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.

For an easier read, check out my full blog post here:

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.

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 in the above blog post or on the Trip Data Page of my website.

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.

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.

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)

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

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 Delta Spork

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

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