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 this past summer, 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 tri
Some years ago I was eating breakfast with my wife, Lyn, at the Vermillion Valley Resort when a group of unusual looking people sat down at an adjacent table. They were wiry and weather beaten and gave off a raised-by-wolves vibe. They proceeded to eat enormous platters of food, which they washed down with beer. They turned out to be thru hikers from the nearby John Muir Trail (JMT). After they told us a little about their trip, I said to my wife, “I want to do that! – or, at least, I want to lo
Among its many inimitable charms, prime backpacking season in the Northern Rockies is also unfortunately defined by a cruel brevity. Try to hike too early in the season and you wind up postholing through leftover snow, anxiously evaluating raging creeks for the safest place to cross, and camping near lakes still thawing out from winter – adventuresome, but not exactly ideal. A few weeks later and things are more amenable to backpacking, but bugs (especially the biting kind) become so numerous th
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
For the last several years, I’ve primarily backpacked in low-top trail runners with Brooks Cascadias and Altra Lone Peaks being the ones most often on my feet. I’ve used both waterproof and non-waterproof models and, after much experimentation, have pretty much decided that in three-season conditions non-waterproof works best for me in the terrain and conditions most common on my backpacking trips. While trail runners have been preferable to me for a variety of reasons – breathability and comfor
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
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
When it comes to backpacking with a kid, many challenges will need to be addressed. While most of these challenges come in the form of intangibles such as proper trip planning for their particular age, motivation on the trail, and figuring out the best way to answer “how much farther” type questions, when it comes to hiking gear for kids, good shoes (as with adults) are critical.
Unfortunately, decent footwear that is durable, lightweight, and comfortable for actual hiking distances i
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
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 light weight items and your trips begin to venture farther into the backcountry, a real pack
Since moving to the Lone Peak line as my 3 season hiking and backpacking shoe of choice in 2014, I’ve followed along as the shoe has matured across various versions as I’ve worn out each pair along the way. Now that it’s 2020, the latest version is all the way up to the 4.5 model that is quite different from very early versions of the Lone Peak, but very similar to more recent versions like the Lone Peak 4.0.
In fact, the new Altra Lone Peak 4.5 is so similar that after wearing out my
Despite a low snow year and summer drought conditions, mosquitoes this year have maintained a strong foothold here high in the mountains of Wyoming. As I’ve migrated from DEET to Picaridin to natural insect repellents over the years, I’m always on the lookout for products that either work better or have better ingredients. While I’ve been using Herbal Armor for several years, the best version of their product – the pressurized continuous spray has recently become hard to find. Thus in regards to
“Crowded” at trailheads in national forests in Montana typically just means more cars than you can count one hand, thus providing a degree of solitude that backpackers in states like Oregon or Washington would envy. If a solo experience is what you’re after, it doesn’t take much effort to find great hikes where the chances of you being the only hiker on the trail are north of 90%. Needless to say, by and large hiking in Montana during the COVID-19 pandemic has not made me feel like I’m putting m
With the summer hiking season in full swing, we’re all as anxious as ever to get outside before winter rolls around yet again. But with 2020 being a very different year and with trails as busy as ever with COVID-19 / coronavirus closures being lifted across the country, it’s a good time to look at our routine and approach to the outdoors and find ways to deal with considerations that we are all very much not used to. Here are a few strategies for getting on the trail and ways to adapt your hikin
While the Cosmo headlamp doesn’t sit at the top of Black Diamond’s headlamp line, it very well may offer the best feature to price balance while offering just about everything you need in a backpacking headlamp. After using the higher end Spot 325 light that includes a few more features, I decided to give the Cosmo a try this year simply because, it’s simpler.
The Black Diamond Cosmo is backcountry light designed around Black Diamonds familiar form factor, and offers a spot beam, a wi
While much of my backpacking gear sees turnover somewhat frequently as I test and review new gear in the field, I’ve traditionally remained quite dedicated to specific water treatment systems over the years. In fact, over the past decade I can count on one hand the specific models of water filters / treatment systems I typically turn to when packing for a trip (although there have been plenty of replacement cartridges or filters along the way). Rarely does a new water treatment contender intrigu
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
From beaches to rainforests to glaciers, Olympic National Park provides hikers with access to a stunning variety of landscapes. Although I’ve barely scratched the surface of what there is to do in the park’s 922,650 acres, I have had the privilege of soaking in its hot springs, swimming in its alpine lakes, and walking among the giant trees in its rainforest. The extensive trail network of Olympic National Park allows for memorable backpacking trips of all lengths, from overnight outings to week
While standard freeze-dried meal fare will often find us eating rice or pasta based meals in the backcountry, it’s nice to mix things up every now and then. With the Mountain House Spicy Southwest Skillet Meal we can throw something that’s quite different into our food bag, while also adding an option that’s equally at home for dinner or breakfast in a pinch.
The Mountain House Spicy Southwest Skillet Meal comes in a 2 serving package, but at just 490 calories total I would consider t
I must admit I started a like affair with hiking around 1993. I did not know I was hiking since I was mandated to do it, along with some fellow Army comrades, while stationed in South Korea. When your company commander says to take that hill, you take it, or as I would like to say, “hike it.” I do not remember the specific area where we hiked, but I know I was surrounded by lots of trees, large leaves, and some trickling of water. I remember almost falling into the water, and guess what, I can’t
A new dinner from Mountain House, their Mexican Style Adobo Rice and Chicken Meal brings backpackers, hikers, or considering the current situation we've been facing here in the spring of 2020 just about anyone a decent Mexican themed meal that's also compatible with gluten free diets. And while normally we don't dive too much into packaging here at TrailGroove, in this case it deserves mention with a redesign that not only includes an artwork update but important updates to functionality as well
“Build a railroad right through these mountains? You can’t do it, man; you can’t do it. You might as well try to build a railroad on the Devil’s eyebrow as to undertake to build one in such a place.” And so the words of a pioneer gave a rugged sandstone formation in northwest Arkansas its name. The year was 1880, and surveyors were doing preliminary work on the location of the Frisco Railroad. The railroad was built, the name stuck, and today “Devil’s Eyebrow” is one of 75 Natural Areas managed
With time rapidly running out to hike one of the big three trails this year or having run out already, it may be time to consider a shorter long trail once the present situation with COVID-19 becomes settled, hopefully sooner rather than later. Trails like the Colorado Trail, John Muir Trail, and Long Trail (see Thru-Hiking: the Junior Version) will certainly get plenty of attention after social distancing regulations are relaxed and when current closures come to an end, but there are lesser kno
The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate by Peter Wohlleben (Greystone Books, 2015) is an approachable book of bite-sized chapters explaining the mysteries of trees. Ever wondered if trees can talk to each other? How they know when to drop their leaves in the fall (and why)? That they can lower the blood pressure of hikers beneath them? Wohlleben answers all these questions – and brings up fascinating others – in this easily-digestible book that’s sure to make a tree-hugger
When you inevitably find yourself getting miles in during cold and wet weather on any hiking or backpacking trip, we all of course reach for our rain gear to stay warm and dry. One item that can be overlooked however is protection for our hands: which are especially susceptible to getting chilled quickly. Of all options I’ve found a lightweight waterproof rain mitt to be the best option in these situations, which can be worn over liner gloves for a complete 3-season layering system that will kee