Pet Gear: TurboPup Complete K9 Meal Bars
During a last-minute rush of shopping before leaving for a weeklong trip to New Hampshire’s White Mountains, I stumbled onto Backcountry K9. Since my dog Pickle would be backpacking with me for 3 days of this trip, I wanted to see if there was any new dog gear worth trying. That’s when I stumbled across TurboPup bars.

These bars advertised high quality “human-grade” ingredients in a dense, packable bar form. The bars contain all the nutrition your dog may need and can be fed both long- and short-term.

Packing dry dog food in Ziplock baggies has always irked me to a certain extent. In order to keep Pickle’s pack balanced, I always had to be careful to use equal amounts of food from each of his “saddlebags”. With no exact way to measure in the backcountry, sometimes this was easier said than done. Along the same vein, with no measuring tool on hand, assuring that the dog ate the right amount of food each day was difficult. Ziplock bags have also failed on me in the past, which could mean wet kibble if it was raining.

Dog food in bar form seemed to solve most of these problems. Bars would be much easier to ration and keep balanced than baggies of dog food. The bars are also individually wrapped, which meant an extra layer of protection from moisture.

I turned to “hiking with dogs” guru and fellow Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa to find out some more info. As it turns out, he is a brand ambassador for TurboPup, and he gave me a few helpful notes about the bars. Allgood also put me in touch with TurboPup’s founder and owner Kristina, who offered to send me a few bars for testing. A few days later, a 3-day supply of her K9 meal bars arrived at my door.

I decided that it would probably be a bad idea to go into the woods without ever having fed the bars to Pickle. What if he hated them? What if his typically iron gut didn’t tolerate them? To test this, I arranged a little taste test at home. The bars come in two flavors (peanut butter and bacon), so I sacrificed one of each for my experiment.

I fed half of a peanut butter bar to Pickle (my hard-hiking Brittany Spaniel) and Samira (my non-hiking English Mastiff). They each gobbled up their share and came looking for more immediately. This time they shared a bacon-flavored bar, which they devoured with gusto. After this little test, I felt confident that Pickle would be happy to eat these as his primary food source during our upcoming backpacking trip.

I packed the remaining bars (now a 2.5 day supply) into Pickle’s Ruffwear Palisades pack along with all his other gear for the trip. The bars took up much less volume in Pickle’s pack than my typical Ziplock baggies full of dry food, and also weighed less. 10 TurboPup bars, packaging, and two 1qt Ziplock bags weighed in at 22.7oz (Compared to 30.1oz for a 2.5-day supply of kibble). I attribute this to the higher density of nutrients in the TurboPup bars. Since lightening the load for your dog is just as important as lightening your own, I was beginning to like TurboPup already.

TurboPup bars in Pickle's pack

TurboPup bars in Pickle’s pack

On Friday, Pickle and I hit the trail with TurboPup in tow. Since we used up two bars for the taste test, I fed Pickle a little of his normal food before we left the house. He had one of the bars for lunch on the summit of Mt. Flume and devoured every crumb. He ate 2 more bars for dinner that night. On day 2, he had 1 bar for breakfast, one for lunch, and 2 for dinner. On day 3 he had 2 for breakfast and one when we got back to the car at the end of our hike.

Pickle eating lunch on Mt. Flume

Pickle eating lunch on Mt. Flume

Based on this 3-day trial, I can say that TurboPup bars seem to be the best dog food option that I’ve found for backpacking. They are very nutrient dense, which means that the total food weight in Pickle’s pack is lighter than with his normal food. He definitely loved both flavors, which is also a plus. Pickle hiked strongly all weekend, which tells me that the TurboPup bars were supplying him with enough food energy to keep him going. I even noticed that his poops seemed to be a little more compact than normal, which can be attributed to the bars’ lack of fillers and use of high-quality ingredients. All in all, I’d say that TurboPup bars are definitely worth a look for anyone who hikes or backpacks with their dogs. Check them out!

Disclaimer: I received this bars free of charge from TurboPup for the purposes of testing and review. TurboPup has no editorial control over this review, and the opinions stated here are my own. In fact, TurboPup insisted that I be completely honest and impartial.


My Food for the Loyalsock-Link Loop

If you read my last post, you already know that I’m going out this weekend for a 25-mile, 1-night jaunt on the Loyalsock-Link Loop in northeastern Pennsylvania. I’m starting to organize and pack my food, so I thought I would share that with you. Normally, I’m very lazy when it comes to my food selections. I usually just grab a few entrees from PackIt Gourmet or Mountain House, some Clif Bars, some trail mix, jerky, and some candy before heading on my way. This time, I chose to use everyday items from the grocery store. With a little prep at home, these meals can still be very simple to prepare with the freezer bag method in the field. I’m going to be packing about 2100 calories per day, which is actually pretty low for a hiking trip in cold weather. Since this is only a 2-day trip, I will be able to make up the extra calories before hitting the trail on the first day and after getting off the trail on the second day.

Loaded Mashed Potatoes with Sausage


All my ingredients


  • 1 pouch of Idahoan “Loaded Baked” Instant Mashed Potatoes
  • 4oz shelf stable sausage (I’m using Summer Sausage)
  • 2oz Parmesan Cheese
  • 2oz Asiago Cheese

Prep at Home

Empty the pouch of instant mashed potatoes into a quart-sized freezer bag. Doing this will help limit the amount of garbage you will end up carrying out at the end of your hike. Cut the sausage into small pieces and vacuum seal (or simply place into a lightweight zipper bag). Place the packaged meat and cheese into the bag with the mashed potatoes.


Remove meat and cheese from freezer bag. Boil 2 cups of water and stir it into the instant potato flakes. Add meat and cheese. Enjoy.

Cinnamon Sugar Oatmeal



  • 1 cup Instant or Quick Oats
  • Cinnamon
  • Sugar
  • Dried Fruit (optional)

Prep at Home

Place all ingredients into a quart sized freezer bag. Voila!



Boil 2 cups of water. Add to freezer bag and stir. Enjoy.

Besides those 2 meals, I will also be carrying some Brookside Dark Chocolate Goji and some Kind bars. For my caffeine fix, I’ll be carrying Nescafe Memento Mocha instant coffee, but any instant coffee will do.

My total food weight for this trip will be 28.2oz, and I will be averaging 114.5 calories per ounce of food. Calories per ounce is a very important number for me. To me, ultralight backpacking doesn’t just mean getting the coolest, lightest gear. It means doing my best to be efficient in every way. The higher my average calories/oz is, the more energy I’m getting out of each ounce of food. That means my food weight will be lighter, but still have all the calories I need. Try making a simple spreadsheet to figure out how efficiently your food bag is!

What does everyone else like to eat on the trail?

Hike Prep: Loyalsock-Link Loop

Loyalsock Canyon Vista in summer.

This weekend I’ll be leading a great group from Berks-Lehigh Hiking and Backpacking on a 25-mile, 1-night hike on the Loyalsock-Link Loop in Pennyslvania’s Loyalsock State Forest and Worlds End State Park. This hike will start at the eastern terminus of the Loyalsock Trail. When we reach Worlds End, we’ll pick up the Link Trail and head more or less back the way we came. We’ll rejoin the Loyalsock Trail and hike back to the cars.

Gear Choices

The weather forecast is still in flux. I’ve seen forecasted overnight lows ranging everywhere from 9-30 degrees, so I’m going to plan for 9 degrees. This might make me carry some things I might not end up needing, but I want to get my packing done early. My total bas weight will be right around 10lbs for this trip.The extra gear will also give me an opportunity to use my Gossamer Gear Gorilla pack, which normally has too much volume for my purposes. I haven’t really had the chance to give this pack a fair trial, and I’m looking forward to carrying it.


My Gorilla: Packed and Ready to Go

My shelter as (almost) always will be my Zpacks Hexamid Solo Tarp. In order to help cut the cold wind, contain a little extra heat, and add some extra protection from precipitation, I’ll be supplementing my tarp with a Katabatic Gear Bristlecone Bivy. The Long/Wide size only weighs 9oz, but provides enough space for me and my dog.

For sleeping, I will be using 2 pads. My Exped SynMat UL 7 is pretty warm but isn’t quite enough, if the temps drop into the teens. I’ll be adding a torso length Z-Lite Pad to provide a little extra insulation. I’ll be covering up with a 10 degree Enlightened Equipment RevelationX quilt. A balaclava and all my layers can provide a little extra boost just in case the mercury really starts to drop.

Since I’ll be freezer bag cooking, my cook system’s main purpose will be boiling water. For that job, the Trail Designs Caldera Cone Ti-Tri and Gram Cracker stove suit my needs perfectly. Esbit isn’t usually my fuel of choice, but I was out of alcohol. This decision was based on laziness, but it actually saved me about an ounce of weight. The Gram Cracker is lighter than my alcohol stove, and this way I won’t need to carry the weight of a fuel bottle.

Those were just the basic highlights, but you can check out my complete gear list HERE. As always, thanks for reading!

Trip Report: The West Rim Trail (PA)

After our snowy, cold hike on the WRT back in March, one of the hikers requested that we attempt it again. Since I’m generally a fan of the WRT as a 2-day trip, I naturally agreed. This time around, the forecasts were pretty favorable, so we figured that we would manage to stay warmer and drier this time around. How well do you think that worked out for us?


Perfect weather on Day 1 of our WRT hike.

After a 40 minute shuttle to the southern terminus of the WRT, our hike started off pretty darn well. The weather was a bit chilly at the beginning, but the sun was shining and there were only a few wispy clouds in the sky. It was about 10AM when we hit the trail, and sunset was going to be at 4:48PM. We knew we’d have to keep moving to finish our 15.5 mile hike before dark. The southern half of the WRT is generally in the woods, and only has one or two isolated vistas, so we didn’t have many distractions to slow us down. At times, we were moving over 3MPH, but we ended up closer to a 2.5MPH average for the day. We made it into camp around 3:30PM with plenty of sunlight to spare. We set up camp, ate dinner, and got a pretty warm fire going. We heard some coyotes nearby and had some fun convincing our only female companion that they would be swarming our campsite all night. We hung all our food as a precaution. Around 6PM, we all started to half-seriously joke about hitting the sack, but we managed to stay up until almost 8. A pretty spectacular full moon lit our campsite up, and made it a little hard to fall asleep, but we all managed.

As usual, I woke up pretty early… around 5AM. I packed up my gear and sat next to the dormant fire ring; enjoying the solitude until the everyone else started to wake up around 6. A few morning showers hurried us out of camp, but luck wasn’t on our side. The 20% chance of rain quickly became 100%, and we ended up walking in a cold, moderate rainfall and fog for most of the day. With the exception of the weather, our 16-mile day went pretty well. We all wished that we had hiked in the opposite direction, so that we would have seen the WRT’s trademark vistas in better weather conditions the previous day. We were back at the cars by 2PM, changed into dry clothes, and got on our way home.

Next time, we might try this as a 1-day, 30-mile traverse.

Epic Failure Report: The Loyalsock Trail

This weekend, I attempted to hike the Loyalsock Trail end-to-end. Needless to say, I didn’t finish. Actually, I barely got started. There are a few small reasons, and one very big reason.

I left a day early so that I wouldn’t have to get up so early to make the 3 hour drive on Saturday. Of course, I wasn’t wearing my hiking clothes, but rather some other stuff. About 2 hours into the drive, it dawned on me: I left my trail runners at home! The sandals I was wearing are OK to hike in, but would never have held up to a 4-day trip. So I wasted 2 hours trying to find cheap, acceptable replacements. I settled on a pair of Merrell low hikers, which ended up hurting my feet.

My next small mistake was discovered when I was settling in for the night. I was rationing out dog food when I noticed that something looked wrong. I had brought the saddlebags for my dog’s backpack, but not the harness. This meant that I had to pack an extra 5 or 6lbs of stuff into my pack. Whining and complaining soon followed. At least I was carrying the Gorilla. My Murmur would have never been able to hand the extra load.

My next failure occurred as we were setting up our shuttle. I moved my pack from my car into another car, without realizing that my water bottle had fallen out. All I had was my 32oz Gatorade. This wasn’t a huge deal. I just figured I would just have to refill more often. I did have an empty 2L Platypus bottle, but it would have been a pain to deal with while hiking.

Now that you have the backstory, here’s what happened on the trail. We started our hike from the LT’s western terminus on Rt 87, North of Montoursville, PA. The climb from the road is immediately steep. Every step forced you to choose between wet rocks or loose dirt, either one of which could have caused you to slip and roll back down the hill. By the time we got our first mile in, I was exhausted and dripping with sweat. I was the last one up the hill, behind a group of hikers that I could have normally been out in front of. I chalked this up to the fact that I’m not very strong on steep climbs, and once things flattened out a little, I did make my way to the front of the pack.

After a treacherously slippery descent to the Little Bear Creek, I was a few minutes ahead of the group. We stopped along side the creek at mile 4.85 for a quick snack at some picnic tables. By this point, I had already finished my Gatorade, refilled the bottle with water, and finished that. I immediately fetched and treated another liter. After our snack, I felt pretty good. We hit the trail, which was another nasty climb. By mile 5.25, I was done. I couldn’t pick my feet up. I could barely keep my poles in my hands. At first, I thought this was related to the beer I drank the night before, but I had done much worse in the past and never had adverse effects like this on the trail. I wasn’t feeling anything that even remotely resembled hangover symptoms, but I couldn’t think of any other possible cause. I sat down for a moment, and the last guy in the group stopped with me. I told him that I didn’t think I’d be able to finish out the day, let alone the whole trail.

At this point, I dropped my pack and decided to catch up with the others and let them know I was bailing. I walked for over a mile, whistling and shouting the whole way. There was no sign of them. After almost throwing up on the trail, I decided to turn around and head out. I returned to my pack, which my comrade was diligently guarding, and we headed back down to the creek, where there was a road crossing. We hitched a ride back to my buddy’s car, and we headed back to the Eastern Terminus to pick up my car. Along the way, we stopped at a car we had staged in the middle. I left a note for the others, since they were probably confused and/or worried.

The drive home wasn’t great. I had to stop 2 or 3 times to keep myself from passing out behind the wheel, but I eventually made it home. When I got home, the fireworks began. My wife had a pretty bad stomach bug a few days before and suggested that I had picked it up from her. That definitely explained it. I was sick as a dog all night. Come the following morning, I was still very dehydrated, but my other symptoms had subsided.

I was mad at myself for bailing, but it was definitely for the best. Guess I’ll have to try this one again sometime….

Hike Prep: The Loyalsock Trail

Next weekend, I plan on doing an end-to-end hike of my favorite trail in Pennsylvania. The Loyalsock Trail (LT) is a footpath, which begins on PA Route 87, north of the Montoursville Exit of Interstate 180, and ends at a parking lot on Meade Road, 0.2 miles from US Route 220. The LT follows mountain ridges and streams through the Loyalsock Creek watershed as it travels through the woods on footpaths, old logging roads and abandoned railroad grades. The trail passes through parts of the Loyalsock State Forest for most of its 59.21 miles and spends a short time wandering through Worlds End State Park. The extremes of elevation are 665′ at its lowest, and 2140′ at its highest.

I’m leading this hike as an event for Berks-Lehigh Hiking and Backpacking. In an attempt to attract a few more people, I built in an early bail-out point, creating a 2-day, 22 mile option. As of now, half the group will be hiking for 2 days, and the other half will be hiking end-to-end in 4 days.

Gear Highlights:

For this trip, I’m shooting for a base pack weight around 6.5lbs. I’ll be going “No Cook” in order to save some weight, the weather won’t require me to carry any particularly warm or technical layers, and I won’t need to carry my insulated sleeping pad.

  • Gossamer Gear Gorilla: I’ve had this pack for a month or two, but haven’t had the opportunity to carry it yet. Normally, I’d carry my tried-and-true Gossamer Gear Murmur on a trip like this. The Gorilla (27.5 oz), while still relatively small and ultralight, weighs more than double what my Murmur (11.7 oz) does. That being said, it has a few nice features that my Murmur doesn’t. It has a removable aluminum stay (to help transfer weight to the hips), a padded hip-belt with pockets, and a zippered pocket in the lid. The Gorilla is also constructed almost completely from Dyneema Gridstop fabric, which will take much more of a beating than the Silnylon used in large areas of the Murmur.
  • Black Diamond Z-Poles Distance: I’ll be carrying the Distance poles (aluminum) because I broke my Ultra Distance poles (carbon fiber) on my recent trip the the White Mountains. The pair of aluminum poles weighs about 2 ounces more than the carbon fiber poles, but they have proven themselves to be more robust and worth the extra ounces.
  • Exped AirMat Basic 7.5 UL: I carry the “Small” size of this pad. At 64″, it’s longer than a torso pad, but a bit shorter than a full-length pad. My feet hang off the end, but I don’t really notice. At roughly 10.5oz, this pad provides a lot of comfort without any terrible weight penalty. The 3″ thickness is very important to me, since I am a side and stomach sleeper. A CCF pad just doesn’t cut it for me.
  • Enlightened Equipment Prodigy X Quilt: This fantastic 40 degree quilt has kept me warm down to 29 degrees. A 40-degree quilt might be a tiny bit much for a summer trip in this region, but I sleep a little on the cold side. I carry the 6’/wide size quilt, which weighs in around 22oz.
  • Foster’s Can 2-Cup Flat-Bottomed Ridgeline Pot: I bought this pot from Zelph Stoveworks, and I actually used it as my primary cook pot for a little while. I’ll basically just be using it as a mug and measuring cup on this trip. At 1.2 oz, it will save me 1.3 ounces over my normal titanium pot.

My COMPLETE gear list!


I’m expecting this trip to be warm and humid all around. This means that my layering needs will be very simple. My layering system will include The North Face Verto Jacket, Mountain Hardwear Canyon Shorts, Patagonia Capilene 2 Crew, lightweight Bridgedale socks, La Sportiva Wildcat shoes, and my trusty Outdoor Research Radar Cap. I won’t be carrying an insulation layer (such as a fleece or “puffy” jacket), but I can always wrap my quilt around myself if there is a freakishly chilly night in camp.


Since this is a summer trip, I’ve decided to go “no cook” to save the weight of the stove and fuel. I have a few cold-rehydratable dinners and fruit smoothie mix from Pack It Gourmet, which will fulfill my major meal requirements. The rest of my calories will be made up of jerky, nuts, fruit leather, and granola bars. To satisfy my caffeine fix, I am going to try Starbucks VIA instant iced coffee. I won’t be able to make it ice cold, but there is plenty of cool stream water, which should be good enough. I’m also going to pack Gatorade mix, to help replace any electrolytes that I may sweat out.

Ultralight Gear Talk on 5/25

If anyone is from Eastern Pennsylvania, East Ridge Outfitters will be hosting a gear talk by Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador and local Meetup Organizer Dan Bortz (AKA yours truly). I have invited several Meetup groups, including my own groups Berks-Lehigh Hiking and Backpacking and NEPA Trail Mix. All of the details can be found HERE.

This event will take place on May 25, 2013 at 10AM at East Ridge Outfitters in Blandon, PA. This event is FREE, so come on by!






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