Skip to main content

Is the Australian bee the key to better outdoor gear?

Courtesy of Louise Docker via Flickr
Courtesy of Louise Docker via Flickr Image used with permission by copyright holder

Over the past few years there has been a significant push within the outdoor industry to design products that are better for the environment without sacrificing performance. Some companies, like Columbia Sportswear and Jack Wolfskin, have taken to using recycled fabrics, while also looking for ways to reduce the amount of water consumed during production. Others — such as Fjällräven — are focusing on removing harmful chemicals like fluorocarbons from their fibers too. But soon, a company called Humble Bee might show these gear manufacturers a completely new way to approach the challenges the come with protecting nature, by actually finding ways to mimic it instead.

Humble Bee is a New Zealand-based biotech startup that is focused on studying the habits of the Australian bee in an effort to find ways of improving the products we use while also eliminating our reliance on plastics and harmful chemicals. While versatile, cheap to produce, and durable, these martial can take thousands of years to decompose, leaving a long and lasting impact on the environment. Instead, the company is looking to nature to provide us with viable options that can offer the same level of performance we’ve come to expect from plastics, but in a form that is biodegradable and less destructive to the environment.

The Australian bee has been of particular interest to Humble Bee because it creates a nesting material that resembles a type of naturally occurring plastic in many ways. This “bioplastic” is not only waterproof, but it is also resistant to heat — including flames — and can repel most chemicals, too. If a method for mass producing the substance could be found, it might serve as a true replacement for a variety of types of plastics, including those used to create outdoor gear. The fibers could be used to create a waterproof jacket or build a better tent.

Veronica Harwood-Stevenson, the founder of Humble Bee, won the Bright Ideas Challenge sponsored by the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency and immediately invested the prize money into researching her idea. Her work showed that there is a great deal of promise in mimicking the materials created by the Australian bee, although the next challenge involves finding ways to mass-produce it on a scale large enough to have an impact on the outdoor industry.

“Outdoor apparel is definitely what we’re most interested in because of the chemicals being used and because chances are, if you like the environment, you don’t want the products you enjoy to be screwing up the environment,” Harwood-Stevenson told The Sydney Morning Herald.

Chemicals are often added to outdoor gear products to add a waterproof or dirt-resistant finish. Being able to re-create the bee’s natural fibers could eliminate the need for those chemicals, while also creating a material that is much more biodegradable at the same time. That solves a host of challenges that gear manufacturers face when creating more environmentally friendly products. Humble Bee still has some challenges to overcome before that can happen, but it is making progress toward those goals.

Editors' Recommendations

Kraig Becker
Kraig Becker is a freelance outdoor writer who loves to hike, camp, mountain bike, trail run, paddle, or just about any other…
I was wrong. E-bikes are so practical, they’re a transit cheat code
An Aventon Level 2 ebike sits outside a grocery store.

Confession: Despite loving both bikes and gadgets, e-bikes never excited me. Compared to my bicycle, e-bikes seemed unfair. Compared to my motorcycle, they seemed slow. Compared to my car, they seemed impractical.

But with $1,500 federal e-bike rebates potentially on the horizon at part of E-Bike Act, I decided it was past time to reconsider. Not just because 30% off would make them way more accessible, but because the entire idea that e-bikes could be worthy of a rebate changed the way I looked at them: less as toys, more as transit. Had I written off an entire way of getting around because I was looking at it the wrong way?

Read more
Upway launches one of the best marketplaces for certified e-bikes, new or not
Man holding ebike from Upway in a field, lifestyle image.

This content was produced in partnership with Upway.
It wasn't too long ago that e-bikes were a rare sight, but all of that has changed, and rightfully so. Electric bikes are all over the road these days, and there are many brands either venturing into the technology, to launch their own versions of the sustainable transportation option or reiterating existing and traditional designs. From Aventon to Schwinn, or RadPower to Momentum, with so many opportunities, the prevailing question is, where do you go to find the best deals and the best information about these brands and their e-bike models? The answer is Upway, the number one certified electric bike provider and an official partner to many of the aforementioned brands.

What is Upway, exactly? It's a marketplace, specializing in e-bikes, featuring an inventory that's sourced from some of the best brands in the world. There are American brands -- like Specialized, Cannondale, and RadPower -- and European brands -- like Riese, Muller, and VanMoof. The best part is the discounts, offering up to 60% off retail, for a plethora of brands. Upway is on a mission to make sustainable mobility affordable for everyone. It's also one of the best places to go for a new or pre-owned e-bike, and here's why:

Read more
EcoFlow launches Delta 2 Max solar generator for home emergencies and outdoor adventures
ecoflow's delta max portable power station on a table

EcoFlow, a manufacturer of portable energy solutions, has announced the launch of the Delta 2 Max -- an eco-friendly solar generator that could replace your current gas generator. The device clocks in at 2,048 watts and should deliver enough power to keep your home running for two days as an emergency backup (or many more if you’re using it as an off-grid power source).

The original Delta Max was a popular item for outdoor adventures, as it could connect to the existing lineup of portable EcoFlow solar panels to juice up gadgets while out in the backcountry. That legacy continues with the Delta 2 Max, which features an upgraded lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery for a longer life cycle and faster charging.

Read more