When preparing for winter camping or camping in colder temps than you are typically used to it is important to get your mind right.
It is a must to have the right gear, train for the conditions and practice before venturing out into the cold. But the most important thing to prepare is your attitude.
We teach that COLD means to stay clean, keep from overheating, wear your clothing loose and in layers, and stay dry. Those things should keep your warm and comfortable while camping in the winter. I have known people that just never seem to be warm. They can add layers and layers and still won’t be warm. When they are constantly cold, they dont want to be there.
I was stationed in Alaska while I served in the Army. Before I was assigned to Ft. Wainwright in Fairbanks, I was in Georgia, I think this is the Army’s idea of humor. When I arrived in Alaska I was sent to a course called Cold Weather Indoctrination Training (CWI). The first thing that they tought us was that we had to get our mind set to be cold. Once we accepted the idea that it was going to be cold, we could focus on our job. The first night of the training we took our sleeping bags and sleeping pads an went out into a near by stand of trees about 100 yards from the barracks. We were told that we would be sleeping out there for the night. “Trust the gear and accept the cold” the Sergeant said. I thought I was going to die that night. I got in my sleeping bag, wiggled around a bit, and then settled in for a nights sleep in the snow. The guy next to me tossed and turned all night, his teeth chattered, and at about midnight he got up and ran to the building. I remember watching him through the face hole of my sleeping bag. I was toasty warm in the bag and would not have gotten out of that warm bag to run if the forest was on fire. The next morning, the Sergeant came out and woke us up. The air was crisp and it was cold. He told us that we needed to get up and get moving. It was like jumping into a cold pond.. you just hold your breath and go for it. I sprang from my sleeping bag throwing clothing on as quick as I could. Once I got my boots on and started rolling up my sleeping bag I noticed that I was not cold, I was working up a little sweat even.
We marched to the dining hall for breakfast, then right back out into the cold for more training. The more we trained, the more I got used to the cold. The more I got used to the idea that it was just going to be cold, the more I accepted it and it was just another thing.
I can remember my second winter in Alaska, when it warmed up to the single digits above 0, we would run around with sweatshirts and t- shirts on. The cold was just a matter of fact. We had our minds right.
Now, I dont want to confuse anyone by changing up the meaning of COLD.. but I remember my Squad leader came up with a new version for us to keep our minds in the right attitude for the cold temps.
C- Can’t is not an option. When the tents need to be put up, camp chores need to be done, Can’t is not an option.. the work has to be done. Can’t is not a phrase that gets us out of any situation. YOU CAN be in the cold… You just have to accept it.
O- Operate with the mind set that this is a challenge I am willing to face. Challenge yourself mentally, physically, and prepare your self for the Challenge.
People do not summit Everest because they have North Face gear and lots of money. They accept the challenge and push themselve in the preparation.
L- Look around, you are not the only one out here in the cold. Your buddy counts on you and you count on them. We do this together. When one man is not mentally prepared the whole team suffers.
D- Dont forget your training and have confidence in your gear. Training for the enviornment settles the mind. The less you think about the cold, the more at ease your mind is. Just like athletes rely on muscle memory to esure that they are fundementally sound, thus they can focus on the other aspects of the game and their oppenent. Never forget your preparation and training and you will have the right mind set.
Some of the Scouts wonder why I seem to love camping in the winter. It is quiet, I love the crisp air, and you never have crowds. Above all I love the challenge. I love to test my skill and training. I love to safely push personal limits. I trust my gear and my training and know that I can have fun out in the winter just as much as I do in the summer. I try to teach our Scouts those same things that I learned 30 years ago. Just like then, I accepted the challenge and adapted to the winter conditions. As a result I gained an appreciation for camping in the cold. Now I love it.
Your mind is powerful and will allow you to do just about anything that you want. As long as you trust yourself, your training (the people that trained you), and your gear, you will have an awesome time camping in the cold.
Have a Great Scouting Day!