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TrailGroove Blog

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  • Aaron Zagrodnick 158
  • Mark Wetherington 36
  • Susan Dragoo 7
  • HikerBox 5
  • Steve Ancik 5
  • George Graybill 4
  • JimR 3
  • MattS 2
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  • HappyHour 1
  • Doug Emory 1
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Gear | Trips | Food | Technique | Reading

Entries in this blog

REI Co-op Flexlite Air Chair: Long Term Review

While some categories of backpacking gear have already gone from heavy to as light as possible and already cycled back to achieve a balance between weight and durability using currently available materials and technology, of all things the backpacking chair stills seems to be in the middle of this cycle. As lighter and more packable chair designs supersede previous models on a near yearly basis, one of the latest and lightest chairs to hit the market in the lightweight, somewhat contradictory to

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

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 Wetherington

Mark Wetherington in Gear

Alcohol and Canister Stove Weight Comparisons

When it comes to backpacking stoves a key consideration is of course weight, and more importantly the weight of a system including fuel for the duration of your trip. Not only is initial weight important, but also the average weight you’ll carry each day. For 3 season, lightweight backpacking use alcohol stoves and upright canister stoves are the most used options for weight conscious backpackers, and while both are very different in application, many similarities can be found to exist in the we

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Gossamer Gear Gorilla Backpack: A 3,000 Mile Review

Gossamer Gear has been refining their ultralight oriented backpacks since 1998, including multiple iterations of the Gorilla – their medium volume framed pack. The Gorilla was redesigned in early 2015 using gray Robic fabric instead of the white Dyneema Grid fabric as seen on older packs. The shoulder straps are now unisex, more contoured, thicker, and slightly narrower than the previous version. The hip belt was also redesigned to have more padding with a mesh inner face to wick sweat. Trekking

HikerBox

HikerBox in Gear

Evernew Ultralight Titanium Review: 1.3 and .9 Liter Pots

While the potential exists to makes one's backcountry cooking setup nearly as complex as the average home kitchen, albeit hopefully a bit more miniaturized and lighter, in most cases the average lightweight backpacker only needs to boil water for freeze-dried dinners, freezer bag style cooking, to heat and hydrate a basic meal within the pot, or to heat water for things like coffee and tea. For these backpackers – like myself – the Evernew Ultralight Titanium Series pots have been a fairly popul

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Backpacking Gear: Down vs. Synthetic Insulation

Before you begin to narrow down your choice of a sleeping bag or jacket for backpacking usage, there’s one key decision you must arrive at first: the choice of down vs. synthetic insulation. The source of much debate, both options have mostly pros and a few cons. In this post we’ll detail why you might choose one over the other and detail the performance of down and synthetic insulation across various backpacking situations. Down and synthetic backpacking jackets Down Insulation

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Hollow Fiber Backpacking Water Filter Care & Maintenance

While many methods for backcountry water treatment exist, hollow fiber filters are quite popular due to their ease of use, effectiveness, reasonable cost, and longevity. While a hollow fiber filter is quite simple – with the filter itself having no moving parts and working through a multitude of hollow tubes (each hollow tube then having a multitude of microscopic pores, which actually filter the water) the filter element will still need to be maintained and some basic precautions should be exer

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Ruffwear Highlands Dog Sleeping Bag Review

Backpacking with a dog will always add an extra section to your gear list, and when hiking during the colder shoulder season or winter months and in mountain locations that generally are always somewhat chilly at night, keeping your dog warm for a restful night of sleep is an important factor to consider. The Ruffwear Highlands sleeping bag for dogs is one way to provide insulation for your dog at night and is a dog sleeping bag solution I’ve used on the trail many times – when you're backpackin

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Petzl IKO CORE Rechargeable Headlamp Review

For whatever reason, headlamps have not been an item I’ve paid particular attention to during a decade of backpacking. I’m on my third or fourth headlamp, but whenever I’ve needed to replace one (lost, intermittent failure issues, decided to make it a spare to keep in the car, etc.) I’ve simply purchased whatever was most similar to the previous one. Bells and whistles were never that intriguing to me when it came to headlamps (although one of mine did have a whistle built into the plastic on th

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington in Gear

Feathered Friends Down Booties Review

Few items provide as much comfort for the weight during frigid backpacking trips as dedicated down booties. Cold feet can quickly sap out any enjoyment of wonderful winter scenery and can easily discourage someone from ever attempting winter backpacking or cross-country ski touring. While down jackets can easily keep your core warm, having a full-body strategy for keeping in heat is crucial for winter trips where you’re spending a significant amount of time in camp. Down booties provide a soluti

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington in Gear

Dyneema Composite Fabric / Cuben Fiber and Backpacking

Dyneema Composite Fabric, often shortened to DCF and previously referred to as Cuben Fiber, is a fabric made from Dyneema fibers that are embedded in a polyester film to form a single material or fabric. Due to the high strength to weight ratio of the Dyneema fibers and its low stretch combined with inherent waterproofness, DCF and Cuben Fiber has proven to be a popular option for lightweight and ultralight backpacking gear over the past several years, and usage continues to grow in popularity f

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

NEMO Switchback Sleeping Pad Review

I think we can all agree that getting a good night’s sleep is essential to enjoying a backpack trip. But it is also a challenge. If you are accustomed to sleeping on a bed, as most of us are, then the transition from mattress to ground is a hard one. We need something to cushion that transition and thus some sort of sleeping pad is a part of nearly every hiker’s kit. Inflatable sleeping pads best mimic the mattress sleeping experience. But they have their drawbacks: they are fairly heavy (often

HappyHour

HappyHour in Gear

ULA Equipment Photon Backpack Review

For many years, I’ve been a big fan of backpacks from ULA Equipment, as they always really seem to hit the nail on the head when it comes to a balance of convenience, durability, weight, and price in a pack. For all of my backpacking trips I use the ULA Circuit – review here – and while there’s another pack or two on the market that I’d like to try at some point, the trusty Circuit always handles the job so well with no complaints from me that no other backpacking pack really gets a chance in my

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Digital Backpacking Scales: Pack Faster and Lighter

Of all the backpacking related gear I utilize, a digital scale has to be one of the most overlooked and underrated items – a scale is something I use in a variety of ways when preparing for any backpacking trip. While a scale isn’t an item actually on our gear list or something we’ll be taking on a trip, a scale is a tool that helps to get us out there faster and lighter – by aiding with packing speed and convenience as well as helping to keep weights down before we grab our pack and head for th

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

How to Choose the Best Backpacking and Hiking Headlamp

A good light for backpacking and hiking 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 your backcountry lighting needs. What follows is an overview of features to consider when selecting a headlamp for the outdoors and thoughts on lighting needs for the trail. A headlamp for backpacking and hiking should be lightwei

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Lightweight Photo Gear and Carrying a Backpacking Camera

Combining cameras with the outdoors and taking one along to document your hiking and backpacking trips introduces a few challenges that must be overcome to take your photos quickly and easily, while still being able to maintain and keep your camera safe from the elements. On the trail, a few key points are worth the most consideration and what follows is the setup that has worked best for me on trips where the hiking is a higher priority than, or at least on equal ground priority-wise, with the

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Hiking and Backpacking Gaiters: Selection and Utilization

For some reason gaiters were one of the “accessory” pieces of backpacking gear that I delayed purchasing far longer than I should have. Trekking poles likely would have fallen into the same category, but fortunately for my knees I received a pair as a gift early in my backpacking days. It was only after I moved to Montana and began adapting my backpacking to a different landscape – the Northern Rockies is quite different from the Southern Appalachians – that I bought my first pair of gaiters. Th

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington in Gear

NEMO Fillo Elite Backpacking Pillow Review

After setting up the tent on a recent trip and after a long day, I heard an unwelcome sound the moment I laid my head on the pillow – the sound of air leaking from the previously trusty pillow I’d been packing along on trips for years. Luckily, this trip was quite warm for the mountains – lows in the high 40s plus having a double walled tent along meant I had a down jacket that I wasn’t wearing at night, and could roll up in a stuff sack to get me through the trip. However, for more normal

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

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