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TrailGroove Blog

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  • Aaron Zagrodnick 138
  • Mark Wetherington 32
  • HikerBox 5
  • Susan Dragoo 5
  • JimR 3
  • michaelswanbeck 2
  • MattS 2
  • Jen 2
  • Isak Kvam 1
  • Tephanie H. 1
  • HappyHour 1
  • George Graybill 1
  • Barbara 1
  • Steve Ancik 1
  • SarahLynne 1
  • Doug Emory 1
  • Steven Genise 1
  • mgraw 1
  • Allison Johnson 1
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About this blog

Entries in this blog

October Alpine: Fall Backpacking in Montana

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

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington in Trips

John Muir Trail Tips and Hiking Guide

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

George Graybill

George Graybill in Trips

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 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

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington in Trips

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

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

Altra Lone Peak 4 Mesh Mid Hiking Boot Review

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

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington in Gear

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

Altra Lone Peak 4.5 Trail Running Shoe Review

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

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Buzz Away Extreme Insect Repellent Review

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

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

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 light weight items and your trips begin to venture farther into the backcountry, a real pack

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Custom Hybrid Cuben ULA Circuit Backpack

I’ve tried a few packs over the past couple years, including the larger Catalyst (also from ULA), but keep going back to an old standby – The Circuit from Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA). The volume (4200 cubic inches total) and carrying capacity (~35lbs) have been versatile enough for 10 day trips and shorter trips alike across all seasons. 2013 Hybrid Cuben ULA Circuit Though for some shorter excursions it might be a little on the large side, if I end up with extra space I

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Backpacking in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest

“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

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington in Trips

Hunting Season Hiking and Backpacking Considerations

Fall – a time of the year when the crisp air is enjoyed and the greens of summer are replaced with hues of orange and yellow. And, it’s also the time that we as hikers contend with hunting season. Strategies for hiking during this time range from doing nothing different at all to simply staying home, and while hunting season is a worthy pre-hike consideration, by taking a few steps and modifying our gear and routine just a bit, we can continue hiking during hunting season with a few changes to o

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

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. Simple elastic s

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

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 the following 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

ZPacks Triplex Review: Ultralight 3 Person Tent

The Zpacks Triplex Tent is a Dyneema Composite Fabric / Cuben Fiber tent that’s marketed as a 3 person shelter solution with a 90x60” floorplan and a generous 48” peak height – it’s essentially a larger version of the Zpacks Duplex, which is designed as 2 person tent with a smaller 45” wide floor. Featured in this review however, the only slightly heavier 24 ounce Zpacks Triplex requires a minimum of 8 stakes, and additional tieouts can be used at the head and foot ends for more wind stability a

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

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 newest version was released 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. Trek

HikerBox

HikerBox

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

Feathered Friends Petrel UL 10 Degree Sleeping Bag Review

Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that a one-sized fits all approach to gear simply doesn’t work for me – whether it is a mountain bike or a sleeping bag. Finally in 2015, after many years of utilizing a men’s sleeping bag (which dominate the higher end sleeping bag market) I decided to learn from my mistakes, branch out from the mold, and purchase a down sleeping bag designed specifically for women from Seattle-based manufacturer Feathered Friends, who currently offer 9 different wome

Jen

Jen

ZPacks Multi-Pack and REI Gift Card Giveaway

Note: This giveaway ended 7/12/16. For summer, we're giving away a new ZPacks 4-in-1 MultiPack filled with a $50 Gift Certificate to REI and a choice of shirt or hat from the TrailGroove Store! If you're not familiar with this versatile storage solution from ZPacks check out our Multi-Pack Review from back in Issue 17 for all the details - I personally use one as a ~3 ounce solution to keep my camera easily accessible (in chest pack mode) on every hike. Just make sure you're subscribed

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

COVID-19 Backpacking and Hiking Considerations

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

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Black Diamond Cosmo Headlamp Review

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

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

RapidPure Scout Water Purifier Review

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

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

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

Olympic National Park: Backpacking the Quiet Corner

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



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