Cold Weather First Aid… Revisited

I recently posted a “Cold Weather fact Card” that our Scout Troop uses for training and preparing for cold weather camping.

The beauty of the internet is that we can share ideas, thoughts, and information.. and most of all we learn (in most cases).
So immediately I have been called out for my “Sources”.. well here they are.
The information that I put on that card come from an old OKPIK cold weather camping book put out by the Boy Scouts and my training as a cold weather instructor at the Cold Weather Combat training center at Ft. Greely, Alaska.  Now I will grant that the information is dated.. and this is why I am glad that I have been “Called out”.  See now I have learned something, although the First Aid that I have put on the card will do just that.. provide first aid.
In regard to putting two people into a sleeping bag for Hypothermia.  While it may not be current practice, it still works.  The concern was getting two bodies into the sleeping bag.  Well two 13 year old Scouts surely fit.  I have also been reminded that putting an adult in the bag with a Scout would be against the guide to safe Scouting.  I suppose that would have to be a risk an adult leader would have to take to provide the first aid necessary.
Having said that.. I would like to thank Walter Underwood for his comment and offering the current First Aid procedure.  It reminds me that we never can stop learning.  In fact this has motivated me to retake my Wilderness First Aid.
In case you are one that does not read the comments… here is what Walter writes:
“Current first aid practice does not recommend putting a second person in the sleeping bag.
Modern practice is a hypothermia wrap or hypothermia “burrito”. Lay down a tarp, then two sleeping pads, then one sleeping bag. Put the person on that, in a sleeping bag, with hot water bottles. Put another sleeping bag on top and wrap the tarp.
If a bottle is too hot (someone boiled the water), pull a sock over it.
The “two people” approach has a lot of problems. Is there is a sleeping bag big enough? Do you risk getting two hypothermic people? [yes] Do you keep the heat donor in there when you evac? [twice as heavy]”

He offers a link to a discussion in the NOLS Leader that you will have to see in his original comment.
I think the most important part of Cold Weather First Aid is Prevention.  We go prepared not to get hurt, knowing that things happen and whenever you are in a high risk environment we need to be prepared for the worst case.  Constantly updating and revising plans, training, and skills.
Never stop learning.  Update your cards and get out there and camp in the winter.
Have a Great Scouting Day!


  1. YP policies are for the protection of the Scouts, but in a life-threatening situation, first aid is a higher priority. We don't throw YP out the window, but it is obvious nonsense to let a Scout die to avoid abuse.Hot water bottles can add as much heat as a person. NOLS says a person adds "1 kcal of heat per kg of body weight per hour". A one liter hot water bottle adds 1 kcal per degree above body temp (insert differential equations for heat transfer here). Three hot water bottles, under each armpit and one in the crotch, could add a lot more heat than a person.Hypothermia wraps are a great thing to practice at a troop meeting. Have each patrol bring a tarp, two pads, three sleeping bags, and three water bottles, then have patrols practice on each person. They'll quickly learn how warm it is.I need to renew my WFA cert, too. We're going to invite the whole venture patrol.


  2. Thanks Walter.. great points. Sometimes I can't believe the emails I get. The comment about an adult in the sleeping bag was from an actual email. I would hate to be the Scout leader that lets a Scout get hurt because of YP. Kinda backwards I think.Anyway.. thanks for comments, I appreciate the discussion.Jerry


  3. I guess if you put three people in the sleeping bag, you'd avoid 1:1 contact!It's good that people take YP very seriously, though. It is probably worth a 10 minute discussion in a WFA class with lots of Scouts.


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