images via BioLite.

Air Quality in American National Parks and Big Cities Is Roughly the Same

National parks usually have more vegetation, wildlife, and open spaces than urban areas, but the two don't look much different when it comes to air quality. As City Lab reports, a new study published in Science Advances found that U.S. national parks and the nation's largest cities have comparable ozone levels.

For their research, scientists from Iowa State University and Cornell University looked at air pollution data collected over 24 years from 33 national parks and the 20 most populous metro areas in the U.S. Their results show that average ozone concentrations were "statistically indistinguishable" between the two groups from 1990 to 2014.

On their own, the statistics look grim for America's protected areas, but they're actually a sign that environmental protection measures are working. Prior to the 1990s, major cities had higher ozone concentrations than national parks. At the start of the decade, the federal government passed the Clean Air Act (CAA) Amendments in an effort to fight urban air pollution, and ozone levels have been declining ever since.

The average ozone in national parks did increase in the 1990s, but then in 1999 the EPA enacted the Regional Haze Rule, which specifically aims to improve air quality and visibility in national parks. Ozone levels in national parks are now back to the levels they were at in 1990.

Ground-level ozone doesn't just make America's national parks harder to see: It can also damage plants and make it difficult for human visitors to breathe. Vehicles, especially gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs, are some of the biggest producers of the pollutant.

[h/t City Lab]

Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
How a Hairdresser Found a Way to Fight Oil Spills With Hair Clippings
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images

The Exxon Valdez oil tanker made global news in 1989 when it dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into the waters off Alaska's coast. As experts were figuring out the best ways to handle the ecological disaster, a hairdresser from Alabama named Phil McCroy was tinkering with ideas of his own. His solution, a stocking stuffed with hair clippings, was an early version of a clean-up method that's used at real oil spill sites today, according to Vox.

Hair booms are sock-like tubes stuffed with recycled hair, fur, and wool clippings. Hair naturally soaks up oil; most of the time it's sebum, an oil secreted from our sebaceous glands, but it will attract crude oil as well. When hair booms are dragged through waters slicked with oil, they sop up all of that pollution in a way that's gentle on the environment.

The same properties that make hair a great clean-up tool at spills are also what make animals vulnerable. Marine life that depends on clean fur to stay warm can die if their coats are stained with oil that's hard to wash off. Footage of an otter covered in oil was actually what inspired Phil McCroy to come up with his hair-based invention.

Check out the full story from Vox in the video below.

[h/t Vox]


More from mental floss studios