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TrailGroove Blog

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  • Aaron Zagrodnick 157
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Gear | Trips | Food | Technique | Reading

Entries in this blog

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 in Gear

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. The Circuit backpack offers comfort, adjustability, and efficient storage in a ligh

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Hiking in Sedona: A Sampler of 5 Scenic Day Hikes

“What are some of the more scenic trails in the area?” my friend Joan asked a local man at a hiking store in Sedona, Arizona. “All of them. They’re all scenic. Everywhere you look is scenic,” he said with a well-practiced manner, unable to hide his weariness with such questions. Even the trail map on display at the store was marked in bold black ink with exclamatory statements: “It’s scenic!!” “The views are amazing!” To say the least, it became apparent that we weren’t the first out-of-tow

Susan Dragoo

Susan Dragoo in Trips

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

How to Choose the Best Backpacking Tent Stakes

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 in Gear

How to Choose the Best Backpacking Stove

When it comes to backpacking stoves, there are several routes one can take and several different main categories of stoves exist – 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 or 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 conve

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

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 in Gear

Walking in Circles: Hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail

“Looks like you’re going in circles” is a way to tell someone that they're wasting their time. Talking in circles generally isn’t a compliment either. However, walking in a circle can be a good thing for backpackers, provided they’re walking around something interesting. Think about it. Logistics become pretty easy. No ride back to the start is required. In the case of the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT), walking in a circle is a great experience. From high above, this spot on the Tahoe Rim Tra

JimR

JimR in Trips

Review: MSR Carbon Core Tent Stakes

Listed at just under 6 grams /.2 ounces per stake and costing around $40 for 4, the MSR Carbon Core stakes come in as some of the lightest and most expensive tent stakes on the market. After breaking a lot of different types of stakes, or having them fall apart, I’d come to rely on utilizing titanium shepherd’s hook stakes all around. They’re light, aren’t made up of multiple pieces that can come apart, and are generally reasonably priced. The drawbacks: They can be easy to lose, can bend, and d

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

How to Choose the Best Backpacking Sleeping Bag

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

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington in Gear

Backpacking Tent and Shelter Selection Guide

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 tents on the market, remain the most popular shelter

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Backpacking Pillow Selection Guide and Overview

A good night of sleep is always important – but with the physical activity that goes along with backpacking, it becomes even more important on the trail. Getting a good rest after a long hiking day will only help things the next day – whether it’s the physical challenge of a high mileage day, or even a day that tests other things like your sharpness with navigational ability. Not to mention just our general mental outlook – being tired makes everything harder. With our at home pillow system (at

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

How to Choose the Best Backpacking and Hiking Backpack

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 in Gear

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 in Gear

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 sui

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick 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 backco

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

2024 REI Reward / Dividend Release & Member Guide

The arrival of spring brings a lot of things for the outdoor enthusiast to get excited about, including longer days, warm temperatures, and melting snow for those of us in the north. However one additional perk that spring brings is the annual REI Member Reward (previously known as the REI Dividend) release. For REI members, this is the time of the year when REI Co-op members receive their rewards from REI purchases you made during the 2023 season. Gear-up with the help of REI Member

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Ursack Major Bear Resistant Food Bag Review

The Ursack is a bear-resistant backpacking food storage bag that's both light and more packable than typical hard sided bear canisters - like the BearVault BV450 we reviewed in Issue 30. The Ursack has been around a while, and the latest version, the Ursack Major (previously referred to as the Ursack Allwhite S29.3), features a tighter more tear-resistant weave than previous models and is IGBC certified. The Ursack Major offers lightweight backcountry food protection. The Ursack

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

The Sheltowee Trace: A Long Hike in Kentucky & Tennessee

Early every year avid backpackers and hikers turn to planning for their next big hiking trip – and frequently, long distance thru-hikes on classic trails will be focused on by many hikers planning trips for the year ahead. And rightfully so. Those trails like the Colorado Trail, John Muir Trail, and Long Trail (see Thru-Hiking: the Junior Version) will certainly get plenty of attention, but there are lesser known hikes, such as the Sheltowee Trace, worth considering for those looking for a longe

JimR

JimR in Trips

Feathered Friends Petrel UL 10 Degree Sleeping Bag Review

Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that a one-sized fits all approach to gear simply doesn’t work for me – whether it is a mountain bike or a sleeping bag. Finally in 2015, after many years of utilizing a men’s sleeping bag (which dominate the higher end sleeping bag market) I decided to learn from my mistakes, branch out from the mold, and purchase a down sleeping bag designed specifically for women from Seattle-based manufacturer Feathered Friends, who currently offer 9 different wome

Jen

Jen in Gear

How to Choose the Best Hiking Shoes or Boots

Both a prerequisite for the enjoyment of any day hike 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 in Gear

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 in Gear

Exped Schnozzel Review: Funny Name, Serious Performance

One thing is for certain: we all need to keep our sleeping gear dry and we all need to be able to fit it all in our pack. Like many of us, in the past I’ve used everything from a set of individual dry bags to accomplish these goals to budget friendly trash compactor bags. All worked well and served the purpose of keeping my sleeping bag and clothing dry during rainy days on the trail while also offering some benefit in the way of compression. As a user of an inflatable Exped sleeping pad however

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

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 in Technique

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 in Technique

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