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Gear | Trips | Food | Technique | Reading

Entries in this blog

10 Ways to Sleep Warmer on Your Next Backpacking Trip

It's always hard to enjoy a backpacking trip when you don't sleep well, and sleeplessly shivering throughout the night is one way to guarantee a rough next day. Here's a list of 10 tips, ideas, and considerations that should help the next time your backcountry trip coincides with those colder nights. On this frigid morning, my coffee froze in my cup before I could finish it. Luckily with the right gear I slept warm the night before. A Nalgene Bottle Trapping your heat utiliz

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Technique

Thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Lessons Learned

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. Is Hiking the PCT a Physical or Menta

jansenjournals

jansenjournals in Trips

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 in Gear

Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey

Originally published in 1968, Desert Solitaire is a work of non-fiction describing Edward Abbey’s experiences during a season while working as a park ranger – at what was then called Arches National Monument in Utah, before the Park and before the paved roads. The book is an American classic and is likely already on many bookshelves of those who appreciate the natural world, and I read the book for the first time many years ago. It had been long enough to read again however, and as we chang

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Reading

Nalgene Ultralight - Best Backpacking Water Bottle Ever?

When hitting the store for a backpacking water bottle we may be inclined to at first reach for our favorite color bottle or the bottle featuring the most appealing printed design on the side. While there’s nothing wrong with that when it comes to having a water bottle around the house or at work, when it comes to choosing a hiking or backpacking water bottle other performance factors should be considered. With weight being paramount in the backcountry, the prototypical standard, Tritan Nalgene b

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Best Canister Fuel for Backpacking Stoves

While the physical standardization of backpacking fuel canisters may lead one to believe they’re all the same, the actual contents of each canister vary greatly, and results in a multitude of liquefied fuel mixtures on the market. And if you’ve ever been in the situation – like I have – where you’re trying to boil water by the light of a headlamp on a chilly fall night only to watch the output of your stove steadily drop towards a heat level barely above off, you know it pays to know your stove

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Day Hiking the Ozarks: Exploring a Geological Wonder

The Ozarks of northwest Arkansas and southern Missouri are full of magical places, and thanks to the rest of the world’s inattention to this glorious natural area, solitude can often be easily found. Eye-catching geology abounds as a consequence of erosion of the high plateau that created the peaks and hollows characteristic of the area. Clear rivers and streams lace through limestone bluffs, interesting rock formations, over natural bridges and over waterfalls, making the Ozarks an outdoor

Susan Dragoo

Susan Dragoo in Trips

Backpacking and Hiking Water Treatment Guide

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 b

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

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 selection of titanium backpacking mugs Backpacking Mug Materials & Features A multitude of

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Hiking Wind Shirts and Patagonia Houdini Review

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. The Patagonia Houdini offers ultralight wind protection combined with w

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew Light Cushion Socks

Keeping your feet comfortable in the backcountry is a big step towards an enjoyable trip, and after hiking and backpacking in various socks from Darn Tough for the past decade, they definitely deserve a closer look and review. I’d always heard good things about the Darn Tough brand – Made in the USA and with a lifetime warranty that you might not even need since they supposedly last forever. However, I never really expect socks to last quite that long, and other than that fact it was difficult t

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

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. A selection of backpacking utensils The Backpacki

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Desert Escape: Backpacking Arizona's Aravaipa Canyon

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

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington in Trips

Helinox Chair Zero Review

After an introduction to lightweight backpacking chairs a few years ago, my philosophy on this admittedly somewhat superfluous (but many times well worth the weight) camp comfort item has generally remained unchanged; on longer trips where I’m moving daily and pack weight is of more concern the chair stays behind and any rock or log will do. For the amount of time that you’re actually in camp – and not inside your tent – carrying the weight is simply not worth it. But mental and physical comfort

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Wind River Trails by Finis Mitchell

I’ve dreamed about flyfishing for golden trout in the Wind River Range ever since I picked up a flyfishing magazine when I was about 13 years old that had a short article detailing a backcountry trip in pursuit of the elusive golden trout. Even at the time I was an avid fisherman, but what I read about in that article was the polar opposite of the type of fishing and the type of outdoor experience I was familiar with. While the magazine has long been misplaced, and internet searches to track dow

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Reading

Backpacking the Lost Coast Trail: An Oceanside Wilderness

The Lost Coast Trail (LCT) in northern California may very well be the best beach hike in the United States. The name derives from the fact that it is the only part of the California coast that is not paralleled by a highway. I’m sure the romantic ring of that name only adds to its considerable popularity. It sounds like something from a teenage adventure novel. “The Hardy Boys and the Pirates of the Lost Coast” There is a northern section and a southern section. The southern stretch is muc

George Graybill

George Graybill in Trips

By Men or by the Earth: By Tyler Coulson

In the spring of 2011, and after leaving his life as a corporate lawyer, Tyler Coulson set off from the Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware coastline to undertake a western journey across the United States with Mabel, his adopted dog and companion. Destination: Pacific Ocean. Method of travel: Foot. After 3500 miles and millions of footsteps, Tyler recounted the journey in By Men or by the Earth. Of course, there’s a deeper story to most long walks, and Tyler dives into not only the day to day exper

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Reading

Lacing Tips for Backpacking, Hiking, and Outdoor Footwear

Spring has sprung and in Colorado that means drying trails and couloirs packed with stable, hard snow. In go the ski boots and from the closet come trail shoes and mountaineering boots. Sadly, my last pair of shoes died a grizzly death at the hands (feet?) of my extra-wide pinky knuckle because I was too lazy to lace them correctly. Below are my tips on funny looking lacing for funny looking feet. My 2016 Lone Peak 2.5's – ready for the trash bin thanks to a 2" long hole. F

HikerBox

HikerBox in Technique

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. Trekking poles can help with your hiking efficiency, and can often be used for shelter setup while backpacking as well. Trekking Poles and Backpa

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington in Gear

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 in Trips

Backpacking Gear Lists and the T.R.I.P. Process

The gear list. It might be written on a piece of paper, typed into a spreadsheet, read from a book, or all in your head. But most of us probably have one somewhere. In its simplest form, a gear list can really help with those “I can’t believe I forgot that” moments when you’ve just hiked 20 miles from the trailhead and are setting up camp in dwindling evening light. In other forms, a list can help you identify things you really don’t need, help you reduce your pack weight, and help you identify

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Garmin InReach Mini: Battery Life with Basic Messaging

Although I’ve been a user of an InReach SE for years – which always met or exceeded my battery life expectations in the backcountry, when the InReach Mini was released – and despite its obvious advantages in the weight and size department over previous InReach devices, I had a few reservations in regards to a possible upgrade. While the weight and size factor would be a step up, custom messaging would be a downgrade – the InReach SE’s message composition already reminded me of text messaging on

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Backpacking in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest

“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 provides one with a high chance at finding solitude. With

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington in Trips

Bikepacking the White Rim Road, Canyonlands National Park

For this trip, my brother and I met up in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park. My brother is more of a biker than a hiker, and as such our goal was to bike the White Rim Road that runs throughout the district and loop back to our starting point, a mountain bike ride totaling 103 miles. We’d brainstormed a few ways to tackle the trip, from trying it in one very long day to taking things very easy over many days. Eventually, we settled on 2 nights…we'd be carryin

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Trips

Kahtoola EXOspikes Traction System Review

The EXOspikes Traction System is a product from Kahtoola designed to enhance traction in wintry terrain, and is suited both for hiking and trail running. Sharing some similarities with the popular Kahtoola MICROSpikes, the product is available in multiple sizes, each fitting a range of footwear sizes. A stretchy elastomer harness fits over your footwear, and underneath you’ll find a grid of trekking pole-like metal carbide tips on the forefoot and heel – 12 on each foot to be exact. My size XL p

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

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