Camping in the cold is adventurous and fun. It poses challenges and requires more training to ensure a safe, fun time spent in the winter camping.
I love cold weather camping, it is perhaps some of my favorite camping. Since becoming a Scoutmaster, I have taken pride in sharing that love of winter camping with the Scouts of my Troop. On average, we camp about 3 times a year in a cold weather environment. We have been very successful during these camp outs because of the training that we do before the outing.
So what do we do to make our winter outings successful? Training, accountability, and skills development.
Cold weather camping all starts with good training. We have a rule, not a policy, that if a Scout does not attend all of the training he does not go on cold weather camp outs.
We do this simply for safety. The safety of the scout and his buddies. Any high risk activity requires training above and beyond your typical camping skills.
Cold weather injury prevention takes a good portion of the training. We teach the Scouts first how to prevent cold weather injuries.
Developing the skills of the Scout to prepare for camping in the cold, identify those symptoms of cold weather injuries and then treatment. It should be noted that as stated we average about three cold weather camp outs a year as a Troop, and when I refer to cold weather camp outs, I am talking about sub freezing temperatures. For the past ten years we have been using this training plan and have never had a cold weather injury. I suppose I should pay respect to my Scouting friends in Alaska and Minnesota.. we do not get the temps you all get and I would think you all have similar training programs. Cold weather injuries are cold weather injuries no matter where you are.
Subjects under the topic of cold weather injuries include; Hypothermia, Frost Bite, Chill Blains, Frost nip, snow blindness, and immersion foot.
We move on from injuries to layering and proper wear of clothing. We discuss how and when to layer up or down and the right clothing for the outing. When it comes to clothing, we teach that it is easier to stay warm than to re-warm. The idea that re-warming takes time and energy that you may want to save.
Clothing plays a major role in Cold weather camping. Not just a lot of clothing, but the right clothing. Moving from cotton shirts that keep moisture on the body thus cooling you, to synthetic shirts that wick the sweat away from you. Jackets that insulate as well as protect from the elements. A layering system that allows you to move as well as stand around. Gloves that work for completing camp tasks as well as keeping your fingers, hands, and wrist warm.
Hats that warm and protect from wind while keeping your head dry.
There is a lot more that goes into developing your clothing list. Keeping in mind that you still have to carry it in your pack, bulk plays a part in your packing list. Extra socks are always a must, consideration needs to be made as to when you are going to change them, where you carry them, and how many do you need. A thick pair of wool socks to sleep in may be packed in with your sleep system while your smart wool socks worn for hiking and moving around camp may be packed on top for easy access.
If you are like me, once your feet get cold, I am cold. So maintaining warmth by frequent changing of socks is a must for me.
Part of the training program is a discussion of using existing gear. Using a three season tent to stand up to heavy snow and winds. Adding a layer in a sleeping bag to give an additional ten degrees of warmth. And how to make your stove the most efficient it can be in the cold.
A big area of our preparation for cold weather camping is the matter of accountability. This is a touchy subject for some, but it is a matter of safety and therefore non negotiable. A Scout must attend the four meetings leading to the first winter camp out. This way he gets the training required and has an opportunity to work with the rest of the troop on the skills needed for winter outings.
Being accountable to one another is an important part of this process. The Scouts are accountable to one another. When they understand that they can not have a “me” attitude, they start to pay close attention to what their buddy is doing and how they are a member of that team. We teach that cold weather injury prevention is a leaders responsibility. Leadership and Discipline are the two key components in cold weather camping. Leaders that care for their patrols will keep an eye on them. They will watch for the signs of cold weather issues. They will keep their patrol motivated an on task. They start building that high performance team with the understanding that they are all in this together. It takes the whole patrol watching out for each other, pitching in with camp chores, set up, take down, meal prep, etc. that makes the experience one they won’t forget.
When we talk about accountability we need to ensure that the Scout understands that he is an important part in the safety of his buddy and himself. Most Scouts will go through their Scouting life following the leader. Cold weather camping forces the issue of leadership on each Scout.
Accountability starts with the Scout being required to attend the meetings and training. If the Scout fails to attend the required meetings and training the result is the Scout not being able to attend the outing. When it comes to this we stand firm. Training and developing the required skills are important, when a Scout does not get the training, he is setting himself up for a possible injury or at least increasing the risk of himself and his buddies.
The Scout is accountable for his attitude. A lack of enthusiasm for the outing or having a negative attitude is not a good fit in the group dynamic in the cold weather environment. Being able to keep that positive outlook is important. You will need it when the conditions seem to be fighting you and you feel as though the task is out of hand. Understanding that you can and will get through the conditions is mostly in your attitude.
We will leave this discussion right here for now… we will pick up with the skills discussion in our next post.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
COLD WEATHER TIP
Warm up socks and boot insoles by keeping them in the sleeping bag next to you.
It is a requirement for all Scouts to build their own First Aid kit. This gets them in tuned with what they need, have, and how to use it all. Being a backpacking Troop, building the personal first aid kit is an important task and requires a little more thinking than just band aids and mole skin. The nature of backpacking takes you away from the cars and so the Scout needs to develop a kit that is compact, light, and serves his first aid needs.
In our Troop we also require the Scouts to build a fire building kit. It should be compact, light, and serve the Scouts need to make fire. Simple requirements right?
The ability to make fire is an important skill. Fire is a motivator, cooking option, and method of warmth and cheer. I was asked once what ‘survival’ skills we teach our Scouts. I answered none. We teach them to be prepared. With a kit designated to build fire there is no need to rub sticks together or wait for lightning to strike. The Scout reaches into his pack and makes a fire.
I carry my fire kit with me every time I enter the woods. On a day hike or a 50 miler, the fire kit is as much a part of my pack as my first aid kit.
My kit is simple, light, and works 100% of the time to start fire.
I am not a fan of flint and steel or primitive methods of making fire. I do not pretend to be a bush crafter and am not fascinated with that whole life style.
I use what works and that is it. Again, I need not know how to ‘survive’ I will survive because I am prepared.
Here is a short video on my Fire Kit.
Question or comments? Please leave them here at the blog.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
**NOTE- my batteries died twice in the camera and a part of the video I thought I was shooting was lost. The SOL Tinders somehow got cut out.
Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, gear, High Adventure, Just fun, Leave no trace, Methods, Scouting, Scouts, Skills, technology, Winter Camping
Tags: camping skills, fire building, fire kit, skills
Heading out into the woods this weekend with the Troop. New Scout Patrol will be stepping off on the Trail to First Class, but not until after a fun morning on the range shooting Shot Guns. Then the older guys will get to shoot all afternoon, but not until they develop some leadership skills in camp. Modeling the Expected Behavior will be their theme for the weekend.
Weather calls for sun tomorrow.. we hope for the best.
So, I will let you all know how it goes on Sunday!
What are you up to this weekend?
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Categories: camp skills, Camping, gear, Hammock, Just fun, Leadership, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts, Skills, training
Tags: camping, camping skills, new Scout patrol
Today we are talking about controlling your guy lines. Whether you are a tent camper or sleep under a tarp you will have lines to control.
I hate it when lines are tangled and become a mess. This simple way of controlling your lines is a perfect fix. You can do this with gloves too which makes this a great way to get packed in the winter also.
As long as you can make a figure 8 with your fingers and know how to make a slippery half hitch.. you are good to go.
This tip will make your packing easier and when you get home to dry things out you will not have a mess of tangled lines everywhere.
If you have a tip or a skill that you would like to see drop me a note.
Thanks for coming to the blog.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, comments, gear, Hammock, High Adventure, Just fun, Scoutmaster minute, Skills, training
Tags: camping skills, controlling your line, guy lines, tarp, tent
Every Saturday, we are going to add a “Tip of the Week” to the Blog. A tip that will be focused on Backpacking, camping, hiking, cooking, or other skills associated with the great outdoors.
This weeks tip is a simple one that will save wear and tear on your pack and keep your gear organized and clean.
Let me know if you have a tip you want to share. Also, if you have ideas or tips that you have questions about or want to see. Please let me know and I will do my best to put them up here.
In this tip I use a Marlin Spike hitch.. to learn how to tie the Marlin Spike, check this site out. Animated Knots by Grog
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, gear, High Adventure, Just fun, Methods, reviews, Scoutmaster minute, Skills, technology, Winter Camping
Tags: backpacking, camping, camping gear, camping skills, marlin spike hitch, skills, tip of the week, tips
Yep… that’s a lengthy title and I really do not want this to become a rant, BUT… it seems that I get in an inordinate amount of emails reminding me that we are working with boys and that these boys are not responsible enough to do this or that. They are not responsible or skilled enough to participate in this or another thing. Recently I was reminded that in my video that I talked about how I am carrying my fuel now that the G2SS suggests that fuel be carried in the original container or a container suitable for the use of carrying fuel. And I agree that is what the G2SS says. And here is the rub.
When you really look at most of the “Prohibitions” in Scouting they are place, not really for safety or to reinforce Scouting’s values. They are in place for the lowest common denominator. They are in place to protect, not the BSA, but ourselves. And why do we need them? Well, because people are not smart enough to know that coffee is hot and when it spills on you, you get burned. Every McDonalds coffee cup tells you so… why? Because people are not smart enough to figure it out.. the lowest common denominator.
The Boy Scouts of America has a certain level of protection that it must put in place so it does not get sued.. I get that. But there are common practices in the Backpacking world and elsewhere that look at the BSA and shake their heads in disbelief at the “old School” ways it is stuck in. That is but one example but to the point I am trying to make…
When are we going to treat our Scouts the way we want them to act in life. After all, we are here to teach them to make ethical choices throughout their life times right? We are here to impart some life skills and wisdom on them, right? We are not here to shelter them from the world.. no… we are here to give them a set of values that will help them navigate the world we live in.
So why do we treat them with kiddy gloves? Why not give them responsibility and let them learn. Let them explore and develop good habits.. safe habits.
I can not tell you how many Scoutmasters I know that believe that liquid fuel is prohibited by the BSA.. or they just won’t let their Scouts use it because it is dangerous. Hog wash!
It is that kind of thinking that prohibits other things in Scouting. It is that old way of thinking that holds back Scouts from learning and exploring. It is that kind of thinking that does not allow for change and new ideas, skills, and yep… gear.
I make it a point in our Troop to push the boundaries, to test the waters. We stay legal rest assured, but I want our Scouts to explore and discover. To learn and test new things. First, it keeps them interested. And second, they have fun. They love to push themselves and have something cool that is common in the “real world” of backpacking. They test themselves and how they are skilled. They are better for it.
So when are you going to treat your Scouts like you want them to be? Stop dumbing down the program and push the limits… get out on the edge and take a peak over.. the more we do it and the do it right and safe.. maybe Scouting will see what is beyond their limits and grow.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, comments, gear, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Methods, Motto, respect, Scouting, Skills, training, Values, Youth Protection
Tags: camping skills, G2SS, pushing limits