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Wind Chill Guidelines?

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Hi All,


My Webelos II den was scheduled to go to Klondike this Saturday with a Boy Scout Troop. We are looking at single digit temps for a high with wind chills down to -20. I played the "bad guy" and canceled the trip for the Webelos. No winter training and gear that isn't substantial enough for that type of wind.


Our District has NEVER canceled Klondike. At what point does this become sheer stupidity? At summer camp they restrict activities due to heat index, what is up with wind chills? I checked through the GTSS and found no information about temperatures.


Is there a guide in the Scout Camp rules? (Don't know what the doc is called...) Is it common for Districts to NOT reschedule events due to adverse weather? Please tell me this isn't "macho" stuff where you tough it out...:)



Yours in the Deep Freeze


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Participation in any scout event is voluntary. Parents and leaders need to make the decision for their children and the Scouts they serve whether or not to participate, based on their own judgement and their evalution of the Scouts skills, abilities, and preparedness (as well as their evaluation of the event). Rescheduling events is not always easy due to the amount of activities going on in a council/district calendar or events.


But just because there may be no opportunity to reschedule does not mean that the scouts should go, or must go. It is your choice, you should never feel bad about making a decision you feel is in the best interest of your child's healsth or welfare.



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Well, you can plug "Wind Chill Guide" into your favorite search program and you'll find a page with a guide on it like the following on the City of Monroe, Michigan website:




Here is the link to the online version of the Guide to Safe Scouting (sometimes referred to as G2SS):




And here is the direct link to Winter activities within the guide:




I've skimmed it briefly and see no reference to wind chill.



You said you're expecting single digit temps with a wind chill down to -20, huh? That's balmy, compared to some we have had here in the Maine Wilderness! I've staffed some where the High was -26F before windchill and the Webelos still participated.


Our district rarely cancels events. Why? Because events take months of planning and there are costs involved behind the scenes that will still be incurred even if the event is canceled. IT is near impossible in many cases to try and reschedule an event as you're group isn't the only one trying to book this facility or that for your event. If the event was canceled, participants would expect a refund and the District, which is run by volunteers just like you, would be stuck with those bills and no way to pay for them. Examples: Facility rental fee if you can't find a free one (even a lot of schools these days can't let you use it for free--they have to have a janitor on hand and need to pay his/her salary for being there, never mind the extra cost for power and heat used during the event that wouldn't normally be used), port-a-potties (camporees more then Klondikes), event patches, trophies, participation ribbons, FOOD (if you have a concession stand or included a meal in your event planning for everyone or at least the staff), office supplies/coping charges for the registration flyer and judges score forms, etc.



Safety is always an issue for a Klondike Derby in these parts. One of the things we emphasize for our Klondikes is LAYERS, INSULATED BOOTS, and NO EXPOSED COTTON WHATSOEVER! All Scouts must use the buddy system. You watch your buddy for signs of hypothermia. If he starts showing signs, you immediately stop whatever you're doing and move to shelter. We ALWAYS make sure there is a warm-up building for our Klondike. We also have several stations where hot chocolate is available (and one with soup) throughout the day. We hold a clothing inspection first thing in the morning for every group. If a scout isn't properly clothed, he's not allowed to participate. PERIOD.


We hold our Klondike on the grounds of one of the school systems in our district where we have access to one of the schools as a warming building and all the grounds (includes a research forest). Our Klondike includes an optional overnight option out in the snow for the Boy Scout participants. You must register in advance. Participants must train in advance through their troop to participate in this option. That year when we had a high of -26F was the only year we "semi-canceled". The overnight event that year was moved into a school gym for safety, except for two patrols of older scouts who had trained Registered Maine (outdoor recreation) Guides as leaders who insisted on staying outside anyway. They didn't freeze and still had a good time.



Back to your situation. It's your call as to whether or not you think your Webelos are ready for the weather. Since they haven't had any winter training (it's a shame this couldn't have been done with your local scout troop in advance) and you don't think they have the gear (such as insulated winter boots, wind-blocking snowsuits/pants/jacket, hats and mitten, etc.), you have most likely made the correct call for your group.


You're not required to participate in any district activity (here). We provide them as an opportunity for your unit to get outdoors and to interact with other units.


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Bottom line, up front: It doesn't have to be 0F for anyone to get hypothermia. The wrong gear, exposure to wet when you need to be dry... you can get yourself or your charges in trouble.


True story. I was 15. My parents and I went to Ensenada Mexico for a special break. The hotel had a swimming pool. Swimming pool was 50, outdoor air was 70. I decided to work on my racing starts against competition season.


Did about 10, got out of the water. GUESS WHAT? I had chilled myself to the point where I started into hypothermia cycle. Mom and Dad found me shivering under my beach towel.


Another true story. At night, I keep the thermostat at 55. Down comforters are a joy :). One night a couple weeks back I sat up in the middle of the night and just sat there. A few minutes later, I started shivering, hard. My body was trying to generate heat.


Final true story. The battalion Ops officer had broken his leg at Graf; I was the next guy. It was a WINTER Graf trip (Grafenwoehr Training Area is the Army's place where we can shoot major caliber weapons (artillery and tanks) in Germany); the temp was around -10F. I had four layers on my feet (mud/rain boots, insulated field boots, and two layers of wool socks), 3 layers on my legs (wool underpants, pants, outer shell pants), 5 layers on my torso (t-shirt, wool sweater, BDU shirt, field jacket liner, and field jacket) and two layers on my head (winter wool helmet liner, kevlar pot, and a fur lined hood from my field jacket. I had to watch Bravo Battery occupy its position with my Brigade commander. We walked the tank trail together, and lo, I was comfortably warm! :)


Good shoes. Dry socks, and available changes of dry socks. Layers, to insulate, trap air and allow it to warm. Good gloves. A good watch cap.


Lots of warm fluids, hot meals (carb and fat heavy) help keep the core warm too!


Properly equipped, 0F is not an issue. Improperly equipped, or allowed to get wet (and that includes body perspiration), hypothermia is an icreasing risk.


Here's the current National Weather Service wind chill chart, btw...



With all that said, your responsibility as WDL is to look at your charges and see if they have the right gear. If they do, take them. If it's a BFO one or more kids are going to be in trouble, pull the plug. Cold can suck a lot of fun out of winter real fast.


Remember though: Skiing down the intermediate courses at Winter Park, you can generate a healthy wind chill just by your own velocity :) ... and people pay to do it!(This message has been edited by John-in-KC)

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Hi WDL Mom,


No such thing as a bad "no go" call. If you're not comfortable bein' responsible for the kids in those conditions because you don't think they're ready (or you are!) then the only responsible thing to do is cancel the event. Well done. As registered leader, you're on the hook for their safety, not their parents.


In answer to your bigger question about older boys in Scoutin' programs, "There's no such thing as bad weather, only poor choices in clothing." Actually, as important as clothing is experience. Lads and adults who grew up in Florida might get themselves in real trouble in da Georgia or North Carolina hills in weather in the 40's.


Up here in da Northern Midwest, it's fairly routine for a boy scout troop to be out campin' when the outside real temperature is -20, and the wind chill below that. Just gotta be prepared is all. Those campouts are always a lot of fun, actually.




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Thanks for the replies. I have visions of 10 and 11 year old boys on the elementary playground with their snow boots and pants, stocking caps and mittens.


I just don't feel that their gear is sufficient for the conditions. Not to mention their (and my) lack of cold weather training.


I don't want their first Boy Scout experience to be miserable!


I called all my parents, almost every one of them thanked me for canceling. Makes you wonder what it would take before they would have pulled them on their own?? Kind of scary having that level of trust/responsibility for other folks kids...


Everyone stay safe and WARM this weekend!

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The troops do it all the time and have fun. I would not feel comfortable sending my troop into those conditions we just do not have the right gear for sub zero temps being from Florida and all. We do have weather however and will usually wait to be kicked out of wherever we are camping and it does happen. We got tossed out of a state park because they were expecting bad weather and my son got evacuated to the dining hall for a tropical storm one year at summer camp. Ditto's on the good call if they did not have the proper gear they should not go I bet the proper gear will go on a lot of their gift lists.

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Back when I worked as an OKPIK instructor at Maine National High Adeventure Base, we rarely spoke about wind chill factors - we based all of our decisions on the static temperatures. When we expected -20F weather we said the temperature could get to -20F. We always gave the crew's adult leaders the option of coming back in to sleep in the bunkrooms at night if it would get that cold, and suggested that the crew build multiple quinzhees for the night, rather than use the tents (temps in a nice snow igloo would be very comfortable, especially in -20F weather. In my experience, a quinzhee was best when it was no more than 10F outside at night, any warmer and you were more likely to have condensation inside).


So why didn't we use Wind Chill? Because it's a FALSE indicator of temperature. Winds don't generally maintain a sustained force (and when they are sustained, they are big weather events - Santa Ana's, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.) so the truth is that wind chills fluctuate wildly in any given hour. Also, the reports base themselves on anticipated high winds for the day. For instance, if the temperature is expected to be +5F for the day, the windchill factor would be reported at -21F if its expected that wind gusts might reach 35 mph, which is a significant wind if sustained (about 1/2 the strength of a tropical storm). Sustained 35 mph winds would be big news - I wouldn't be worried about wind chill, I'd be worried about things flying off trees, or roofs. Most wind is in the 0 - 15 mph range, and most wind comes in gusts. To get a windchill factor of -20F at 15 mph, you need a temperature of 0F. And at 5 mph, the temp needs to be at -10F to get a windchill factor of -22F. Of course the shorter answer is that one needs wind in order to have a windchill factor. Without wind, no windchill. Even if its windy, unless its a sustained wind, it won't be that big of a factor. I see windchill factors being reported by newsfolks as just another attempt to scare everyone into staying in their homes.


Heat Index, however, is different. Heat Index combines air temperature with the relative humidity to provide an apparent temperature. Humidity doesn't gust or fluctuate wildly in any given hour. In addition, either sustained heat or sustained humidity can be dangerous on their own - combined, things can get worse.


All that being said, I agree with the others that if you as the leader do not believe that the Webelos are properly prepared to deal with expected cold temperatures, then the right decision is to cancel.



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In addition, another reason why wind chill can be inaccurate is that it is calculated based on how exposed skin perceives the temperature. In very cold weather, there is rarely very much exposed skin, and anyone who is well-prepared will be wearing windproof clothing. So I agree, it is mostly the actual temperature that is relevant.


And I agree with the other posters. It's not common to cancel events for everyone, but if you are not well-prepared, it would be a miserable and even dangerous situation for you, and it makes perfect sense to sit it out.

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       I agree that you should not feel bad about canceling if you felt it was unsafe. I do have a question though. Seeing that Webelos are not supposed to CAMP in winter, I take it that your outing was in fact a day outing. How is it that these boys do not have proper clothing for being outside during winter months in their own geographic area? Do these kids spend the whole day in the house when it's cold?  No sleds, tobaggons, ice skates, snow forts, snow ball fights, red noses or numb toes?


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There is another type of injury that I did not see mentioned above and that is frost bite. When I was in the 4th armored division in Germany in the 60's frost bite was a common facial injury just from riding in open vehicles in cold weather. As some other poster noted, a sustained wind is part of the story if wind chill is supposed to matter. Driving in an open vehicle creates that situation.


I concur with all the other posters that canceling was the correct decision if you did not believe your Webelos were ready.


I don't know what this council does now, but when we lived in Ventura County Council in Southern California, they used to open up the summer camp for weekend snow camping, for Webelos and regular scouts. This was a pretty closely controlled situation that allowed leaders to monitor their youth and send them up to the dining hall to warm up and dry out if necessary. The camp was about 5,000 feet above sea level. Mostly it was "mud camp" more than snow camp.

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I think you did the absolute right thing canceling for Webelos. They don't have the experience, training, and probably the gear to deal with adverse conditions.


IMHO this would be the absolute wrong call for Boy Scouts. They should have the experience, training, and equipment to handle it. It has nothing to do with machismo, everything to do with preparedeness.


Another thing, Boy Scouts often relish a challenge. A number of years ago our Troop went to our District's Winter Camporee. I don't really remember how cold it was, but it is still legendary in our Troop. We had a Leader's Mtg. on Saturday morning. One well-meaning woman said she thought it was too cold for outdoor activities and we should plan indoor activities in the heated building we were in. "Like what?" some asked. She said we could set up a TV and watch movies and play games. One crusty old SM said "The boys that want to sit inside and watch TV are back home watching TV".

We ran the Klondike.


Last year, I had a big signup for our Freeze-Out, but on the day only 4 showed up. My ASM and I took them and we had a good weekend. The next month I posted the following in our Troop newsletter. (w/apologies to the Bard)


We few, we frozen few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day who freezes with me

Shall be my brother: be he ne'er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition;

And Scouts at home now-a-bed

Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That froze with us upon Frozen Crispin's day.


Loosely adapted from Henry V, Wm. Shakespeare

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Moximan...Whooohooo! Another Mainer. I lived in Northern Maine for 10 years. Man I miss the winters (but not those muddy springs huh?).


Onto the subject. Winter camping can be perfectly safe no matter what the temperatures. It does require preparation though. Sleeping bags, tents, and clothing suitable is necessary. Food and water intake requirements must also be remembered. And generally speaking on a comfort level, -15 wind chill is usually more uncomfortable than -30 without wind. Wind chill also does not matter if events are inside sheltered areas out of the wind.


All that said, there are layers resposibility. Parents, leaders, and event leaders. Each has a RESPONSIBILITY to make sure that any scout attenting in these temperatures is properly clothed. Unless nearly all of your unit is not equiped, there really isn't a reason to cancel. Make crystal clear though that proper gear is a REQUIREMENT for participation.

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1) Make sure the Web's are prepared to handle such weather.

2) Next year meet with one of your area troops a few weeks to a month before Klondike and have them go over proper clothing and layering, and make sure your guys practice what they learned. You also get your troop visit requirement out of the way.

3) Have a back up plan if you have to cancel, bowling, swimming etc. That way the weekend is not a total lose.


Last weekend was our Klondike. Friday night it was a balmy 15-20 degrees, which ended up being the high for Saturday. By dark Saturday, we were down to single digits. During the day we had 7 Webelos Dens participating. Luckily they were all layered up appropriately, and had a great time.


Proper clothing and layering is everything. You can add to stay warm. Never use cotton, even if it is totally covered. It will still hold your perspiration and chill you and your fares.


Saturday evening about 8:00 PM, Council called out to the Klondike site and told any Troops still camping to go home because of the wind chill, that they wouldn't cover us under the insurance for cold related injuries if we stayed. There were 4 Troops still there, the troop whose CO, a sports club was the Klondike site, us and 2 others. The host Troop came around about 30 minutes later and offered indoor facilities if things deteriorated overnight. No one went up to the building, no one went home. The winds didn't pick up until we were all bedded down. Actually I was more then comfortable both nights and had to remove layers.


When my oldest did his first two Klondikes, the highs were 0 degrees, with nighttime lows at -22.


When people look at me and ask "Are you crazy camping in weather like this?", I tell them I can add clothing and stay warm, but in the summer I can only strip down so far before I naked, and I'm still miserable.


By the way, I talked with a fiend from Chicago the other day. They did cancel their Klondike because of expected wind chills in the -40's range.


Good luck next year.

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