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Outdoor Tech’s Guide to Electronic Recycling

Many of us are familiar with recycling. You likely do it daily with plastic bottles, cans, or boxes. But how often do you recycle your electronics? 

When an electronic item of ours dies, the natural response is to replace it. If and when you choose to replace your worn out electronic item, what do you do with the old one? It can be tempting to simply throw it in the trash bin or set it out on the curb — out of sight, out of mind, right?

As a part of the outdoor industry, we are responsible for protecting and preserving the outdoor spaces we love. When producing electronic products, having ethical and sustainable sourcing of materials is part of the process. The product afterlife is also a big part of waste mitigation and sustainable product production. 

Everything we produce and buy has an impact on our planet. So, if we can lessen that impact by turning our waste into something new, we are moving in the right direction. 

Without proper recycling and disposal practices, electronic components like batteries, plastics, and other mechanisms can heavily burden the environment.

Basics on how to recycle electronics

First things first, never throw your electronics in the trash. 

Most people don’t realize that if electronic waste makes it to the right place, almost 100% of it is recyclable. The materials in electronics – plastics, glass, copper, silver, metal, and other resources – can be recovered, repurposed, and reused. 

The EPA estimates that only about 12% of electronic items are recycled properly, although most e-waste is recyclable. Why aren’t we reusing electronics if companies built them using so many reusable materials?

The simple answer is that electronic recycling is not always easily accessible. Also, e-waste recycling isn’t often done properly, and it isn’t always affordable for companies to use recycled materials. 

As a consumer, we urge you to get to know your local recycling programs so you can be a part of the solution. The more you know about where to recycle e-waste, the more likely those electronic items will be reused. The first step is getting them to the right place. 

3 ways to recycle electronics 

Before we jump right into how to recycle electronics, remember that sometimes broken things are fixable. If an electronic device stops working and there is no visible damage, there could be something wrong that you’re unaware of. Take a moment to look up electronic repair shops in your area before you decide to get rid of a device. 

Try one of the following three ways to recycle electronics if your device cannot be repaired.

1.   Find a tech company that recycles e-waste

While pop up recycling programs are becoming more common, most of them are only located in major cities. However, most tech companies will accept e-waste and recycle it for you. 

You can go to most chain locations of these tech companies and have them recycle many e-waste items: 

  • Apple
  • Best Buy 
  • Dell
  • HP
  • Gateway 
  • LG
  • Samsung
  • Sony
  • Staples
  • Verizon

This list is not all-inclusive for tech companies that recycle items. In fact, most tech companies offer product recycling programs as long as it is one of their electronics. For example, companies that produce a specific product, like Verizon, will only accept e-waste related to cell phones. If you have an HP computer, you should bring it to HP for recycling. 

General locations like Best Buy or Staples offer a wide range of tech trade-ins, general electronic recycling, and haul-away e-waste recycling. 

2. Locate an e-steward or e-recycling program near you 

Most e-waste recycling is either municipal, private, or national. 

Suppose you live in an area that has a general municipal e-recycling program. Find out if they recycle electronics in the United States or if they export to developing countries where e-waste is put into landfills. 

To ensure that the recycling program does not export electronics to other countries, use an e-steward program. All e-steward programs have strict standards for electronic recycling and will accept most items.  

When using a generalized e-waste recycling program, it is important to look into how they actually are processing these items. If they are only taking parts of the electronic and throwing the rest away, it may not be the best option available. 

3. Donate old electronics that still work 

Sometimes when we replace an electronic item, it isn’t broken; we just need an upgrade. If that is the case, then consider donating them to charities. There are various charities that collect and distribute electronics to underprivileged communities to help individuals and families that cannot afford them. 

You may be able to find some local charities or a local school that is in need of electronics. If you can’t find one locally, then look to national or global organizations. 

Even if your device isn’t entirely functional, if it can be repaired, many programs will still accept the donation. Plus, when donating an electronic to a charity, you can most often add that as a tax write off for that year. 

Invest in electronics that are built to last

One of the best ways to help out the planet is to reduce consumption. While we can’t eliminate everything we buy, we can choose to buy high-quality products that are built to last. That’s why we design durable and long-lasting electronics that can be used in outdoor settings at Outdoor Tech.

Not everything will last forever, but we were able to create products like the Turtle Shell 3.0 Speaker that is waterproof and shockproof. As with most outdoor equipment, when investing in electronics, quality should always be the top priority. Even if you spend a little more money upfront, you will be saving time and money in the long-run because they last longer. 

When shopping for electronics and outdoor gear, look into whether a company provides a warranty for repairs or returns. Some companies also have specific programs to ensure consumers are taking responsibility for the afterlife of their products.

Beginner’s Guide to Backcountry Hiking

Going out for a hike can span the time of a few hours, an entire day, or even days, weeks, and months. While hiking and backpacking are two different disciplines to prepare for, they do have many similarities. Getting off crowded metropolitan hikes and popular AllTrails picks can be both scary and extremely rewarding. Venturing into the backcountry should be built up to and takes a bit more planning than hikes you may be used to. 

As a beginner’s guide to backcountry hiking, we will be focusing specifically on hikes that can be completed in one day and require no overnights on the trail. Our goal is to give you the knowledge and reference points you need to feel confident, safe, and prepared on your upcoming backcountry hike. 

Take a Hike

Have Proper Hiking Equipment

Since you are only planning for a day hike, you will not need too much in the way of gear. While it may not seem like you need all of these things, keep in mind that you will be miles away from any roads and even further from any cities. You may not even have cell phone service for the majority of the day. So, you will need to be prepared and bring the necessary supplies. 

The most important things to bring with you when you are hiking in the backcountry include: 

  • Lightweight Daypack → If you don’t already have one, you will want to invest in a daypack that is intended for hiking. These packs are designed to be comfortable and have easy access compartments for organization of supplies. Many daypacks also come equipped with a hydration system. 
  • Hydration System and Snacks → Water is of the most essential things you will need in the backcountry. Water will also be the heaviest thing you carry, but that doesn’t mean to skimp out. Bring more than you think you need the first time you head into the backcountry. Don’t forget to pack a few trail snacks and maybe lunch if it is a long hike. 
  • Reliable Hiking Boots → The style of hiking shoes you wear will be up to you. Some hikers prefer to wear trail running shoes, while others like to have the classic ankle support high tops. Just be sure that your hiking shoes are broken in properly and have little chance of giving you blisters. Comfortable footwear is the key to an enjoyable hike! 
  • Map of Area, Guidebook, or GPS → Most hiking areas will have hard copies of maps and guidebooks, but you can also opt to download maps onto your phone. Better yet, you can take a backcountry GPS with you. If you go the digital route, keep in mind that your battery will not last forever. So, if you download maps on your phone, consider bringing a portable power bank as well. 
  • First Aid Kit → You may think that this is an unnecessary weight to carry, but better safe than sorry in the backcountry. This kit doesn’t need to be extreme, but it is good to have a few standard first aid supplies in case of an emergency on the trail. 

It can be tempting to kind of skimp on your first round of hiking gear and buy the cheapest options. While a limited budget may be a factor here, consider purchasing higher quality gear second hand or scoping out some discounts at retailers like REI to get higher quality, longer-lasting gear at a lower cost. 

Do Area Trail Research

Make sure you take time to get to know the area before you wander into the woods to get lost! This can be done in a variety of ways. You can go to old school techniques and talk to people from the area that may know the trail systems well. This can also include consulting park rangers and BLM land managers. Oftentimes, this is the most reliable way to go about things, because they will have access to the most recent trail conditions. 

Another common way of researching backcountry trails is to check out websites like All Trails, Hiking Project, and Summit Post. AllTrails can be especially helpful as you can download the app on your phone to have access to downloaded area maps when you’re hiking. 

If those maps aren’t detailed enough, you should invest in a digital or hard copy topographic map of the area. You can find these online and at many outdoor retail stores. 

Beyond knowing where you are going, you should be researching the area’s climate, wildlife, and plants. Look into the weather ahead of time to be sure that you pack accordingly. If you are hiking in a mountainous area, check for afternoon storms. Being aware of area wildlife and plant life will let you know if there are any dangerous animals or poisonous plants to avoid.

Prepare Physically for the Hike

If you are an avid hiker on familiar city trails or low key hiking trails close to town, then you are likely already in relatively good physical condition. Part of researching the area you will be hiking will include knowing the terrain to expect. 

If you are going to be hiking in a notoriously hilly area or a drastically different altitude than you are accustomed to, then you should prepare before attempting the hike. While you may be mentally ready, not being physically fit in the backcountry can be a serious danger. 

As you ramp up to your first backcountry hike, try to fit extra cardio and hiking time into your schedule. Get your legs ready at the gym by utilizing the stair stepper and doing squats. Building up your stamina and strength, will make a difference in safety, as well as how much you enjoy the hike overall. 

Leave No Trace

As you go out into the wilderness to enjoy the solitude and beauty, remember that we are sharing this Earth with other living plants and animals as well. One of the most important things you can take away from this article is to learn the Leave No Trace principles. Keep our wild places wild as we protect our outdoor spaces together! 

What Are True Wireless Earbuds?

True Wireless earbuds, sometimes referred to as TWS earbuds are earbuds with no wires anywhere. None, zip, zero, zilch. Isn’t that convenient?

Traditional Bluetooth earbuds have a wire that connects the left channel with the right channel. True Wireless earbuds use a Bluetooth connection to connect the right channel with the left channel. The Bluetooth connection in True Wireless earbuds eliminates the need for a wire to connect each earbud together.

Bluetooth Earbuds Explained
Traditional Bluetooth Earbuds

It’s important to note that while True Wireless earbuds do use Bluetooth to connect to each other, there is only one Bluetooth connection to the device that streams the audio. The way it works is that one of the earbuds is set as the parent earbud. That is the earbud that connects with the Bluetooth device (phone, tablet, etc.). Then the other earbud is the child so that one connects to the parent. Get it? Good!

True Wireless Earbuds Explained
True Wireless Earbuds

One of the best features of True Wireless earbuds is the ability/option to only use one earbud while streaming audio from your phone, computer, or other Bluetooth devices. When only listening to one earbud, the audio switches to mono mode. So both the right channel and left channel of the audio are combined so you don’t miss out on any stereo-mixed music. The ability to use one earbud in a set of True Wireless earbuds also makes it safer when riding a bike, running, or any other activity where you need to pay attention to your surroundings. Different states and areas have laws about diving with earbuds. Using one earbud may be legal in your area, you should check on that. This is a newer technology so don’t be surprised if the laws change rapidly.

I hope this helps you figure out the difference between wireless and true wireless Bluetooth connections. If you think I left anything out or if you want any more info, just leave a comment and I’ll try to help.

What is a Power Bank?

power bank splash
Kodiak Plus Ultra – Waterproof Power Bank

A power bank has many different names; a portable charger, backup battery, battery pack, and sometimes they have been called mobile electrical storage receptacle. Okay so maybe you haven’t run into anyone calling a power bank a mobile electrical storage receptacle but you never know, I’ve heard some pretty strange things in my day.

  • What is a power bank? It’s a battery that you can charge your stuff with.
  • What kind of stuff can a backup battery charge? A cell phone, GoPro, and other small electronics.
  • Are power banks rechargeable? Usually, a power bank is rechargeable.
  • What do I do when my portable charger is out of batteries? You can plug it in and charge it up again?
  • How long will a backup battery last? It depends on the capacity (size of the battery). Usually, you can get a few cell phone charges out of a power bank.

It seems like you have a lot of questions about power banks and portable power in general. You should probably take a look at a power bank that we make.

If you are looking for the best portable charger well you are in luck because we actually make some of those. Yeah, I don’t want to brag but our power banks are rugged, waterproof, and don’t look lame. We call them the Kodiaks. They have some pretty rad features. QuickCharge, USB C, Flashlight, and more; just click on that link above to see all the StuffYouProbablyWant.

Or, you can look at this picture of a goat. I call him Mr. Wavy Ice, it suits him.

Mr. Wavy Ice

There is a funny story about Mr. Wavy Ice but due to legal ramifications, I can’t go into it. Let’s just say that Mr Wavy it no longer allowed at Red Robin.

Music Makes You A Better Athlete. Science Says So.

Music is a blissful thing, isn’t it? It picks us up when we’re feeling down, adds excitement to our favorite movie scenes, helps us in our bedroom activities…and it turns out music can actually make us better athletes, too.

Some professional runners are already aware of this—race organizers have been banning iPods and other musical devices for years in an effort to assuage what many believe to be a competitive edge. That’s right, music is so great at increasing a person’s athletic abilities that it’s been banned so people rocking out on a run won’t ‘unfairly’ win.

Costas Karageorghis, an expert on the psychology of exercise music at Brunel University, once claimed that music is a “type of legal performance-enhancing drug.” You don’t even need a bowl to get high with this one, just a good pair of bluetooth headphones.

The More Beats the Better
Researchers at the John Moores University discovered that increasing the tempo of music during a cycling session can boost a person’s power output by 3.5%. It turns out “Eye of the Tiger” really is an effective performance enhancer, after all. On the other hand, when they slowed down the tempo performance actually decreased. If you’ve been spending time on the treadmill rocking out to the “My Heart Will Go On” there’s probably a reason you still haven’t lost that extra weight from last Christmas even though it’s well into September.

Another study at Lincoln University in England found that any music might be better than no music at all. Researchers there established that subjects performing endurance tests while listening to their preferred motivational music outperformed those simply listening to white noise.

Meanwhile, more recent studies seem to indicate that, while some apps and trainers suggest choosing songs with average beats per minute between 160 and 180, the true ceiling for performance enhancement rests somewhere around 145 bpm.

Synchronize Your Grooves
The key is allowing your body to flow naturally with the beat of the song. When you synchronize, your body is able to use energy more efficiently than when it’s trying to work against the beat. A study conduced in 2012 found that cyclists who pedaled in sync with the tempo of a song used 7 percent less oxygen than those who didn’t synchronize with background music.

It’s also helpful to listen to your favorite songs when you’re performing routine or boring tasks. Music increases electrical activity in the brain in areas that control movement so we’ll move in time with the beat and at a faster pace. The music increases our movement, which also helps to increase our mood. You know they say time flies when you’re having fun, which is why you might find that performing chores or running long distances while rocking out to Kanye seems to go by faster than when you have no music at all.

So, you see, music is essential to performing your best and it’s important that you find an excellent conduit through which to listen to it.

Now Get Yourself In the Groove
If you need a little inspiration on what songs might help you push through that plateau in your training sesh, here are a few tracks proven to help increase power. There’s no Taylor Swift or Imagine Dragons on there, but we won’t judge too hard if you want to sneak them into your playlist. The Biebs is unacceptable, though.

If you need help finding the proper phones for the job, might we recommend these bad boys? They’re wireless (which means no tangling), sweat resistant, and they fit so snuggly inside your ear you can blast your music to decibels incredibly loud and no one will notice while you try to “Shake it Off.” They also look pretty kickass. Plus, the sound quality is pretty hard to beat. That music will probably boost your skills a lot better if it’s loud and clear. Just sayin’…

Water Proof, Water Resistant, and IPX – What Does It All Mean?

A lot of the Bluetooth stuff we make is water resistant and some are even fully waterproof, obviously, you are stoked on that. This means that if you are playing in the snow, the sprinklers, the bath-house, in the middle of a super-soaker fight, or all male wet t-shirt contest with some of the rad speakers or power banks we make, it’s gonna be fine. But hold on kiddies, water resistant is different than waterproof. There are different “levels” of water resistance that are standard. This standard is referred to as IPX, kinda.

And now, a picture that represents flowing liquid.

waterproof speaker

If something has a water only rating (whether 4, 5, or 6) you write it as IPX5. The X acts as a placeholder since there is not a particle (or dust rating). If something has a dust rating of 6 (dustproof) and a water rating of 5, you write it as IP65. In the rare instance that the dust and water rating are the same (let’s say 6), you write it as IP6. This isn’t used nearly as often as the other two models.

Here is a breakdown of the IP standard as it relates to water proof and water resistant:

IPX0 – This means it’s not water resistant at all. Think of what happens to paper when it gets wet. It’s a mess and your novella is ruined.

IPX1 – This will protect a device from some water drops that are falling vertically on said device. I guess it’s possible for this situation to actually occur but so is winning the lottery. If you or someone you know has won the lottery, sharing is caring.

IPX2 –  This will protect your thingy from some water drops when the device is tilted up to and including 15°. If you have your device at 16°, you are screwed, sorry but there are limits in the world.

IPX3 – Getting better, you can now spray your gear up to 60° from the top of the device. So that’s cool, I guess.

IPX4 – Now we are getting somewhere. This will keep “yo ish chill” from splashing water from any direction. So if you drop some cubes of ice into you scotch and it splashes, there is no need to worry. Well, except for those drops of scotch that didn’t make it into your tummy.

IPX5 – (this is where the super soaker is allowed). Will protect your stuff from water jets at any direction. Spray away kiddo, spray away.

IPX6 – Protects from powerful water jets. So if you modified your super soaker with an air compressor and an aftermarket tip, your stuff is still safe. In reality, IPX6 is basically waterproof.

Everything after this is now waterproof.

IPX7 – Full splashdown accepted captain. If you drop your device in water up to 3 feet (1 meter but this is ‘Merica and we don’t do the metric system. USA USA USA) your device is still going to work.

IPX8 – You can protect your device in water over 3 feet. This is for your stuff at the bottom of a pool, lake, or even a super deep public hot tub. What’s up with that one couple that never gets out of the hot tub?

In a very strange, completely unplanned, and non-thought-out coincidence, here is a list of some of our products and their IP rating.

The Turtle Shell 3.0 is a waterproof Bluetooth speaker has an IPX7 waterproof rating.

The Mantas are True Wireless Earbuds and they have an IPX5 waterproof rating.

The science has been dropped and knowledge has been performed. Everyone is actually smarter for having read this. You can thank me by sharing on Facebook, tweeting on Twitter, puffing with Smoke Signals, tapping on the Telegraph or discussing during your drum circle.