GlyphGuy Backpacks: Connecting Children with Nature

GlyphGuy Backpacks was about children connecting with nature. Created by Mark Hougardy this garage-based company produced over 10,000 backpacks between 2002 to 2012. A quarter of this number directly supported the National Park Service’s Junior Ranger program. Half of the total number helped nature centers and the US Forest Service with solidly-made backpacks for their outreach and education services. The remainder were for parents and families.

Even though GlyphGuy Backpacks has since walked into the sunset, what is important is that we helped plant seeds with a younger generation about the importance of exploring and conversation. It is my hope that those seeds flourish, and someday, possibly, a few grow to become giants.

Enjoy some of our memories…

A GlyphGuy Hiker on a Subaru!
A shipment of GlyphGuy Backpacks.
One of the original protoype “Alpine” models. After ten years it was still going strong.
An adventurous three-year-old walking into the green unknown with her GlyphGuy pack. The photo was taken 2003.
Exhibiting at the Outdoor Retailer Show 2005, Salt Lake City
Getting ready to get muddy at a freshwater pond. Shown are the “Coyote” and “Chipmunk” pack versions.
Tasty! Even our four-legged friends like GlyphGuy Backpacks! Good thing too since GlyphGuy was the ONLY backpack sold by the parks that were FREE of harmful lead, mercury, and phthalates.
My daughter enjoys visiting the baby goats. Her teddy bear is in tow safe and secure inside her GlyphGuy Backpack.
A visit to Pinnacles National Monument (now a National Park). Mom and daughter are seen on the trail. The “Chipmunk” and “Bobcat” pack models are shown.
Children loved to carry their teddy bears and, in this case, a teddy cat, in their backpacks while exploring the trail.
Giving the “Chipmunk” model at test run at Lake Tahoe. This pack was a prototype for California State Parks’ Junior Ranger program.
Clamoring over the base of a redwood tree with a GlyphGuy Backpack.
Testing out a new display of Junior Ranger backpacks for California State Parks and the iconic Smokey the Bear.
Pushing boundaries and exploring a dark trail. This GlyphGuy pack is our tribute to Smokey the Bear’s birthday and “Sixty Years of Vigilance.”
GlyphGuy’s NPS Junior Ranger pack on the back of a young climber.
The GlyphGuy booth at one of the park interpretive shows.
Hey Mom! Let’s Go Exploring!

Dr. Toy Awards “Best Green Product” to GlyphGuy’s Chipmunk Backpack

GlyphGuy has received the “Best Green Product” Award from Dr. Toy for the Chipmunk Backpack. The Chipmunk was designed especially for kids between the ages of 3 and 7. Out of thousands of children’s toys the Best Green Product Award was given to only 38 products this year.

GlyphGuy’s Chipmunk backpack is not a school pack, rather it was designed to further a child’s enjoyment of the outdoors by being sized for smaller bodies. The Chipmunk is intended for day use, and can hold a light jacket, a beverage, a sandwich, while still leaving room for a small book, hat and even a teddy bear. Reflective fabric is included for safety.

Organizations as the Appalachian Nature Conservancy, the National Parks Junior Ranger Program along with select nature centers, park stores, independent outdoor retailers and family-run toy stores have recognized the value of GlyphGuy’s well-made backpacks. The Best Green Product Award further solidifies our leadership position in helping children and families to explore the outdoors.

About the Award

For the fourth year Stevanne Auerbach, PhD/ Dr. Toy recognizes the Best Green Toys and Children’s products and the Best Green Toy Company. She provides attention to the kinds of innovative products and companies that are working towards making a difference in playthings and reducing the impact of production.

The award winning Green products are made by companies striving to inspire children to appreciate the environment and help them learn to take better care of our natural resources. These companies are making products to teach children more about our planet or producing playthings that are based on Green principles. These are excellent examples of playthings that are made safely, are healthy to use and have plenty of other special values.

These green products constitute a small number among all the choices of play products available, but we need to start somewhere. As awareness grows more families are thinking and considering new directions that are safer, more balanced and healthier.

About Best Green Products

Dr. Toy recognizes these Best Green Products and the astute companies making these products. They are each making a difference in their own way and making important contributions. Each step helps. Each step moves us towards a healthier home and community.

Dr. Toy has identified products that help children learn more about their world. She found products made from organic materials, or produced in ways that are healthier. Consumers are encouraged to consider these products for home or school or as gifts. Dr. Toy is glad to recognize the companies and products that are helping to create a healthier place for everyone to live.

About Dr. Toy and Award Programs

Stevanne Auerbach, PhD. Dr. Toy, author of Dr. Toy’s Smart Play/Smart Toys, provides tools to enhance the child’s “PQ” (Play Quotient) from baby to age 12 (is published in the USA and in many other countries), 15 books, and hundreds of articles on toys and play, is the only Ph.D. in Child Development evaluating the best developmentally appropriate toys and children’s products for Dr. Toy’s Guide www.drtoy.com with links to many related useful sites and resources for parents, teachers, children, and toy enthusiasts.

Interviews regarding the recommended Best Green products can be arranged through
Greg Walsh, Walsh PR (203-292-6280) greg@walshpr.com

How a Teddy Bear Helped Us Improve The Chipmunk Backpack

Recently we received an email from a parent asking what kind of ‘field testing’ we conducted on our Chipmunk backpack (the Chipmunk is designed for kids between the ages of 3 and 7). Here is a field test story about how a teddy bear helped us improve the Chipmunk backpack.

During a family trip several years ago to the Lake Tahoe area of California we visited a Gondola ride. The Gondola started near the shore of the blue lake and whisked people up to surrounding gray and white peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The ride was twenty minutes one-way to the station at the summit.

Joining our three-year old daughter on this adventure was a teddy bear. The teddy bear was affectionately called ‘Bear-Bear.’ Bear-Bear was a gift from Grandma who lives overseas. The fur on Bear-Bear’s face had been worn due to lots of love.

As the Gondola door opened onto the summit our daughter proudly stepped out with Bear-Bear. He had been packed in the backpack’s main compartment so his head displayed from the top. The backpack was a prototype GlyphGuy Chipmunk backpack and our daughter was testing it out.

We had a good day exploring the mountain. On our hike we met an active elderly couple who commented on the backpack and wanted one for their granddaughter. We exchanged contact information.

As our day of hiking ended we returned to the summit station and waited for a Gondola to zip us back to the lakeshore. Our daughter was obviously tired and hungry from her long day. After a few minutes in line a red Gondola pod glided up and opened in front of us. We boarded, sat down and relaxed. As the doors started to close our daughter took off her pack and in a fearful cry said the words that still chill my bones to this day, “Where’s Bear-Bear?”

With a soft bump the doors shut. They might as well have been the harsh sound of a trap closing. Although my wife and I tried to communicate that Bear-Bear is having his own adventure and that we would return to look for him, both of us quietly thought that Bear-Bear might be lost forever.

Our daughter must have sensed this too because the concern on her face intensified and her lower lip began to shake. Soon her eyes watered and then her face quivered. Our tired, hungry and now distraught three-year old daughter was on the verge of erupting.

Being a father I had the responsibility to say the right thing, to help my daughter in her time of need – to prevent this crisis from going any further. I, dad, would come to the rescue! I clearly thought of the words to say the words were well formed, comforting and wise. But, because of some guy-thing I will never understand my mouth and brain did not engage and the most untimely words blurted forth, “Bear-bear is living on the mountain now.”

That may not sound bad, but in that instant I knew what I said was horrible. Several months earlier our beloved cat of 9 years passed away. At that time my wife and I had told our daughter (then 2) that kitty had ‘gone to live on the mountain.’ I had in a sense just told my daughter that Bear-Bear had died! Immediately her watering eyes gushed into a geyser of tears and anguish.

It was a very, very long ride down the mountain.

As we neared the lakeshore station my cell phone rang. What? I had forgotten it was on. I let it roll to voicemail. At the station I checked the message. Fortunately, the elderly couple we had met at the top of the mountain had found Bear-Bear on the side of the trail. They remembered that my daughter had carried this teddy bear. What good fortune! The elderly couple had left Bear-Bear at the Lost and Found. Soon our three-year old and Bear-Bear were reunited. All of us were happy – and very relieved that Bear-Bear was not living on the mountain.

In trying to determine what exactly happened we retraced our steps in our minds. At one point we had stopped for a snack. It was here where Bear-Bear was lost. According to our daughter she was not able to zip close the compartment where Bear-Bear was traveling. When our daughter showed us it was obvious Bear-Bear was not well secured.

Because of this field test we returned to the drawing board and upgraded the arc of the zipper so it was easier for young hands to open and close the zippers. All because of a teddy bear.

Why Does GlyphGuy Backpacks Use YKK Zippers?

glyphguy-chipmunk-backpackIn short, YKK zippers won’t fail you in the field.

During a recent outdoor market we were asked by a person buying one of our packs, “Why do you use YKK zippers on the backpacks?”

Our first backpack, the ‘GlyphGuy 1.0’ (GlyphGuy one-dot-o) pack was produced eight years ago. The pack was sized for adults and made to be a daypack. From a design standpoint the 1.0 pack was a good start for us, but in an effort to maximize a ‘return on investment’ we used generic fabrics and zippers. It was a mistake.

These packs were sold at a local market. One couple from the market was going to New Zealand with our new pack. Although they had a larger pack for their overall adventure they were using the 1.0 for some side day trips. I asked them to email me about their trip when it was complete. They did, several months later I received an email titled, “Thanks for Ruining My Vacation.” During their vacation the generic zipper sliders on the packs had broken. The packs were unusable. The couple was in a remote area where they could not easily replace the packs and they lost several days of enjoyable time dealing with broken zippers.

This story really bothered us at GlyphGuy. We did not want this for our customers, nor did we want to be known in this way. More importantly we considered a ‘return on investment’ not just about revenue but about the experiences and expectations of our customers – these are also measurements of a return on investment.

It was costly, but we stopped production of our 1.0 pack and moved to replace all generics with the zippers that are top of the line – the YKK zippers. YKK zippers have been used in all GlyphGuy packs since and are still used today.

GlyphGuy chose YKK brand zippers because they are the industry-leading brand, are solidly made and have a positive environmental record. In addition, Police, Firefighters and even NASA used YKK zippers. To quote an avid backpacker who sold packs at the local REI, “YKK zippers will not fail you in the field.”

Our packs are for those who value their return on investment.

GlyphGuy Backpacks Helps to Enhance Interpretation at Pinnacle Mountain State Park Arkansas


We are always happy to hear when parks benefit from our products. Recently, we heard from an interpretive staff member at Pinnacle Mountain State Park in Arkansas where our backpacks are used in programming and in their store.

Pinnacle Mountain is a 2,000-acre day-use park located just west of Little Rock, Arkansas. The park is dedicated to preservation, recreation, and environmental education. Visitor programs are thematic and hands-on. This thematic work continues at the park’s gift store where products tie into park programs. Here are several ways the park’s gift store utilizes GlyphGuy’s Backpacks:

  • The park’s interpreters use GlyphGuy’s Coyote model backpack in their daily hikes and programs.
  • The Bobcat model has been included as a ‘gift package’ for children participating in interpretive programs. These gift packages include a GlyphGuy Bobcat backpack packed full of items to help the kids explore the park. The packages are actually gifts from the child’s parents which are given to the children at the beginning of an outdoor program.
  • Our backpacks are sold in the gift store. We have enjoyed Pinnacle Mountain’s return business for several years because our backpacks are solidly made, have sturdy zippers, include safety reflectors, and offer the gift store a good price point. Unlike most vendors, GlyphGuy does not have a minimum order quantity. This allows the store to focus on their business – they can order what they need when they need it and do not need to worry about excess inventory.

GlyphGuy Backpacks helps Pinnacle Mountain State Park to be more competitive. The park is adjacent to the city of Little Rock which includes several big name outdoor retail chains. Because of the proximity to these stores the gift store must be selective in what it sells. Items that connect visitors to the park and generate revenue for the store are key to their continued success. We are happy that our backpacks enhance Pinnacle Mountain State Park’s ability to be competitive and further their interpretive work.

To learn more about Pinnacle Mountain State Park visit their website:
http://www.arkansasstateparks.com/pinnaclemountain/

[Note: The photo is borrowed from the Pinnacle Mountain State Park website and used only for this article.]

Lead and Phthalate Testing Results of GlyphGuy’s 2010 Backpacks

Inside Woven Label Backpack
You can recognize a GlyphGuy 2010 backpack by this label shown to the left. It is sewn inside the main compartment of each backpack.

GlyphGuy again worked with the Toy Testing Lab of Warwick, Rhode Island to conduct forensic level testing on our backpacks’ materials. The Toy Testing Lab is certified by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) as an independent facility for forensic testing.

All tests were conducted using a a Mass Spectrometer. Our zippers were tested for total Lead content and the fabrics were tested for Phthalates. These measurement tools are very precise and can measure a substance into the parts-per-million (ppm).

Zippers and Lead Results

All Lead results are in compliance and well below the 300 ppm as required by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA). A symbol of < denotes Lead was not detected in the zipper.

  Zipper Pull Zipper Head Zipper Chain
Lead (Pb) 50 ppm 41 ppm <18 ppm

>> View the test result for the Zipper Pull (pdf).
>> View the test result for the Zipper Head (pdf).
>> View the test result for the Zipper Chain (pdf).

Fabric and Phthalate Results

The Black, Tan and Green external facing fabrics in our backpacks were tested for Phthalate levels using a Mass Spectrometer. These fabrics are in compliance. Phthalate results were significantly less than the 0.1% limit allowable by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA). A symbol of < denotes Phthalates were not detected in the fabric.

  Black Tan Green
DEHP 0.02 <0.01 <0.01
DBP <0.01 <0.01 <0.01
BBP <0.01 <0.01 <0.01
DNOP <0.01 <0.01 <0.01
DINP <0.05 <0.05 <0.05
DINP <0.05 <0.05 <0.05

>> View the test result for the Black Fabric (pdf).
>> View the test result for the Tan Fabric (pdf).
>> View the test result for the Forest Green Fabric (pdf).

Proud to Provision America’s National Parks with 2,450 Junior Ranger Backpacks

A new National Park Junior Ranger being sworn in; she is complete with her backpack and a (stuffed) cat that has joined her.
A new National Park Junior Ranger being sworn in; she is complete with her backpack and a (stuffed) cat that has joined her.

This summer over 2,450 children will step into America’s National Parks with official NPS Junior Ranger backpacks. The backpacks were made by Mark Hougardy’s company, GlyphGuy LLC.

Two models are available: the ‘Chipmunk’ backpack is designed for kids to 3 to 7; the ‘Coyote’ model is designed for kids 7 and up.

These Green + Tan backpacks are embroidered with the ‘Explore. Learn. Protect’ Junior Ranger logo and serve the needs of park interpretive programs and cooperating associations.

The backpacks are available at select National Parks and their cooperating associations coast-to-coast.

I am proud that our backpacks continue to serve the messaging and quality deserving of America’s natural, cultural and historic treasures. – Mark Hougardy

Lead Analysis of GlyphGuy’s 2009 NPS Junior Ranger Backpacks

GlyphGuy's 2009 inside woven label

You can recognize a GlyphGuy 2009 backpack by this label shown to the left. It is sewn inside the main compartment of each backpack.

GlyphGuy approached the Toy Testing Lab of Warwick, Rhode Island to conduct forensic level testing on our official NPS ‘Chipmunk’ and ‘Coyote’ Junior Ranger backpacks.

The Toy Testing Lab is approved by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission as an independent facility for forensic testing.

Our materials were tested for total lead content using a Mass Spectrometer, which measures in quantities of parts-per-million (ppm).

Testing was conducted on all visible materials used on our backpacks: fabrics, clasps, zippers, labels, mesh and straps.

>> View the Lead test results of our 2009 backpacks (pdf).

Results on these components ranged between 39 ppm to no detectable measurement. The average Lead content in our backpacks is 9 ppm.

Current U.S. Product Safety Commission regulations require a Lead presence less than 600 ppm per component. GlyphGuy is well below this and future requirements of 300 ppm that take effect later this year.

When we began making backpacks in 2002 we were committed to goals that included backpacks that were environmentally friendly. While work still remains these test results demonstrate our progress.

GlyphGuy Backpacks is Moving Away From PVC Fabric

Beginning in October 2008 GlyphGuy Backpacks is transitioning away from PVC (polyvinyl chloride) fabrics. This is part of our continued commitment to providing the best made backpacks on the market. We’ve always been moving toward materials that are earth friendly, but we had to start with simple steps. This generation of packs is our 4th generation.

Our first generation backpacks (2002 to 2003) focused on functionality.

The second generation backpacks (2004 to 2005) focused on fair labor practices.

The third generation backpacks (2006-2008) focused on workmanship.

The fourth generation backpacks (in production for 2009) are transitioning away from PVC fabrics to materials that are more environmentally friendly.

When researching materials we looked to the healthcare industry for insight. The below graphic, originally published in the “Designed the 21st Century Hospital: Environmental Leadership for Healthier Patients and Facilities,” provides a quick reference of the materials that hospitals and care facilities are seeking. The materials in our backpacks for 2009 backpacks will include the TPO (Thermoplastic Polyolefin) fabrics which are on the ‘preferred’ side of the spectrum.

We believe that transitioning to TPO fabrics, while a positive direction, is only a step of continuously improving our products.

Reference:

http://www.healthybuilding.net/healthcare/HCWH-CHD-Designing_the_21st_Century_Hospital.pdf

GlyphGuy Backpack Zippers: Lead and Heavy Metal Testing

We test GlyphGuy Backpack zippers for Lead and other heavy metals. First, we source from the best by using industry leading YKK brand zippers in all of our backpacks. We then test for Lead, Mercury and other metals. In 2007 we tested our products using a handheld X-ray fluorescence (XRF) device manufactured by Innov-X Systems. The XRF analyzer uses X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometry to detect certain elements as Lead, Cadmium, Mercury etc. Our zippers passed, but we wanted further verification. In 2008 we sought an independent, national and state accredited forensic laboratory (Forensic Analytical Specialties, Inc.) to analyze our zippers. The analysis process used on the zippers involves a spectrophotometry process to accurately measure substances.

We strive for quantities less than 25 ppm (parts per million) of these metals. Here are the forensic results from a randomly selected GlyphGuy zipper:

Element

Common Name

Result in ppm (parts per million)

Ag

Silver

< 0.7 ppm

As

Arsenic

< 5 ppm

Ba

Barium

< 20 ppm

Cd

Cadmium

< 2 ppm

Cr

Chromium

< 3 ppm

Hg

Mercury

< 0.04 ppm

Pb

Lead

< 16 ppm

Se

Selenium

< 7 ppm

GlyphGuy Backpacks Is Recognized by the County Board of Supervisors for Green Initiatives

logo-greenbizGlyphGuy Backpacks was recognized by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors for being committed to green business practices.

Over 45 fellow green businesses were honored by Pete McHugh, Chair of the Board of Supervisors during a special recognition event. These businesses were commended for having-

GlyphGuy Backpacks “demonstrated [a] commitment to residents, commercial enterprise and the environment by becoming partners in the County of Santa Clara Green Business Program, by seeking new opportunities to set a positive example, and by enhancing business services, intergovernmental relations, public education and environmental quality for all.”

This commendation follows GlyphGuy Backpacks being recognized last April by the City of Sunnyvale City Council as a Green Business. GlyphGuy was recognized for being “beyond compliance with environmental protection regulations to adopt environmentally-sound practices in the areas of energy efficiency, water conservation, solid and hazardous waste reduction, and pollution prevention.”

GlyphGuy Backpacks continues its commitment to helping families and children explore the natural world. We are thrilled to have this commitment recognized by both City and County leaders.