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TrailGroove Blog

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Contributors to this blog

  • Aaron Zagrodnick 153
  • 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
  • Grace Bowie 1
  • Barbara 1
  • Steve Ancik 1
  • SarahLynne 1
  • Doug Emory 1
  • Steven Genise 1
  • mgraw 1
  • Allison Johnson 1
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Gear |Trips | Food | Technique | Reading

Entries in this blog

Good To-Go New England Corn Chowdah Review

The latest meal from Good To-Go, their New England Corn Chowdah is an option that seems well suited for a company that’s based in Maine to offer. This meal brings 330 calories for the single serving version to the table and 670 calories for the 2 serving option, and is a hearty soup / chowder (or chowdah when pronounced appropriately) containing dried corn, sweet potatoes and potato, milk, carrots, bonito (fish), along with leeks, shallots, parsley, salt, and black pepper. This meal is gluten fr

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Food

Good To-Go Chicken Pho Review

Many years ago, I was stuck at a cubicle all day under fluorescent lights in the corporate world. In such an environment one has to find small ways to make their days positive – getting your favorite morning coffee, a lunchtime stroll, or looking forward to that dedicated Friday lunch spot. One such eatery was a local restaurant that specialized in one thing: Vietnamese pho. Perfect on bitter winter days, the dish for me is a satisfying blend of a flavorful soup broth and noodles but with a heav

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Food

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 in Trips

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

From Mexico to Canada: Thru-Hiking the Route In Between

Hikers love maps. Maps are more than just navigational aids – they’re permission to let our imaginations run free. Maps inspire childlike wonder. We dream about what’s around the bend. I’ve spent years staring at a map of long-distance hiking trails in the United States. The Arizona Trail runs north-south through its home state, as does the Idaho Centennial Trail. Between the two, there’s a gap where no established trail exists. The gap is not for lack of scenic beauty, however. The state o

Kevin DeVries

Kevin DeVries in Trips

Firepot Spicy Pork Noodles Review

Ever since one of my favorite backpacking meals of all time – the Pad See You noodles from Backpacker’s Pantry was unfortunately discontinued, I’ve been a search for a simple, but good rice noodle dish with an accompanying meat protein. The Pad Thai from Mountain House is a recent meal that ends up being a close contender to my old time favorite, and the latest meal with this theme I’ve tested is the dehydrated Spicy Pork Noodles from Firepot, who makes pre-packaged, just add water dehydrated me

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Food

Firepot Chili con Carne with Rice Review

While many of us have settled on a routine of meals and old standby dinners in the backcountry – whether that’s commercial freeze dried meals or our own recipes on the trail, every once in a while it’s nice to mix it up. Recently when re-stocking the freeze dried meal inventory for some upcoming trips I noticed that REI was carrying a brand I hadn’t tried before – and I decided to test out the new Chili con Carne with Rice Meal made by Firepot in the United Kingdom. While trying new m

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Food

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

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

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

Fall Giveaway

Note: This giveaway ended 10/30/15. For fall, we're giving away a brand new Helinox Ground Chair, (Reviewed here in Issue 23) a ~22 ounce chair that's great for those more relaxed backpacking trips, day hikes, or even while car camping or just about anything else you can think of. We'll also throw in a TrailGroove hat or shirt of the winner's choosing! How to Enter: Leave a comment below on this blog entry describing the single backpacking/hiking luxury item you'd never l

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Exploring an Ecosystem: Hiking a Greater Yellowstone Loop

The United States tends to protect its public lands in piecemeal fashion. Congress designates a single landform – a mountain range, coastline, or canyon – as a National Park or Wilderness area, but leaves the surrounding land open to settlement and industry. As a result, an ocean of development – towns, roads, mining claims, and logging operations – surrounds a few islands of protected space. Only a few ecosystems are protected in their entirety. One such ecosystem is the Greater Yellowston

Kevin DeVries

Kevin DeVries in Trips

Exped Synmat UL Sleeping Pad Review

A lightweight, inflatable 3 season sleeping pad from Exped, the Synmat UL features synthetic insulation that takes the r-value up to 3.3, with Exped subsequently rating the pad warm down to around 25 degrees Fahrenheit. The Synmat UL is available in 4 sizes: small, medium, and the medium wide and long wide – the later 2 offering a width of just over 25 inches, compared to the standard 20 inch width of the small, the medium, and most other sleeping pads on the market. The sleeping pad

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

Exped REM Pillow and Sea to Summit Aeros Review

The Exped REM Pillow The Exped REM backpacking pillow is a newer pillow from Exped that's a hybrid air pillow with a layer of foam above. The REM foam layer (That's recycled extracted modules, not the band or the sleep you'll hopefully get) consists of chunks of soft foam that make this pillow a little closer to a non-backpacking pillow you might find at home.  The foam layer is all contained in a soft pillow case, with an inflatable air chamber underneath than can be removed for

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick

Exped Air Pillow UL Review

I’ve always wished I could use the spare clothes in a stuff sack method to create a pillow while backpacking, but like a lot of other lightweight backpackers out there I’m usually wearing the majority of my clothes in my sleeping bag at night to increase warmth. There might be a rain jacket and pants still packed away, (Though sometimes I wear those for warmth too) but they just don’t have enough bulk to really offer much support, and I might be utilizing those in an attempt to keep my dog warm

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Evernew Ultralight Titanium Review: 1.3 and .9 Liter Pots

While the potential exists to makes one's backcountry cooking setup nearly as complex as the average home kitchen, albeit hopefully a bit more miniaturized and lighter, in most cases the average lightweight backpacker only needs to boil water for freeze-dried dinners, freezer bag style cooking, to heat and hydrate a basic meal within the pot, or to heat water for things like coffee and tea. For these backpackers – like myself - the Evernew Ultralight Titanium Series have been a fairly popular op

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

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 in Gear

Digital vs. Paper Maps for Hiking and Backpacking

Ten years or so ago, questions about smartphones were just beginning to come up in backpacking circles. Questions like “Do you take your phone with you on the trail?” were typically asked. Some – including myself at times, saw little reason to take the extra weight and a potential distraction into the wilderness. Others simply packed theirs along so they didn’t have to leave it their car at the trailhead where it could be stolen. However, these days you are more likely to hear questions pertaini

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Technique

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

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

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Reading

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

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

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 this summer in a pair of the aforementioned socks from Darn Tough 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 diff

Aaron Zagrodnick

Aaron Zagrodnick in Gear

Cutthroats and Cascades: Spring Hiking in Montana

There are certain trails which, when hiked in certain seasons, can be so blissfully pleasant as to seem almost otherworldly. Each step is a pleasure. Every view is breathtaking. The scents of the forest are almost intoxicating. Chirping birds, chattering squirrels and rushing creeks create a soundtrack that is almost orchestral. Spending unhurried time in nature seems to be one of the most refreshing things humans can do for themselves and one of the few activities which consistently pays out re

Mark Wetherington

Mark Wetherington

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