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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

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

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 Major comes in a standard, 650 cubic inch model that holds about 5 days of fo

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Hunting Season Hiking and Backpacking Considerations

Fall – a time of the year when the crisp air is enjoyed and the greens of summer are replaced with hues of orange and yellow. And, it’s also the time that we as hikers contend with hunting season. Strategies for hiking during this time range from doing nothing different at all to simply staying home, and while hunting season is a worthy pre-hike consideration, by taking a few steps and modifying our gear and routine just a bit, we can continue hiking during hunting season with a few changes to o

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Altra Lone Peak NeoShell Mid and Low Review

While non-waterproof shoes shine for summer backpacking and hiking with their light weight, breathability, and quick dry times, when temperatures fall, and especially when snow is involved I turn to a waterproof breathable solution. This has meant abandoning my usual lightweight footwear approach and turning to heavy Gore-Tex boots or similar, and going from my normal lightweight zero drop trail runners to a heavy cumbersome boot with a raised heel and significant heel to toe drop has always bee

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Cartographic Correction - Overnight in the Bridger Wilderness

Sometimes even a quick day hike can provide inspiration for another quick trip or a subsequent backpacking excursion, and such was the case last year on a family dayhike in the Bridger Wilderness of the southern Wind River Mountains. The plan: a simple morning in and a brief offtrail excursion to a river shown on the map, a brief afternoon of fishing and a return to the trailhead before evening drew on too long. Logistically simple, the hike went as planned and was a typical summer stroll along 

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

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

Choose Your Tour: 7 Scenic Multiuse Recreation Trails

I am a photographer. I am a hiker. I am a backpacker. I am a mountain biker. Sometimes I am all of those in the same day. But most often, I am on an awesome trail and am trying to take an award-winning photo of the area. My trips are usually built around getting to an area to photograph its beauty. I am always searching for beautiful photographic exposures of scenes that not everybody has viewed, looking for vistas that excite my eyes. Sometimes hiking or backpacking is the best way to get there

Steve Ancik

Steve Ancik

Geological Wonder: 3 Dayhikes Exploring the Ozark Mountains

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 and natural bridges and over waterfalls, making the Ozarks an outdoor paradise. There are so m

Susan Dragoo

Susan Dragoo

Summer Giveaway

Note: This giveaway ended 7/28/17. For summer, we're giving away a $100 Backcountry.com Gift Certificate plus your choice of a shirt or hat from the TrailGroove Store! Just make sure you're subscribed to TrailGroove and then like this blog post to let us know you'd like to be included in the drawing. Full details below. How to Enter 1) Like this blog entry in the lower right hand corner of this post. Simply login with your TrailGroove account and like this blog entry in the

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Springtime Solitude - A Wyoming Red Desert Overnight

The Red Desert of Wyoming holds a unique appeal no matter your approach – it’s a country just as suitable for backpacking as it is for exploring and camping beside your vehicle off a rough and long forgotten dirt road. Either way, you’re likely to be in the middle of the nowhere. Adding to its allure, to begin the year the desert can only be comfortably explored for a short time each spring after the roads have sufficiently dried from melting snow to make passage by vehicle (just to g

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Ice-Out Enchantment: Spring Backpacking in the Bitterroots

The expression “timing is everything”, occasionally derided as a common-sense platitude, is compelling when applied to backpacking. Hiking along a knife-edge ridge at sunset, watching sunrise from a campsite above timberline, encountering wildlife unexpectedly, getting the tent pitched at the last possible minute before a storm – meticulously planned or completely serendipitous, such moments  are part of the thrill of backpacking. The physical act of backpacking, simply walking with a burden of

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington

Biking Going to the Sun in Glacier National Park

The early-season opportunity to bike portions of Going to the Sun in Glacier National Park without any automobile traffic seems too good to be true. Miles of paved road passing alongside streams rushing with snowmelt, climbing into the high country, weaving through lush forests – all behind a gate and open only to bicycles and foot traffic. I’ve done enough recreational road biking and bike commuting to develop a sincere appreciation of a smooth surface, hard tires, and minimal traffic through b

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington




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