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TrailGroove Blog

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Contributors to this blog

  • Aaron Zagrodnick 142
  • Mark Wetherington 36
  • Susan Dragoo 6
  • HikerBox 5
  • George Graybill 4
  • JimR 3
  • michaelswanbeck 2
  • MattS 2
  • Kevin DeVries 2
  • Jen 2
  • Isak Kvam 1
  • Tephanie H. 1
  • HappyHour 1
  • Barbara 1
  • Steve Ancik 1
  • SarahLynne 1
  • Doug Emory 1
  • Steven Genise 1
  • mgraw 1
  • Allison Johnson 1
  • jansenjournals 1

About this blog

Entries in this blog

Shenandoah National Park: Hiking Back East for a Change

It’s almost as if the Pacific Ocean is a magnet, pulling me west each time I venture out to explore. While I take full advantage of the natural wonders offered by my home region in the central U.S., if I am traveling very far to hike, it is usually somewhere west of Oklahoma. As a result, I have hiked very little in the eastern United States, though I’ve managed to walk short sections of the Appalachian Trail on trips to Vermont and Maryland. Not much to brag about. Recently, I was in

Susan Dragoo

Susan Dragoo

Northern Rockies Gold: Hiking in Search of the Fall Larch

The Rocky Mountains provide hikers with countless opportunities to immerse themselves in backcountry areas filled with quintessential landforms. Majestic mountain peaks, sublime subalpine lakes, waterfalls, glaciers, and wildflower-filled meadows come immediately to mind. Rolling high-altitude plateaus, cascading mountain streams, and fragrant forests of dense conifers are also key contributors to this enchanting landscape. Somewhat surprisingly, there are even some natural arches scattered acro

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington

Seeking Solitude: Backpacking in the Bitterroot Mountains

With backpacks loaded and my friend Drew in the passenger seat, both of us eager to head to subalpine lakes with hungry trout, I turned the keys in the ignition and proceeded to break one of my cardinal rules of backpacking: don’t start in a trip in the middle of a holiday weekend. As advantageous as having an extra day off work to extend a backpacking trip is, if you’re spending that time on a crowded trail only to end up at an area where all the best campsites are taken the “victory” is at bes

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington

Cincinnati Style Chili Backpacker's Pantry Meal Review

Along with the other meals that we’ve recently reviewed in the Backpacker’s Pantry Outdoorsman Line, this meal is a 1 serving freeze dried meal that focuses on delivering 500+ calories and 30+ grams of protein to solo hikers (or the outdoorsman) in a meal that requires minimal water for rehydration and won’t take up much space in your pack. The Cincinnati Style Chili with Beef Meal contains 540 calories and 35 grams of protein to be exact, and only requires 1.25 cups of hot water and

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Backpacker's Pantry Outdoorsman Beef Stroganoff Review

Another option from the Outdoorsman Line of meals from Backpacker’s Pantry, their Beef Stroganoff with Egg Noodles promises their chef’s “real deal”, just add water take on stroganoff – a recipe that is not without competition in the freeze dried meal category. As with the other options in the new Outdoorsman Line, their beef stroganoff meal is designed to be a one serving meal with a lot of protein, and in a compact, packable form factor. This option packs 530 calories into a package

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Backpacking the Pioneer Mountains of Montana

As a backpacker, I’ve found few things more enjoyable than hiking over a nameless and trail-less mountain pass to beautiful subalpine lakes with trout swimming in their frigid waters. In the mountain ranges of Montana, this isn’t too difficult a feat to accomplish, at least logistically. However, the physical challenge of gaining nearly a thousand vertical feet in well under a mile of horizontal travel is nothing to scoff at, regardless of your conditioning. With millions of acres of public land

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington

Backpacker's Pantry Chicken Lasagna Review

This meal from Backpacker’s Pantry offers up their take on chicken lasagna in a 1 serving meal and is from their new Outdoorsman Line – a series of meals that are all a single serving and have a compact form factor. The Outdoorsman Line meals have a slightly higher level of calories and are also higher in protein compared to generally accepted backpacking meal standards. This Chicken Lasagna Meal offers up 530 calories and 34 grams of protein, and is based around some hard to beat ing

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Nunatak Dog Bivy / Sleeping Bag Review

Backpacking with a dog always involves taking along additional gear to ensure the comfort and safety of your canine companion, and when it comes to backpacking throughout the seasons or in higher elevation areas, some type of solution should be brought along to keep your pet warm at night. In combination with a foam pad, in the past I’ve used everything from an unzipped down jacket to a kid’s sleeping bag for this purpose, to another dog sleeping bag (from Ruffwear) that's available. When it com

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Backpacker's Pantry Chicken with Rice Review

One of 4 meals in the newer Outdoorsman Line from Backpacker’s Pantry, the chicken with rice meal reviewed here is a single serving meal containing 500 calories and 33 grams of protein. The meal is made by adding 1.5 cups of hot water and waiting 15-20 minutes for rehydration, and is essentially chicken, rice, vegetables, and a chicken gravy that Backpacker’s Pantry describes as “no-fuss comfort food the world over”. This 4.4 ounce (net weight) meal is also gluten-free, making it worth a look fo

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

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

Backpacking Pots and Cookware Selection Guide

Performing a few simple yet vital tasks, our choice of a backpacking pot is one item that the rest of our cooking gear will frequently revolve around, especially if you like to pack your entire cooking kit inside your pot. A backpacking pot serves as a vessel in which we can prepare our backcountry meals and heat or even sanitize water if needed – and despite being such a simple item it is not one easily replaced. In fact, if one were only allowed to take a few items of gear into the backcountry

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Petzl Actik Core Headlamp Review

Depending on what time of year you’re hiking and your latitude, a headlamp likely alternates between something you might barely use (summer in Alaska) or something you’re using when cooking dinner, breakfast, and for the many hours in between (winter in most of the northern hemisphere). Not to give a particular piece of equipment too much credit, but in a certain sense a headlamp is an almost biblically miraculous piece of gear – where there is darkness, it provides light. Whether that’s for ill

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington

Brooks Cascadia 13 Trail Running Shoe Review

After making the switch from hiking books to trail runners a few years ago, I’ve been fairly loyal to various iterations of the Brooks Cascadias. At any given time during the hiking season, there is usually at least one Gore-Tex pair of Cascadias and one regular pair on my feet or in my gear room. Alternating between the two based on trail conditions or the season has kept my feet happy for well over a thousand cumulative miles of backpacking and trail running. I’ve found both version

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington

Backpacking Headlamp Selection and Lighting Options

A good light for backpacking 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 backpacking lighting needs. What follows is an overview of features to consider when selecting a headlamp for backpacking and thoughts on lighting needs for the trail. The Backcountry Headlamp With headlamps offered in a variety of weig

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Book Review: The Carry Home by Gary Ferguson

In his beautiful and evocative memoir The Carry Home: Lessons from the American Wilderness, acclaimed travel writer Gary Ferguson breathes emotional and humane life into the Mountain West. After 25 years of marriage and as many seasons sharing a USFS ski patrol hut, Ferguson’s wife Jane passes away suddenly in a tragic canoeing accident in northern Ontario, dividing Ferguson from not only his partner and best friend, but from his identity in relation to her. In recognition of her last wishes, he

Steven Genise

Steven Genise

Backpacker's Pantry Sweet & Sour Rice & Chicken Review

One of the more recent meals from Backpacker’s Pantry, their Sweet and Sour Rice and Chicken backpacking meal brings this classic Asian dish to the trail in a 2 serving entree that’s ready in 15-20 minutes (depending on altitude) after adding 2 cups of boiling water. Included in the meal is an organic olive oil packet, to be added to the meal prior to adding hot water. All combined you’ll be getting a dinner that offers up 680 calories along with 38 grams of protein in this meal based on rice, f

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Backpacking Hydration Options: An Overview and Guide

As soon as we set foot on the trail, a way to carry one of the most essential ingredients for a successful hike – water – becomes essential. With a myriad of options available from bottles of nearly every variety to dedicated, and often complex, hydration systems on the market today, when choosing a way to carry your water while backpacking the shopping experience can become complicated quickly. What follows is an overview of options that are available for this task along with my preferences, an

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

The Crossing: A Hike Across Olympic National Park

Chris, Randy and I sat at a local brewery, a map of Olympic National Park spread across the table. We had climbed in the Olympics for decades, but now we were attempting something different – a thru hike from one side of the park to another. You might have thought planning to cross using established routes would be simple, but it was proving anything but. “Even the freaking rain forest is on fire.” Chris traced a route with his finger. The Pacific Northwest was suffering through one of its

Doug Emory

Doug Emory

Mountain House Fusilli Pasta Backpacking Meal Review

In recent years, Mountain House has steadily released a variety of new meals to complement their tried and true backpacking freeze dried and pre-made backpacking meal standbys like their chili mac and stroganoff dinners – with their newest meal being the fusilli pasta based dinner reviewed here. The Fusilli Pasta Meal from Mountain House is an Italian inspired dinner featuring a fusilli pasta (gluten free diners beware), Italian sausage with, as described by Mountain House, rustic tom

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Hiking the Panamint Range | Death Valley National Park

Spacious silence and cool, dry air. The sun is always warm in California, even in the dead of winter. Winter time is the off season here in Death Valley National Park, but I can’t imagine why. Boasting the hottest recorded temperature on Earth, it seems funny that most of the park’s visitors come in the summer. If you want to feel some serious, otherworldly heat, then pay us a visit in July! However, if you come to explore at any other time of the year, California’s mild and pleasant weather can

michaelswanbeck

michaelswanbeck

The Backcountry Backpack: Choices and Considerations

No matter your approach to backpacking – ultralight, comfort light, traditional, or whatever our own unique approaches may be in the gear department, backpacking in and of itself goes hand in hand with a gear list (whether on paper or simply in our heads), making a way to carry all that stuff one of the most important gear related items we need to consider. What follows is a guide to selecting an appropriate backpack for hiking and backpacking, including an overview of features, technologies, ma

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Good To-Go New England Corn Chowdah Review

The latest meal from Good To-Go, their New England Corn Chowdah is an option that seems well suited for a company that’s based in Maine to offer. This meal brings 330 calories for the single serving version to the table and 670 calories for the 2 serving option, and is a hearty soup / chowder (or chowdah when pronounced appropriately) containing dried corn, sweet potatoes and potato, milk, carrots, bonito (fish), along with leeks, shallots, parsley, salt, and black pepper. This meal is gluten fr

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

An Ode to the Snow Peak 450 Titanium Cup & Review

The Snow Peak 450 is an ultralight titanium backpacking mug weighing in at only a listed weight of 2.4 ounces for the lighter single wall version of the cup (2.1 measured), or 4.2 ounces for the more insulated double wall offering. This classic cup has a capacity of 450ml (just over 15 fluid ounces), and is available in your typical titanium grey as well as in a variety of colors to brighten up your morning coffee a bit if desired. The handles are collapsible for packing, and can work as a way t

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Choosing the Best Wilderness Backpacking Campsite

If your next trip is taking you to a popular trail in a National Park or areas where campsites are available by obtaining a permit and making a backcountry reservation, often times there will be little to decide upon when it comes to choosing a campsite; if designated sites are all that’s available most of the deciding has already been done for you. When exploring more remote wilderness areas and in all areas where dispersed or zone camping is allowed or all that’s available however, when choosi

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Mountain Laurel Designs 850ml Titanium Pot Review

While there’s something to be said for getting technical with your backpacking cookware choices – evaluating the benefits of wide pots for heat transfer, aluminum vs. titanium heat conduction, or breaking down various pot and mug capacities and mixing and matching depending on the trip, there’s also a lot to be said for a single solution that does everything well. When it comes to solo backpacking and even on dayhikes, my cookware option of choice over the past few years has been the do it all 8

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick




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