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Everything looks good so far.


1) Look at each kids sleeping bag. A 50F polyfill won't cut it at 32/20/0F.


2) Insulate between the ground and the bottom of the sleeping bag. Remember, before you arrived, the ground underneath was not much warmer than ambient temp.


3) Menu planning emphasizes HOT FOOD. Stews and soups, hi carbs, higher than normal fats. Cocoa.


4) Keep an eye on the activities during the day. Have them bring more than the usual number of changes of clothes. Strike the dark, damp clothes quickly become very cold damp clothes.


4) Up the calories in the menu. They will burn through them.


5) Keep a warming fire going. Adults take turns tending it through the night.


6) Once again... cotton is rotten.

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Winter camping is a relative term. It indicates a season not a temperature. Obviously winter camping in Florida means something far different than winter camping in Wisconsin.


Advice from Northern Wisconsin: (severe winter camping!)


1) Cotton kills, end of discussion. If wool bothers your skin, wear polypropelene liners under the wool, NOT COTTON T-SHIRTS, DUH! The reason cotton is so bad is that it holds perspiration against the skin which WILL FREEZE. Poly and wool wicks the sweat into the outer garment and keeps the skin dry and thus won't have a sheet of ice on it.


2) Foam ground pad is a must, same for plastic sheeting.


3) -20 degree bags might be a good choice. Nothing above a zero bag


4) Line the bag with a wool blanket, not a sheet. If wool bothers you, DO NOT LINE IT WITH A COTTON OR COTTON FLANNEL SHEET! Line it with a non-cotton fleece sheet instead (along with the wool blanket). Do not pile blankets over the sleeping bag, they slide off and they compress the loft of the insulation!


5) Build a snow cave because at -40 degrees it is still above +25 degrees inside the cave. Snow is an excellent insulator.


6) NO FIRES - fires heat up one side of the body and the weather cools off the other. Your body doesn't know whether to heat up or cool down. Walk around, or run to keep warm. Avoid any artificial heat sources, the body cannot make the approriate adjustments and will simply chill down again faster than if it's being heated from within. Warm liquids/food warming from the inside is okay.


7) Change your clothes completely before going to bed. Take a 10 minute brisk walk before changing clothes. If you don't want to freeze your ass off change your underwear, LITERALLY.


8) Have extra liners for your boots, remove them at night, put new dry ones in in the morning. If "wet" liners are left in and freeze, one won't be wearing those boots in the morning.


9) Water bottles in your sleeping bag will cool off the bag, pour out the water and get fresh in the morning.


10) Drink as much water as you would if it was 100 degrees out. Winter air is very dry and will dehydrate the body without anyone realizing it.


11) Eat a lot before going to bed. Sugars will keep you warm the first 2 hours, carbohydrates next 3-5 hours, and proteins for the last 5-8 hours. If you wake up cold its because your internal furnace ran out of the appropriate fuels. Drink warm liquids to warm up from within. Warming up at the fire, sweating a little bit and then running and jumping into a sleeping bag is a really, really stupid idea.


12) Watch for frostbite. Wear a hat and mittens (NOT GLOVES) even at night sleeping!


13) Never stand around. Keep moving, take a hike, eat a lot to replenish the internal furnace.


14) If using stoves and liquid fuel be VERY careful, if that liquid is spilled on the skin it will produce instant frostbite! Propane doesn't evaporate and burn at really cold temperatures.


15) First time out it would be wise to go to a camp that teaches all there is to know about winter camping and provides the equipment to do it. They are out there and if one goes and gets the correct instructions it will avoid a lot of hassles down the road.



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Make sure all of you have a good mummy bag. If you don't have a 20 degree or anything better sleeping bag, your trip will be miserable. Make sure the boys are warm before they get into their sleeping bag. Like take them for a small hike before going to bed. If they get into their sleeping bags cold, they will stay cold.

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As others have mentioned "Cotton is rotten".


No, COTTON IS DEADLY! Not only does it wick up moisture, it loses any insulation properties it had once it's damp or wet. Wet wool will still keep you warm. Wet cotton will kill you on a winter trip.



Here's a simply demonstration to provide to your scouts about the wonderful wicking properties of cotton.


Take a strip of old blue jean roughly 1/2 inch wide by 4 to 6 inches in length. Have a second strip of wool the same dimensions.


Pass them around to your scouts. Then, take a 1lb margarine tub/bowl. Place no more than an inch of water in it. Lay the two piece of cloth such that only the bottom half-inch is in the water.


Talk to the scouts for five minutes. Then ask one of the scouts to inspect the two pieces of cloth. The jeans (cotton) will be soaked through. Only the part of the wool in the water will be wet.


Then ask them which would they prefer to wear outside in freezing weather?


Of course, some wisecracker will say the jeans. (sigh)

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Gutterbird, I would like to offer a differnet point of view if I could. Winter camping is a different adventure level than camping during other times of the year. I would like you to reread your original post by substituting other adventures of this level in place of "winter camping".


here goes...

I have been a SM for about a year. Our troop has never done white water canoeing and the boys want to do it, so we are going to give it a go. It will be done locally on a nearby river and will be a first for all leaders and boys. I have done some research on the subject and have consulted the BS Fieldbook. I am now looking for any tips that are not in the books that you may want to share. Our canoes are just the standard Coleman type 15ft canoes.




I have been a SM for about a year. Our troop has never done rock climbing and the boys want to do it, so we are going to give it a go. It will be done locally at a nearby State Park and will be a first for all leaders and boys. I have done some research on the subject and have consulted the BS Fieldbook. I am now looking for any tips that are not in the books that you may want to share.




I have been a SM for about a year. Our troop has never done downhill skiing and the boys want to do it, so we are going to give it a go. It will be done locally at a nearby ski lodge and will be a first for all leaders and boys. I have done some research on the subject and have consulted the BS Fieldbook. I am now looking for any tips that are not in the books that you may want to share. Our skiis are just the standard rental type.


If you were not the SM but being asked what to do, what would your advice be.


I hope you would say "Don't do it!" You and your scouts need training. the right gear, and some practical experience at a lesser level before going out for a winter overnighter in tents. If you look at the Sweet 16 of Safety I hope you would see that this is an adventure that you probably are not adequately prepared for.


My recommendation would be to do some winter day activities first. Nature hikes, tracking, tubing, astronomy, etc. activities that will give you and the scouts opportunity to learn proper clothing, how to stay dry, how to cook (cooking in winter is different than other times of the year) proper gear selection (Not all dome tents are rated for winter use, you could damage a lot of costly equipment), winter first aid.


All these things should be learned and practiced before you attempt an overnight outing such as this with an entire group of untrained and inexperienced winter campers.


There are a lot of winter activities you can do outdoors without having to tent camp and risk the health and welfare of everyone involved.


Train and prepare first.







(This message has been edited by Bob White)

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There is lots of good advice on this topic posted.


What temperature are you expecting down to? Lots of people are mentioning lots of different temperature ranges in sleeping bags, the important thing is to be prepared for the weather. If you are not backpacking, you can get by with a higher temp sleeping bag by adding fleece. There are dirt cheap fleece sleeping bags for indoors, add that to a 32 degree bag and suddenly you have a 20 degree bag. Not everyone can afford 0 degree bags and also 32 degree bags...


Keep moisture out of the bags, don't breath in the sleeping bags. Dpn't put wet clothes in the sleeping bag.


closed cell foam sleeping pads do well against moisture, but really are not the best insulators. Open cell foam absorbs moisture, but insulate better. I know people that used the closed cell under the open cell. Course you can use a thermarest or similar sleeping pad. If it's real cold, I've bought that reflective ducting (with the bubbles in the middle) insulation from Lowes and placed it on the floor of the tent as well as making it into a reflective ceiling.


Duct tape does not stick well in really cold weather, don't plan on using it.


In really cold weather, propane stoves will take forever to boil water. White gas is better in the cold if you have them. If using white gas in the very cold, pre-heat the generators with that fire ribbon paste.


thin nylon rope, that gets wet and freezes, is a pain in the #&%* to untie at the end of camp. Use corded (not braided) rope if using rope for a lot of stuff.


Have a nice warm snack (try fondue) before going to bed, don't have a ton of hot-cocoa just before bed. Not much worse than being snug as a bug and needing to go outside to pee at 2:30 am in 10 degree weather.


Hot chocolate mugs that are set down and left on a picnic table with snow/ice on it will be frozen to the table in the morning.


Whoever said don't have a fire, I disagree, have a fire. It lifts spirits, plus provides a place to warm the hands.


Have thin gloves when you need finger dexterity, and large mittens that can go over them to stay warm and dry in between.


Good boots are a necessity.


Oh - and no cotton





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With all the contradictory advice, I hope the initial poster gets some proper training before giving it a try. Winter camping in sub-zero weather without proper training is a really dumb idea, even the military does training first before camping in the snow.



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Purchase the Okpik book on winter camping and survival. If you live in or near the Detroit area of Michigan, the Clinton Valley Council offers a good Okpik training program, 16 y/o and older. Maybe make this a 16 and older campout. Wherever you camp, rent or have an indoor facility available if the weather gets bad, or incase someone gets to cold.


If they bring or wear cotton and sneakers, send them home. Wool, polar fleece, other synthetics are the only way to go. We ran a couple of winter camping trainings. We covered layering techniques, and had the FD bring in a thermal imager to show the scouts what clothing kept the heat in , and which ones didn't insulate. We still had problems with the newer scouts not bringing the proper clothing.


Instead of having your scouts and parents running out to buy expensive clothing, have them go to second hand stores or Goodwill. You can find old wool sweaters, maybe wool pants, second hand insulated boots, Columbia three layer parkas, each for just a couple of bucks. This way if they decide they don't like winter camping, they haven't blow a lot of money. Do have them go to Gander Mountain or Dick's Sporting (10% scout discount) for good wool or synthetic socks, gloves/mittens, head coverings. Great stocking stuffers for Xmas, no pun intended.


For bedtime,

1) Have them all hit the trees.

2) Have them bring a packet of Jello. Mix the Jello in a Nalgeen or other liter bottle with hot water, and drink it as a bedtime snack. It will warm them up, plus provide the fuel for the belly overnight.

3) Have them place very hot water in two nalgenes (preferable old ones that aren't used for drinking anymore). Seal tightly. Place each of the bottles in a wool sock and throw in the bottom of the sleeping bag. The bag will act as a isolette and create a nice warm sleeping bag. It will also give you nice lukewarm water, not ice in the morning for breakfast.

4) Clean dry clothes before bed. Socks on feet, and stocking cap, (better yet a balaclava on head and over mouth and nose). This way, they can keep their head out of the bag and warm, or at least their face exposed to the outside and warm. Other then that, I would sleep in my undies. In a "0" degree bag and or one with an additional synthetic fleece liner, let your body help heat the inside of the bag. If they wear lots of clothes to bed, the clothes will keep the bodyheat in the clothes, and the bag will not warm up. That will cause cold feet and hands, and a cold scout.

5) Sleeping system:

- Have them each bring a cheap foil rescue blanket. Have them line the tent floor with the blankets.

- Next a sealed foam pad for under the bag. Or if everyone brings one, line the floor with them.

- If they can get their hands on a foil-over bubble filled windshield

sun reflector, put that on the foam pad.

- Next a Thermarest pad on the reflector.

- Then the bag with a fleece liner. Have them place their next day clothes either in the bag, or between them bag and the Thermarest. Either way, the clothes will be warm.

- Have them place their DRY COATS (yeah, I know, kids) over their bags for extra insulation.

This system kept me more then warm at 10 to 15 degrees, and perfect at 0 degrees last Jan. at Klondike. Council actually called out on Saturday evening and told all of us to go home, "With the windchill, it will be to cold for you to stay out there over night. We won't cover any medical relating to cold injuries." Our Troop and three others stayed out, and had no problem.


Now let the first snowball fly!!!

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Thank you all for the great tips. We are planning our trip towards the end of Feb. and will be in central Illinois. The winter can get rough but not Upper Wisconsin or Michigan U.P. tough. And by the end of February the weather should start to mellow out(at least in theory). Our troop has done several outdoor winter activities so the cold is not new to us. We just have not done any camping. As far as training, I have no intentions taking on this endeavor blindly. The safety of the boys is of the up most importance. I not only plan on getting further training for this but I have recruited an ASM that has winter experience and a father (of one of the scouts) that is USMC that has had winter survival training. I will not be afraid to pull the plug on this outing if conditions dictate doing so.


The information I have collected thus far from all of your replies have been overwhelming. I cannot thank you all enough for your help.


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I recalled something tonight at our committee meeting when our outdoor chair asked our equipment chair about purchasing another turkey boiler....


check to find out if where you are camping has frost free pumps... if not then make sure when you set up camp that you fill up your pots with water so that you can cook up the water and get it unfrozen - or even keep it running on low all night. Nothing worse than all your water being frozen in your water jugs!


our troop has 1 big turkey boiler that we use for that sort of thing, but our troop is getting large enough that we really need 2 - thankfully we'll get another 1 before our campout in a couple of weeks because there we don't have frost free spicket

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Just thought of a couple other things.


Practice setting up camp with gloves on. Even doing it indoors helps.


Our troop bought a whole bunch of tents that suffer from an atrocious design and suffer chronic zipper problems. Make sure to take tents that don't have problems and check them beforehand.


A fire is not a great idea for warmth, but it does lift the spirits and presents a great gathering place.


As a leader, keep your spirits high and pass on the right attitude. Make sure your ASM's. SPL and PL's do the same, no matter the circumstances.



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I disagree with the "Don't do it!" comment. If you follow the guide to safe scouting (http://www.scouting.org/healthandsafety/gss/gss13.aspx#a), you should be able to do winter camping and winter sports. There is a first time for everything. Everybody who has ever done these things had their first trip. Of course, you are doing the right thing by asking for advise and gathering information for your trip.


Anyway, I would say boys (and adults) who don't have or cannot borrow the proper gear (such as a good zero degree bag), should not be allowed to go.

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Not much worse than being snug as a bug and needing to go outside to pee at 2:30 am in 10 degree weather.


That is where a "P" bottle comes in handy. Take a 48 once sports drink bottle with the 2 inch opening, rinse it out, remove the label and in black marker mark it "P" in large P's all over the bottle and cap. Keep it next to your bag. If you find you gotta go at 2:30am, you won't have to go outside. Uncap, do your business, recap tightly, snuggle back into bed.

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No one is saying that one should not give winter camping a try. However, if one put's their ear to the ground on this one it is fairly obvious that they shouldn't try it without some training AND experience!


I know a lot of people who drive cars.


I know a lot of boys that play football.


I know a lot of people who have gone skiing, both downhill and cross-country.


There's a lot of people who play golf.


And the common denominator? They all were trained before they did it.


Can a 14 year old drive a car? Yep.


Can boys play football in the backyard? Yep


Do people downhill ski without any lessons? Yep


Do people play golf without lessons? Yep


How many of these things could potentially be dangerous? Then ask oneself if they have the sense to take boys out in a potentially dangerous situation and hang out for the weekend? Nothing in G2SS that says a leader should not be stupid, but then these are the things that keep lawyers in business. There's a few on the forum that say I may be a little fool-hardy and reckless. However, not many have ever said I was stupid. A lot of times when people go looking for trouble, they actually find it. Do I take my boys whitewater canoeing the summer after they cross-over from Webelos. Do I stand in the big rapids with a rescue rope and throw bouy and rescue hook? Yep. In each canoe with the new boys is there an experienced boy with canoeing MB in the back? Yep. Have they ALL passed the swimming test? Yep. Do I take experienced adult kayakers and canoeists along as my backup to help the boys? Yep. Do some of my boys get banged up and bruised? Yep. Have some needed rescuing? Yep. Am I going to do it again next summer? Yep.


At 2:00 am when a boy is having trouble with the cold, or is dumped out of a canoe, or any one of a different "situations", this is not the time to start learning how to do it.


Was the first time I went winter camping I was in charge? Nope. Was the first time in whitewater canoeing was I ready to rescue anyone? Nope. The only reason I do it now is because of many years of training and experience to back me up.



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"... remove the label and in black marker mark it "P" in large P's all over the bottle and cap."


If you're like me and are bat-blind without your glasses, or if it's just really, really dark, you might want a method to distinguish it by feel, too. Try encircling it with duct tape, or put small Velcro patches on the outside - anything with texture that will make your half-asleep brain say "Ah, that's it!"

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