Outdoor Eye and Skin Safety

Spring kicks off the year of warm weather outdoor activities ahead like camping, fishing, and hiking. Flowers and greenery are in bloom and the sun shines brightly. Although getting ample time outdoors is great for our physical and mental health, we have to be sure to take care of our eyes and skin when outside for extended periods of time. The sun emits many harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays that are damaging to our body when we don’t protect against them.

Wear UV-blocking sunglasses

Sunglasses are an obvious choice when considering ways to keep your eyes protected from the sun, but not all shades are created equal. Be sure to checkout sunglasses that are equipped with 100% UVA and UVB protection. That way you know you’ll be protected from the sun’s harmful rays and don’t have to question or risk your health while outside. Polarized sunglasses are another useful option for people who will be in the sun but don’t want to be bothered by glare or scratches on their lenses while adventuring outdoors.

Pack protective clothing

Wearing clothes that have an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) are always good to keep on hand for days out in the sun. Clothing like this helps keep you protected from the sun, usually helps wick sweat away, and is just as effective as sunscreen. Look into buying pants and long sleeve t-shirts from your local sporting goods store.

Hats with wide brims are great to protect your eyes and face from the sun. Keeping your face in shade allows for a small amount of sun protection alone. Luckily, there are so many hats on the market that have large brims, UV protection, and are made of comfortable fabrics.

Check out blue light filtering glasses

Everyone is very familiar with blue light blocking glasses with the rising concern of digital eye strain. However, before artificial blue light, like that from digital devices, became a mainstream concern, natural blue light was a huge concern for people who spend a lot of time outdoors. Natural blue light is the light that is emitted from the sun and makes the sky look blue. Many fishermen have utilized eyeglasses that have blue light blocking lenses for years. These types of glasses are a practical option for people who want extra protection when the sky is mostly overcast and sunglasses feel too dark.

No matter the outdoor activity you love to do, be sure to protect your eyes and skin. The sun and blue light have been linked to cataracts and macular degeneration on the eyes. Cataracts are when your vision becomes clouded and macular degeneration is a condition affecting the central part of the retina and resulting in distortion or loss of central vision. The sun can burn the skin or even cause melanoma with long periods of exposure. These are all very serious conditions and can have life-changing effects. If you want to spend time outside this spring then be sure to plan ahead to protect your eyes and skin!


Why Go Outside?

Is there anything better than being in the outdoors? The beautiful landscapes, the unlimited amount of activities, the pure feeling of excitement and peace and connection… it’s the perfect way to spend a day. And it’s such a simple thing to do — you can have the fanciest, most expensive gear or nothing but dirty hands and bare feet to take part. Nature should be for everyone, and it is increasingly becoming the place for those looking for employment.  

It’s no surprise that more people are flocking to this burgeoning industry, and it’s not just to work in their happy place (although that doesn’t hurt). The government recently put the outdoor industry size at $373 billion. There has been a steady increase in the past three years of all demographics participating in an outdoor activity, many for the first time. In their 2018 Outdoor Participation Report, the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) reported that forty-nine percent of the population aged 6 and over spent time outside!

In a world that is increasingly driven by technology and where adolescents are more likely to play video games with their friends than ride bikes with them, this is a positive statistic. The OIA also reported that adults who were introduced to the outdoors as children are more likely to participate in adulthood. This means one thing: get outside early, and get outside often! Kids more involved in outdoor activities reap many benefits, including higher motor skills like balance and coordination; a more robust immune system; higher levels of vitamin D; a respect for nature; and so much more. As a kid raised in the mountains and the trees, I can confirm the positive impacts of nature on my own childhood, at least. It helped to boost my confidence levels by feeling competent, and it gave me opportunities for physical activity when I only held a passing interest in more traditional sports. The outdoor world impacted me so much that I make my living writing about it and working for a non-profit dedicated to it. Give kids a chance to experience nature, whether it’s a walk in your tiny neighborhood park or a five-day rafting trip down the Colorado. It will open their eyes to some of the Earth’s truly beautiful creations, and maybe it will even ignite enough passion in them to focus the rest of their lives on it.

The benefits are not limited to children, of course. Adults can get just as much good out of taking part in outdoor recreation. Walking in the forest has been proven to boost memory, and it’s a huge de-stressor. That wash of calm that comes over you in nature isn’t just a feeling; both heart rate and cortisol decrease compared to the rates while being in a city. Spending time outdoors has also been linked to lowering blood pressure, eliminating mental fatigue, and helping with anxiety and depression.

None of this is to say that you should cancel your doctor’s appointment, throw out your medication, and have a good roll in the leaves. But sometimes life in our overstimulating world can get, well, overstimulating. Being outside is like a little reset for your brain. The only thing that could ever get me through my college finals before the summer break was breaking out my hammock, hanging it up and just clearing my mind for a while. The humid New Orleans air would rock me gently while I looked up at ancient oaks and a beautiful blue sky. All of that coupled with the chirping of birds and cicadas would give me the mental refresh that I so needed to focus a little more, study a little extra, or right pages of my essays. Obviously this isn’t a groundbreaking discovery, but it almost felt like a magic trick. Even if I was just a couple hundred feet from my school and only a couple of feet from the bustle of drivers and the streetcar, that little slice of nature was like a magic eraser for my brain. Nature doesn’t have to be scary, or far away, or even be defined the same way by everyone. It could be the Andes or your backyard. It’s about what nature means to you, and that there are so many positive ways to be a part of it and benefits to get out of it. The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, instead of taking a Netflix break or procrastinating on Facebook, find a tree or a little patch of grass for yourself and take a deep breath. Take stock of the textures, sounds, and smells around you and let the breeze carry away your worries, if only for a moment.

Nature is many wonderful things. But like anything, it is not perfect. Access to the outdoors is, unfortunately, a privilege that many do not have. It takes money for gear and to be part of teams, access to transportation to green spaces, and time to dedicate to activities. Everyone deserves access to nature! For those of us who are able, it’s up to us to make sure that the rest of us can enjoy it as well.

Crafted By: Bess Turner

How to Encourage Your Family to Embrace Camping

For most families, camping is an amazing experience where many memories can be made. Surveys suggest that more than 15 million UK residents embark on a camping trip each year, hoping to be at one with nature and wake up to the crisp early morning air with birds tweeting.

However, some families haven't warmed to the idea of camping, preferring to spend their holidays in a luxury hotel instead. But when done right, camping can be a great experience for everyone as long as you ensure each family member is feeling comfortable and safe.

Select an Exotic Location

If you've only experienced camping in a rain when the temperature is bitterly cold, it's unsurprising that you or your family didn’t enjoy it. Broaden your travel horizons and don't limit yourself to only camping in local areas; why not travel overseas and camp in an exciting country where the weather is hot? 

Camping in the outback of New Zealand will be an unforgettable experience as you and your family can take in the beautiful and expansive landscape and immerse yourself in the culture of the country. You can pull up a tent or caravan for free at a lot of places in New Zealand but, according to Ben Groundwater at 1Cover, it's a common misconception that you can camp absolutely anywhere, so be considerate.

Plan Lots of Activities

It's a myth that families on camping holidays are left with nothing to do, as there is so much to explore in your chosen country, especially if you're going abroad. Adrenaline seekers can hit the water and try their hand at white water rafting or kayaking; if you find yourself in Italy, there are many canals and rivers in Venice for water sports. 

If you're looking for a more tranquil holiday, why not combine your camping holiday with a hiking trip and explore the national parks and mountainous regions in your country of choice? 


Make Camping a Learning Experience 

Treat camping as a learning experience so that each family member can come home feeling like they have accomplished something. Becoming a true back-to-basics camper can be an exciting challenge for any family, as you can learn how to start a fire from scratch or even put up a tent successfully.
 
Relax on the water and master the art of fishing; you could even have a competition with one another to see who can hook the biggest catch. A safari camping experience would be a true adventure and more educational for your children than a geography lesson in school.

Keep Their Stomachs Full

Food is the key to anyone's heart and if camping grub doesn't change your family's opinion on the matter, nothing will. While tinned beans and milky tea are the go-to camping food in England, each country and culture will have a different custom.

Whichever country you decide to visit, do your research beforehand and make sure to sample the foods they traditionally cook on the campfire. Smores are a popular American camping snack, consisting of melted chocolate and marshmallow sandwiched between two crackers – they're sure to be a crowd-pleaser for the kids. 

If you follow these tips, your family are sure to fall in love with camping and won't want to come home. Once your family has experienced all the best things that camping has to offer, you can make it an annual event which you can all look forward to.

 

An Ode to Camping

Do you really know a place until you’ve camped there? Sure, you’ve traveled the highways, you know the way to work and to home and to the best Thai food in the city. But do you know the scent that wafts off of the rustling trees with the breeze, or what the stars look like, really look like, without the haze of light pollution? You may feel like you know this place, but you have not yet met its soul.

The air itself comes to life in the woods. It’s no longer congested with cars and construction and generic bustle -- it sings with the birds and sails crispy leaves down its currents. It’s a different kind of highway here, one that is not a disruption from but a part of the environment. Everything fits together as it is supposed to, it seems, so much so that the feeling of the wind is equal to the beauty of a flower in bloom, which is in turn equal to the magnificence of the stalwart bear. In nature, everything feels special because it has been left to become all that it was supposed to be.

In camping, too, everything feels special. Who hasn’t delighted in that imperfectly roasted hot dog over the open flame, or found joy in brushing your teeth with a toothbrush in one hand, water bottle in the other? It’s like nature exerts a kind of magic over the mundane, making sleeping in a bag on the ground something that millions seek out each year. Is it because we yearn to be more at one with nature? Or is it because it draws attention to our separation from it? I can only suppose that the answer depends on who you ask.

We are what you would call an Outdoorsy Family. My mother, brother and I spend a lot of time hiking, paddling, and camping everywhere from the Tetons in Wyoming to Cloudland Canyon in Tennessee. One of my favorite childhood memories is camping at Lizard Creek in Grand Teton National Park -- hiking during the day, gasping for breath in the glacier waters in the afternoon and warding off mosquitos while eating what tasted like the most gourmet sandwiches and hot dogs around the fire in the evening. My brother Will made up stories that he illustrated in the dirt, and I made a doll with grassy hair and a tutu of Queen Anne’s lace. My grandfather showed us how to differentiate bird songs, Audubon bird guide in tow. When we woke up the next morning, Will and I found ourselves dumbfounded by what we discovered on the table outside of our tent. There was ice… in the summer. We pried the icicles off the table to look at the crystals in the morning sun. Will ate some, for posterity. Our fingers went numb. But we were so enamored with this simple act of nature, of the slowing of water molecules, that we, in turn, slowed down. And these simple, joyful memories have been with me ever since. Would we have taken the time to investigate a sliver of ice had we not decided to become a part of this environment and take part in nature? It’s hard to say for sure.

Camping and being in wild places, for us, is not just something to do on occasion or a whim. Especially in times of difficult transitions, we would turn to the wilderness for comfort. We found solace in the red rocks of Utah one summer, and with each national park that we explored we were transported further into an alien landscape on our own planet. The fragile arches, the crimson rubble, and the never-ending clear blue of the sky were nothing that I had ever experienced before. There was a mom and pop motel where a dog named Dammit roamed, a name that endlessly entertained my brother and me. I got my first taste of rowing, from a generous raft guide steering us down the rivers in Moab. We really learned what “It’s a dry heat” means. And we camped among the red rocks, feeling closer to each other and to nature than ever before. Maybe it’s the clarity of the desert, the lack of neon signs and commotion and people and even trees, but it was cleansing. In The Nature Fix, author Florence Williams writes, “One of the underappreciated benefits of venturing into remote landscapes is that we are often thrown into connecting with each other.” We could forget the problems that we were facing in the world of cellphones and streetlamps and simply be. There’s a lot to be said for that.

So in a word, yes. I believe that even for all the nylon and the prepackaged foods, camping is an act that can help us rediscover our roots, and embrace a more ancient part of our world. You don’t have to go far, and you don’t have to go for long. But maybe you’ll see something new -- in your world or in yourself.

Crafted By: Bess Turner