Proper Preparation for Backpacking Trips

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Many forces compete in the quest to find a weekend activity, and potential weekend warrior have a variety of choices when it comes to finding an activity. However, one of the most rewarding and simplest activities to do is a backpacking or hiking trip (for my suggestion on backpacks, check out my post on my new The PNW Ultralight Backpack). These types of trips are easy to organize, simple to plan, and fun for entire families or groups. However, even though many go backpacking, too few are aware of the proper equipment that should be brought on a trip. Without a few essential items, backpackers can potentially put themselves in danger. For that reason, and to get the most out of your adventure, potential backpackers need to remember to keep the following vital items with them at all times.

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1. Water (extra if needed)

Often, in the case to save some weight, and travel a little bit lighter, potential backpackers abandon the idea of taking extra water or liquids with them. However, this is a very poor choice. During physical activity, the body needs a good amount of water in order to remain in good condition, and water also serves other important purposes while out on the trail. For instance, if one needs to clean something or to put out a fire that may have been started, it will be necessary to have extra water. Remember to consider the time that you plan to be away, the conditions, and plan ahead to bring enough water to last you for the entire trip, running out of water can be very dangerous, and is something that should be avoided at all costs.

2. Food (extra if needed)

Very similar to the idea of bringing extra water to be prepared is the idea of bringing extra food as well. Remember that in colder weather a person is going to burn more calories and thus must consume more food to stay active and energized. However, also important to remember is bringing the right types of food. Home made trail mixes, containing various nuts and fruits are an easy way to bring nutritious and energizing food without taking up a lot of weight and space. You do not want to go hungry on your trip, and one of the best ways to prevent this from happening is to make sure that you bring enough food with you.

3. Map

Even if you know the area in which you are traveling well, it is nonetheless very important to bring a map with you. Even the best can wonder off the trail or become lost in poor conditions. Bringing a map is one of the best ways to make sure that you stay on your path and do not get lost going to your destination. Being lost is never fun, but simply throwing an extra piece of paper into your backpack is really all you need to prevent this from happening.

4. Clothes

Don’t think that just because you are out in the woods extra clothes won’t be needed. If you plan to travel through wet conditions, or the area that you are traveling in contains natural bodies of water, than it is a fair assumption that your clothes may get wet. Wet clothes make it hard to travel and can also make for a miserable night if you have nothing else to sleep in. Also, remember to check the weather and bring clothes accordingly. If you are leaving on a hot day, but the weather is going to get colder in the night or over the next day or so, than remember to also bring cold weather clothes with you. Simply bringing some extra clothes is incredibly beneficial, and it can make all the difference in the world when determine whether you have a happy backpacking trip or a nightmarish one.

5. Compass

Speaking of preventing nightmarish backpacking trips, one of the most important things to do is to bring a compass. A compass makes sure that you will remain on the right path and going in the right direction. When out in nature, it can be very easy to become disoriented or lost. In order to prevent this from happening, bringing a compass is the best thing to do. Also, remember that you bring a high quality compass, one that comes from a toy store or quarter vending machine isn’t likely to do you much good.

6. Flashlight

Darkness has taken many unsuspecting backpackers by storm, and being caught unprepared in the dark is both dangerous and easily preventable. Although it is recommended that you bring two flashlights, a smaller one for easy access while traveling, and a larger floodlight for different situations, if possible, even a simple flashlight will do. Just remember that bringing that single flashlight is very important, and can save you from a lot of trouble when the nightfall comes. Remember that if you are going to be in the woods, tree cover can sometimes obscure natural starlight or moonlight that might otherwise be an excellent light source.

7. Rain Equipment

Even totally clear skies have been known to cloud up in a matter of seconds, and weather forecasts have been totally wrong many occasions before. Even your best attempts to plan your trip for a sunny weekend may end up meaning very little if an unforeseen rain storm occurs. However, in order to prepare for this, make sure that you bring equipment with you that is necessary to fight the rain. Clean, dry clothes, ponchos, coverings for shoes or pants, whatever you need, make sure to pack it, regardless of what the weather appears to be like. Rain can ruin a good trip, and without any ability to fight the rain, you will be forced to abandon your trip.

8. Fire Equipment

Since surprisingly few people lack the ability to start a fire with sticks, it is very helpful to bring matches or a powerful lighter. While a cheap $.99 cent lighter may serve the purpose, your probably going to want to bring a butane lighter or something of that nature. Also, if you are backpacking in wet conditions, and think that you may have problems starting a fire, it can be very helpful to bring some chemical fire starters or other items to help you get a fire started in even the wettest conditions.

9. Pocketknife

Never underestimate the benefits of a simple pocket knife. From helping you cut things to providing other essential tools in one convenient package, a small pocketknife can easily be carried with you, is readily available, fairly cheap, and will serve you for a long time to come. Of all the simple, last minute things that may be forgotten, remember to pack your pocketknife, you will not regret it.

10. Medical Supplies

One of the most important parts about planning for the unforeseen is to bring enough medical supplies and first aid equipment with you for safety. If you take any kind of medicine, remember to bring extra with you in case anything should happen and you are not able to get back at the time you planned. Also, remember to bring some disinfectant and bandages, if you get a cut while walking or on the trail, you do not want it to become infected. Allergy medicines and necessary treatment for any possible bug bites or allergic reactions is also a must to bring.

Of course, when packing your backpack, you also want to make sure that you balance everything by not bringing too much. A heavy backpack can make for a trip that’s not too fun, not to mention great inconvenience to the walker. However, a heavy backpack is always better than not having the necessary supplies and equipment to make it through your trip safely. Always remember to be prepared, and, if in doubt, bring extra with you. Backpacking and hiking can be a lot of fun, but you will have the best time and the most fun if you are prepared and ready for your trip.

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Pretty Easy Web Design

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I love to talk about web design. I have just enough technical knowledge to appreciate the ghastly difficulty of getting a web design “right”. And just enough credulity (or is it starry-eyed ignorance?) to still get a huge charge out of the sites that work…and to beet up with frustration over the ones that don’t.
I’ll never learn to be cool when it comes to web design.

As a copywriter and Internet researcher I have the pleasure of cruising and using many web sites every working day. I mean, first I have to Google, Ask, beg, burrow and borrow to find relevant sites. Then I book ’em and sort them and put them in my lineup. And then I knock ’em over, one by one. And, because in my business time is money, I move fast.

Each new site is like a walnut waiting for me to crack it open and dig out the meat. I can honestly admit that I open every single site every day with joyful anticipation.

Of course most of the time I’m sorely disappointed. Not with the information, mind you; I always get the ‘meat’ eventually; but with the web site design.

What is a good web design?

A good web design is one that delivers the message without being noticed.

The trouble with most web designs is that they are too egotistical. “Look at me, look at me!” they shout, forgetting that at least 99% of the time their job is supposed to be murmuring in a hushed tone, “Take this.” “Look at this.” “Here’s some more.” What else can I get you?” Like a good waiter in a top drawer restaurant. When you leave him a generous tip at the end of a perfectly served meal it’s because he performed his job invisibly…not because he wore a red bowtie, coughed in your soup, made loud mouth noises or threw the dishes around.

Vincent Flanders (that author/web designer fellow that coined the phrase, “mystery meat navigation”) has a great analogy; he says don’t confuse web design with good sex (or something like that). Anyway, good sex requires foreplay. Good web site design doesn’t. When you go into a site you want the payoff up front, the answer before you ask the question, the punch line without the whole shaggy dog story.

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That’s life today on the Internet. You want what you want when you want it!

The good, the ugly, and the bad…

Now, I don’t mean to imply that web design shouldn’t be beautiful, or colorful, or have plenty of the bells, buttons and whistles that are so dear to every web designer’s heart. I also love a fully packed site.

I’ll give you an example. This one’s pretty esoteric; you may have to love fishing to really appreciate it. I came across it while I was researching for a piece on game fishing: www.kuuloakai.com

If I didn’t lose you altogether to that site (and you’re now on your way to Hawaii), I’ll be surprised.

Anyway, my point is, everything on that site works quickly and efficiently and offers up tons of fishing information, both practical (where and how to book, what to bring, how much, etc.) as well as frivolous (like the fun fish encyclopedia). If something flashes, it’s because it takes you where the fish are. It’s attractive. It’s easy. It’s fast and it’s accessible.

Even when a web site is not overtly selling a product or a service it’s still selling something. If you don’t leave the site with that ‘something’ then it wasn’t a good web design. Even if that ‘something’ was finding out that the product or service was not what you were looking for, the web design was a success because it delivered up the goods for your inspection quickly and easily.

Another really attractive, informative, and easy to navigate website is http://www.paintyourlife.com , a photo to art gallery site. Their quality images and graphics, a well laid out home page, and easy and clear content effectively describe their product line and guide the reader smoothly through the ordering process. If you like this, read Canadian web hosting reviews.

Now I suppose I’m going to have to show you an example of a site that managed to get everything wrong: awful content, terrible graphics, barely readable fonts…and I don’t even want to mention the flash and the colors: http://www.fabricland.co.uk/ (Although it is hard not to mention all those flapping flags and pointing fingers.) My heart goes out to Fabricland though, as obviously somebody put in a lot of time and effort.

Then there’s the frustrating and the sad…

The most frustrating web site is the one that’s packed with the information you need urgently, but the font is microscopic against a dark background, you need to open lots of hidden doors to see what turn out to be obvious headings, there are a bunch of distracting flashing images that don’t contribute any information, and – the worst crime of all – it’s slow.

The saddest web sites are the ones that are fast, work great, have clean fonts, good background, fast buttons, efficient layout…but the ‘something’ the site is selling is not worthy of the design. It’s enough to make the poor web designer cry.

Of course there are lots of amazing websites; you recognize one as soon as you enter.

But the best sites of all are the sites that are both pretty and easy.

Pretty. Easy. Got it?

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How to Design a Productive Office Environment

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Heard of the phrase “soldier without a gun”? That is how employees, who are put in a sub-optimally designed office environment, are likely to feel. The very least expectation of employees is that they be productive in their work. They will not be able to do that if they are not provided the right office environment.
What does a productive office environment mean? What are the factors that go into making an office environment productive? How will it help employees be productive?

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Factors while designing an office environment

What are the factors that employees will think of while judging whether or not his office environment is productive? These factors can be grouped under three major heads:

The physical environment
1.Is my work environment intuitive? Or Am I searching for things?
2.Is it customized to my work style and requirements? Or is it designed to satisfy overall standardization protocols?
3.Is there something vital to my performance that I am missing in my work environment?
4.Do I have to deal with a lot of problems with the equipment that is provided to me?
5.Am I satisfied with the quality of products and service delivered by my vendors?

The supportive environment
1.Are there systems and processes in place in my department that serve as good librating structures? ?
2.Do I have clear instructions and guidelines on how to use the equipment that are provided to me?
3.Are the enough staff in the department to do the work? Or is it understaffed?
4.Do I have access to the information that I need to do my work?

The emotional environment
1.Can I depend on my manager to sort out any problems that I may have in my office environment?
2.Do I get alternatives when I ask for something that will improve my productivity? Or is it only a straight no.

How to design a productive office environment

1.Involve the staff: One of the sure-fire ways to design a highly productive office environment is to ask the employees what would make them productive. The diagnosis becomes easier; the design becomes more relevant and therefore more productive.

2.Customize: Don’t always try to standardize everything in the office environment. People are different. Their work styles are different. Their requirements are different. Their value to the overall process is different. An office design that does not take cognizance of these differences will end up designing an office that is uniform and standardized but unable to satisfy any of the staff to the fullest. It will also result in a bad design – some staff will get more than they actually require; some will get less. It not only results in sub performance of employees but also in underutilization of company infrastructure and budgets for infrastructure.

3.Justify: Ask employees what they need does not always mean that employees are correct in their requests. A lot of employees make requests not because they really need something, but because their colleagues have it or because it makes them feel better. A effective office design has to ensure that employees requests are justified; a cost-benefit analysis is done and there is a definite break-even to justify the granting of a request.

Tips to ensure a productive office environment

An office design is not static, set-up exercise. It is dynamic, because employees’ expectations and requirements are dynamic. Here are some tips to ensure that the office design evolves with employees’ expectations and keeps pace with the employees’ requirements.

1.Check in with the team about the work environment at least once in 6 months. This helps track changing employee needs.

2.Involve the whole team while making decisions regarding purchase or materials/equipment or outsourcing services. A consensus approach will always get better ownership of the office design.

3.Hold a vendor audit periodically to review the quality of outsourced materials and services. This ensures that complacency does not set in in the vendor quality.

4.Hold meetings with vendors and service contractors at least once a year. This helps them keep pace with the office design requirements. They may also be able to add value to the office design by suggesting updates and upgrades.

5.Ensure that all employees are well trained in all aspects of the office equipment and processes.

6.Clarify the logic behind approving design changes or requests. How does it affect productivity? Are there cost savings or quality improvements? This helps the employees think in terms of the whole department rather than individual preferences.

An office environment that is designed towards productivity provides a strong platform for employees to start unleashing their full potential. It sets the stage for higher order performance.

On my next post: How I Go These Nice  Wooden Dinnerware Sets at a Discounted Price

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