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:

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

Tips & Gear for a Mt Washington Winter Ascent | Severe Weather Hiking

Tips, Gear Used, & Things I Could Have Done Differently while Climbing Mt Washington in Winter.

Primary Winter Ascent Gear Shown

My Preferred map for Mt Washington Hikes: AMC Map: Presidential Range: White Mountains Trail Map

 Other Gear Seen / Discussed

Opening Music: Beethoven – Coriolan Overture, Op. 62, 1807

Stock Footage: Various Public Domain pieces from the U.S. War Department, circa WWII.

That Time I Hiked with a Broken Face – Backpacking the Great Gulf Wilderness

Join TJ & I for 3 days of hiking, camping & backpacking in New Hampshire’s Great Gulf Wilderness.  Oh, & I also fall on my face.  

For this adventure, we’ll be revisiting an attempt at a hike that I originally did as a solo backpacking trip a few years back.  A rather aggressive loop, chalking up 30+ miles and over 15,000 feet gross elevation gain, the plan was to give it another go while giving TJ an ultimate sampler platter of the White Mountains.  As fate would have it, things would corkscrew towards another outcome…

Great Gulf Loop Route Overview - Sintax77

Great Gulf Loop Route Overview – Sintax77

Trailhead Used: Imp Trailhead on Rt 16 – N44° 19.408′ W71° 13.016′

Full GPS track data and waypoints for various POI’s on this trip are available for download on the Trip Data Page.

Trails Used, Day 1 (in order)
Road hike north on Rt 16 to Dolly Copp Campground
Daniel Webster Scout Trail
Appalachian Trail South
Sphinx Trail
Camp along Sphinx Trail, just before junction with Great Gulf Trail

Great Gulf Loop Day 1 Elevation Profile - Sintax77

Great Gulf Loop Day 1 Elevation Profile – Sintax77

Day 1 Mileage: 12.5 miles
Day 1 Gross Elevation Gain: 6,661′

Trails Used, Day 2 (in order)
Double back on Sphinx Trail
Appalachian Trail South
Trinity Heights Connector to Summit of Mt Washington
Have a Chili Dog at the Summit
Nelson Crag Trail
Appalachian Trail South
Great Gulf Trail
Camp near Gulf Trail along ridge

Great Gulf Loop Day 2 Elevation Profile - Sintax77

Great Gulf Loop Day 2 Elevation Profile – Sintax77

Day 2 Mileage: 9.2 miles
Day 2 Gross Elevation Gain: 3,658′

Trails Used, Day 3 (in order)
Great Gulf Trail
Short road hike back to car parked at Imp Trail Head

Great Gulf Loop Day 3 Elevation Profile - Sintax77

Great Gulf Loop Day 3 Elevation Profile – Sintax77

Day 3 Mileage: 3.9
Day 3 Gross Elevation Gain: 108′

 

Mileage Grand Total for Trip: 25.6
Gross Elevation Gain Grand Total for Trip: 10,319′

Hiking the Whites – Zeke’s First Backpacking Trip

Join Mike, TJ and I for 4 days of hiking & camping as we initiate our friend Zeke on his very first backpacking trip!

For this backpacking trip, we’ll be visiting one of my favorite areas, the White Mountains, for a counterclockwise Pemi Loop.  While I’ve previously done this loop as a solo hike, I switched things up this time by doing the loop in the opposite direction, starting with Bondcliff Trail and the Bonds and ending with a traverse of Franconia Ridge to return to the Lincoln Woods Visitor Center where we started. We also stretched the hike out to 4 days and 3 nights.  This enabled us to get some more camping and exploring in, and also let us do less miles per day, since this was our friend’s first backpacking experience.  The White Mountains are home to some of the most aggressive hiking trails in the country, and our goal was to make sure he actually wanted to do this again!

If you’ve never done a Pemi Loop before and are looking for some more logistics, trail listings, etc, feel free to check out my previous solo video.  For this video, we’ll be focusing more the amazing views, camp camaraderie and of course, the biggest question – will Zeke ever want to do this again?  Or will he want to push us off one of the numerous precipices that the Pemigewasset Wilderness has to offer…

 For info on the “helicopter situation” click here for a link to an August 28th post the Pemigewasset Valley Search and Rescue Team’s Facebook page.

 A note on GPS Data: I didn’t record new GPS track data for this trip, as the data from my previous trip pretty much covers the route (in reverse of course) and includes waypoints for points of interest included in that video as well as this one.  I also tagged a decent amount of extra potential tent and hammock camping spots as I hiked, which some may find useful if looking for alternative camping spots.

Notable Items and Gear that may be of interest:

My hammock – Dream Hammock Darien, single layer.
Mike’s Hammock – Dream Hammock Thunderbird, double layer
TJ’s hammock – Dutchware NylonD hammock, 11 foot, single layer with Dutchware Summer Sock

Zeke’s Tent – Marmot Eos 1P Tent

Myself and Mike’s tarps – Both are Hammock Gear Cuben Hex Tarps with 11 foot ridge lines.

TJ’s Tarp – Hennessy Deluxe Tarp, 70D model, 12’x10′

 My underquilt – Hammock Gear Phoenix 30°
TJ’s underquilt – Hammock Gear Incubator 40° (seen up close in my earlier post here)

Mike’s underquilt – HG Phoenix 20°

Top Quilts – Hammock Gear Burrow 40° for me and HG Burrow 20° for Mike (TJ used a “regular” down sleeping bag as a quilt.)
My backpack – Osprey Hornet 46 (no longer in production)
Mikes backpack – Osprey Exos 58
Zeke’s backpack – Gregory Contour 70

Dehydrated meals tried in the video:  Mountain House, Packit Gourmet, and Alpine Aire.