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TrailGroove Blog

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Contributors to this blog

  • 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
  • jansenjournals 1

About this blog

Entries in this blog

Desert Gold: Backpacking in the Superstition Wilderness

Long before I’d ever shouldered a backpack for a hike into a wilderness area, I found myself intrigued by Arizona’s Superstition Mountains. As the purported location of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, I was first exposed to the Superstitions in books about lost treasures and historical mysteries I checked out from my middle-school library. An episode of “In Search of . . .” with Leonard Nimoy that featured the legend and aired as a re-run on the History Channel further deepened my fascination. Hi

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington

Tips for Hiking in Mosquito and Tick Season

Every hiking season offers up its own set of challenges, and when it comes to the seasons of spring and summer the presence of flying and biting insects and other related concerns will need to be addressed in many locales. Dealing with insects such as mosquitoes, black flies, and ants along with other concerns like ticks to name a few is a top priority for any warmer weather outdoor excursion. These pests can be anything from just that – a simple pest, or they can even ruin a trip in short order

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

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

Hiking Shoes and Footwear: Best Choices by Season

Both a prerequisite for the enjoyment of any dayhike and critical for the success of any extended backpacking trip, our choice of a hiking shoe or boot is one of the most important gear related choices to make and dial in prior to any outdoor excursion. Not only does the best hiking boot or shoe depend on fit and our own individual preference, but the best options will also vary widely by season – although many options can also be workable across more than one season, or even with a few caveats

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Backpacking Tent Stakes: A Selection Guide

If you’re not thinking about your tent stakes on your next backpacking trip, it’s probably a good sign that you’ve chosen the right ones. If your stakes aren’t a good match for the ground and conditions at hand however, you could be in for a difficult shelter setup process and perhaps even for a long night. With a myriad of lightweight tent stakes on the market to choose from, there’s likely a specific tent stake for every condition you’ll encounter, as well as others that will perform well acro

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

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 inherit 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 fo

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

The Newly Proposed 8th Leave No Trace Principle

Last fall, TrailGroove contributor Mark Wetherington and a group of other concerned hikers created a website to address the concern that social media exposure can potentially have on our wild places, and over the course of the past few months the proposed 8th Leave No Trace principle has generated some excellent discussion in the outdoor community and recently over at the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics as well. Mark has taken an admirable initiative on the subject, and be sure the chec

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

10 Best Freeze Dried and Dehydrated Backpacking Meals

Let’s be honest; not every backpacking trip provides the time for us to prepare a nightly gourmet meal, and not all of us are ready to embrace, or perhaps we have yet to have a discussion with, our inner hidden chef. While I like to create backpacking meals from scratch at times and when I can, if you’re like me, after a long day on the trail I simply often find myself wanting a sufficient amount of calories that taste great, and I want that meal as quickly and as easily as possible with minimal

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Backpacking Tent Guide: Choices and Best Applications

Of all the things we carry while backpacking, a tent or our backpacking shelter of choice is among the most important for a safe and enjoyable wilderness excursion. A shelter provides refuge from rain and snow, cuts down on wind exposure, and often will protect us from biting insects as well. While other shelter options are popular from hammocks to tarps to bivy sacks, the traditional backpacking tent, or perhaps some not so traditional modern offerings, remain the most popular shelter option wi

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Alcohol and Canister Stove Weight Comparisons

When it comes to backpacking stoves a key consideration is of course weight, and more importantly the weight of a system including fuel for the duration of your trip. Not only is initial weight important, but also the average weight you’ll carry each day. For 3 season, lightweight backpacking use alcohol stoves and upright canister stoves are the most used options for weight conscious backpackers, and while both are very different in application, many similarities can be found to exist in the we

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Backpacking Water Filters and Best Treatment Methods

On any hiking or backpacking trip, the ability to procure safe drinking water during the hike is one of the most important logistical considerations for both pre-trip planning as well as while we’re on the trail. Finding the water is of course the first step, and having the necessary gear to properly process the water so it’s safe to drink is the second part of the equation. Here we’ll look at the main types of water filters and backcountry water treatment methods that are best suited for backpa

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Backpacking and Hiking Songs: 11 Favorite Classics

Whether you’re driving across the country to finally hike that classic mountain range that’s been on your mind for years or simply on the way to your local trailhead, perhaps nothing can get you ready for the hike like the perfect song or hiking playlist. And hey, there’s nothing else to really do in the car anyway. On the flipside, it could be argued that nothing is more annoying than getting the latest pop song – that you happened to hear on the radio right before locking the car - stuck in yo

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Choosing the Best Backpacking Sleeping Pad

A backpacking sleeping pad very importantly provides warmth by insulating us from the cold ground at night, and ideally a sleeping pad will also provide sufficient comfort to allow for a good night of rest. As an item that’s one of the heaviest and bulkiest core gear items you will carry on any backpacking trip, the sleeping pad requires some thought and consideration when it comes to selection and application. With a multitude of options available there's a sleeping pad to specifically suit any

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

Backpacking Stoves - Best Choices and Fuel Types

When it comes to backpacking stoves, there are several routes one can take and several different main categories of stoves exist and each with an array of pros and cons. Without a doubt however, no matter which way you go about it the backpacking stove is an important part of any overnight multi-night gear ensemble. A backpacking stove provides hot meals and drinks, goes a long way towards keeping you warm on chilly mornings and evenings, and for backpacking and hiking a stove needs to be conven

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

How to Use the Gaia GPS App and Trip Planning Guide

Among smartphone mapping and GPS apps, Gaia GPS is one of the most popular and one of my favorite smartphone applications for backpacking and hiking. The app is continually updated, and I’ve been using the app for the last 7 years to plan my backcountry trips at home and to plan out days while on the trail. The app has the ability to store what would equate to a huge stack of USGS topos right to my phone for offline use, and is free to download for iOS here, or find it for Android her

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

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

Western Mountaineering MegaLite Review

Western Mountaineering makes popular higher-end down sleeping bags in a wide range of temperature ratings and size configurations, and no matter the model it's likely to be at or near the top of the class when it comes to weight and packability for its corresponding temperature rating. These models from Western Mountaineering include the 20 degree Ultralight and Alpinlite we've also reviewed, as well as the Western Mountaineering MegaLite reviewed here. The MegaLite is a 30 degree rated down mum

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Hiking Wind Shirts and the Patagonia Houdini

In recent years the popularity and availability of wind shirts or ultralight wind jackets have both increased, and as many have found, these pieces often fit in very well with active outdoor pursuits including backpacking and hiking. These specialized jackets focus on light weight, simplicity, full or mostly single layer construction, and have a design focus on performance in a layering system and in the outdoors. A wind shirt is made from nylon fabric that has a dense weave and thus

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

The Backpacking Mug: Choices and Considerations

A key component of any practical backpacking kitchen setup is a cup or mug suitable for morning coffee or your hot drink of choice, and of course we need something light and packable while still working well for the purpose at hand. While the best backpacking mug choice may vary a bit from hiker to hiker, like any other piece of gear there’s a few key points worth consideration. A multitude of materials have been employed for the purpose, from aluminum to titanium and plastic, and in

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Western Mountaineering Alpinlite Sleeping Bag Review

Among traditional sleeping bag brands, Western Mountaineering has long been one of the most revered for producing high quality lightweight down sleeping bags popular in backpacking and climbing circles, and the 20 degree bag has proven to be one of the most popular and versatile bags one can choose for use across 3 seasons in much of the continental United States. The 20 degree rated bag is still light enough for summer backpacking in the mountains, but still adequate warmth-wise for shoulder se

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

ULA Circuit Backpack Review

The Circuit from ULA Equipment has been my go-to backpacking pack choice for nearly the last decade and upon review it’s easy to see why: the pack offers both versatility and durability and all at a reasonable price and weight. Thus, the ULA Circuit (or its close cousins) have become some of the most popular backpacking packs out there for lightweight and / or long distance backpacking and thru-hiking. While ULA offers an array of models, most follow the same design principle. They’re

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Best Backpacking Utensils and Trail Cutlery Strategy

Although your local or online retailer likely carries an array of backpacking and camping utensils sure to satisfy even the most advanced culinary ideas, most of us that don't work as a chef for a living can attain backcountry mealtime prowess with the simplest of choices and without cluttering or weighing down our pack. Here are my thoughts on the main players in this department and what I've found has worked best over the years. The Spoon Perhaps utilized mostly for liquids at

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

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




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