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Gear | Trips | Food | Technique | Reading

Entries in this blog

Mountain Laurel Designs eVent Superlight Gaiters Review

No matter your outdoor recreation activity of choice, for most any type of winter activity in deeper snow some type of gaiter is desired to keep snow from entering through the top of your footwear and causing an uncomfortably chilly situation, or even eventually worse, predicament for your feet. Although of a shorter design I’ve been utilizing the Mountain Laurel Designs (MLD) Superlight gaiter for the past several years as my gaiter of choice anytime snow is present in shoulder seasons, and thr

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Overnight Ski to Section House at Boreas Pass, Colorado

They say fire warms the soul, better yet when that fire is in a potbelly stove set inside a historic cabin atop the spine of the continent burning wood you didn’t have to chop! Rachel and I decided to celebrate my 31st birthday and our recent move to Colorado by booking an overnight stay at one of the over 30 backcountry huts for rent in Colorado through the 10th Mountain Hut Association and the above scenario is exactly what we found. Based on some advice from fellow TrailGroove writer @PaulMag

HikerBox

HikerBox in Trips

Good To-Go Chicken Pho Review

Many years ago, I was stuck at a cubicle all day under fluorescent lights in the corporate world. In such an environment one has to find small ways to make their days positive – getting your favorite morning coffee, a lunchtime stroll, or looking forward to that dedicated Friday lunch spot. One such eatery was a local restaurant that specialized in one thing: Vietnamese pho. Perfect on bitter winter days, the dish for me is a satisfying blend of a flavorful soup broth and noodles but with a heav

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Food

Biking the Burr Trail, Utah

The last two winters I’ve spent living in the American southwest, and before I left I planned to take a long bike ride. I wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to go, but I was leaning towards somewhere way out in the desert. I changed my mind many times in the months before the trip, but eventually decided to leave sunny California, and drive further inland, to Utah. I had driven this highway once before, a scenic route through the southern part of Utah. Highway 12, “The All American Road

michaelswanbeck

michaelswanbeck in Trips

Alite Designs Monarch Chair Review

A chair is an item that often doesn’t make its way onto many lightweight gear lists, and perhaps rightfully so if your goal is to hike until sunset, eat dinner, go to sleep, and repeat the process day after day. In those situations, a rock, log, or the ground without a doubt is a free and weightless solution. However, if you’re taking things easier a chair can start to make a lot of sense in the backcountry and sometimes those little perks can make all the difference. And when it only

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Firepot Chili con Carne with Rice Review

While many of us have settled on a routine of meals and old standby dinners in the backcountry – whether that’s commercial freeze dried meals or our own recipes on the trail, every once in a while it’s nice to mix it up. Recently when re-stocking the freeze dried meal inventory for some upcoming trips I noticed a brand I hadn’t tried before – and I decided to test out the new Chili con Carne with Rice meal made by Firepot in the United Kingdom. Manufactured in the United Kingdom, the

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Food

Backpacking in the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness, Montana

Hiking from one beautiful place to another on pleasant and well-maintained trails is a great way to spend five days. Doing so with a good friend and cooperative weather makes a great experience even better. Throw in a few synchronous strokes of good fortune and you end up with an incredibly rewarding and memorable adventure. Neither John nor I had been on a four-night trip since March 2011 when he, myself, and my girlfriend at the time did a trek through the Chiricahua Mountains in so

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington in Trips

Herbal Armor Natural Insect Repellent Review

Herbal Armor by All Terrain is a natural insect and mosquito repellent that has been my go to insect repellent choice for the last several years. Over time as I’ve moved from DEET to picaridin to various natural repellents, I’ve had a chance to try many products on the market – and have had the unfortunate experience of being quite disappointed in the efficacy of many natural solutions. Many smell nice, but might as well have been left at home. Returning from backpacking trips with more than a b

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Mountain House Chicken Teriyaki Meal Review

While some meals may come and go from the backpacking freeze-dried meal repertoire, other meals stand the test of time and seem to find their way into your food bag many times over the years. Mountain House Chicken Teriyaki is one such meal that I’ve taken along on recent trips to trips pretty far back in the memory bank, and in Mountain House packaging from the latest all the way back to the old yellow and blue package. While perhaps not quite as exciting as newer meals to hit the market, somet

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Food

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 Wetherington

Mark Wetherington in Trips

ULA Equipment Spark Kid's Backpack Review

Backpacking with kids is all about progression – from the first overnighter where you might be carrying all the family gear as well as the kid, to those first short trips later just a short distance from the trailhead and as far as young legs – or young attention spans can make it. However, once you pass these stages and your kid can start to carry more than just a small day pack with just a couple very lightweight items and your trips begin to venture farther into the backcountry, a real pack i

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Hiking the Mariscal Rim Trail: A Return to Big Bend

Last fall, my sister, Melissa, and I visited Big Bend National Park in west Texas (see TrailGroove #56). As we left, we decided that we needed to return in the spring – unfinished business! One of the main reasons was to hike the Mariscal Canyon Rim Trail, which we didn’t hike last trip as the temperature was going to be too high. While our previous trip (detailed here) involved more extensive hiking and some backpacking, during our latest trip, we hiked several shorter hikes and drov

Steve Ancik

Steve Ancik in Trips

Mountain House Yellow Curry with Chicken & Rice Review

One thing I’ve been focusing on recently for my backcountry meals is adding variety. When it comes to prepackaged backpacking meals this variety is often found in what is essentially the same meal but just in different flavors – for example flavor and cultural variations on rice or pasta based meals. Finding something that is truly different however can be difficult to find unless you’re making your own dinners from scratch. For an off the shelf pre-made meal however, the Mountain House Yellow C

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Food

Lakes, Peaks, & Bugs: Hiking the Beaverhead Mountains

Although lacking wilderness status or the “brand name” recognition of Glacier National Park, the Beaverhead Mountains in western Montana are a remarkably scenic landscape with few crowds and plenty of lakes with trout in them. In other words, they contain all the prerequisites for a great backpacking trip. The Beaverhead Mountains, which are at the southern end of the Bitterroot Mountain Range, are also notorious for having millions of voracious mosquitoes which makes early season trips here a f

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington in Trips

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 Wetherington

Mark Wetherington in Trips

GooseFeet Gear Down Socks Review

The down socks offered by GooseFeet Gear are essentially a max warmth at a minimum weight solution for keeping your feet warm at night – or in and around your campsite with optional overboots. Each pair of the socks / booties are made to order with your choice of lightweight fabrics and colors both inside and out, choice on the amount of down fill (850 fill power water-resistant down is used), and of course the size. Zpacks also offers the socks without a fabric or color choice. Constructio

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Backpacking and Tenkara: Ultralight Fishing on the Trail

When I became intrigued by the trout swimming in mountain lakes in the Northern Rockies, I realized the tenkara rod gathering dust in my gear room would be a great way to test the waters before outfitting myself with a full fly rod and reel set up. Tenkara is a Japanese method of fly fishing that focuses on simplicity and forgoes a reel in favor of a longer rod length, fixed amount of line, and uses as few fly patterns as possible. Presentation, mindful casting, and technique are emphasized more

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington in Technique

An Outlaws' Retreat: Hiking in Robbers Cave State Park

The forested slopes of southeastern Oklahoma’s ironically named Sans Bois Mountains provide the backdrop for much of the excitement in “True Grit,” a novel by Charles Portis and two major motion pictures (1969 and 2010). You wouldn’t know it though, for the mountain peaks shown in the films suggest places farther west. Indeed, the movies were filmed in Colorado and New Mexico, but pursuing outlaws in post-Civil War Indian Territory, as the main characters are portrayed as doing in “True Grit,” w

Susan Dragoo

Susan Dragoo in Trips

Backpacker's Pantry Pad Thai with Chicken Review

Pad Thai with Chicken from Backpacker’s Pantry takes their most popular dinner – the vegetarian Pad Thai – and adds chicken with a “meal kit” including a lime packet and Sriracha powder, so you can customize the meal to your personal tastes. Right off the bat, it stands out that the meal packs a punch in the calorie department (for a pre-made backpacking meal at least), at 840 calories total. As I’m personally a fan of a meatatarian meal for dinner when I’m on the trail (after all, br

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Food

Ancient Wanderings: Hiking in the Ventana Wilderness

I collect hidden places of refuge in the wilderness. At least once a year I retreat to one of these havens to renew my spirit. These spots have a few things in common: They are off trail, deep in the wilderness, difficult to get to, and a delightful surprise when first discovered. And, when I am there, being alone feels exactly right. Deep within one of California’s coastal mountain ranges in the Ventana Wilderness, one such location is a sandstone cave at the base of a large rock outcroppi

George Graybill

George Graybill in Trips

Ruffwear Cloud Chaser Dog Jacket: A 14 Year Review

Whether you are venturing out on a day hike with inclement weather in the forecast, or heading out on a multi-day backpacking trip, when you’re doing so with a canine companion taking the appropriate gear not only for yourself, but also for your dog is critical. A dog jacket is one such item that I put to constant use on the trail – nearly every backpacking trip into the mountains – in addition to other dog-specific gear like dog packs and sleeping bags. While there are many dog jackets that wil

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Solitude in the Sapphire Mountains of Montana

I’ve always placed a premium on solitude when planning my outdoor activities and, with some planning and luck, have never found it to be particularly difficult to obtain. However, with trails across the country being more crowded than ever the past few years, it’s taken a bit more effort even in sparsely populated western Montana to have that lake, peak, or meadow all to yourself. Fortunately, with a bit of flexibility and research I was able to turn a short-notice opportunity for an overnight t

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington in Trips

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 in Trips

Toaks 550ml Titanium Pot Review

When it comes to backpacking cookware, most of us can keep things simple with a pot combined with a mug of choice. Especially when solo backpacking however, using the same vessel for both purposes is one option to save weight, save pack space, and is a great way to keep the camp kitchen even simpler. The Toaks 550 is about the smallest option you can go with that will still perform well across the board as an all in one solution. The Toaks 550 is made of titanium to save weight, and f

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

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 in Trips




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