Essential Hiking Gear and Accessories

Hiking is a great way to get much-needed physical exercise. It gets the heart pumping, it works the muscles and it gives you some time to appreciate nature.

But hiking comes with its share of dangers and the better prepared you are, the more likely you are to stay safe.

Being prepared starts with taking along the right gear. This article will give you a run down on essential hiking gear and accessories you should be taking with you on your next hike.

Essential Hiking Gear

A Hiking Backpack: A backpack allows you to store your items while freeing up your hands. Be sure to get one that’s made for hiking. A hiking backpack should be made of a sturdy material and it should have plenty of compartments so you can easily find items when you need them.

The Right Clothing: The clothing you wear should have moisture wicking properties to keep sweat away from your body. It’s a plus if they also offer UV protection. It’s advisable to wear light layers as well. This will allow your body to adjust as you move through elevations. Wear lightweight layers that are easy to store in your backpack or tie around your waist.

Hiking Boots: With so many hiking boots available, you may want to do some research before determining which boots are right for you. In general, you will want boots that have a rugged design and a snug fit without being too tight.

Water: All that physical activity means it’s essential to stay hydrated. And if the worst happens, water will be essential for survival. Pack a few bottles before you head out.

Food: Food is another survival essential. Items like dried fruit, nuts and health bars are lightweight to pack and they will give you the energy you need for your workout. 

First Aid Kit: A first kid kit will come in handy if you get any cuts while you are walking the trail. Be sure your kit includes an antibiotic and some bandages.

Navigation Tools: A compass and a map of the area will be helpful if you end up getting lost.

Hand Sanitizer: Germs exist, even in the great wide open. You may encounter germs when you purify or filter water or touch a trail register. Water may not be easy to find and antibacterial soap will certainly be scarce. That’s why hand sanitizer comes in handy.

If you are looking for a hand sanitizer to take along with you on your hikes, Orange Blossom Honey Hand Sanitizer by Naked Bee is recommended.

Naked Bee is known for manufacturing all natural personal care items with intoxicating scents. Their Organ Blossom Honey Hand Sanitizer has soothing ingredients like witch hazel, aloe vera gel, seaweed, green tea extracts and a blend of essential oils. It kills 99.9% of germs and it comes in a convenient spritz bottle that is easy to use while hiking.

Before going hiking, make sure you pack the items on this list of hiking gear and accessories. They will help you stay safe on your next outdoor excursion.

How to Burn Off 300 Calories

Many of us struggle to lose weight, but setting a goal like burning 300 calories every few days is sure to get you there.

Burning 300 calories isn’t easy to do, but there are a few workouts that can help you achieve your goal. Read on to find out how to burn off 300 calories so you can be in great shape in no time.

How to Burn Off 300 Calories in 6 Fun Steps

Here are some 300 calorie burning workouts that can get you looking and feeling your best.

Jumping Rope: This fun childhood activity is no joke when it comes to serious calorie burn. Just 35 minutes of jumping rope can effectively burn off 300 calories.

If you don’t have the stamina to jump straight through, try intervals that consist of five minutes of jumping combined with some lower intensity exercise.

Just Dance: Dancing is a fun and stress relieving way to lose weight. A high energy dance routine like a Latin cardio party can get you burning those calories in under 40 minutes.

Redecorate: Updating your interior design is a great way to give your house a new look, and it can also be effective in burning calories. Moving furniture around can burn 300 calories in 50 minutes.

Redecorating might not be something you can do on a regular basis, but it will be a great way to change things up in your routine.

Take the Stairs: We all know that taking the stairs instead of the elevator is one way to achieve a healthier lifestyle, but going up and down the stairs repeatedly will make for a great calorie burning workout.

While we don’t recommend climbing the stairs in your office building over and over to get the high intensity workout you’re looking for, getting on the Stairmaster for 30 minutes should do the trick.

Make TV Time into Workout Time: The next time you turn on your favorite hour long TV show, don’t take it lying down. Instead of sitting there like a couch potato, get active by doing your favorite calisthenics for an invigorating 300 calorie burn.

Add Supplements To Your Diet: When added to a healthy diet and exercise routine, the right supplements can help you achieve your calorie burning goals. One supplement that is recommended is Irwin Naturals Triple Diet Max Accelerator.

Irwin Naturals is a brand that is known for manufacturing supplements that are biodegradable and easy to swallow and digest. Their Diet Max Accelerator contains three all-natural ingredients that are scientifically proven to support healthy weight management. When used in combination with a healthy diet and exercise, it may be effective in helping you achieve your weight loss goals.

If you are wondering how to burn off 300 calories, these workouts can get you there. Along with the right diet and supplements, incorporating these into your routine can help you shed that excess weight. We wish you the best of luck reaching your fitness goals.

Best Cat Hairball Products

If you have a cat, you are probably all too familiar with hairball issues.

Hairballs occur as part of a cat’s natural grooming process. When they clean themselves, the hook-like structures on their tongue (papillae) catch dead hair that the cat swallows. While most of this hair gets through the digestive tract without a problem, some of it will stay in the stomach to form a hairball. These are usually vomited up.

Not only is it unpleasant to see your cat vomiting, but hairballs can also stay in the system to cause life-threatening blockages. Symptoms of hairball issues include:

  • Ongoing vomiting or retching without producing a hairball
  • Lack of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy

In order to prevent serious problems from occurring, pet owners want to do all they can to keep hair moving through their cat’s systems. Fortunately, there are several products that can help remedy these digestive issues. Read on to find out about the best cat hairball products for your pet.

Best Cat Hairball Products

Hairball Formula Cat Food: There are many cat food manufacturers that make food designed to reduce hairballs. They work to improve the health of the cat’s coat to minimize shedding. They are high in fiber to allow hairballs to run smoothly through the cat’s digestive system.

Laxatives: Many hairball products are mild laxatives that help hairballs pass easily through the digestive tract.

Supplements: There are also supplements on the market that support normal hairball behavior and healthy skin and hair. If you are looking for an all natural supplement that will help protect your cat’s digestive system from hairballs, Pet Naturals of Vermont Hairball for Cats of All Sizes is recommended.

Pet Naturals of Vermont is a company that is passionate about providing natural alternatives that support pet health. Their hairball supplement contains fiber and omega fatty acids that support your cat’s normal grooming routine. It also contains lecithin which supports normal hairball behavior and healthy skin and hair and zinc that supports keratin and collagen production which boost skin and hair health and fatty acid metabolism.

Other Ways to Reduce Hairball Issues

You can also use behavioral tactics to reduce hairballs and boost your cat’s digestive health. Here are some things that can help.

Groom Your Cat: Brushing your cat’s coat will remove excess fur reducing the amount of hair that ends up in his or digestive tract. If your cat will not allow you to groom them, try taking them to a professional groomer.

Discourage Excessive Grooming: If you see your cat grooming themselves excessively, try training them to engage in another activity. For instance you might give them a new toy or play with them to keep them from licking their coat.

Hairballs can be unpleasant and even dangerous for your cat. Fortunately, the best hairball products can be used to keep your cat in great health. How do you recommend treating felines when hairballs become an issue?

Death By Proxy – Free Short Story

This is a short story I wrote for a Halloween contest. Thought I’d post it here for anyone’s viewing pleasure and to help gear you up for Halloween!

It was pitch black. Cory couldn’t see a thing. But she could smell the dirt,  feel the biting chill. She didn’t know where she was, only that it was cold.
Her clothes were gone. She wished that she could move, but ropes around her wrists and ankles kept her prostrate on the hard ground. A cloth was stuck in her mouth with duct tape over her lips. The last thing she remembered was a hooded shadow jumping out and jabbing a syringe in her neck. She had no idea how long she’d been out.
There were no sounds to indicate her abductor in the vicinity.
As if to contradict her thoughts, there came a sliding movement near her leg. Cory held still, not wanting to alert the other presence that she was awake. Suddenly, another movement came from the other side, this time brushing up against her hip.
She recoiled at the sensation of cool, reptilian skin brushing against hers. Cory hoped it wasn’t what she thought. A small hiss by her head confirmed the fear. Snakes were with her. Breathing rapidly through her nose, she closed her eyes and tried to stop trembling.
The snakes would be attracted to her body heat, but she hadn’t done anything to antagonize them, so they shouldn’t bite her. As long as she held perfectly still, they would simply absorb her body heat and leave her be… right?
A heavy, leathery sensation slithered over her bare stomach and Cory couldn’t keep herself from jerking. Snakes seemed to slide over her from every direction. She wasn’t sure how many were on her, but she felt their considerable weight on top of her chest and both arms. There had to be at least three gliding over her legs.
Tears leaked down the sides of her face and soft whimpers escaped her throat.
A sudden, sharp pain exploded in her right thigh. Acidic burning bloomed through her upper leg. She grunted through her gag. Another bite in the soft flesh of her upper arm made her scream, though it was muffled.
Then the biting was everywhere. Needle points of pain hit her on her toes, her chest, even her neck. Cory could feel her body start to swell as the venom worked its way into her system.

“Trish.” It was Detective Holdman’s voice.
Large, warm hands were on her shoulders, gently shaking her. Trish blinked, but everything looked blurry. The light was blinding after the vision she’d just experienced. Swaying her head from side to side, her eyes were able to focus on the blond man leaning over her, his brows drawn together with concern.
“Sna-“ Trish coughed before she could get her words out. Detective Holdman had a glass of water ready for her.
With trembling hands, she accepted the drink and sipped at it while glancing around the conference table. Valerie Clemmings, an FBI profiler, was studying her with interest while Holdman and Crandle sat on either side of Trish with silent support. They were used to Trish’s visions, as she’d been working for the local police department for five years now.
Taking a fortifying breath, Trish cleared her throat. “The latest victim was in some kind of pit with a bunch of snakes.”
Holdman grimaced and his blue eyes looked at her with sympathy. “Is she still alive?”
Licking her lips, Trish shook her head and rolled her office chair closer to the table. “I didn’t get much from the vision, except that she was tied up and stuck with those snakes. They had venom that caused a burning sensation as soon as their fangs made contact.” She took another sip as an excuse so she could keep her tone composed. “And the victim couldn’t see anything. No stars, no shadows, nothing.”
Everyone at the table seemed to mull over her words and were taking down notes.
Trish’s heart rate calmed as she waited. The visions were always so intense, so vivid. It was the only time she experienced such strong emotions. Sometimes it was hard to believe that she had been sitting in the fluorescently lit room at the police station that whole time.
Valerie broke the silence. “So, if Miss Pyper is correct with her vision-“
“She is,” both detectives said in unison.
Trish pulled some of her dark hair over her shoulder to hide a smile. The FBI agent could check the records for all the cases she’d helped close. The only one they hadn’t caught so far was the Ghost.
“Anyway,” Valerie waved a hand. “Her vision would prove that Cory Miller is another fatality of this serial killer.” The profiler picked up the missing person report on Cory Miller. “That would make ten victims that we know of.”
Detective Holdman glanced at Valerie. “And we’ve got nothing on our UNSUB.”
Frowning, Valerie shrugged. “I’m still working on it. All I can say now is the typical – we’re looking for a white male, age could be anywhere between twenty to forty. Obviously, this guy has some issues with brunettes with a similar build. My guess is that his mother has similar features.” Her eyes narrowed in thought. “I’m thinking this guy isn’t the average serial killer, though. There’s something I can’t seem to pinpoint.”
“I still say the UNSUB is a sexual predator,” said Crandle. He was sitting to the right of Trish, picking at his yellowed teeth, like he always did when craving a cigarette. “We can probably find him through those kinky chat rooms.”
Shaking her head, Valerie said, “I disagree. I don’t get any sexual vibes from these crime scenes.”
Frowning, Crandle flipped through some files until he found the one he was looking for. “What about this one? The victim was stabbed five times in her vagina.”
Closing her legs, Trish was glad no one could see her movement. The memory of that vision was still fresh. She continued to have nightmares about it even though the vision was months ago.
“No, I don’t think that was sexual.” When Crandle scoffed, the profiler explained. “My bet is that it has something to do with power. All of these murders are different. It seems to me that the UNSUB is… exploring different ways to kill a woman.”
Nodding, Holdman looked at the other man. “She’s right. If the victims didn’t all look similar, we probably wouldn’t even be able to link these killings.”
“Let’s move on.” Valerie pulled another folder from her briefcase. “This is the last missing persons case we’re going to have you look at tonight, Trish.” She pulled out a clear baggie holding a small wallet. “This was found in Debora Helstrome’s car. She was reported missing a week ago.”
Trish stared at the bag that Valerie pushed in front of her. The last vision had been more than unsettling. She wasn’t mentally prepared for another.
“We can push this off till tomorrow,” Holdman said, watching her.
Blowing out softly, Trish shook her head and pulled out the wallet. She felt the soft texture of leather between her fingers…

Debbie’s eyelids felt heavy. She didn’t want to open them, but knew there was something wrong. She needed to wake up. Forcing herself to open her eyes, she saw a single light bulb hanging from a string on the ceiling. It didn’t produce much illumination.
Debbie was lying on a bare mattress on the floor. Only wearing underwear, her skin felt a little sticky and it gave off a strange, sweet smell.
Through growing hysteria, her memory clicked into place. Kidnapped. Scanning the bare, windowless walls, she spotted a door with a removed doorknob. Getting up slowly, she walked over to inspect it. The place where the knob should have been was filled with cement.
Debbie tried to push it open, but it wouldn’t budge. The hinges were on the other side, and getting out looked impossible.
A sob escaped from her and the brunette stepped back. A sickly crunch echoed throughout the empty room as she felt something squish under her foot.
Debbie squealed and hopped onto her other foot. Glancing down, she saw the large brown spider that she’d killed. Realizing that the poor lighting didn’t allow her to see into the corners of the small space, she swallowed and moved closer to the light.
Rubbing her arms, her eyes watered with desperation.
Wiping away some tears to clear her vision, Debbie saw four large spiders crawling by her feet. Giving a small screech, she ran over to the mattress that was against the wall. When she felt little butterfly caresses on both her shoulders, she screamed and brushed the spiders off.
Turning to look at the wall she’d backed up against, she saw that it was covered with all different kinds of arachnids. The smallest was the size of a nickel and they varied in colors. They were pouring out of a vent from the ceiling.
Panic seized her. Small feet pattered over her ears and neck. Debbie frantically smacked at her face and ran over to the door, stepping on several spiders in the process.
She kicked and clawed at the door. “Please let me out! Please! I’ll do anything!”
Spiders were crawling up her legs now. Through her terror, she could feel some of them biting her. One spot on her neck particularly burned.
Never had Debbie thought she would die in such a terrible manner.

Trish came to and realized that she’d been screaming. She was lying on the floor with both Holdman and Crandle holding her down. Glancing between them, she saw their determined faces shiny with sweat. How long had they been holding her down? How much had she fought?
Holdman helped her sit up. “Crandle, get her water.” The other detective complied and had a glass for her in a few seconds.
Trish tried to take it, but her hand was trembling too hard. Finally Holdman grabbed the glass and held it to her lips. After a few sips, she was able to get her shaking under control.
The detectives helped her into her seat and Trish tried to appear professional as she relayed the details to her team, but was certain her face was too pale to pull it off. Two visions in one night was unusual. She felt overstimulated from such intense emotions that had flowed through to her from the victims.
“It was probably a basement,” Crandle said. “I’ll see if we can find any homes with basements in the vicinity.”
Valerie nodded. “As far as I’m aware, there aren’t too many in this part of California. Report back to me if you find anything. I don’t care how late it is.”
They all stood and Holdman turned to Trish. “I’ll walk you to your car.”
Nodding, she followed him out into the hall after Trish said goodbye to Crandle and Valerie.
Once they were in the parking lot behind the station, Holdman asked, “Are you going to be alright? That last one looked like it really got to you.”
Forcing a smile, Trish pulled her keys out of her purse and spotted her car in the darkness. “’It was probably just because I had two visions so close together. I was pushing myself.”
They reached her Mazda, but the detective looked like he had something to say. “Have you thought about my offer?”
Sighing, Trish looked up at Holdman. “You’re very sweet, but I don’t think it would be a good idea to stay with you.”
Color rose to his cheeks. “It doesn’t have to be me. But I think it’s a bad idea for you to live alone right now.”
“I’ll be fine.” She opened her door.
The detective held it open as she got in. “But you’re a perfect match for the victim profile. Dark hair, medium build, light eyes.” He placed a hand on her shoulder. “I’m worried.”
Biting her lip and looking into his blue eyes, Trish felt a tingle of emotion. She quickly pushed it away and looked down. “If it’ll make you feel better, I’ll see if I can stay with my dad for a while.”
Squeezing her shoulder before letting go, Holdman nodded and closed the door.
Driving out of the parking lot, Trish berated herself for being so soft toward the detective. Whenever she had strong emotions, it sparked too many visions that would eventually make her lose her mind. She’d almost lost sight of reality when her mom died. Since then, she hadn’t allowed herself to get close to anyone, or feel anything, if she could help it.
The only time she felt anything at all these days were when the visions came upon her.
Pulling into a grocery store, Trish got out and entered to grab some dinner for the night. As she walked down the frozen food section, she passed a woman who looked similar to her. As well as all the other victims of the Ghost. Could she be looking at the next victim?
Shaking her head, Trish went back to picking out frozen dinners and hurried to the register to pay for them.
In the deserted parking lot, Trish saw the brunette again. The woman was just about to finish loading her groceries. Trish’s heart rate went up a notch when she noticed that her hair was almost the exact same length as Trish’s.
Clenching her jaw, Trish went to her car and put her bag in the back seat. Glancing over, she saw that the woman was closing her trunk and heading to the driver’s side. A compulsion forced Trish’s steps in the stranger’s direction.
“Excuse me,” Trish said as she approached. “I think you dropped your credit card.”
The woman looked down at her feet where Trish pointed.
Trish took that moment to pull a syringe out of her purse. Moving quickly, she plunged the needle into the woman’s neck. The brunette instantly sagged and Trish picked her up with a practiced strength.
Trish moved mechanically as she deposited the body into her trunk and drove to the next place she’d scoped out last week. This time, she wanted to see what it would be like to die from hundreds of shallow cuts made by a drill bit. She’d seen it in a movie and was curious what it would feel like. What kind of emotions someone would feel during such a torturous death.
There was no one around as Trish moved the girl into the abandoned warehouse. This area was deserted with no bystanders to hear what they’d be doing.
Trish was in her full gear, complete with a head visor, coveralls, and gloves, when her victim began to stir.
“Don’t worry,” Trish cooed. “It will be over soon.” She went over to the table and picked up the drill. “Actually, I don’t really know that, but we’ll soon find out.”
Walking over to her victim, Trish saw that the woman was not quite awake yet. It was the perfect time that Trish liked to converse with her victims.
“If you’re thinking, why me, I’m sorry to tell you that it really has nothing to do with you.” The sound of the drill whirred loudly when she pushed the trigger. “I’m not really killing you, you see.” She pushed the tip into the tender flesh of the woman’s right foot. “I’m killing myself.”
The woman’s screams were the loudest that Trish had heard yet.