Issue 40 has been released! Download your own high definition PDF copy with a Premium Membership or read online here.

What's New

This stream auto-updates     

  1. Today
  2. Hello all! This may be a stupid question, and probably so, because I can't find the answer by researching. But here goes: Where do you park to access the Appalachian trail in NC? My girlfriend and I are planning a trip to check out the trail, but I can't find where I would leave my car while we hike. I'll take any access lot at this point, but if you guys have some cool suggestions, all the better. Thanks!
  3. Hello from California!

    Welcome to TrailGroove!
  4. Yesterday
  5. Backpacking While Keto

    My wife and I are Keto, which can be a challenge while hiking. We've managed to find keto dehydrated meals, though they are expensive. The brand is called "Next Mile Meals". They're pretty decent, but man do I ever wish I was eating the chili mac or stroganoff that some of the other hikers have with them! We also eat a lot of nuts and meat sticks for energy, and Quest bars. Normally those would be a bit more carbs than we're comfortable eating, but while backpacking it's obviously much less of a problem because we need that energy. I wish it was easier to find jerky that wasn't absolutely loaded with sugar. We need to invest in a dehydrator!
  6. Arc'teryx Cerium SV Jacket, Black, Large

    Still available?
  7. Good lightweight non mummy Sleeping bag?

    As somebody who can't do mummy bags either (I bought one and thank god I tried it at home because it was about two minutes before I was panicking to get the zipper undone) I have fallen in love with NEMO. Lots of extra room in the knee and elbow area so you can sleep on your side. The vent baffles to let heat escape if you get too warm without opening your bag. Even the little built in pillow pocket. Everything about NEMO's bags I love. I'm currently using the NEMO Disco 15 degree down bag. That said, my next step is going to for sure be a quilt. I love the look of the EE quilts but I'm not so sure about how small the foot box is. I think I may end up with the NEMO Tango Solo (see a theme here?) because I love the way it works and after trying it in the store I found it's almost like sleeping in a bed. That said, it's only a 30 degree bag so it's not going to work well for winter camping but should probably be fine the rest of the time.
  8. Hello from California!

    Hi all. I'm new to the site and to the hobby in general. About a year ago my wife and I went on a crazy (but medically prescribed diet) and decided to get more active. We started taking walks, which led to "hiking" (aka walks on trails) and things quickly progressed. We started car camping, and 65lbs later we joined the Sierra Club and signed up for the Wilderness Basics Course (WBC). We went on our first Sierra Club car camp trip a while ago and last week was our first ever overnight backpacking trip. We were supposed to go backpacking in the mountains this weekend with the WBC but they postponed because of the snow (we haven't yet had our lessons for snow camping). Anyway, now that I've gone from just collecting everything I need to actually dialing my gear lists in, and shedding weight where I can, I thought this would be a good time to seek out a forum. Unfortunately so many of them, including some of the biggest and most popular, use forum software that looks like its straight out of 1997 and I find that painful. So when I saw one that uses this I jumped on it (I manage another community of 20,000+ members using this software). See you all on the trails!
  9. Within the Last week
  10. "It seemed like a good idea at the time" doesn't go over well with search and rescue.
  11. Night vision?

    Yea, Spotlighters were pretty thick around where I grew up. Game wardens started using planes to catch them, finally.
  12. I posted this in the Southeast section forum, but realized it might be a better question to ask here. Has anyone ever hiked this section of the Appalachian Trail (Springer Mt to Neels Gap)? If I see the map correctly, it looks to be about 30 miles. Does that sound right? I'm bouncing around ideas of hiking a small section of the AT, and this section was suggested. But I have so many questions. Should I start at Neels Gap (and can I even park there)? How hard do you think it will be to get a ride back to my truck if I hike it alone? Is summer a good time to hike this section? Any tips or insight would be much appreciated.
  13. Like the Voyageurs used to say: "No one ever died on a portage."
  14. Saddle Lake - Hoosier National Forest

    I took my daughter for her first "official" hike to Saddle Lake in the Hoosier National Forest. It is a very short trail, but I wanted to start her out on something easy. She enjoyed the stream and creek crossings, and picking icicles from the rock outcroppings. I do recommend this trail, even though it is a short one.
  15. Thru-hiking the Great Divide Trail

    Part of the challenge of the GDT is finding it.
  16. Beginner Hiker

    Beginners want to bring everything. The trick to having a comfortable and manageable pack is to figure out what not to bring.
  17. how to know sleeping bag warm enough

    Some people think they need a new sleeping bag, when in fact they only need a warmer pad.
  18. ULA Packs made in Utah

    For the first time in my life I just use one pack.
  19. Night vision?

    I have done some wildlife surveys at night with a powerful search light as part of my job. You just have to be careful and make sure you have no firearms. I have picked up eye shine on all kinds of game animals, fur bearers and even rattlesnakes. With practice we were able to locate tarantulas with eye shine. It is very effective and simple, which is why it is strictly outlawed for hunting.
  20. Backpacking into the Grand Canyon - 1980

    There is a famous guy in Arizona that has been hiking the Canyon for decades. The year of his 80th birthday he decided to do 80 R2R trips in one year. I know a guy that used to pack mules in the canyon. Not the dude string. He packed the mail, food, fuel and trash in and out of Phantom Ranch. On the Bright Angel Trail which is steeper than the Kaibab, he could get to PR in about 2 hours and 45 minutes. Coming out he was lighter, but uphill and it took around an hour longer. He packed their for around 20 years and was helicoptered out 3 times. Finally he quit and moved southern AZ. For anyone that has never done it, taking a raft down the Grand Canyon is one of the best trips in the world.
  21. 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 be almost guaranteed. Spring is especially nice in Death Valley, when the warm nights return, and the wildflowers occasionally bloom for miles. If you stop by in winter however, you will probably find ample solitude on the trails in the area. At higher elevations in winter, there will be snow and ice towards the top of the mountains, but usually not very much. Cold, crisp air awaits as you hike higher, complete silence, and most likely, isolation. Starting from the charcoal kilns area, deep in the Panamint Mountains you will know when you’ve arrived, because these strange, stone, beehive-like structures will suddenly appear in the pinyon pine forest. They will certainly bring a moment of fascination. Most people don’t realize Death Valley has forests at the higher elevations. As the road winds higher into the mountain range, trees will suddenly appear. Any further up from here it becomes 4 wheel drive only. That road will lead to the trailhead for Telescope Peak, another great day hiking option. The charcoal kilns are a very cool landmark to check out. In the 1800s they would burn the pinyon pine forest here to make coal, and send it for fuel to the nearby mining boom-towns. I used to live in Death Valley and I fell in love with the park. The Panamint Mountains were my great backyard. When I would get some time to myself I’d wander up into them and enjoy their majestic silence. The hike here took place in January, and the conditions were icy, but without too much snow. The hike didn’t require any special gear, or any special permits. Just drive up into this lonely land and see what’s out there. The Wildrose Trail will generally have less snow on it than the Telescope Trail, so can be a good option in winter. I felt refreshed at the beginning of the hike as I left the charcoal kilns, taking my camera along and meandering around a few scenic corners, before heading straight up! This was the most challenging part of the day as I climbed through the forest, but was the perfect warm-up in the sharp, high desert air. The charcoal kilns are already at 6,800 feet of elevation. Coming from the bottom of Death Valley, I left the warm weather behind having driven literally from sea level, and would climb to over 9,000 feet high on this 4.2 mile, one way hike. It wasn’t too far before cresting the ridge, and I looked down to the first sweeping view of Badwater Basin in the valley. This, I could tell, is where the great scenery would begin. The rest of the hike was much easier than the first part of the ascent. Now I got to stroll along the ridgeline, taking in the view of Telescope Peak behind me. Telescope is Death Valley’s tallest mountain, and has an incredible ridgewalk as well. Trails in this area are great options for day hiking the Panamints. After the mellow ridgewalk, I encountered one final push to get to the summit. This is where the snow and ice began, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle. I was actually wearing sandals as well! I wouldn’t completely recommend this, because my toes were getting cold, but I generally love sandals for desert hiking. Just don’t hit a cactus! Finally, the summit awaits. I sat there and froze for a very long time, writing in my journal and wandering around that place which feels on top of the world. I took shelter in a pinyon pine tree to each some snacks, surveying the colorful, mirage-like desert all around. No matter the elevation, the sun always feels warm around here. Another great thing about Death Valley is you can hike in the bright moonlight, so I didn’t feel too rushed to get down knowing the moon would be showing up tonight. Still, it’s always a good idea to bring a flashlight or headlamp and the 10 essentials. Upon arriving back home in Death Valley later that evening, the warm air was a welcome greeting. Information: There is a free campground at the beginning of Emigrant Canyon Road, and at the junction of Wildrose/ Emigrant Canyon Road. They are reserved on a first come basis, and are often crowded or full most times of the year (except winter). Free camping can be found on the BLM land at the bottom of Wildrose Road in Panamint Valley, on many dirt side roads, and roadside camping/sleeping is acceptable there as well. Backcountry permits, day hiking or camping, are voluntary in Death Valley, and can be filled out at the two visitors centers – one in Lone Pine, CA, and one in Furnace Creek, CA. Check with a ranger about snow condition before attempting a hike, and be prepared with all your own water. It’s up to you how much water to carry because it is heavy, but 2-4 liters should be sufficient for a colder, shorter day hike. Of course if you bring more, you can always drink more! Books & Maps: Hiking Death Valley: A Guide to its Natural Wonders and Mining Past by Michel Digonnet. This book is more than just a hiking guide, the author knows Death Valley very well and explains its rich and colorful history along with the descriptions of the hike. He will also tell you the many unique plants and animals found in the region, as well as more obscure hikes off the beaten path. This guide includes hidden gold mines to explore and descriptions of how to find them. This guidebook is one to constantly return to whenever planning a hike in Death Valley. Hiking Western Death Valley National Park: Panamint, Saline and Eureka Valleys by Michel Digonnet. This book provides a closer look at the trails on the west side (the best side) of the park. Death Valley and the Amargosa: A Land of Illusion by Richard E. Lingenfelter. A fascinating read for anyone interested in Death Valley, or who is familiar with the park, this book will convey all of its history. There are many stories, some grim and some funny. From the lost Mormon wagon train that accidentally discovered Death Valley and gave it the name... to the many prospectors and con-men who called the place home. It’s a long and highly informative read, and an excellent series of stories about this haunting land. Death Valley National Park Trails Illustrated Map, National Geographic. This is the only map I have ever needed when exploring Death Valley. It has clear topography lines and the beautiful coloring of the map makes it fun to look at and easy to read. It has info on the side about trail suggestions and concerns about hiking in the park. Getting There: If traveling from the east, take CA hwy 190, the main road through the park. After passing Stovepipe Wells village, drive 10 miles further and you will find Emigrant Canyon Road on your left. Take that turn, and drive for about 25 miles straight to the Wildrose trailhead at the charcoal kilns. The road will turn to dirt 5 miles before the kilns. These same directions can be used if traveling from the West on CA hwy 190. After you pass Panamint Springs village your turnoff is 22 miles away on the right. If traveling from Los Angeles area however, you will be coming into the park from the south. In this case you can take the back route in... After leaving the town of Trona and cresting the Slate Range Pass, you will drop into Panamint Valley. Take the right turn for Wildrose Road, 15 miles after Slate Range Pass. This will connect you to Emigrant Canyon Road, take a right turn there, and drive just 8 miles to the charcoal kilns. When exploring the region, it is fun to take both roads, Emigrant Canyon and Wildrose Road, to make a driving loop out of it. Best Time to Go: Hiking the Panamint Mountains can be done any time of the year. My favorite time is December, because the air is very clear that time of the year, but the temperatures can be quite cold. The only time the hike should be avoided is immediately after a high altitude snowstorm or during one. This information should be found out at the visitor center, or at least by gazing up at the snow level on the peaks. Springtime snow is very possible in Death Valley. The best time to do the hike is on a rare cloudy day…In the summer, this hike is an excellent escape from the hot weather, and temperatures will still be mildly warm at the summit. In the spring, vast meadows of wildflowers sometimes bloom in the Panamint Mountains.
  22. 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, materials, and other considerations that are needed when it comes to selecting the best backpacking and hiking backpack. The Backpack Frame As soon as you start to carry more than 15-20lbs on a trip (including food and water), which is the case for the great majority of backpackers with a full pack, a pack with a frame should be selected to help transfer the weight of the pack off your shoulders and on to your hips. While in years past the great debate was internal frame backpacks vs. those with external frames, the majority of choices on the market today will feature an internal frame. On the flip side externally framed packs are now available with cutting edge materials and designs that are significantly lighter than the traditional heavy and tubular external framed packs of days past, so with packs breaking out of the mold in many cases, I like to focus more on the other specifications of a pack rather than agonizing over the internal vs. external backpack frame debate. As long as it has a frame – commonly made of aluminum, carbon fiber, or a high density plastic sheet – other specifications such as maximum weight carrying capacity, materials used, comfort, and organization are most important to me. Many frameless backpacking packs exist and are more specialized in nature, suitable for ultralight loads and as such usually most appropriate for shorter duration trips where less food will have to be carried and in areas where water sources are frequent. With careful packing however these ultralight frameless packs can still be used if you’re very diligent about how much weight you’ll be carrying and especially if you are concerned about having the lightest possible total packweight. However, their use is limited and I find it more feasible to utilize a framed pack on short trips where I might be carrying an extra pound of pack or so, rather than trying to deal with the limited weight carrying capacity of a frameless pack (and often limited storage capacity) on a longer trip. Some frameless packs will even omit a hipbelt to save more weight, but even on a frameless pack I still prefer a hipbelt – while weight transfer to your hips will be limited without a frame, every little bit helps. While frameless packs will always boast the best weights, often hovering around just 1lb, thankfully many lightweight framed packs are now available from many manufacturers. For most backpacking purposes a framed pack weighing 2-3lbs is a great range to target, and perhaps a bit more if you like to carry a heavier range of gear, food, or water – or all of the above. And like shoes, backpack fit and comfort is critical and this is where it pays to take some extra time measuring your torso and checking out the manufacturer’s sizing guide, as framed packs are usually available in several sizes. Often each size will have a bit of adjustment built in, and will be provided by moving the hipbelt or shoulder strap attachment points in order to fine tune the fit. Capacity Expressed in cubic inches or liters, the most popular sizes for modern backpacking would be options in the 45 liter range (~2750 cubic inches) like the REI Flash 45 – quite appropriate for most weekend trips – and packs stepping up in size into the 60 liter range, which I find most appropriate for week long trips or so. Both sizes can be pushed a bit beyond these limits and depending on your other gear and packing style. Regardless, there will be times when a 45 liter is a bit too small or a 60 liter a bit too large, but it comes down to a personal decision and how your trips typically take place; some us are weekend warriors with others tending to head out only on longer trips. The other strategy is collecting multiple packs and picking from your collection depending on the trip at hand. For me, I like one pack that can do it all just to keep it simple (and cheaper), with my 4200 cubic inch (this includes all storage – not just the main compartment) ULA Circuit serving as my workhorse backpacking pack for all trips. With around 10 days the longest I will go at a stretch (this is about as much food as I prefer to carry at once), the pack will be at its limits early in the trip, but is perfect after a few days. For overnights or weekends in the summer where gear is minimal, my jack of all trades pack will have some extra space, but I will just allow my down bag to loft up inside and it’s always better to be in a situation where your pack is suited to carry more weight than you actually are carrying than the other way around. The other capacity consideration is in regards to weight. Backpacks with a beefier frame and more sturdy hipbelts will allow you to carry more weight comfortably, but as we increase in weight capacity the weight of the actual backpack itself increases as well, forcing a balance to be struck. Again here we need to evaluate the length of our typical backpacking trip and normal proximity to water sources (water is heavy). One pack will not be perfectly suited for every condition. Whether you are just starting your collection of backpacking gear or are looking to upgrade an existing pack, this is also the time where it pays to evaluate all the rest of your backpacking gear, weigh it, and figure out how much food and water you’ll also usually be carrying before buying the pack itself. My preference again is to go with a pack that is suitable for carrying the full weight of all my gear, the full weight of my food even on day 1 of most trips, and all that combined with all the water I’ll be carrying. Sure, the occasional longest of trips might be a little heavy on my shoulders until I eat a day of food, but 95% of the time the pack will be near perfect. A little math at home here will pay off later on the trail. Features and Organization 25 years ago – when you’d find inspirational, beautiful brochures detailing a popular manufacturer’s complete line of external framed packs along with the latest Campmor catalog in your mailbox, packs seemingly had a compartment or pocket for everything. Dedicated sleeping bag compartment. Swiss Army knife pocket. Zippered storage for your MSR white gas fuel bottle. The list goes on. While organization is a key component to finding what you need quickly on the trail, there’s no reason to go overboard, or under when choosing a backpack. I like the big 4: Main storage compartment, outside pocket or storage, hipbelt pockets, and dual side water bottle pockets. I’ve found this arrangement to be the best balance for me on the trail, and I then utilize further lightweight stuffsacks if additional organization is needed – rather than just throwing the complete contents of my first aid kit randomly in the main compartment of the pack for example. With this arrangement you are able to pack anything you’ll need only at camp inside the main compartment (sleeping bag, sleeping pad, etc.), pack anything you might need immediately at hand during the day in the outside pocket of the pack like rain gear – this pocket can be in the form of a lid or pocket on the rear of the backpack. You’ll also have easy access to small frequently used items, or emergency items in your hipbelt and side water bottle pockets – things like a small camera, snacks, whistle, and water bottles themselves – all without having to take your pack off. Additional attachment points are always nice to have on longer trips or for those times you might be carrying extra gear. This ability can come in many forms – bungee systems on the outside of the pack, ice axe loops, etc., with the main concern here being their existence without getting in the way or adding too much weight to the pack. Often, normal closure or compression straps can also be utilized to hold items you might want to secure to the outside of your pack like a bulky foam sleeping pad. Top loading packs feature a large opening on top of the pack – either a roll top design which work well for compression and water resistance, or with a drawstring closure often covered by a “lid” or “brain” with a pocket. Panel loading packs, which operate a bit like a suitcase with long zippers, are also available if you feel you prefer easy access to all of your gear at once. Although it may go without saying, other features such as a sternum strap, load lifters for framed packs to pull the load closer to your center of gravity and move more weight off your shoulders, a comfortable hipbelt, and features like a padded backpanel are all things to check off the list. Other features such as ventilated backpanels, hydration sleeves and ports, or trekking pole holders for example should be sought after on a preferential basis. Materials Protecting the rest of your gear contained within, other than shoes and trekking pole tips backpacks face one of the roughest existences on the trail of all the gear we carry. However, going over-durable here can lead to an overly heavy pack, but we still need something that can withstand being dropped on the ground and rocks repeatedly, leaned against scraggly trees, and contact with brush and boulders without having to constantly repair or replace our pack. Often the simple eye test can give an indication of just how durable all the various fabrics utilized for backpacks may be. Silnylon and standard Cuben / Dyneema Composite Fabrics result in the lightest of backpacks, but are not particularly durable fabrics in regards to abrasion resistance. A water resistant ripstop nylon pack fabric A hybrid Dyneema fabric is also available, featuring a polyester face fabric for increased abrasion resistance while still taking advantage of the waterproofness and strength of the base Dyneema material. (Seams may however, not be sealed or taped in any water resistant pack) Heavier duty ripstop nylons and Dyneema gridstop are more popular fabrics and offer a great balance of weight and durability. The latter two options frequently feature a PU coating for waterproofing, which will degrade over time – no matter the case one should always further waterproof their critical gear by way of waterproof stuff sacks, or by using a pack liner of some type – usually just a larger version of a waterproof stuff sack or a trash compactor bag. In all cases, if the bottom of the pack is reinforced with a double layer or heavier duty material this is always a bonus, with this location being the most susceptible to abrasion and wear. Thankfully, as a required item for backpacking there are no shortage of lightweight, framed, frameless, heavy duty, ultralight, top loading, panel loading, and men’s or women’s backpacks – or various combinations of these designs – on the market today. No matter your take and approach on the subject, the best backpack might be the one that you end up thinking about the least while on the trail; one that carries all your gear across the various intended situations with ease, all the while without weighing you down and one that is sufficiently durable to last for countless backcountry adventures. For a current list of backpacks that you can filter and sort by many of the features we’ve discussed in this post, see this page at
  23. Seafood on the Trail

    Recently reviewed a new meal from Good To-Go...while named as a corn chowder, I found it ended up being a nice seafood meal to add to the list:
  24. Earlier
  25. Night vision?

    I will agree that it is something of a luxury item. Wildlife photography is something I very much enjoy and I want a chance to potentially shoot (as in photography) some of the more nocturnal critters. I will be sure to post some pics and a review here after I have tested it for any that might be interested.
  26. Night vision?

    Looks like a nice unit. Interested to hear how well it works - not sure if personally I would carry one while actually backpacking but would be interesting to have on hand and use at other times without a doubt.
  27. Night vision?

    Just a quick update, I am going with a Bushnell Equinox Z 6x50 monocular style device. Based on my research, this seems to be the best for the money. When I get it, I will be sure to post some pictures and give a review of it.
  28. An Ode to the Snow Peak 450 Titanium Cup & Review

    It's tough to beat. While many items on my gear list change as time goes along or are updated with something lighter or otherwise improved upon, the 450 seems to have a pretty strong hold when it comes to a cup! Near indestructible as well.
  29. Weird stuff on the trail.

    Yea that makes sense. Hard for me to get a good idea from just a picture. Plus, I'm short of coffee this morning.
  1. Load more activity