Iowa Was Just Ranked the Best in the U.S.

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iStock

Every year, U.S. News and World Report assembles its list of the Best States across a variety of metrics. Categories like health care, education, economy, and quality of life are measured statistically—education, for example, looks at the graduation rate in high schools, while the unemployment rate correlates with job opportunities—and assessed against areas where states may be lacking, like disparities in income between genders or unfavorable crime statistics.

After considerable crunching of numbers, the U.S. News data analysis has crowned a new "best" state: Iowa.

The Hawkeye state finished in the top 10 or top five in key areas like health care, job opportunities, and overall infrastructure. Farming, a longtime identifying trait, has taken second place to manufacturing plants. And while plenty of Iowa is rural, its technological innovations are advanced: the state actually leads the nation in building high-speed internet access into the fabric of its communities.

There are other factors that paved the way for Iowa's placement—affordable housing, for example, where it ranks second overall in the country, and health care affordability. U.S. News points to a sluggish population growth for younger residents and less-hospitable resources for entrepreneurs as drawbacks.

In the full list, Minnesota grabbed the second-place spot; New York, the 25th. Louisiana appears at the bottom. 

[h/t U.S. News]

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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The 25 Countries That Drink the Most Coffee in the World

In Scandinavia, there's always time for a cup of coffee.
In Scandinavia, there's always time for a cup of coffee.
Chevanon Photography, Pexels

If you blow through half a pound of coffee by yourself every week, you’re on par with the average Finnish citizen. According to WorldAtlas, Finland consumes an average of 26.45 pounds of coffee per capita per year—more than any other country in the world. And since that “per capita” includes children and other caffeine-free folks, the actual amount for each coffee drinker is probably quite a bit more.

Though Finland is the undisputed champion, its Scandinavian neighbors guzzle bitter bean juice at high rates, too. Runner-up Norway averages nearly 22 pounds per capita, and Sweden sits in sixth place with a respectable 18 pounds. In general, Europe appears to be more caffeinated than any other continent; of all 25 countries on the list, only five (Canada, Brazil, Cyprus, Lebanon, and the United States) are located elsewhere. The United States just barely made it—our per capita consumption is 9.26 pounds per year, putting us in the 25th spot.

Considering how often Europeans pick up a cup of joe, it’s no surprise coffee has become an integral part of their culture in various ways. In Finland, for example, many labor unions mandate coffee breaks at work, and Norwegians are known to indulge in karsk, a potent mixture of coffee, sugar, and moonshine. Much like UK residents have traditional tea service—complete with scones, biscuits, and/or other pastries—people in Sweden and the Netherlands make a routine of coffee time. In Sweden, it’s called fika; in the Netherlands, it’s koffietijd.

See which other countries made the list below, and find out more about their coffee customs here.

  1. Finland // 26.45 pounds
  1. Norway // 21.82 pounds
  1. Iceland // 19.84 pounds
  1. Denmark // 19.18 pounds
  1. Netherlands // 18.52 pounds
  1. Sweden // 18 pounds
  1. Switzerland // 17.42 pounds
  1. Belgium // 15 pounds
  1. Luxembourg // 14.33 pounds
  1. Canada // 14.33 pounds
  1. Bosnia and Herzegovina // 13.67 pounds
  1. Austria // 13.45 pounds
  1. Italy // 13 pounds
  1. Brazil // 12.79 pounds
  1. Slovenia // 12.79 pounds
  1. Germany // 12.13 pounds
  1. Greece // 11.9 pounds
  1. France // 11.9 pounds
  1. Croatia // 11.24 pounds
  1. Cyprus // 10.8 pounds
  1. Lebanon // 10.58 pounds
  1. Estonia // 9.92 pounds
  1. Spain // 9.92 pounds
  1. Portugal // 9.48 pounds
  1. United States // 9.26 pounds