TrailGroove Blog

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Entries in this blog

MSR Quick Skillet Review

MSR Quick Skillet Review

Like most backpackers, my cook kit usually consists of a stove, pot, spork, and mug. Sometimes I even forego the mug in a quest for simplicity and weight savings and just drink my tea and coffee out of the pot. And, inadvertently, I’ve left my spork behind once or twice and enjoyed extremely minimal and inconvenient weight savings. However, under certain conditions, I’ve been known to expand my cook kit to include a non-stick skillet and cook up meals normally reserved for car camping

Mark

Mark

How to Keep Your Backpacking Gear Dry

How to Keep Your Backpacking Gear Dry

While backpacking during an all-day rain presents its own challenges when it comes to staying dry – or as dry as possible – protecting your gear and the items in your pack that must stay dry comes with its own set of considerations. Having a dry jacket, clothes, and a dry sleep system at the end of a long rainy day is not only backpacking luxury, it’s also critical to our safety on the trail. And whether rain is in the forecast or not, in most backpacking locations we still need a strategy to ke

Aaron

Aaron

Hiking in Yosemite: Waterfalls and Winter Solitude

Hiking in Yosemite: Waterfalls and Winter Solitude

It's an early December afternoon in Yosemite National Park, and I'm watching a bobcat padding down the trail in front of me. In his mouth is a lifeless gray squirrel, so large that he drops it several times. He turns and surveys me with the lazy arrogance of a house cat who's proud of his kill. I'm unsure if I should be following this wild creature down the trail. I think of how animals are protective of their food. Still, the large cat and I are headed the same way, so I continue at a distance.

Allison Johnson

Allison Johnson

How to Choose the Best Backpacking Sleeping Bag

How to Choose the Best Backpacking Sleeping Bag

Much like your bed at home, your sleeping bag is a place where you will be spending about one-third of your time in a 24-hour period. Making sure that your sleeping bag is comfortable, warm, and appropriate for the conditions is essential for getting a quality night’s rest so you can wake up the next day ready to crank out some miles, summit a peak, or simply soak up the natural scenery without dozing off. The good news is that there are plenty of options for high-quality sleeping bags, so findi

Mark

Mark

Hiking, Biking, and Climbing to Three Fingers Lookout

Hiking, Biking, and Climbing to Three Fingers Lookout

We had been warned that the Three Fingers Lookout wasn’t for the faint of heart. But that didn’t take away from the shock of first seeing it. The hut was just a speck in the distance, perched precariously on a jagged spire of rock rising up above a crevasse-riddled glacier and a low sea of clouds. From our vantage, it seemed impossible that the wooden hut could balance there for another night, let alone that there would be a passable trail to reach it. My partner, Emily, and I had got

mgraw

mgraw

Altra Lone Peak 4 RSM Mid Waterproof Boot Review

Altra Lone Peak 4 RSM Mid Waterproof Boot Review

The Lone Peak series of trail running shoes from Altra are a popular shoe choice in lightweight backpacking and hiking circles, mainly due to the comfort of the Lone Peak platform combined with a decent outsole and rock protection. Comfort is achieved via Altra’s foot-shaped toebox, the light weight of the shoe, and its zero drop midsole for a natural gait. Combined with an aggressive outsole and rock protection we having the makings of a great summer long distance hiking shoe. As an

Aaron

Aaron

A Hike in Kentucky's Daniel Boone National Forest

A Hike in Kentucky's Daniel Boone National Forest

The musical theme from the 1960s Daniel Boone television show ran through my head when, as we drove across southern Kentucky, I saw signs indicating we were entering Daniel Boone National Forest (DBNF). The historical Boone was not actually a big man in physical stature, but his legend, and the actual accomplishments of the Kentucky frontiersman, were sizable. Daniel Boone was a man, Yes, a big man! With an eye like an eagle And as tall as a mountain was he! In 1775, Boone blazed

Susan Dragoo

Susan Dragoo

Summit Serenity: Climbing Mount Saint Helens

Summit Serenity: Climbing Mount Saint Helens

Sitting atop the summit of Mount Saint Helens, with views of over a hundred miles in every direction, a passage from a novel came to mind as I sipped a cup of coffee and gazed at distant peaks. Seemingly appropriate when applied to an exceptionally clear autumn day observed from atop a mountain, an experience that makes one feel full of life. It felt like the “most beautiful day in a thousand years. The October air was sweet and every faint breath a pleasure.” As Annie Proulx wrote in the book,

Mark

Mark

Shenandoah National Park: Hiking Back East for a Change

Shenandoah National Park: Hiking Back East for a Change

It’s almost as if the Pacific Ocean is a magnet, pulling me west each time I venture out to explore. While I take full advantage of the natural wonders offered by my home region in the central U.S., if I am traveling very far to hike, it is usually somewhere west of Oklahoma. As a result, I have hiked very little in the eastern United States, though I’ve managed to walk short sections of the Appalachian Trail on trips to Vermont and Maryland. Not much to brag about. Recently, I was in

Susan Dragoo

Susan Dragoo

Northern Rockies Gold: Hiking in Search of the Fall Larch

Northern Rockies Gold: Hiking in Search of the Fall Larch

The Rocky Mountains provide hikers with countless opportunities to immerse themselves in backcountry areas filled with quintessential landforms. Majestic mountain peaks, sublime subalpine lakes, waterfalls, glaciers, and wildflower-filled meadows come immediately to mind. Rolling high-altitude plateaus, cascading mountain streams, and fragrant forests of dense conifers are also key contributors to this enchanting landscape. Somewhat surprisingly, there are even some natural arches scattered acro

Mark

Mark

Seeking Solitude: Backpacking in the Bitterroot Mountains

Seeking Solitude: Backpacking in the Bitterroot Mountains

With backpacks loaded and my friend Drew in the passenger seat, both of us eager to head to subalpine lakes with hungry trout, I turned the keys in the ignition and proceeded to break one of my cardinal rules of backpacking: don’t start in a trip in the middle of a holiday weekend. As advantageous as having an extra day off work to extend a backpacking trip is, if you’re spending that time on a crowded trail only to end up at an area where all the best campsites are taken the “victory” is at bes

Mark

Mark

Cincinnati Style Chili Backpacker's Pantry Meal Review

Cincinnati Style Chili Backpacker's Pantry Meal Review

Along with the other meals that we’ve recently reviewed in the Backpacker’s Pantry Outdoorsman Line, this meal is a 1 serving freeze dried meal that focuses on delivering 500+ calories and 30+ grams of protein to solo hikers (or the outdoorsman) in a meal that requires minimal water for rehydration and won’t take up much space in your pack. The Cincinnati Style Chili with Beef Meal contains 540 calories and 35 grams of protein to be exact, and only requires 1.25 cups of hot water and

Aaron

Aaron

Backpacker's Pantry Outdoorsman Beef Stroganoff Review

Backpacker's Pantry Outdoorsman Beef Stroganoff Review

Another option from the Outdoorsman Line of meals from Backpacker’s Pantry, their Beef Stroganoff with Egg Noodles promises their chef’s “real deal”, just add water take on stroganoff – a recipe that is not without competition in the freeze dried meal category. As with the other options in the new Outdoorsman Line, their beef stroganoff meal is designed to be a one serving meal with a lot of protein, and in a compact, packable form factor. This option packs 530 calories into a package

Aaron

Aaron

Backpacking the Pioneer Mountains of Montana

Backpacking the Pioneer Mountains of Montana

As a backpacker, I’ve found few things more enjoyable than hiking over a nameless and trail-less mountain pass to beautiful subalpine lakes with trout swimming in their frigid waters. In the mountain ranges of Montana, this isn’t too difficult a feat to accomplish, at least logistically. However, the physical challenge of gaining nearly a thousand vertical feet in well under a mile of horizontal travel is nothing to scoff at, regardless of your conditioning. With millions of acres of public land

Mark

Mark

Backpacker's Pantry Chicken Lasagna Review

Backpacker's Pantry Chicken Lasagna Review

This meal from Backpacker’s Pantry offers up their take on chicken lasagna in a 1 serving meal and is from their new Outdoorsman Line – a series of meals that are all a single serving and have a compact form factor. The Outdoorsman Line meals have a slightly higher level of calories and are also higher in protein compared to generally accepted backpacking meal standards. This Chicken Lasagna Meal offers up 530 calories and 34 grams of protein, and is based around some hard to beat ing

Aaron

Aaron

Nunatak Dog Bivy / Sleeping Bag Review

Nunatak Dog Bivy / Sleeping Bag Review

Backpacking with a dog always involves taking along additional gear to ensure the comfort and safety of your canine companion, and when it comes to backpacking throughout the seasons or in higher elevation areas, some type of solution should be brought along to keep your pet warm at night. In combination with a foam pad, in the past I’ve used everything from an unzipped down jacket to a kid’s sleeping bag for this purpose, to another dog sleeping bag (from Ruffwear) that's available. When it com

Aaron

Aaron

Backpacker's Pantry Chicken with Rice Review

Backpacker's Pantry Chicken with Rice Review

One of 4 meals in the newer Outdoorsman Line from Backpacker’s Pantry, the chicken with rice meal reviewed here is a single serving meal containing 500 calories and 33 grams of protein. The meal is made by adding 1.5 cups of hot water and waiting 15-20 minutes for rehydration, and is essentially chicken, rice, vegetables, and a chicken gravy that Backpacker’s Pantry describes as “no-fuss comfort food the world over”. This 4.4 ounce (net weight) meal is also gluten-free, making it worth a look fo

Aaron

Aaron

Review: Gossamer Gear LT5 Trekking Poles

Review: Gossamer Gear LT5 Trekking Poles

As far as hiking gear goes, trekking poles are one of the most utilitarian and least flashy pieces of gear out there. Whereas sleeping bags, tents, backpacks, down jackets, and rain shells all seem to have copious amounts of energy and ink expended in marketing campaigns to promote them, trekking poles seem to have a much lower profile. There’s just something about these simple pieces of gear that doesn’t really inspire the enthusiasm and consumer-fever that gets people worked up abou

Mark

Mark

Backpacking Pots and Cookware Selection Guide

Backpacking Pots and Cookware Selection Guide

Performing a few simple yet vital tasks, our choice of a backpacking pot is one item that the rest of our cooking gear will frequently revolve around, especially if you like to pack your entire cooking kit inside your pot. A backpacking pot serves as a vessel in which we can prepare our backcountry meals and heat or even sanitize water if needed – and despite being such a simple item it is not one easily replaced. In fact, if one were only allowed to take a few items of gear into the backcountry

Aaron

Aaron

Petzl Actik Core Headlamp Review

Petzl Actik Core Headlamp Review

Depending on what time of year you’re hiking and your latitude, a headlamp likely alternates between something you might barely use (summer in Alaska) or something you’re using when cooking dinner, breakfast, and for the many hours in between (winter in most of the northern hemisphere). Not to give a particular piece of equipment too much credit, but in a certain sense a headlamp is an almost biblically miraculous piece of gear – where there is darkness, it provides light. Whether that’s for ill

Mark

Mark

Brooks Cascadia 13 Trail Running Shoe Review

Brooks Cascadia 13 Trail Running Shoe Review

After making the switch from hiking books to trail runners a few years ago, I’ve been fairly loyal to various iterations of the Brooks Cascadias. At any given time during the hiking season, there is usually at least one Gore-Tex pair of Cascadias and one regular pair on my feet or in my gear room. Alternating between the two based on trail conditions or the season has kept my feet happy for well over a thousand cumulative miles of backpacking and trail running. I’ve found both version

Mark

Mark

Backpacking Headlamp Selection and Lighting Options

Backpacking Headlamp Selection and Lighting Options

A good light for backpacking is a required and essential safety item and a category for which there are no shortage of options available – and considering the convenience and hands-free operation provided, headlamps are the most popular option for backpacking lighting needs. What follows is an overview of features to consider when selecting a headlamp for backpacking and thoughts on lighting needs for the trail. The Backcountry Headlamp With headlamps offered in a variety of weig

Aaron

Aaron

Book Review: The Carry Home by Gary Ferguson

Book Review: The Carry Home by Gary Ferguson

In his beautiful and evocative memoir The Carry Home: Lessons from the American Wilderness, acclaimed travel writer Gary Ferguson breathes emotional and humane life into the Mountain West. After 25 years of marriage and as many seasons sharing a USFS ski patrol hut, Ferguson’s wife Jane passes away suddenly in a tragic canoeing accident in northern Ontario, dividing Ferguson from not only his partner and best friend, but from his identity in relation to her. In recognition of her last wishes, he

Steven Genise

Steven Genise

Backpacker's Pantry Sweet & Sour Rice & Chicken Review

Backpacker's Pantry Sweet & Sour Rice & Chicken Review

One of the more recent meals from Backpacker’s Pantry, their Sweet and Sour Rice and Chicken backpacking meal brings this classic Asian dish to the trail in a 2 serving entree that’s ready in 15-20 minutes (depending on altitude) after adding 2 cups of boiling water. Included in the meal is an organic olive oil packet, to be added to the meal prior to adding hot water. All combined you’ll be getting a dinner that offers up 680 calories along with 38 grams of protein in this meal based on rice, f

Aaron

Aaron

Backpacking Hydration Options: An Overview and Guide

Backpacking Hydration Options: An Overview and Guide

As soon as we set foot on the trail, a way to carry one of the most essential ingredients for a successful hike – water – becomes essential. With a myriad of options available from bottles of nearly every variety to dedicated, and often complex, hydration systems on the market today, when choosing a way to carry your water while backpacking the shopping experience can become complicated quickly. What follows is an overview of options that are available for this task along with my preferences, an

Aaron

Aaron