Posts Tagged With: Winter Camping

Teaching Winter camping Skills- Revisited

DSCN0627As most of the country is still experiencing Winter conditions and here in the Northwest, the Winter Camping season is really in full bloom, as late as it is, there are still Troops and Crews that are venturing into the woods for some good winter camping.  I thought I would revisit our teaching or winter skills, just as a reminder that even though it’s March, we need to stay focused on how we camp in the winter.  Most of these skills transfer well all year round anyway.  I will take a page out of the Safe swim defense and Safety Afloat program.  Supervision and Discipline are a Must.
So here are a few rules that we maintain whenever we are talking about High adventure and Cold weather camping.
Remember anytime you engage in a high risk activity… you increase your preparation, supervision, and discipline.
The first rule is take it serious.  Cold Weather camping can be one of the most enjoyable activities with challenges and memories that your scouts will cherish.  But at the same time Cold weather camping can be Extremely dangerous when not taken seriously.
I use a three strike rule when dealing with the issue.  Three strikes and you are not going on the event.  Period.
A scout that does not want to pay attention or is goofing off too much will not get the information that is being presented.  This can lead to dangerous consequences in the field.
Before we do any Winter camping adventure we have a couple mandatory meetings.
During these meetings we teach Cold Weather first aid.
Understanding and knowing the symptoms of cold weather conditions such as frost bite and hypothermia.  Knowing what to look for on your buddy for those signs and then how to treat them.
We teach techniques for setting camp, preparing meals, setting up gear to best meet the conditions of Cold weather camping.  Simple stuff like zipper pulls and tent anchors.  Issues like meal preparation and how to better prepare meals at home for ease in the camp site.
These meetings we feel are important to set the tone for the High adventure activity.
We do the same thing for Rock climbing activities.  Mandatory meetings get the scout into the mind-set that this is so important that they are “Making” me be there … or I do not go.
Enforcement of the mandatory meeting is just as important.  If you make it a must for one that they get all the information, then make it a must to all.
If need be…have a make up meeting for scouts that absolutely can not make a mandatory meeting… give them opportunities to participate, but ensure they get the skills, training, and information that are needed for a successful outing.
The next rule that is non negotiable is using the buddy system.  Now I know that the buddy system is part of Scouting anyway, but in cold weather environments it is a must.
Buddies need to be established early in the process of planning, training, and preparing for the camp out.
Getting these buddies to learn the first Aid skills together, planning of meals together, and in camp routines will lead to skilled buddy teams that understand the importance of one another in the process.
When they train in first aid, it no longer is a routine activity, they understand, that if I do not check you and you don’t check me.. we can get hurt.  If I am not aware of what creamy colored skin means…then you may be getting frost bite on your nose or fingers.
Enforcing buddy teams is a must and hard fast rule.  In camp use the Patrol leaders to monitor buddy teams and ensure that they are maintaining discipline as a team.
One issue that may or may not come up, it has with in my unit, is when you are tent camping in the snow and most of the Scouts have single person tents maintaining the buddy concept.
The fix here is that they, unlike when camping during the summer, cluster the tents.  Have buddy teams set up their single person tents right next to one another.  This way they can still communicate throughout the night.  One technique that our boys have used is setting up their tents for the doors face each other, and they put them real close. Almost to the point where they can share vestibules.  I have seen them actually tie their vestibules together creating a tarp like set up.  It makes a little cooking area and allows them to sit and talk while in their sleeping bags.  Now this is all dependant on what their tents are like, but the point here is that sometimes they need to think out side of the box to overcome obstacles.  But they need to be aware that the buddy system is extremely important in the cold.  And because it is important, they need to do things that allow them to watch each other, and communicate with each other.
So rule number 2 is the buddy system, do not over look this, it is way to important.
Rule number 3 is TIME AND PLACE.
There is a time and place for everything.  There is a time and place to screw around and have fun, there is a time and place to be serious.  The sooner your Scouts know this.. the better.  Enough said.
I try not to get bogged down with a bunch of rules, after all we have the Scout Oath and law and that is pretty much all we need, but when it comes to high risk activities, it is important to establish importance in the seriousness of Cold Weather camping.
So now we have established it is important… so when teaching these Scouts about cold weather camping what are some things that need to be taught.
I guess if I had to narrow my list down to the top things to teach Scouts about Cold weather camping the list would include.
First.  Cold weather injuries and how to prevent them and treat them.
Second.  Gear.
Third.  In camp routines
Fourth.  Planning a preparation.
And fifth.  Getting around in the snow, including moving and orienteering.
So lets quickly talk a little about these 5 items.
First Aid.  Or better yet understanding the risks of Cold weather injuries and how to prevent them.  The idea is that you do not want to get into treatment.  You won’t have to if they prevent the injury to start with.
Hypothermia, frost bite, Frost nip or chill blains, immersion foot, sun burn and snow blindness are the biggies.
Show pictures of frost bite, that is enough to get the attention of your scouts.  The Scouts need to be able to tell you what they are looking for on their buddy.
Do they recognize the disorientation, nausea, and the fact that their buddy is no longer shivering means that he is probably slipping quickly into Hypothermia.
One of the biggest issues regarding the treatment of some cold weather injuries is getting the Scouts over the idea that they may be put in what they feel is an uncomfortable position.  Getting into a sleeping bag with another Scout is not normal, but it may be that which saves his buddies life.  Again, it’s all about prevention.  How do you prevent getting into that position?
Well that leads me to the next topic…gear.
Clothing and equipment are important in the cold.  First know that when talking about clothing… Cotton kills.
Do not allow your Scouts to wear lots of cotton.  Underwear bottoms are ok, but any clothing on the body that can get moist due to perspiration needs not to be cotton.  I’m talking primarily about T-shirts and socks.
Poly propylene underwear, long johns and sock liners are fantastic items to put against the body.  It reduces the chances of sweat staying on the skin and eventually leads to freezing.
Teach them about layering.  Talk about Base layers, Mid layers that insulate, and a shell layer that protects.  Handing out flyers that discuss the layering system are a great idea so that mom and dad understand what you expect.
When teaching about gear, talk about the difference between gear they use the rest of the year, also show them how they can use their gear all year round, with modifications.
Using a three season tent as a four season tent for example.  Simply by adding guy lines and anchors.  Tents do add warmth to the scout, they protect against the elements.  Snow and wind are the two elements you are concerned about.  Guy lines and tie downs will keep your tent steady in the wind.  Digging into the snow and setting your tent up sheltered by a snow wall will combat against the wind.  The tighter the guy lines, the better also for keeping snow from collecting and damaging your poles.  Reinforcing your poles by wrapping them with duct tape is a way to strengthen them.  The tape can be removed in the spring.  Making sure the Scouts know to constantly keep the tent clear of snow during the day and clearing it off before they turn in for the night will reduce the strain the tent poles feel.
Your Scouts need to understand that cold air settles in low ground.  Digging a trench outside of their tent by the door will move cold air away from their sleeping platform, just like in a snow cave.  It also allows for a place to sit up right when dressing.
Boots, lets talk about boots.
First, make sure that your scouts have good boots suitable for wear in the snow and cold.
Then make sure they keep them dry.  Boots when worn should be protected by wearing gaiters.  This protects the laces and upper portion of the boot.  They also keep snow from entering the boot, keeping them dry.
When boots are not being worn, they need to be INSIDE the tent, use an old stuff sack or even garbage bag to put the boots in.  Put them under or in your sleeping bag to keep them warm.  Boil up some water and fill a water bottle before you get in your tent.  Put the water bottle in your boots.  It will keep them warm and you will have water in the morning that is not frozen.  In the morning if your scouts can boil up some water and fill that bottle up and put it in the boots for about 15 minutes.. they will step into nice cozy boots that will ready them for the day.
Backpacks should be packed with stuff sacks, ditty bags, and need to be kept organized and accessible.
Adding zipper pulls or tabs to zippers will make it easier to get in and out of pockets, this goes for their jackets too.
Gloves and or mittens.  Check the gloves your Scouts bring.  They need to be water-resistant and warm.   Do not allow just any glove.  They need to provide insulation and protection.  I had a Scout show up once with gardening gloves.  Not acceptable in the cold weather environment.  As a leader, take extra gloves with you.  I have found that gloves come up missing or get wet, I carry a stuff sack with a few extra pair of gloves to throw on chilly hands when needed.
Outer wear.  Protective shells that keep the Scout dry and out of the wind.
You will know what right looks like, they do not need to run out and buy North face $300 jackets, although it would go a longer way in protecting them, to stay warm and dry.
Have a shake down of gear the week before the camp out.  This will allow you and your Patrol leaders the opportunity to look at all the gear and a week for the Scout to make corrections.
In camp routines.  These need to be discussed prior to the camp out, but practiced in camp.
Things like setting up camp quickly, getting shelter up, gathering fire wood, cooking and cleaning up, settling down for the night, staying dry, and fun things to do while in camp.
Establishing good in camp routines, just like in the summer is an important part of winter camping.  Gear gets lost in the snow, part of good in camp routines is storing gear and staying organized.
Planning and preparing for the winter camp out is probably the most important thing to getting the most out of your winter camping experience.  This includes training, planning, and readying your gear for the trip.
You need to know where you are going, how long you are going to be there, how you are getting there and how you are getting into the area you are camping in.  And then what you are going to do once you get there.
Preparation is so key to a successful Cold Weather camp out.  The Scouts need to be prepared and properly instructed.  Like I tell the boys, we are not planning to treat cold weather injuries, we are preparing to prevent them.
Taking that approach with you cold weather camping preparation will lead to success.
You as the adult leader, or even for those Junior leaders that listen, need to become experts in the skills needed to camp in the cold.
Preparing the Scouts of your troop starts with some clear goals for the experience.
In your first year of camping in the cold weather, you may want to limit your overnight stays to a single night and progressively move to longer stays.
You may want to start by taking day hikes and excursions into the cold.  Set up camp and work on skills such as shelters, building fires, and staying dry.  Then retire to the comfort of a lodge for the night.
In your planning you need to figure out what your objectives are.  Going into the woods and setting up camp, eating and hitting the rack is not enough to keep scouts interested in camping in the cold.  What are you going to do once you get into camp?  Navigation is a great skill to practice in the snow.  Folks get disoriented easily in a snow filled forest.
How about winter relay’s, snow shoe hikes, igloo building or snow caving, Cross country skiing, or just plain winter skills.  There are many things that you can do that lead up to the cold weather camp out.  Make gear like snow shoes, then test them out when you get to camp.  There is a great Scouting resource available at your Scout Shop.  The book Okpik:   Cold Weather Camping #34040 shows you how to make gear, as well as activities and know how on camping in the winter.
Use other resources too, one of my favorite books on Camping in the cold is Winter Hiking and Camping, by Michael Lanza a book put out by Backpacker Magazine.
In planning and preparing, get you hands on as much material as possible and become familiar, almost to the point that you are an expert.  You need to be, those boys depend on you.
Finally, getting around in the snow.  I alluded to snow shoeing and cross-country skiing earlier.  These are super fun activities that the Scouts really have a great time with.  If you are going to snow shoe or ski, it is a good idea to get out there prior to the camp out and get a feel for it.  If time is an issue, when you get to your drop off point, leave the packs in the car and take a little hike to get used to the snow shoes or skis, it is better to establish balance and some skill before you throw your pack on.
If you get a lot of snow, I would recommend show shoeing for your first time winter campers.  It is a skill that is easy to pick up and provides the most stable mode of on foot movement in the snow.  Trying to walk in deep snow with a pack on can be frustrating as the scouts post hole their way into camp.  Taking along snow shoes provides not only ease of movement, but a fun activity to do once you get camp set up.
Most winter sports outlets rent snow shoes and we have gotten real good Weekend rates when you mention you are taking a group of Boy Scouts out for a snow shoeing adventure.
Let me leave you with this.
The best tool you have in the winter camping environment is your brain.  It will know when things are good and when things get bad.  Listen to it.  Adult leaders need to be upbeat and positive throughout the winter camping process.  A positive attitude is infectious and the boys of the unit must keep a great attitude when camping in the cold.
Seeing an adult with a negative attitude, complaining about the cold, or showing frustration at gear, not being able to accomplish tasks, and generally not having a good time will surely infect the rest of the Troop.  Keep a level head, have a great time, acquire the necessary skills, and have a positive attitude and your winter camping adventure will be a fantastic memorable experience.   Oh and take lots of pictures.
Get out there and camp in the cold.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, fitness, gear, High Adventure, Just fun, Leadership, Leave no trace, Motto, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Skills, training, Winter Camping | Tags: , | 3 Comments

How do You fix Lazy?

skillsHere is a question for you… How do you fix lazy?
I do not intend this to be a rant, rather a real look into why are people.. in particular.. some of our Scouts so lazy.  Yes.. I said Lazy, and if the shoe fits they need to wear it.
Well, Scoutmaster Jerry… you can’t call a boy out like that.. you may hurt their feelings… Really?  If you don’t want your feelings hurt, stop being lazy.  It’s really that simple.
Here is the situation.
We do a very good job of teaching skills.  As is the case in Scout Troops all over our Country, Scout leaders have vested interest in making sure that our Scouts are trained in skills, both life skills and those skills that can be applied in the great out doors.  In the case of my Troop, we have assembled a group of adult leaders that are the best.  That is a pretty lofty claim, but true.  We have multiple BSA certified Climbing instructors.  Multiple Wilderness First Aid trained and First Responders.  Medical professionals, skilled outdoors men.  Trained and certified trainers for extreme cold weather activities, etc. Avid backpackers with years of experience and mastered skill levels.  Leave No trace experts etc.  We  have made it a point to be over trained so the Scouts of our Troop will have the benefit of training that is current, relevant,  expert, and will ensure that the Scout will gain the most of his Scouting experience.
Now, before I go on.. YES, we are YOUTH LED… BUT…
As you all know there are times that Adults with know how need to step in and not lead, but train.  The Scout leadership is still leading and teaching basic skills, but when it comes to high risk activities it is important that Adult instruction from those that are qualified, skilled, and trained need to do the teaching.
So, we have assembled this great group of skilled folks that know what they need to know and are willing to teach and provide mentoring as the Scouts develop their skills.
I suppose it is worth mentioning that a Scout joins our Troop knowing what he is getting into.  It is also fair to point our that we do not push participation.  A Scout will get out of Scouting exactly what he puts into it.  If a young man makes the choice to not participate, well then he will get that experience out of Scouting.  On the other hand, if he makes the choice to fully immerse himself in the experience, he will have an outstanding experience while a Scout and more likely than not carry that with him the rest of his life.
We are what we are we are not going to change that based on Lazy.  We have made it a point to never cancel based on outside of Scouting choices.  We encourage our Scouts to be active outside of Scouts also and we know that there are certain outings that lend themselves to less participation, but we will not cancel those based on the interest level of some of the Scouts taking away that opportunity for others.  We would rather go with 5 that are totally into it than 40 that are not.
On one hand we preach that this is the Scouts Troop, and yes that is the case.  They are the Scouts that made the choice years ago that they wanted to be a high adventure unit.  And that is what we became.  That is why boys join our Troop.  Then some realize that we expect more from them individually than perhaps their School teacher do or their parents.  We expect them to become self-reliant.  We expect them to pay attention and learn.  We expect them to develop skills and become proficient in those skills and at some point teach those skills.  We expect them to push themselves beyond their comfort zone.  We do not think that this is too much to ask, and when parents bring their son to us, it seems that it is not too much for them either.  Parents by and large seem to like the idea that we expect much from their sons.
We see it over and over again though that some, not all, of our Scouts are just plain lazy.  It would seem that they would rather freeze to death and starve before they took a tiny bit of initiative to do the right thing.  They are trained, but have difficulty applying that training because they are too busy trying to take a short cut or allow someone else to do it for them.
They would rather be told 100 times to do something than just do it.  They would rather be cold and miserable than to apply the training that they have learned from some of the best folks around.  Simple things like keeping your gloves out of the snow or staying dry.  This is just plain lazy.
They would rather have Mom and Dad replace gear than take care of it.  They would rather crawl into their sleeping bag than learn new skills and develop their own level of expertise in those skills.  They would rather… well, I think you are getting the point.
I do not understand this way of thinking.  I do not understand Lazy.  Now before I get one comment that tells me that kids today are different from they were 20 years ago… JUST STOP.  They are no different.  The difference is not in the kid, it is in how they are raised in the world around them.  They have been wrapped in layer of bubble wrap and not allowed to explore.  They have been force-fed pills to calm them down, they have been sheltered because of the boggy man and Al Qaeda.   They are sat in front of a TV as a baby sitter and the world around them tells them that they don’t have to work for a living.  Don’t worry.. the Government will take care of you and the more ailments you can rack up the more Uncle Sam will take care of you.  You don’t have to get a good paying job, you can apply for hand outs.. so don’t work and you will be fine.  I don’t understand this thinking.  And it is happening.  Citizenship used to mean making a contribution, now it means waiting for one.
Are their legitimate ailments out there?.. sure there are.. but c’mon.. When you are a 13-year-old boy, you need to get out and at it.
Lazy is a habit.  It is formed early and reinforced often.  Here is the thing.  I don’t know how to fix it.  Well I do, but in the process I will lose Scouts and upset parents.  This is the issue I am dealing with.  How do I fix lazy and maintain Scouts and get them on board?  How do I do this and keep Mom and Dad happy?
I will be working on answers to this question.. I am curious as to what you have to say.
Please leave your answer to How to fix lazy in the comments section.  I want to know what you do.. or do you just allow it.  Either way.. share.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, comments, Cooking, gear, High Adventure, Ideals, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Risk Management, Scouting, Skills, teamwork, training, Values, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Mountain Hardwear Bandito Gloves

I recently talked about my gloves and layering system for keeping my hands warm.
Here is a closer look and review at the Mountain Hardwear Bandito finger-less gloves that I wear.
The Stats:
The body of the gloves are made of Deflection ™ Soft shell which is 100% Polyester.
The mitt portion of the glove is made from windblock and stretch materials pulls over fingers for added warmth.
The Palm is Synthetic leather, although it feels like fleece, very comfortable.
Weight:  3.6 oz or 103 g
They are windproof and breathable.
These gloves are Unisex and it is important to try of for accurate fit and sizing.
The Bandito glove is marked as a “Climbing glove”, but I find them great for backpacking, especially while hiking and doing camp chores.
The Mountain Hardwear Bandito glove retails for $45.

Was this review helpful?  Let me know what you wear.  Leave a comment and share.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, camp skills, Camping, Climbing, comments, Hammock, High Adventure, reviews, Scoutmaster minute, Skills, technology, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Heading out for the Weekend

Tonight I will get getting up on the mountain for my first “Winter” camp of the year.  I have the pulk loaded and everything is double checked… except it looks like old man winter has taken a nap.
I checked the weather service yesterday.. this weekends low is going to be in the 40′s with highs in the 50′s.  Not much swing there, but we are going out none the less.
So to be prepared, I am going to throw the pack in the truck and when I get to the snow park, if there is no snow, I can always load up the pack to hike in.
Being flexible in your planning is pretty important in winter camping, you have to plan for multiple contingencies.  This is where “Be Prepared” really is important.  I really don’t know what to expect tonight when I get out of the truck, so I need to go prepared for everything.
The basics of course are standard, but do I overdress?  What boots I am going to wear?  How about a jacket?  Which one and how heavy?  These are the questions that I thought about (and more) last night as I packed.  I want to be prepared for whatever the mountain is going to give me so I can have the best time this weekend.
Just some things to think about.
Ok.. the giveaway is over.  I will announce the luck winner on Sunday when I get home.  Thank you all for following/subscribing and leaving comments.  It was fun to see them all come in.
Building this online community is important to me and one of the ways in which we do that is by sharing and commenting here on the blog.
Well, thanks again.. I’m off for the weekend.. I’ll blog at ya on Sunday!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, comments, gear, Hammock, High Adventure, Just fun | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Gloves

Gloves play a major role in your warmth system when cold weather camping.  Your gloves and your boots are key to keeping you warm.  Think about it.  Your hands and your feet are the farthest body parts from the core and when they get cold you are cold all over.  They are also the most at risk for cold weather injury.
When shopping for gloves, don’t skimp.  Gloves are not where you want to cut cost, spend a bit extra and get good gloves that will last and you will have a much better cold weather camping experience.
I use a layering system with my gloves.  This gives me options in the cold without exposure.  I start with a “Base layer” glove.  The Mountain Hardwear Stimulu.  It retails for $40.  When not wearing them I wear a Fingerless mitten called the Mountain Hardwear Bandito.  They retail for $45.  My outer layer is a combination mitten.  The Outdoor research Meteor.  They retail for $70.
I added the retail prices here so you can see the value that I place on good gloves.  I could spend more, but I have been using this system for some time and know that it works to keep me warm in extreme cold temperatures.  Using the gloves in a layering system gives me a lot of options and works well to regulate my comfort.
What questions do you have?
What gloves system do you use?
Share…
Have a Great Scouting Day!

 

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, gear, High Adventure, Just fun, Risk Management, Skills | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Selecting your winter camp site

Start, Stop, and to be ContinuedMuch like camping in fair conditions there are principles that should be followed when winter camping site selection.  First plan ahead.  Know where you are going and try to get there with enough daylight to relax and set up camp.  Remember that it will get dark much earlier, so set your pace from the start of planning to arrive early.
When using your existing gear site selection is key.  Using your standard 3 season tent will require you to think about where you put it and how it is anchored.
Stay out of the wind.  Trees, outcroppings, and a large pine all provide protection from wind.  Watch for loaded branches of snow, and place the tent so that you are not directly under them.  Take a look up and look for widow makers and other potential hazards.
While planning take a look at the terrain on the map of your proposed location.  Avoid camping on any slope or at the bottom of any slope that would have the remote possibility to avalanche.  It is always important to learn the telltale signs of avalanche conditions.
Consider your nearest water source.  Are you going to melt snow?  If so, plan to use a lot more fuel.  Is there a nearby stream, pond or lake?  Make sure you know how to use your filter and protect your filter from the conditions.  Some filters do not work in the cold or will freeze once the water passes through it.  You need water.  That is important.  But plan ahead for your water sources.  Carrying in water is heavy unless you are pulling a pulk sled.
Cold air settles in low ground.  Avoid the bottoms of hills, camping in a valley.  Stay out of low meadows.  Finding a nice platform above a valley will be warmer and give you fantastic views to wake up to.
Be prepared to work.  You will more than likely have to prepare a tent platform, dig a cold sump, and gather fire wood.  Don’t overheat while setting up your camp.  Consider the amount of work that will go into setting camp and prioritize that work.
Leave no trace.  Yep, just because you can’t see the ground does not mean that you are not leaving an impact.  Use the leave no trace principles when selecting and staying in your winter camp.
Have fun out there.  Winter camping is great.
I’d love to hear some of your winter camping tips.  Drop in the comments section.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, High Adventure, Just fun, Leave no trace, planning, Skills, Winter Camping | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Winter camping and the backpack

>The harder the challengeWe often talk about the general rule of thumb that the pack weight should not exceed 25% of the person’s body weight.  This is a nice rule, but not stead fast in its application.  A 90 lb Scout is limited to 22 and half pounds.  A 75 pound Scout is hanging about 18 pounds on his back.  Like I said.. real nice rule and a great goal to keep in mind when packing a pack.  But winter camping is a totally different animal.
Pack weights go up in general because the amount of gear increases as well as the weight of the gear.  A 10 degree sleeping bag is typically heavier than a 30 degree bag.  More clothing is needed.  Extra gear for cooking, keeping warm, starting fire, and of course shelter options increase.
So how does the Scout that has not grown into his body handle cold weather or winter camping?  Here are a few ideas.
First we need to come to the realization that we are not going to buy multiple sleeping bags, tents, and backpacks.  Gear is just to expensive for the new Scout to go out and buy lots of gear.  So we need to make do with the gear that we have.
Adding guy lines to your tent, watching what you pack and maybe adding a sleeping bag liner will help with your existing gear.
Remember that we are not trying to go “ultralight” here, we are just trying to manage our weight for the younger Scout.
Clothing.
Loose and in layers.  This does a few things for you.  First it allows you to regulate your temperature over the course of the day and the activity.  If you properly train your Scouts to do this, they will stay dryer and as a result they can carry less clothing.  A good base layer which for the most part is always worn is the key.  It needs to be able to wick the moisture away from the body.  It needs to be able to stay relatively clean.  Second, the layering system will allow your Scouts to stay clean and dry.  When preparing their camp sites they can lose a layer and add their rain gear to stay dry.  Once the work is complete, they can remove the rain gear, hang it to dry, and add additional layers based on the temperatures and conditions.  When the layer system is planned properly, it can reduce the amount of clothing taken on each outing.
The motto “Be prepared” is a trump card though and needs to be considered.  Checking the weather conditions the days leading up to the outing and looking ahead at the forecast can help you be better prepared.
Extra socks are always a great idea, but know what you need and only take that much, contrary to popular belief, you can dry socks out and wear them again later.
Proper footwear is extremely important.  Spend a little more on your feet and the rest of you will stay warm.
The Pack.
We recommend that our Scouts have a pack that does not exceed 3900 cubic inches of load space.  By conventional wisdom that is a bit small for winter camping, but we know for a fact that it works.  Yeah, it takes some practice, but it works.  It is the one time of the year that strapping items to the outside may have to happen, but it works.
Compression bags, stuff sacks for pack organization and know how to pack is a critical skill.  More importantly, the skill of packing when you are cold is something that needs to be practiced.
When the conditions are right, and the need to carry more gear is greater than the pack will hold, a pulk sled is just what old man winter ordered.  Building an inexpensive pulk sled is not only fun, but makes for a whole new camping experience for those that like to get out into the bush.  This allows you to carry lots of water, gear, fire wood, and nice to have items that you would not normally haul in your pack.  I have talked about pulk sleds before in the blog and have built a nice one that did not break the bank.
The bottom line is that your current pack will work, you need to know your gear, how to use it, what you need and what you don’t, and most importantly… you need to practice, practice, practice with your pack.  Pack it over and over, do it with gloves on, do it in the backyard on a cold day.  Try different storage methods (Stuff sacks, compression bags etc).
Winter camping is an all together different experience.  One that test skill, attitude, and has a great pay off in the end.  Quiet, crisp air, no crowds, and lots of fun.
Stay tuned for more winter camping tips.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: camp skills, Camping, gear, High Adventure, Just fun, planning, Scout, Skills, training, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

The COLD Attitude

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!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, fitness, gear, High Adventure, Just fun, Leadership, Motto, planning, Skills, Winter Camping | Tags: | 1 Comment

Staying warm in your Hammock

phoenixI had a fun discussion this weekend with a reader of the blog that is interested, but not sold on the whole hammock camping thing.  We were talking about when I camp in my hammock.  The answer is all the time, every month in every season.  So the question was, “so how do you stay warm in the hammock?”
There are many ways to keep warm while having a great nights sleep in the hammock.   I use a Top Quilt and an Under Quilt.
It’s science.  You see, when you lay in a sleeping bag on a pad (or in a hammock) you crush the fibers or the down that is creating loft that keeps you warm.  Down feathers and synthetic fibers must have air pockets to allow for the warm air to become trapped and create warmth.
The quilts made for hammocks are designed to create the most insulation.  They are constructed with a nylon shell filled with either down or synthetic materials.   The Under quilt hangs below and on the outside of the hammock.  When you lay in the hammock, you are surrounded by the underquilt and none of the material is compressed.  Because the hammock is made of nylon also and as such is a breathable material the body generates heat and fills the insulation keeping you warm underneath.  If you are worried about wind robbing your quilt of the “R” value, Underquilt cover is hung below the quilt and snugged up to the quilt to protect it from wind, rain, snow, or other heat stealing agents.
The top quilt is basically a blanket with a foot box.  It is easy to get in and out of and coupled with the under quilt provides comfort and warmth.
For added warmth, a sleeping bag liner can be added.
A good under quilt and top quilt will cost you about $550, but because there is no wear on them, they last a long time, if you take care of them.
If you don’t want to spend that kind of money, there are other options that will keep you just as warm.
A regular sleeping bag works just fine.  It is a heavier option and is a little harder to get in and out of, but you can stay just as warm.
Use a closed cell foam pad in the hammock to provide insulation and take away what hammock campers call CBS or Cold Butt syndrome.  Your self inflating pad will work also, just don’t fill it all the way.  The CCF pad works much better though.  Air on air is not great insulation.
Reflectix pads or a sheet of reflectix material or emergency blanket works real well to provide a great heat source.  Reflective materials or reflectix will bounce 70% of your body heat back at you.  That’s pretty good for the size and weight of the materials.
Once you have the gear, the rest is up to how you sleep.  In the winter, I will sleep in Poly Pro long underwear and a beanie cap.  When it’s really cold I will wear down booties on my feet.   I have also placed my down puffy jacket over the hammock and zip it up creating a foot pocket.
I try to keep my load down, so I use clothing that I already have in my pack.
A tarp is a must to keep the elements off of your hammock and you.  A tarp pitched in a tight “A” frame is roomy and provides great protection from the elements.
As we prepare for our winter camping this season, I will post some video to illustrate my winter set up.
As you can imagine, I love to talk about gear, hammock camping, and being out in the woods, so I was thrilled this weekend when the questions started coming.
Hope that helped you get a better picture of how to stay warm in your hammock.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Just do something…

DSCN0627

It has been an interesting week or so and the blog once again, while always on my mind took a back seat to the daily working of being a Scoutmaster.  As we prepared for the camp out and then went out on another winter adventure the Scouts of Troop 664 kept me busy
and looking for new ways to reach our Scouts and peak their interest.
On our way home from our camp out yesterday, I had an interesting conversation with the Senior Patrol Leader of our Troop.  We were talking about the morning and some of the challenges that we encountered.  Taking advantage of a good teaching and learning opportunity we shifted the conversation to what we could have done different.  James talked about how he could have been a better example in that he should have got packed up before the young guys allowing him to be more available to assist were needed and he could have worked better as a team with the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and the Patrol Leaders.  I told him that he was right, a leader needs to always set the expectation by being a good example and that pretty much goes for everything.  We talked about some of the decision-making of the group this weekend and why some Scouts seem to get it and others don’t.  It comes down to decision-making and common sense.  We agreed that common sense is not as common as we would like and then talked more about decision-making.

When it comes to making decisions, especially in a cold weather camping environment, there is a simple rule in that for every action there is a positive or negative reaction.  The worst thing that a leader can do is nothing.
A Scouts skills is the knowledge base that his decisions are formulated and made from.  The Scout can choose to do the right thing, or he can choose to do nothing.  What we have seen from our Scouts is that when the make the choice to do nothing, they are cold, wet, and tired.  In short, they do not have a good time.  We have watched as Scouts that do not have fun on camp outs tend not to camp as much and lose interest in Scouting.  There are a few arguments for and against.  I have been told on one hand that it is my job to make sure that the Scouts have fun.  I have also been told to stay the course.  Now, before anyone jumps down my throat about this, let me tell you that we are not weeding kids out by camping in the snow and maintaining our Troop camping as backpackers.  Every Scout that joins our Troop knows how we camp and see the calendar so they know when, where, and how we are camping, climbing, and find adventure.  They make a choice at that time to join us or find another troop.  As long as our Patrol leaders council wants to head down that trail, we will.  We do a great job in training up our Scouts to be successful.  But we require that they make a choice.  They need to make a choice to learn or not to learn.  That is up to them.  Like I have explained over and over again, it is the jobs of the Scoutmaster and the Assistant Scoutmasters to assist Scouts in making it to First Class.  I am not to interested in Eagle Scouts, that will come with hard work, determination, and developing as a young man.  the skills learned and habits formed on the trail to First Class is the foundation of the making a man.  Camping Skills, Citizenship, Fitness, and Character are all elements of the trail to First Class.  But the first step on that trail is a choice.
So as I talked with the Senior Patrol Leader on the way home from the camp out we discussed possible reasons why the Scouts we have now are less mentally tough and unwilling to push themselves.  Why can they not take what they have learned and apply it?  Why have they not made the choice?  Is it a lack of training?  Is it a lack of want to?  Is it something that we have done or failed to do?  We could not put our finger on it.  Whats different in the Scouts we have this year opposed to the Scouts we crossed over 4 years ago or even 2 years ago?  We don’t really know.  They all come from good homes, great parents, and none of them have learning disabilities… so they all have the ability to learn and make sound choices.  So what is it?  We will find out I guess.
In the mean time, what does this mean for the Troop?  Tonight the PLC met and started getting ready for the next camp out.  Next month we will head into the woods to develop our Wilderness Survival Skills.  The plan won’t change and I am sure that some of the Scouts that have not been having a great time, well, they won’t go camping.  I asked the PLC what they thought about that.. they said that it was fine, at least they won’t have to have bad attitudes on the camp out.  I think the boys get tired of dealing with it too.  It’s that “one bad apple” thing and the majority of the Scouts really would rather camp with the guys that want to be there and have a good time.So what?  I think it is great the SPL is aware enough to have this talk.  I am encouraged by a PLC that is willing to stay the course and take a part in having a Troop that they want to belong to, that they want to lead, and that they want to share with their friends.
We will have to see where this takes us.  For now, we just get ready for the next outing and keep working with the young men that want to be there.  These last few months have been challenging for the Scouts of our Troop, some are stronger for it, some developed better leadership skills because of it, and some have made a choice not to camp in the winter.  I am ok with all of it.
What do you think?  I think that things will be just fine.  I think that the Troop will be fine and that we will continue to have great adventures in the future.  I think that while some of the Scouts choose to turn away from challenges, most boys want to be challenged and want to see just how far they push themselves.  I think this is the way boys are no matter how hard we try to be over protective and keep them in a bubble.  Some how.. some way.. boys need to be boys and Scouts gives them that outlet when we provide the program and allow them to make a choice.  That’s what I think.  I am curious to see what your thoughts are.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, Climbing, comments, fitness, gear, Ideals, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Scouting, Scouts, Skills, training, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

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