Mail Call – DIY Gear Tips, Hiking Gloves? & Filterless Backpacking Water Treatment

Tips, tricks and discussion on various Backpacking, Hiking & Camping topics.

Topics Discussed / Gear Seen

    • Thanks to everyone who supported the limited edition Sintax77 T-Shirt campaign!
    • Shirts are available on Bonfire – ordering ends Thursday, 4/19/18 after which point they’ll be retired.
    • Sara has a snack.
    • Viewer ‘Silent Paul’ makes gives a great tip for sourcing materials for DIY backpacking pot cozies.
    • The winter camping cheers debate rages on.
    • Viewers ‘Bear off the OT’ and ‘GEN2-X’ give some tips on DIY windscreens for camp stoves.
    • Viewer John R. recommends the spoon shaped Nemo sleeping bags over the traditional mummy bag shape.
    • Viewer Andrew S. gives us an update on my Kelty Salida 2 person tent.
    • Using a 3-Season tent in the winter, snow loads, temperatures, etc.
    • Adam want to know if I plan to do more “classic solo” trips and / or head back out to the Rockies for some backpacking and camping.
    • Potential for doing trip videos more often on the channel.
    • We’re heading out to the Denver, Colorado area this late summer / fall for a backpacking trip (3, maybe 4 days on the trail).  Got any suggestions for good camping, backpacking loops, burgers, etc?
    • Somebody sent a pair of Moreok Anti-Slip, Shock Absorbing gloves.
    • Thoughts on fingerless gloves for backpacking and on the trial?  Maybe good for hiking poles, camp chores, etc?
    • Viewer Doreen brings up the subject of wood burning twig stoves for backpacking and camping.  I’ve yet to use one – any thoughts out there?
    • Viewer Deb in Ohio gives a shout out and brings up the dreaded topic of a rainy forecast on your hiking dates.
    • My upcoming backpacking trip video to go along with my recent Budget Backpacking Gear List video.
    • Reason I chose the particular shelter system for my Budget Backpacking trip vs my lighter cuben fiber tarp or other options.
    • My new backpacking and camping water purification system that I’m testing, the Steripen Ultralight.

Budget Backpacking Gear List – Go Camping for $250

Budget Backpacking Gear List. Go camping for under $300 – Tarp Camping, Tent Camping, & Hammock Camping options shown.

Check out my live gear list on for weights, prices, descriptions and product links.

Simplified Budget Backpacking Gear List:



Sleep System


  • Bear Bag Line (25′ guyline leftover from tarp setup, and small carabiner)
  • Bear Bag – 13 gal trash bag
  • Zip-lock Bag – Sandwich
  • Zip-lock Bag – Gallon

Cooking & Eating

Water Treatment & Storage


First Aid

  • First Aid Kit
    (Adhesive bandages, 1 gauze bandage, superglue, neosporin in straw tube, tealight wax candle, 6 doses benedryl, 10 doses ibuprofen, spare water bottle cap)
  • Sunscreen – 30 SPF 10ml bottle
  • Fire Starter, DIY (dryer lint and wax, or cotton balls with vasoline)
  • Bug Spray – 100% Deet Mini Bottle 

Clothing (Packed, not worn. For spare, sleeping, rain)

  • Frogg Toggs Ultralight Rain Jacket 
  • Underwear – Synthetic (1 Pair)
  • Shorts
  • Shirt, Long Sleeve -Lt Wgt
  • Shirt, short sleeve
  • Hat, Beanie – Lt Wgt Fleece
  • Wool Socks – Lt Wgt (1 pair)



  • Toilet Paper
  • Toiletry Kit
  • Wet Wipes
  • Hand Sanitizer

Additional Budget Backpacking Gear Options Discussed 

Approximate Costs for Each System

  • Tarp Camping version $248
  • Kelty tent version $317
  • Hammock Version $352


Olight H16 Wave Review – Headlamp for Backpacking (5 to 500 lumens)

A Review of the Olight H16 Wave USB Rechargeable LED Headlamp for Backpacking & Camping.  

This is my current headlamp for camping trips requiring more critical lighting needs. Trips with higher demands on run-time and / or brightness. A perfect example of this would be my recent sub-zero winter camping trip that I took the Olight H16 Wave on.  The higher powered rechargeable battery pack gave me extra confidence in my run-times during the less than battery-friendly frigid temps.

This is also a light that I would grab for any camping or backpacking trip where night hiking was expected and / or when extended time doing chores at camp after dark is anticipated.

The 5 lumen low mode provides a surprising amount of functionality, along with a huge 160 hour run-time.  For high visibility needs, the 500 lumen high mode provides longer distance spotting capability, while still being able to run for around 2 hours continuously.

Links for full Manufacturer’s Specs, Features, etc

Specs and Features, as per Manufacturer

  • General Data
    • Beam Distance (ft) 328
    • Beam Distance (m) 100
    • Max. Performance (lumens) 500
    • Charge type Micro-USB
    • Compatible Batteries Customized Li-Ion Battery
    • Light Intensity (candela) 2500
    • Light Form:  Far-range focused beam and close-range wide flood combined.
    • Lens / Reflector Type: TIR bead lens (converged and wide beam)
    • Series: Series H (Headlamps, Multitasking)
  • Notable Characteristics
    • Hand wave operation – This motion sense setting saves users the trouble of reaching for the power switch in the dark, and keeps the headlamp clean from dirty hands.
    • Wide area illumination – Dual LED light head paired with a custom lens delivering great close-range illumination combining both a wide and focused beam.
    • Smart power level indication – Four-level blue LED battery indicator and low-power audible beep warning at 10% charge to keep you updated on your power status.
    • Beam angle adjustment – The light head has three adjustable levels from 0~45 degrees.
    • Reflective head strap – reflective stripes on both sides of the head strap to improve visibility and safety for the user.
  • Lighting Levels & Run Times
    • High – 500 lumens, (steps down to 350 lumen after 5mins), 120 minutes
    • Medium – 100 lumens, 9.5 hours
    • Low – 5 lumens, 30 160 hours
  • Technical Characteristics
    • Waterproof IPX4
    • Weight (g / oz) 115 grams / 4.06 oz
    • Length (mm / in) 58 / 2.28
    • Head Diameter (mm / in) 24 / 0.94
    • Body Diameter (mm / in) 38 / 1.50
    • LED:  2 x Cree XP-G3
  • Package Contents
    • Olight H16 flashlight x 1
    • 2000mAh 3.7V Lithium Polymer Battery(built-in) x 1
    • USB-microUSB rechargeable cable x 1
    • headband x 1
    • Replacement Cable Clip x 2
    • user manual x 1

Mail Call – Thoughts on Snow Trench Trip, Campfires on Snow, Peril on the Trail, Saw Battle!

Tips, tricks and discussion on various Backpacking, Hiking & Camping topics.

Topics Discussed / Gear Seen

        • Why were we still cold if we had a fire going on our recent Snow Trench Camping trip?
        • Other thoughts on campfires directly on deep snow, camp fire size, balancing fire tending with other camping chores, etc.
        • Josh recommends a Military Surplus Army Bivvy Bag
        • Our tarp type choice and usage on the Snow Trench Trip.
        • Science Time! What temperature does whiskey freeze at?
        • Longer backpacking trip videos vs shorter multi-part vids
        • Viewer Lance M. sent a shiny new camp saw, the Silky F180 for testing!

      • Viewer Steve sent his favorite saw, the Bahco Laplander on a previous Mail Call episode.  Sounds like a saw battle to me!
      • Testing out various accessories for the Dutchware Chameleon Hammock System.
      • Sintax77 T-Shirts – Limited run Sintax77 “Cheeseburger Time” shirts are in the works and will be announced soon. 🙂
      • Congrats to viewer Scott for hunting down the northern lights on a recent Iceland Trip!
      • Z-Bird recently paid a visit to the Pinnacle in PA, where Mike and I camped on a fall backpacking trip many moons ago.
      • Viewer TheSkyttis used to own a SOL Escape Bivvy, like the ones we used on our recent Snow Trench Camping video, but eventually switched to a V3 Trifecta Thermal Bivvy by ‘2 Go Systems’.
      • Viewer Mike is getting ready for a backpacking trip on the Pinhoti trail in Alabama.
      • Viewers Sean and Kelly sent me a book called ‘Where You’ll Find Me‘ about Kate Matrosova, who perished on the Presidential Range during a winter ascent in 2015.
      • Another book I really enjoyed – ‘Not Without Peril‘, about the many tragedies of the White Mountains.
      • Rather listen to these books on the way to the trailhead?
        Use this link to get two free audio books on Audible

    • Packit Gourmet is awesome! They make some of my favorite backpacking foods.
    • More thoughts on the tragedy of Kate Matrosova on Madison Col.
    • Check out Steve’s YouTube Channel, Explorers of the Wild
    • Brian sent some Aqua Clips for testing. They help hold your water bottle on the trail.
    • Bivvy Bags as an emergency survival item, vs  “regular” camping, bivvy tents, etc.
    • Testing out my new H16 Wave USB rechargeable headlamp in sub-zero temps.

Winter Camping in a Snow Trench – Sub Zero Bivvy Bag Adventure

Join Mike & I as we Attempt to Winter Camp in a Snow Trench at -15° F, Deep in the Woods of the White Mountains.

For this winter backpacking & Snow Camping adventure, we’ll be heading into the austere terrain of the Dry River Wilderness in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Our main challenge for this adventure will be to sleep without the comforts of a tent of hammock.  Our goal is to use bivvy sacks to protect our sleeping bags from the elements as well as extend the range of our sleeping bags.  The latter of which is of particular importance because we’ll be packing in sleeping bags rated for around 15° to 20° F, in temperatures of around -15° F.  Our secondary objective will be to hit the summit of Mt Crawford, replete with stunning, 360° views of the White Mountains. Oh, and we’ve got some pretty fun backpacking food on the menu as well.  We’ll be camp cooking all “real food” on this trip, thanks to the sub-zero temps, no traditional dehydrated backpacking food.

Route Overview – Snow Trench Camping – Sintax77

Topics Covered in this Episode

  • Winter Campsite selection, via topographical maps, and well …pure luck.
  • Winter camping snow shovels (see gear list below for further details)
  • The complications of cooking backpacking food in sub-zero winter conditions.
  • Digging a winter camping shelter in the snow, along with tarp setup, should you be lucky enough to have one available (we did).
  • Building a fire on top of snow (not nearly as hard as you might think it is – even on the 6+ feet of snow that we had to deal with).
  • Sleeping in a snow trench with a SOL Escape Bivvy sack.
  • The balance of hitting a winter summit, versus well, not eating, hydrating or, you know -surviving.

Trailhead Parking

  • Davis Path Trailhead, Crawford Notch Rd, Bartlett, NH 03812
  • 44°07’08.1″N 71°21’15.1″W

GPS Data for this trip is available on the Trip Data Page, or by using this link for direct download: GPS Data – Snow Trench Camping Mt Crawford NH 2018 – Sintax77

Stats & Trails Used, Day One

  • Park at Davis Path Trailhead.
  • Head norht on the Davis Path Trail.
  • Setup camp in the flat area found around 2,500′ along the Davis Path Trail.

Elevation Profile Day 1 – Snow Trench Camping – Sintax77

Day 1 Mileage: 2.0 miles
Day 1 Elevation Gain: 1,725′

Stats & Trails Used, Day Two

  • Wake up, get a campfire going, and cook some soup for breakfast to get fueled up.
  • Grab some essential items (snacks, water, camera gear) and leave the majority of gear at camp to keep things fast and light for the upcoming high winds summit attempt.
  • Rejoin Davis Path Trail and head north.
  • At the junction, take the Mt Crawford Spur Trail, towards the summit of Mt Crawford.
  • Head back down the same way, to return to base camp and pack up the bulk our remaining items.

Elevation Profile Day 2 – Snow Trench Camping – Sintax77

Day 2 Mileage: 3.1 miles *0.65 miles to the summit of Mt Crawford, 2 miles from camp to the Davis Path Trailhead Parking Lot.
Day 2 Elevation Gain: 974′

Trip Totals
Total Elevation Gain: 2,699′
Total Mileage: 5.1 Miles

Notable Gear Used / Seen on this Backpacking Trip:

Backpack – EMS Longtrail 70 (2011 model)

GPS Unit – Garmin Oregon 650

Cooking & Eating Utensils
Multi-fuel Camping Stove – Optimus Polaris Optifuel
Cook Pot, 1L – MallowMe
Cup – Vargo 450ml Titanium Cup
Spork, Plastic –  Sea to Summit Delta Spork

Byer of Maine Tri-Lite Camp Stool

Bivvy Bag System
SOL Escape Lite Bivvy Bag – Emergency Bivvy Sack for Survival and Camping

Sleep System
Sleeping Bag – Outdoor Vitals Mummy 15° Down Model

Tarp – Hammock Gear Cuben Hex Tarp
Ground Cloth – Tyvek, long

Water Storage
Water Bottle – 40 Below 1 Liter Bottle w/ Bottle Boot

Light Sources

Headlamp – Olight H16 Wave LED Headlamp
12,000 lumen Mega Flashlight used to illuminate our campsite in sub-zero temps – Olight X7R Marauder

First Aid & SOS Messenger
Spot Messenger

Traction & Traversal
MSR Denali Ascent Snowshoes *No longer in production, I got them on Ebay. A modern equivalent would be something like the MSR Evo Ascent Snowshoe.
Kahtoola Micro Spikes *I didn’t end up using them, as I had my snowshoes on most of the time, but I always throw these in the pack for snow trips to deal with icy terrain.
Trekking Poles – CNOC Outdoors Carbon Fiber Vertex Trekking Poles

Snow Camping Tools
Camp Brand Snow Shovel *I’m not sure my model is in production anymore.  The closest current version seems to be the Camp Rocket Shovel.

Mid Layer – Surplus Military Fleece
US Army Gen III Extreme Cold Weather Trousers
Gloves – Sealskinz Water Proof Ultra Grip Gloves
EMS Over-mittens w/ US Army Wool Gloves
Boots, Winter High Top Garmont GTX
Face mask / neck gaiter by Seirus Innovation

A Fuel-Free USB Powered Lighter? – And other thoughts on Fire Starting Tools for Camping

Testing out the TekFire Fuel Free lighter for Camping, Backpacking, & Survival Fire Starting.

Gear Seen on this Episode