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TrailGroove Blog

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  • Aaron Zagrodnick 157
  • Mark Wetherington 36
  • Susan Dragoo 7
  • HikerBox 5
  • Steve Ancik 5
  • George Graybill 4
  • JimR 3
  • MattS 2
  • Jen 2
  • michaelswanbeck 2
  • Kevin DeVries 2
  • Isak Kvam 1
  • Eric 1
  • Tephanie H. 1
  • Steven Genise 1
  • Greg Jansky 1
  • jansenjournals 1
  • Barbara 1
  • SarahLynne 1
  • HappyHour 1
  • Doug Emory 1
  • Allison Johnson 1
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Gear | Trips | Food | Technique | Reading

Entries in this blog

Ruffwear Highlands Dog Sleeping Bag Review

Backpacking with a dog will always add an extra section to your gear list, and when hiking during the colder shoulder season or winter months and in mountain locations that generally are always somewhat chilly at night, keeping your dog warm for a restful night of sleep is an important factor to consider. The Ruffwear Highlands sleeping bag for dogs is one way to provide insulation for your dog at night and is a dog sleeping bag solution I’ve used on the trail many times – when you're backpackin

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

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 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

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 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 in Trips

Dyneema Composite Fabric / Cuben Fiber and Backpacking

Dyneema Composite Fabric, often shortened to DCF and previously referred to as Cuben Fiber, is a fabric made from Dyneema fibers that are embedded in a polyester film to form a single material or fabric. Due to the high strength to weight ratio of the Dyneema fibers and its low stretch combined with inherent waterproofness, DCF and Cuben Fiber has proven to be a popular option for lightweight and ultralight backpacking gear over the past several years, and usage continues to grow in popularity f

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Mountain House Mexican Style Adobo Rice & Chicken Review

A few years ago Mountain House introduced their Mexican Style Adobo Rice and Chicken Meal – bringing backpackers, hikers, or just about anyone looking for a quick meal a decent Mexican themed option 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 introduced in 2020. A classi

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Food

Arizona Wonderland: Hiking Chiricahua National Monument

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

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington in Trips

NEMO Switchback Sleeping Pad Review

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

HappyHour

HappyHour in Gear

ULA Equipment Photon Backpack Review

For many years, I’ve been a big fan of backpacks from ULA Equipment, as they always really seem to hit the nail on the head when it comes to a balance of convenience, durability, weight, and price in a pack. For all of my backpacking trips I use the ULA Circuit – review here – and while there’s another pack or two on the market that I’d like to try at some point, the trusty Circuit always handles the job so well with no complaints from me that no other backpacking pack really gets a chance in my

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

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

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington in Trips

Digital Backpacking Scales: Pack Faster and Lighter

Of all the backpacking related gear I utilize, a digital scale has to be one of the most overlooked and underrated items – a scale is something I use in a variety of ways when preparing for any backpacking trip. While a scale isn’t an item actually on our gear list or something we’ll be taking on a trip, a scale is a tool that helps to get us out there faster and lighter – by aiding with packing speed and convenience as well as helping to keep weights down before we grab our pack and head for th

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

How to Choose the Best Backpacking and Hiking Headlamp

A good light for backpacking and hiking 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 your backcountry lighting needs. What follows is an overview of features to consider when selecting a headlamp for the outdoors and thoughts on lighting needs for the trail. A headlamp for backpacking and hiking should be lightwei

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Backpacking the Maroon Bells: A Shoulder Season Weekend

We shuffle off the bus and melt into a crowd of tourists, all headed for the perfectly framed view of the Maroon Bells surrounded by bright yellows and greens. Just a minute from the parking lot and we’re already sold on our three-day adventure. More commonly a four-day trip, the Four Pass Loop is one of the most popular – and most photographed – backpacking routes in the United States. The 28-mile trek takes hikers over four mountain passes, ascends and descends over 7,800 feet, and

SarahLynne

SarahLynne in Trips

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 what follows 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 in Gear

Hiking and Backpacking Gaiters: Selection and Utilization

For some reason gaiters were one of the “accessory” pieces of backpacking gear that I delayed purchasing far longer than I should have. Trekking poles likely would have fallen into the same category, but fortunately for my knees I received a pair as a gift early in my backpacking days. It was only after I moved to Montana and began adapting my backpacking to a different landscape – the Northern Rockies is quite different from the Southern Appalachians – that I bought my first pair of gaiters. Th

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington in Gear

Hiking the Slough Creek-Buffalo Fork Loop in Yellowstone National Park

Wolves, Red Dogs, Grizzlies, & Outlaws A tiny “red dog” – a fuzzy, reddish bison calf – was all but glued to its mother’s side as she fought off a half dozen wolves near Yellowstone’s Slough Creek. The mother had strayed from the herd, and wolves were attacking from all sides in an attempt to separate her from her baby. The stiff-legged little calf wheeled and turned with its mother as best it could, but the outcome seemed inevitable. The standoff was visible to the naked eye

Barbara

Barbara in Trips

NEMO Fillo Elite Backpacking Pillow Review

After setting up the tent on a recent trip and after a long day, I heard an unwelcome sound the moment I laid my head on the pillow – the sound of air leaking from the previously trusty pillow I’d been packing along on trips for years. Luckily, this trip was quite warm for the mountains – lows in the high 40s plus having a double walled tent along meant I had a down jacket that I wasn’t wearing at night, and could roll up in a stuff sack to get me through the trip. However, for more normal

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

The Newly Proposed 8th Leave No Trace Principle

In recent years concern has risen in some circles of the outdoor community regarding the impact that sharing hyper-specific location information can potentially have on specific outdoor places and wilderness. While this has always been a topic of discussion in the outdoor community over the years, the more recent popularity of social media has made it easier to post something like the coordinates to an obscure place, and potentially overwhelm it with visitors in a near instant time frame, at lea

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Technique

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

How to Keep Your Backpacking Gear Dry

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

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Technique

Bear Country Backpacking: Tips for the Trail and in Camp

Whether it’s a trip along a National Scenic Trail or a quick weekend backpacking excursion into an obscure wilderness area – when the mountains are calling, our trips to many backpacking and hiking destinations will also take us into bear country. When hiking and camping in these areas an extra set of considerations will be added to our pre-trip planning process and a few extra gear items will need to be added to our gear list to approach bear country backpacking in the proper manner.

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Technique

Window Insulation Film / Polycro Groundsheets

Window insulation film, often referred to as polycro in the backpacking community is a thin, clear plastic heat shrink sheeting designed to insulate the windows in your house to save on energy costs – but this material also works very well as an ultralight backpacking groundsheet to help protect your tent floor or for use when cowboy camping or under a tarp. Window insulation film can be picked up on a budget and if needed, cut to size to fit your tent. The Window Insulation Film

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Hiking the Grand Enchantment Trail: GET Wet!

Whitecaps swirled in the ochre mixture of water and clay in the flooded wash at our feet. I never knew water so muddy could have whitecaps and now our route lay on the opposite bank of the torrent as it raged over unseen boulders and cut into the edge of its banks. Standing there at the two-track crossing in the middle of nowhere New Mexico, I wondered how many “do not enter when flooded” signs we passed on paved roads in the Southwest. It was late October and the third day in a row o

HikerBox

HikerBox in Trips

3 Season Backpacking Clothing List and Strategy

A clothing system for backpacking needs to be as lightweight as possible while still performing a variety of critical tasks in an ever-changing and varied wilderness environment. A clothing system must be comfortable, will act as our first line of defense to keep us warm, and should protect us from the sun, precipitation, biting insects, and bumps and scrapes on the trail to name a few concerns. While each of these tasks are easily obtainable with dedicated and specialized items of clothing, whe

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

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