By Brian J.
This is what I pass out
to my Scouts about a month before our winter camporee. That gives us a
couple of meetings or more to discuss cold weather survival skills, and
a chance to inform parents of the dangers of cold weather camping when
one is not fully prepared.
Brian J. Murrey - Assistant
Scoutmaster and Outdoors Activities Planner Troop 120 -- email@example.com
-- Crossroads of America Council
Computer re-typed and reformatted
by Chuck Bramlet, ASM Troop 323, Thunderbird District, Grand Canyon Council,
PLANNING FOR WINTER CAMPING
Most of this information
can be found in the Boy Scout Handbook. If you are going to be
doing a lot of outdoor activities, this book is an invaluable source of
know-how and advice.
"One has to lie deep in
the snow to learn how warm and protective it is. A den in the snow confines
the body heat like a blanket or overcoat. It is a snug place, no matter
how hard the wind may howl. One who holes up in the snow understands better
the mysteries of the woods in the winter. He knows why the severe weather
grouse squirm their way under soft snow and be quiet. He understands why
deer bury themselves in drifts, lying a half day or more with just their
heads sticking out. He learns something of the comfort of the bear in
William O. Douglas, 1950
MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT WINTER
- Myth #1: Leather hiking
boots will keep your feet warm. -- FALSE
- - The snug fit of most
leather hiking boots can limit the circulation of blood in the foot.
Especially with thick socks on. Overboots cut generously enough to hold
your foot and shoe are much more effective. The cloth stitching in leather
boots can also wick moisture into the shoe. Nothing is worse that wet
feet in cold winter.
- Myth #2: Waterproof clothing
is ideal for cold weather camping. -- FALSE
- - To keep warm, in the
cold, your clothing must allow body moisture to escape. Moisture that
is trapped too close to the body can wick heat away through evaporation.
It is better to layer your clothing on in cold weather. Wool, Gor Tex,
and polypropylene garments work nice in the cold. Always wear insulated
- Myth #3: Winter camping
does not require much preparation. -- FALSE
- - Arctic conditions exist
when the wind is blowing and the temperature drops below 20 degrees
F. There are only seven states in the U.S. that do not experience arctic
weather. Indiana is not one of them.. It is very important to prepare
and even over prepare. I've never heard anyone complain about being
too warm or having too many dry clothes on a winter campout.
- Myth #4: Mental attitude
has little to do with winter camping. -- FALSE
- - A positive mental attitude
is the most important ingredient in the success of cold weather camping
trips. The demands of winter will drain your energy and you'll have
to rely on yourself to keep your spirits high.
- Myth #5: In cold weather,
tasks can be done just as quickly as in warm weather. -- FALSE
- - Every effort in cold
weather takes longer to complete. Be sure to bring some winter patience
with you when you camp in the cold.
CONSERVING BODY HEAT -
THE PRIME OBJECTIVE
There are three ways to
lose body heat. Keeping them in mind will help you be much more aware
of what you are or could be doing to keep your body warm.
RADIATION - The emission
of body, especially from the skin areas exposed to the elements. A good
set of gloves, hat, and scarf can help best in keeping bare skin to a
CONDUCTION - The absorption
of cold by the body when sitting or laying on cold ground, or handling
cold objects such as metal cooking utensils and metal canteens. This is
why a decent sleeping pad is required for cold weather camping. The same
goes for wearing gloves. A camp stool is a must on a winter camping trip.
Try not to sit on the ground.
CONVECTION - The loss of
body heat due to wind blowing across unprotected body parts. This situation
can also be reduced by keeping bare skin covered with hats, scarves, and
gloves. It is important to keep exposure to a minimum, ESPECIALLY in a
windy situation. Convection heat loss can reduce body heat the fastest.
Wet clothing will accelerate this process, making staying dry even more
- Tent Placement.
- Whenever possible, place
your tent in a location that will catch the sunrise in the morning.
This will aid in melting off any ice and evaporating any frost or dew
that may have formed during the night. This will also warm your tent
as you awaken in the morning.Cold air sinks. Try to place your campsite
on slightly higher ground than the rest of your surroundings. Try to
choose a protected site if it is snowing or the wind is blowing.
- Water Consumption In
- Dehydration can seriously
impair the body's ability to produce heat. Drink fluids as often as
possible during the day and keep a water bottle or canteen with you
- Cooking In Cold Weather.
- Cooking in cold weather
will take about twice as long as normal. Always use a lid on any pots
that you are cooking in. This will help to hold in the heat and decrease
the overall heating time. Make sure you start hot cleaning water before
you start cooking. The pots and utensils must still be cleaned. Try
to keep your menu to good one-pot meals. Things like stews, chili, and
hot beans stick to your ribs, lessen the cleaning time, and provide
good sources of energy and fuel for your internal furnace. A good high-calorie
snack before bedtime will also keep you warm all night. Stay away from
an overabundance of sugar, cheese is a good high-calorie bedtime snack.
- Sleeping Tip #1.
- Do not sleep
with your mouth and nose in your sleeping bag. The moisture of your
breath will condense in the bag, and cause it to become wet and ineffective
as an insulator.
- Buddy System.
- Buddies can help each
other pack for a trek, look after one another in the woods, and watch
for symptoms of frostbite, hypothermia, and exhaustion.
- Make a checklist of everything
you need before you start to pack. Then check each item off as you pack
it. This way you will not forget anything.
Keeping warm is the most important
part of cold weather camping. Use the C-O-L-D method to assure staying warm.
- - C - Clean
- Since insulation is only
effective when heat is trapped by dead air spaces, keep your insulating
layers clean and fluffy. Dirt, grime, and perspiration can mat down
those air spaces and reduce the warmth of a garment.
- - O - Overheating
- Avoid overheating by
adjusting the layers of your clothing to meet the outside temperature
and the exertions of your activities. Excessive sweating can dampen
your garments and cause chilling later on.
- - L - Loose Layers
- A steady flow of warm
blood is essential to keep all parts of your body heated. Wear several
loosely fitting layers of clothing and footgear that will allow maximum
insulation without impeding your circulation.
- - D - Dry
- Damp clothing and skin
can cause your body to cool quickly, possibly leading to frostbite and
hypothermia. Keep dry by avoiding cotton clothes that absorb moisture.
Always brush away snow that is on your clothes before you enter a heated
area. Keep the clothing around your neck loosened so that body heat
and moisture can escape instead of soaking several layers of clothing.
- - Footwear.
- As with other clothing,
the layer system is also the answer for foot- wear. Start with a pair
of silk, nylon, or thin wool socks next to your skin. Then layer on
several pairs of heavier wool socks. When and if your feet become damp,
change into another pair of dry socks at the first opportunity. Rubber
overboots will protect the feet from water and will allow more comfortable
shoes to be worn within.
- - Mittens and Gloves.
- Mittens allow your fingers
to be in direct contact with each other. They will keep your hands warmer
than regular gloves that cover each finger. Select mittens that are
filled with foam insulation, or pull on wool gloves and cover them with
a nylon overmitt. Long cuffs will keep wind and snow from getting in.
- - Headgear.
- The stocking hat is the
warmest thing you can cover your head with in cold weather. Get one
that is large enough to pull down over your ears. Also ski masks are
great in the winter and can help in keeping your neck and face warm
as well. Noses and ears can be very easily frostbitten, so a scarf can
be an invaluable item to have.
- - Parka and/or Overcoat.
- Your coat or parka is
the most important piece of your winter clothing. It needs to be large
enough to fit over extra clothing without cutting off blood flow, and
allowing ventilation to keep moisture away from your body. A large permanently
attached hood will prevent heat loss around your head and neck.
- - Sleepwear.
- Never should you
sleep in the same clothes that you have worn all day. They are damp
and will cause you to chill. This could cause frostbite and hypothermia.
It is advised that you bring a thick pair of sweats and thermal underwear
to sleep in. Keep the thermals and sweats for sleeping in only. Do not
wear them during the day, this will keep them the driest. Also be sure
to have a couple of layers of wool or heavy thick cotton socks on as
well. Always sleep with a stocking hat on your head. Your sleeping bag
needs to be a winter rated bag. Typically rated down to 15 degrees and
stuffed with 5 pounds of Holofil, Fiberfil, or other polyester ticking.
It is also a very good idea to have some kind of sleeping mat to use
in the winter. The mat can be a $90 Thermal Rest from Galyans (Scouts
get a %10 discount by showing Scout ID card) or a piece of high density
rubber foam at least one inch thick. In cold weather camping you never
want to sleep on an air mattress or off the ground in a cot. The air
under you will cool you off in no time and this would create a threatening
situation. If you don't have a sleeping mat, bring a spare wool or natural
fiber blanket to use as a ground pad under your sleeping bag. The sleeping
mat is worth it's weight in gold.
Every year, tens of thousands
of boys will go winter camping. Although the threat of danger is always
present in a winter camp, planning and knowledge can overcome this. It
is very important that the Scouts come prepared. If a Scout feels that
at this time winter camping is not for him, then he should not go. There
is always next year and the year after and so on. If a Scout comes to
camp and I do not feel that he is prepared, I will have to ask him to
stay behind. Make sure you are ready, and most of all, SAFE.