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
While any thru-hike will involve an uncountable number of steps, the biggest step of them all is the proverbial first step – making the decision to go hike the trail yourself. After you’ve watched the videos and read the articles, the inspiration is at its highest, and you finally decide to hike a long distance trail, the second major step into the world of long distance hiking is preparing to walk – up to 25 miles every day for up to 6 months straight. What I found after hiking the length of th
While not an unknown destination by any means, Aravaipa Canyon in southern Arizona is considerably less famous, even among backpackers, than many other destinations in the Grand Canyon State. One of the few perennial streams in the Sonoran Desert, Aravaipa Creek offers those who hike in the area a reliable source of water. This is a welcome treat in arid Arizona, since many backpacking trips in the state must be carefully planned around water sources. Not only does the year-round water in the ca
Along with towering mountains and alpine lakes, awe-inspiring rock formations are one of the quintessential landscape features of the American West. From Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, to Delicate Arch in Utah, to Half Dome in California, iconic formations draw hikers and sightseers to far-flung public lands to witness the majesty sculpted by nature. In the Southwest, rock formations are by and large the main attraction. National parks, monuments, and other public lands contain enough arches, canyons
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
While backpacking during an all-day rain presents its own challenges when it comes to staying dry – or as dry as possible – protecting your gear and the items in your pack that must stay dry comes with its own set of considerations. Having a dry jacket, clothes, and a dry sleep system at the end of a long rainy day is not only backpacking luxury, it’s also critical to our safety on the trail. And whether rain is in the forecast or not, in most backpacking locations we still need a strategy to ke
It's an early December afternoon in Yosemite National Park, and I'm watching a bobcat padding down the trail in front of me. In his mouth is a lifeless gray squirrel, so large that he drops it several times. He turns and surveys me with the lazy arrogance of a house cat who's proud of his kill. I'm unsure if I should be following this wild creature down the trail. I think of how animals are protective of their food. Still, the large cat and I are headed the same way, so I continue at a distance.
Much like your bed at home, your sleeping bag is a place where you will be spending about one-third of your time in a 24-hour period. Making sure that your sleeping bag is comfortable, warm, and appropriate for the conditions is essential for getting a quality night’s rest so you can wake up the next day ready to crank out some miles, summit a peak, or simply soak up the natural scenery without dozing off. The good news is that there are plenty of options for high-quality sleeping bags, so findi
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
The Lone Peak series of trail running shoes from Altra are a popular shoe choice in lightweight backpacking and hiking circles, mainly due to the comfort of the Lone Peak platform combined with a decent outsole and rock protection. Comfort is achieved via Altra’s foot-shaped toebox, the light weight of the shoe, and its zero drop midsole for a natural gait. Combined with an aggressive outsole and rock protection we having the makings of a great summer long distance hiking shoe.
The musical theme from the 1960s Daniel Boone television show ran through my head when, as we drove across southern Kentucky, I saw signs indicating we were entering Daniel Boone National Forest (DBNF). The historical Boone was not actually a big man in physical stature, but his legend, and the actual accomplishments of the Kentucky frontiersman, were sizable.
Daniel Boone was a man,
Yes, a big man!
With an eye like an eagle
And as tall as a mountain was he!
In 1775, Boone blazed
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,