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:

Pack
Backpack – EMS Longtrail 70 (2011 model)

Location
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

Seating
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

Shelter
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.

Clothing
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

Winter Hammock Camping in a Snow Storm – Sub Zero Backpacking in the White Mountains

Join me for 3 days of Winter Camping, Hammock setup, Snowshoeing, Camp Stove testing with multiple Fuel types for Snow Melting, Cold Weather Clothing tips & more on this mega episode.

For this solo winter backpacking and snow camping adventure, I’ll be heading into the deep snow of the Sandwich Range Wilderness in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.  If you’re serious about geeking out on the finer details of camping in deep snow in temperatures below zero F, this video is for you.  We’ll be spending a lot of time at camp experimenting, demonstrating and discussing a lot of winter camping topics in detail, including –

  • Snowshoe types and usage
  • Campsite selection
  • Using the Outdoor Vitals Mummy Pod System
  • Snow melting for drinking water
  • Extensive testing using the Optimus Polaris Optifuel stove comparing several camping fuel types for winter cooking & snow melting – LPG canister fuel, white gas, and diesel fuel. Liquid fuel stove priming, inverted canister mode, fuel efficiency, etc.
  • Winter hammock camping tarp setup in the snow.
  • Trekking poles for winter hiking
  • Staying warm on winter camping trips – clothing layer management and strategy, sleeping bag choices, hot water bottle for supplemental warmth.

Trailhead Parking

  • Oliverian Brook Trailhead, Kancamangus Hwy, Albany, NH
  • N43° 59.747′ W71° 21.032′

GPS Data for this trip is available on the Trip Data Page, or by using this link for direct download: Sandwich Range Winter 2018 Hammock Camping Trip GPS Data – Sintax77

Stats & Trails Used, Day One

  • Park at Oliverian Brook Trailhead.
  • Head south on the Oliverian Brook Trail
  • Setup camp in the flat area near the junction with Passaconaway Cutoff Trial

Day 1 Elevation Profile – Sandwich Range Winter – Sintax77

Day 1 Mileage: 2.5 miles
Day 1 Elevation Gain: 502′

Stats & Trails Used, Day Two

  • Continue south on the Oliverian Brook Trail.
  • At the junction, take the Passaconaway Cutoff, towards the summit of Mt Passaconaway.
  • Head back down the same way, to return to base camp.

Day 2 Elevation Profile – Sandwich Range Winter – Sintax77

Day 2 Mileage: 4 miles
Day 2 Elevation Gain: 1,473′

Notable Gear Used / Seen on this Backpacking Trip:

Pack
Backpack – EMS Longtrail 70 (2011 model)

Location
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, Long – Sea to Summit Alpha

Hammock System
Hammock Body – Dutchware NylonD 11′ Netless
Hammock Suspension – Dutchware Polyester Tree Straps with Titanium Cinch Buckles

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

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

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

Light Sources
Flashlight / Clip-on Headlamp – Olight S1 Mini Baton

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.

Clothing
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

Deep Winter Hammock Camping System

A look at my Cold Weather Winter Hammock Camping Setup for Backpacking Trips that have Potential for Sub-Zero Temperatures.

Deep Winter Hammock Camping System Components

Total Hammock System Weight: 1.75 lbs (793 grams)
Total Insulation System Weight: 3.25 lbs (1.47 kilos)
Shelter System Weight (tarp plus all lines & adjustment hardware): 8.75 oz

Deep Winter Hammock Camping System Grand Total Weight: 5.55 lbs (2.52 kilos)


Other Gear Seen

Winter Camping with a Sled

For this Backpacking Trip, we use a Pulk Sled to go Winter Camping in the Deep Snow of the White Mountains.

Mike and I originally planned to do a long overdue return trip to Mt Crawford for some winter backpacking and camping, but as is usually the case, the notorious weather of the White Mountains thwarted our efforts.  With a higher summits forecast from the White Mountains Observatory calling for -60° wind chills due subzero temps combined with high winds and gusts upwards of 90 MPH, we opted to stick to the lower elevations instead.  So we shelved our higher elevation idea to camp on Mt Crawford, and instead started scouting for a new location on the fly.

Basically, we were winging it in terms of trip planning, but fortunately I was armed with a full set of White Mountains AMC maps to keep up safely prepared on whatever trail we ended up cast upon by the winter hiking gods.

In the video we do some snow campsite selection and setup, tons of firewood collection, snow furniture building, campfire cooking, trail sledding on the rather steep Airline Trail, and overall just plain having a fun time out in the snowy woods of New Hampshire for a few days.

Downloadable GPS data for this trip and others can be found on the Trip Data Page.

Winter Sled Camping Route Overview – Sintax77

Time of Year
Mid February

Parking Location
Appalachia Trailhead Parking Lot
44°22’17.6″N 71°17’19.9″W

Trailhead
Appalachia Trailhead on Presidential Hwy (Hwy 2), Randolph, NH

Trails Used, Day One

  • Valley Way Trail
  • Randolph Path
  • Airline Trail
  • Setup Camp near Airline Trail
  • Located in the middle of the triangle formed for the Airline, Randolph Path, and Valley Way Trails.We used this campsite with significant snow pack on the ground so leveling out a decent platform for a tent was no problem. Based on my experience in this general area on previous summer trips, I would assume it would not make a very accommodating tentsite without snow, due to the steep and rugged terrain.

Day 1 Mileage: 2 miles
Day 1 Elevation Gain: 1,122′

Winter Sled Camping Day 1 Elevation Profile – Sintax77

Trails Used, Day Two

  • Airline Trail
  • Return to vehicle at Appalachia Trailhead Parking Lot

Day 1 Mileage: 1 mile
Day 1 Elevation Gain: 6′ (pretty brutal, I know)

Winter Sled Camping Day 2 Elevation Profile – Sintax77

Notable Gear Seen and Used in the Video

AMC White Mountains Full Map Set
Camp’ brand backpacking Snow Shovel
MSR Whisperlight Universal Stove (we were using white gas)
MSR Flex Skillet
Coghlan Camp Grill Grate
Nemo Losi 3p Tent
Z-Lite Sleeping Pad (Yellow pad used for bench, I stacked it on top of a Big Agnes Q-Core SUL pad for sleeping at night)
Therm-A-Rest Pro Sleeping Pad (Mikes sleep pad)
Hammock Gear Burrow 0° Top Quilt
Scandinavian Gear Backpack (my red pack)
Gregory Palisades 80 Backpack (Mike’s pack)
MSR Denali Ascent Snowshoes (my grey snowshoes)
Atlas 10 Snowshoes (Mike’s snowshoes)
Coghlan Fire Sticks (Fire starter used on day 2)
Sled – I’m honestly not sure what brad it was, but below is a pretty highly rated, heavy duty gear sled listed on Amazon.

Pitching a 3 Season Tent in Winter – Snow Camping

Pitching a 3 season tent for winter use. An excerpt from the full length video Snow Hiking Vermont – Winter Backpacking & Frigid Camping in the Green Mountains 

I’ll also show my favorite backpacking snow shovel, as well as how I create some “dead man” anchors to secure my three season tent in the snow using regular plastic grocery bags, since aluminum spikes would simply slip out of place in the deep snow.

Tent shown is a Kelty Salida 2.

Location is the Big Branch Wilderness Area within Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest.

For a detailed look at the gear I packed for this trip, check this video out: Winter Backpacking Gear List for 15 Degrees – Snow Camping and Clothing Options