Monthly Archives: November 2007

Winter Camping Skills- Frostbite and Hypothermia

Frostbite mostly affects areas where the circulation is poor. Since cold weather will cause the body to take preventive measures by constricting (making smaller) the blood vessel, this opens the door to frostbite injuries.

Look for the 4 Ps of frostbite:
Pink – affected areas will be reddish in colour. This is the first sign of frostbite.
Pain – affected areas will become painful.
Patches – white, waxy feeling patches show up – skin is dying.
Pricklies – the areas will then feel numb.

Tips to prevent frostbite:
Get to a warm area before frostbite sets in. If it’s too cold outside, consider staying indoors.
Protect areas of poor circulation (ears, nose, fingers and toes).
Keep extra mittens and gloves in the car, house or school bag.
Wear larger sized mittens over your gloves.
Wear a scarf to protect the chin, lips and cheeks. They are all extremely susceptible to frostbite.
Wear two pairs of socks – wool if possible
Keep feet warm and dry
Remove any wet clothing.

What to do in case of frostbite:
Do not rub or massage affected areas. It may cause more damage.
NOT HOT – warm up the area slowly. Use warm compresses or your own body heat to re-warm the area. Underarms are a good place.
If toes or feet are frostbitten, try not to walk on them.
Seek immediate medical attention if you see white or grey coloured patches or if the re-warmed area is numb.
Always be on the lookout for the symptoms of frostbite. In case of serious cold weather injury, seek immediate medical attention.

Whenever the body’s normal temperature becomes too low, hypothermia (hypo = low and thermia = temperature) occurs and will starve the brain of much needed oxygen.
During cold weather months, finding warmth can be the key to survival, but hypothermia can occur even during the hot days of July. Swimming in cold water for a long period of time can induce hypothermia even in the hottest months of the year. Remember, hypothermia can quickly become life-threatening.

Signs of Hypothermia
Look for the “UMBLES” from people affected by cold temperatures:
A person who mumbles;
A person who stumbles; and
A person who fumbles objects.

Tips to prevent Hypothermia
Wear clothes in layers: The under layer should be the insulating layer to prevent loss of your body heat while keeping the cold outside air away; the outer layer should be the “wind breaking” layer to reduce the chances of cold air reaching the insulating layer.
Drink warm fluids.
If you start to sweat, cool off a little. Wet clothes will accelerate other cold weather injuries.
Wear a hat – up to 40% of body heat loss can occur through the head.
Wear gloves or mittens or both!
Wear a scarf to protect the chin, lips and cheeks – all are extremely susceptible to cold weather injuries.

What to do in case of Hypothermia
Remove wet clothing that promotes hypothermia.
Get to a warm place as soon as possible. Use several layers of blankets heated in your home dryer if possible.
If the person is alert, give warm beverages.
Seek immediate medical attention.
Always be on the lookout for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. In case of serious cold weather injury, seek immediate medical attention.

BE PREPARED! We use the buddy system to watch out for each other! These two injuries are serious and can hurt you in the long term. Camping in the winter can be the funnest time of your Scouting life! But you have got to be prepared!

Happy Scouting!

Categories: blog | 1 Comment


Well… not exactly… but here are some myths about Cold Weather Camping that may help you be a lot more prepared;

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 underwear.
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. Oregon 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.

Now that would be a great episode for Myth Busters.. wouldn’t it?

Happy Scouting!

Categories: blog | Leave a comment

The Coolness of "BE PREPARED"

I always look for opportunities to see growth in not only my boys, but the Scouts of my Troop.
Today my youngest son left for outdoor school. A real neat program up here in Oregon where every 6th grader goes away for a week to learn about Oregon and our environment and gain an appreciation for the out doors. It is not surprising how many of my sons class mates have never been camping, but what is surprising is how ill prepared they are when they do have to leave home for a week.
Last week my nephew, also in the troop, went to outdoor school. He showed up for a week of cabin camping ready to go… PREPARED. Backpack on his back loaded and ready. His class asked where all his stuff was and he proudly explained.. “It’s all in my pack.. I’m a Boy Scout!”
Today, Josh got up, packed and was ready to go. Rain gear, just in case, extra socks and stuff to stay warm. He grabbed his sleeping bag and a pillow and was ready for the week.
When we arrived at the school he too was asked where all his stuff is.. I had to smile as he told his friends, he was ready for the week.. he was PREPARED. Everything packed neatly and ready for cold and wet or whatever the weather may be. His pen and paper and a few extras all neatly packed and ready to go. He told his best buddy.. I’m almost 1st Class.. I better know how to pack… I had to chuckle.

It was neat to see these two guys.. both family, but also Scouts ready and Prepared. It was nice to see that they have learned and become seasoned campers. If this were a commercial it would look something like;

New rain gear for outdoor school- $25
Dues for Scouts- $200
Backpack- $100
Telling the guys you are Prepared because you are a Scout- PRICELESS!

Happy Scouting!

Categories: blog | Leave a comment

Winter Camping Skills – COLD

It’s all about the COLD in winter camping.

Remember this simple acronym:


C– Keep you and your gear CLEAN.
Staying clean will keep you dry and warm. Dirty fabric acts like a wick and will cause your clothing to saturate. Keeping your body clean keeps you warmer also. You don’t want to put a completely funky body in your sleeping bag to long.

Regulate your body heat by removing or adding clothing. If you overheat you will get yourself into trouble. To much sweat on your body will freeze and drop your core temperature. This will rapidly increase the chance of Hypothermia.

L– Wear your clothing LOOSE IN LAYERS.
Layer up… and down. Keep your clothing loose to allow the warmth to circulate. Layers give you options. You can add more if you are cold and take off when you get hot.

D– Stay DRY. Wet is your enemy in a cold weather environment. You need to stay as dry as you can. Water freezes and when it freezes on you, you get cold.

Remember COLD and you will stay warm while Winter Camping!

Happy Scouting!

Categories: blog | Leave a comment

Winter Camping Skills- Camp site

When selecting and establishing your Winter Campsite keep the following factors in mind :

1. Camping regulations
2. Other campers
3. Wind – avoid ridge tops and open areas where wind can blow down tents or create drifts.
4. Be aware of “widow makers”, dead branches hanging in trees.
5. Avoid low lying areas where the coldest air will settle.
6. Avalanche danger – select sites that do not pose any risk from avalanches.
7. Exposure – south facing areas will give longer days and more direct sunlight.
8. Water availability from lakes or streams will prevent you having to melt snow for all your water.
9. Level ground
10. Wooded areas that provide wind break and cover. Also good for setting up tarps and tying guy lines. (Watch out though, snow drifts are deceiving in the trees.)

Setting up Camp
When you first get into camp, leave your snowshoes or skis on and begin to tramp down areas for tents and your kitchen. If possible, let the snow set up for 30 minutes or so, this will minimize post holing (that’s when you keep sticking in the snow like a post hole) once you take snowshoes or skis off.
Set up your tents with the doors at 90 degrees to the prevailing winds. Stake the tents out. On a cold night you can build snow walls on the windward side of the tent. Mound the sides of the tent with snow (have someone inside pushing out on the tent to keep it from collapsing. Try to build your walls about 6 inches from the tent. When the snow sets up you will have a hybrid tent-snow shelter which will have better insulation than the tent alone.
Dig out a pit in front of your tent for a porch. This makes taking your boots off much easier. Put your foam pads in the tent and unstuff your sleeping bag and place it in the tent so it can “expand” from it’s stuffed size.
If the snow is deep, you may want to dig out a pit for your kitchen. Dig a pit at least 6 feet in diameter (for 4-6 people). You can mark out the circle using a ski or a rope. Dig down about 2-3 feet and pile the excavated snow around the perimeter. Pack the snow at the perimeter of the hole with your shovel. This will give you a 4-5 foot deep area, protected from the wind. You can carve out seats and benches, put your skis or snow shoes behind the pile as backrests, carve places for stoves, etc.

Here are some tips for your night time in camp – after dinner, getting warm water for water bottles, and putting gear away, it’s time for bed. Fill up your water bottles with boiling water or real warm water. Put your water bottles in the tent. A warm water bottle bottle in your sleeping bag is nice. Make sure the lid is on tight and does not leak. Put other water bottles in your boots or inside a sock.
This will give you water for drinking in the morning as well as cooking water that is not frozen.
Get warm before you get into your bag. Do some jumping jacks, etc. so your heat is built up for when you get in your bag.

Get any clothing/gear you will need out of your pack as well as full water bottles and tomorrow’s lunch.

At the tent door, brush off any snow with the whisk broom or glove. Sit down inside the tent entrance and, keeping your boots outside, either have your buddy knock the snow off, or remove them and brush them yourself.
Climb into the tent and close the door.
Strip off your layers of clothing to what will be appropriate in your sleeping bag. The more layers you wear the better insulated and the warmer you will be (contrary to the myth that says sleep in your underwear). However, too much clothing can compress dead air space in the bag and reduce its effectiveness.
Remove any wet/damp layers and replace them with dry ones, particularly socks.
Pre-warm your bag with your body (get it nice and toasty).
Place damp (DAMP, NOT WET!) items in the sleeping bag with you near your trunk. This will help dry them overnight.

Place your boots in your sleeping bag stuff sack (turned inside out) and place the stuff sack between your legs. This will keep them from freezing during the night and the stuff sack keeps your legs from getting wet. If you do not want to put them in your sleeping bag with you. Place them in the bag under your sleeping bag beneath your legs.
Put water bottles and food with you in the bag or in the bag with your boots.
A hat and polarguard booties are recommended to help keep you warm.

Try to sleep with your face out of the bag. This reduces moisture build-up inside the bag (which could be catastrophic for a down bag). A scarf on your neck may be better than using the sleeping bag neck drawcord (which makes some people feel a little claustrophobic and creates a difficult nights sleep).

You will probably wake up a number of times during the night. This is normal in cold weather. Your body needs to change position to allow for circulation to compressed tissues and to move around a bit so that muscle movement generates more heat. If you are still cold, eat some protein to “stoke up your furnace” Power bars are good for this. If you open one, eat it all, you do not want to leave uneaten food in your tent. If that doesn’t work, wake a tent-mate for some extra warmth.

With 8 or more hours in the tent, you are likely to need to urinate in the middle of the night. Go for it! Otherwise you won’t get back to sleep, and your body is wasting energy keep all that extra fluid warm. You will be surprised how quickly you can get out and back in and your body really won’t chill that much.
It is useful to have a thermos of hot drink in each tent. Remember to go to the bathroom before you get in your tent. Start the night off right and you will get more rest and be ready for the next morning.

Don’t forget to practice Leave no Trace. Keep in mind something may disappear in the Snow, but it will reappear in the Spring!

Happy Scouting!

Some of this material was gathered from the Princeton University Outdoor Action site.

Categories: blog | Leave a comment

Blog at

UltraLight Backpacking or Bust!

Cutting Pounds One Ounce at a Time

David's Passage

See you outdoors


Be Outstanding Through Personal Accountability

Girly Camping®

It's Not Just For Boys...


Camping and Events

Hanging On The Trail

Planning and completing a 2014 Appalachian Trail thru-hike

Mr. Harrison's Blog

Just another weblog

Leader Daze

Life, Camp, and Scouting


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,311 other followers

%d bloggers like this: