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  • Aaron Zagrodnick 142
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About this blog

Entries in this blog

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 Wetherington

Mark Wetherington in Gear

Firepot Spicy Pork Noodles Review

Ever since one of my favorite backpacking meals of all time – the Pad See You noodles from Backpacker’s Pantry was unfortunately discontinued, I’ve been a search for a simple, but good rice noodle dish with an accompanying meat protein. The Pad Thai from Mountain House is a recent meal that ends up being a close contender to my old time favorite, and the latest meal with this theme I’ve tested is the dehydrated Spicy Pork Noodles from Firepot, who makes pre-packaged, just add water dehydrated me

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Food

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

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 that REI was carrying 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. While trying new m

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Food

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

A Winter Refresher: Backpacking at Chief Joseph Pass

Although I did several trips on cross-country skis and snowshoes that involved camping out in the Northern Rockies in below freezing temperatures for multiple nights, the past few years my definition of “winter backpacking” has either included a US Forest Service rental cabin with a wood stove or a plane ticket to southern Arizona. I still find winter to be a beautiful time of year and I enjoy the heightened elements of the season that seem so magical, but I just hadn’t hadn’t been motivated to

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington in Trips

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

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

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

Backpacking the Lost Coast Trail: An Oceanside Wilderness

The Lost Coast Trail (LCT) in northern California may very well be the best beach hike in the United States. The name derives from the fact that it is the only part of the California coast that is not paralleled by a highway. I’m sure the romantic ring of that name only adds to its considerable popularity. It sounds like something from a teenage adventure novel. “The Hardy Boys and the Pirates of the Lost Coast” There is a northern section and a southern section. The southern stretch is muc

George Graybill

George Graybill in Trips

Spring Giveaway

Note: This giveaway ended 6/2/17 For spring, we're giving away a $100 REI e-Gift Card plus your choice of a shirt or hat from the TrailGroove Store! Just make sure you're subscribed to TrailGroove and then like this blog post to let us know you'd like to be included in the drawing. Full details below. How to Enter 1) Like this blog entry in the lower right hand corner of this post. Simply login with your TrailGroove account and like this blog entry in the lower right hand co

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Giveaways

Winter Giveaway

Note: This Giveaway Ended 3/15/17. For our winter giveaway (and just in time!), we're giving away a new Helinox Chair Zero and the choice of any shirt or hat from the TrailGroove Store! This new camp comfort seating solution from Helinox is a comfortable chair that's both packable and light enough for those backpacking and hiking excursions where some extra comfort might be on your list of priorities - for more info on the Chair Zero, take a look here at REI and read our recent review. 

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Giveaways

BearVault BV450 Food Canister and REI Gift Card Giveaway

Note: This giveaway ended 10/31/16. For fall, we're giving away a new BearVault BV450 food canister filled with a $50 Gift Certificate to REI and a choice of shirt or hat from the TrailGroove Store! Check out our full BV450 review in Issue 30 for more info on the BearVault, and just make sure you're subscribed to TrailGroove and then like this blog post to let us know you'd like to be included in the drawing. Full details below. Photo credit Mark Wetherington How to Ent

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Giveaways

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 in Giveaways

REI e-Gift Card & TrailGroove Giveaway

Note: This giveaway ended 5/16/16. This month enter to win a $100 REI e-Gift Card plus your choice of a shirt or hat from the TrailGroove Store! Just make sure you're subscribed to TrailGroove and then like this blog post to let us know you'd like to be included in the drawing. Full details below. How to Enter 1) Like this blog entry in the lower right hand corner of this post. Simply login with your TrailGroove account and like this blog entry in the lower right hand corner

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Giveaways

Favorite Hiking Apps & Smartphones on the Trail

Although I resisted bringing technology in the backcountry for many years – whether that be a simple watch at one time to today’s smartphones - one trip that left me stranded on the side of the road for hours changed my mind. A simple call would have resulted in a quick ride, but on that day getting a ride after 5 days in the mountains resulted in a failure even with my best smile. My phone lay in the car back at the trailhead – on the other side of the Continental Divide, and that burger I'd be

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter Giveaway

Note: This giveaway ended 2/22/16. With an eye on the upcoming arrival of spring next month, we're giving away a Platypus GravityWorks water filter system - similar to the system we reviewed here in Issue 25, just in the 2 liter reservoir kit version, plus your choice of shirt or hat from the TrailGroove Store. The GravityWorks filtration kit is an easy to use .2 micron water filter system that we've found to be well designed and easy to use, and it's a great choice for anything from a day

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Giveaways

How to Wash Your Down Jacket or Sleeping Bag by Hand

After a season of hiking, sleeping and sweating in your down jacket or sleeping bag things can get a little stinky. You might even notice a slight loss of loft as body oils compromise the fluffiness of the down feathers. Or, as in my case, the jacket is just grubby. Fortunately washing your jacket or sleeping bag is a lot easier than you may fear. In this article I’ll go step by step through washing one of my down jackets but the same process can be used for nearly all down sleeping bags. The on

HikerBox

HikerBox in Technique

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 seaso

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Backpacking in the Maze, Canyonlands National Park

In mid-March, Ted Ehrlich and I spent a few days backpacking in the Maze District of Canyonlands National Park. The Maze is frequently referred to as one of the most remote spots in the lower 48, and though I’m not sure how exactly it ranks on that scale, it did require some significant of amounts of off-highway driving to reach. The Maze is located in southeastern Utah, west of the confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers and bordered by the both to the east. Though bordered by wa

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Trips

Altra Lone Peak 1.5 Trail Running Shoe Review

The Lone Peak 1.5 is the latest generation of a zero drop, moderately cushioned trail running shoe from Altra, a company dedicated to zero drop and biomechanically correct footwear. For most of this year, I‘ve transitioned to the Lone Peak 1.5 and so far have about 400 miles of mixed hiking, backpacking, and running use on my first pair. I say first pair, because I like them so much that I actually have a second pair already waiting in the closet for the day that my original pair is r

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew Light Cushion Socks

Keeping your feet comfortable in the backcountry is a big step towards an enjoyable trip, and after hiking this summer in a pair of the aforementioned socks from Darn Tough they definitely deserve a closer look and review. I’d always heard good things about the Darn Tough brand – Made in the USA and with a lifetime warranty that you might not even need since they supposedly last forever. However, I never really expect socks to last quite that long, and other than that fact it was diff

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

10 Ways to Sleep Warmer on Your Next Backpacking Trip

It's always hard to enjoy a backpacking trip when you don't sleep well, and sleeplessly shivering throughout the night is one way to guarantee a rough next day. Here's a list of 10 tips, ideas, and considerations that should help the next time your backcountry trip coincides with those colder nights. A Nalgene Bottle. Trapping your heat utilizing your sleeping bag and insulating yourself from cold ground using a warm enough sleeping pad are highly efficient, but sometimes nothing beat

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Technique

Casio Pro Trek PRW3000 Watch Review

For several years, I’ve been using Casio watches in the backcountry – specifically the Pathfinder PAW1300 Reviewed Here, and most recently the newer Pro Trek PRW3000. Compared to my older model, the 3000 features an updated sensor promising better usage of power and more accurate readings and a few other convenient features. The form factor is smaller than many multi-function watches and will fit nearly any wrist well, and best of all in my mind it’s a nearly set and forget watch: Aut

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear




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