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We are going camping this weekend for our first try at our polar bear patch. What I am trying to figure out is, is there a set temperature it has to be out for the boys to earn this or is it set by the pack? Our COR is and pack trainer insists it's a written rule that is be 32 degrees out and one of them says it has to be 32 or below for a number of hours. I have scoured the internet over and can't find anything "official". To me, 32 degrees is just too cold for the little ones but I am also the one wearing a sweatshirt and overcoat when it drops below 60!! Do any of your packs do the cold weather camping and what is the temperature you use as your determination?

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Since any polar bear patch is just a "for fun" red-vest patch--created by the council or pack and not related to any rank advancement for cub scouts--just go with whatever the organization that offers the patch says.


It sounds like your Pack has set the standard, based on your message, so that's what I'd go with; or negotiate with them for a change since it's an unofficial patch anyway.


If it's a council patch that has its own standard, you could create or buy a stock patch from various sources and use your own standard, but that still means you'd have to get the Pack to agree on a "warmer" standard...good luck!

(This message has been edited by 83eagle)

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Hiya saschuster,


A "Polar Bear Patch" is not a national award, it's a local council award, eh? The rules for it are set by whoever is issuing the patch (i.e. your council). So yeh have to ask them.


Loosely speaking, there is some consensus in the northern midwest states that a Polar Bear Patch means camping out (not in a cabin, lean-to, or other fixed shelter) overnight when the temperature is below freezing (32). For the colder states where it can hit below freezing 8 months a year, there's often a restriction to between December 1 and March 1.


Typically, it's a Boy Scout award, not somethin' that is done by a cub pack. Someone with fresher BALOO training will have to comment on its appropriateness for cubs, but I personally wouldn't recommend it. Most families don't have appropriate outdoor sleeping gear for the lads for those temperatures, eh? And most sleeping gear that would be appropriate for adults just ain't right for the little fellows. They chill a lot faster, and can't heat up a big ol' adult sleeping bag.


Yeh want cub camping to be fun, easy stuff. Stuff that will get the young guys to enjoy the outdoors without stressing 'em. I think your instinct is right, below freezing is a bit much for a pack campout. Way too much chance for a boy to be miserable and "never want to do that again."


So trust your instinct, plan for a cabin campout, and leave the Polar Bear challenge for when they're Boy Scouts and need somethin' to push their skills.



(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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To follow up what Beavah says, I checked our council award guidelines and they are very similar to what he stated--2 nights outside of a building, under 32 degrees.


And yes, this is geared toward the Boy Scout and not the Cub Scout level, but that's up to your Pack/Council.


In my BALOO training earlier this year, it was specifically stated that Cub Scouts were not allowed to go winter camping, which was defined as "any low temperature in which the cub scouts would feel uncomfortable sleeping outside." Now I'm sure there will be all sorts of folks who say it is just fine to stuff cubbies in tents with proper gear down into the single digits, so don't shoot the messenger, and your council may be different.


But again, back to your OP, it's whatever the patch issuer says, or make your own patch!

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How come you guys can earn things like Polar bear patches in cub scouts while our Council limits us to no camp between the months of Nov - (i think) March or April.. Figured this was not National since in some states these are your better weather months where it is not unbearably hot..


But I doubt a Polar Bear Patch is for a council in Florida or California.. But one up north here.. Don't know how many packs here would be willing to camp in below zero weather, due to the ages of the cubs (no meat on their bones)..


You though are talking about 32 degrees where you are currently.. It is way colder here this time of year.. So maybe it is a local thing & our cold weather camping is if the packs camp in Sep, Oct.. or April.. But it is outlawed due to below freezing Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb.....

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I have seen 3 patches for winter camping used:


1) The winter camping patch, for ...... drumroll please ..... camping in the winter (no Temp specified);

2) The polar bear patch, for camping in weather that reaches below 32 F (0 C) at some point; and

3) The zero hero patch, for camping in weather that reaches below 0 F (-18 C) at some point.


Camping means sleeping overight outside in a tent or snow shelter you built. As others have said, these are not BSA official but are usually council / district recognized.


I do 1 & 2 every year, but have only been able to do zero hero twice in the past 5 years, as it does not happen every winter around here.

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How come you guys can earn things like Polar bear patches in cub scouts while our Council limits us to no camp between the months of Nov - (i think) March or April.


We're not supposed to according to BALOO training, up here north of the 45th parallel. I wouldn't even consider trying it and I doubt I'd get a tour permit approved for it (or much interest from the Pack for that matter).


However, we do go winter camping...in cabins! That ensures the scouts sleep in comfortable conditions, at least temperature-wise (and a winter camping patch for the red vest).

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Per the Age-Appropriate Guidelines for Scouting Activities, found in the G2SS, winter camping is not recommended for Cub Scouts.


From the BALOO syllabus -


"The goal of the pack camping activity is to provide a successful pack camping outing that is:


Based on the purposes of Cub Scouting

Successful in whetting the appetite of the Cub Scout, his parents, and the leaders to want more of the outdoors"


"It is very important that this first-time experience be a good onethat the young Cub Scout comes home wanting more."



From the Cub Scout Leader Book -


"Many Cub Scouts will have their first overnighter as a member of your pack. It is critical that you make every effort to help this be the most positive experience it can be for boys. If a boy has a negative experience, he may choose never to go camping again."


"Because every effort should be made to make these first campouts positive for the participants, wintertime camping activities or planning outings during potentially inclement weather are discouraged."


The Guide to Safe Scouting states this about winter camping - "It is one of the most advanced and challenging of outdoor adventures."


The above reasons are why winter camping is not considered appropriate for Cub Scouts.


Saschuster, I would recommend that you leave below freezing, polar bear camping to Boy Scouts. If you decide to cabin camp, you should still make sure that all of the adults, and youth, attending have the proper clothing, and equipment. You must also take into consideration if your Pack camping overnighter will include younger siblings. You want everyone to be safe, have fun, and leave wanting more.





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First, I hope if this activity is being done at all, it's being done as a PACK event, to wit the G2SS (in boldface, meaning policy):


Overnight camping by Tiger, Wolf, and Bear Cub Scout dens as dens is not approved and certificates of liability insurance will not be provided by the Boy Scouts of America.


Second, apparently there is now some form of "SAFE WINTER DEFENSE" training, as there is Safe Swim Defense, Climb On Safely, and so on. Anybody of our trainers see this curriculum?


From G2SS:



Winter Activities


XIII. Winter Activities

Winter Camping Safety


There is magic to camping in winter. It is one of the most advanced and challenging of outdoor adventures. Special considerations for winter camping include the following:


1. Leadership.

In no other camp is the type of leadership as important as in the winter camp. It is vital that a leader be an experienced camper with a strong character.


2. Equipment.

Do not attempt to camp unless completely outfitted. Even if equipment for winter camp is more expensive than for summer camp, Scouts must be adequately clothed, and leaders should ensure that blankets and other equipment are of suitable quality and weight.


3. Physical Condition.

A physician's certificate as to physical ability must be obtained by each Scout before preliminary training begins.


Tips for your next winter camping trip:


1. Use the buddy system for winter outings. Buddies can check each other for frostbite, make sure no one becomes lost, and boost the morale of the entire group.


2. Plan to cover no more than five miles per day on a winter trek on snowshoes. An experienced group can cover 10 to 12 miles on cross-country skis.


3. Always allow ample time to make camp in winter, especially if you plan to build snow shelters.


4. Fatigue encourages accidents. Rest occasionally when building a snow shelter; taking part in cross-country skiing or snowshoeing; or participating in other active winter sports. Periodic rests also help avoid overheating.


5. Pulling a load over the snow on a sled or toboggan is generally easier than carrying it in a backpack.


6. Snow is a terrific insulator. Snow shelters are much warmer than tents because they retain heat and keep out the cold wind. If you have adequate time for building snow shelters, you will spend a much more comfortable night sleeping in them than in a tent.


7. Snow is the greatest thief in winter, swallowing up small dropped items. Tie or tape a piece of brightly colored cord to small items so they can be seen in snow. Some items, such as mittens, can be tied to larger items, such as a parka, to prevent them from being dropped and lost.


8. Melting snow in a pot to get water may cause the pot to burn through or may scorch the snow, giving the water a disagreeable taste. Prevent this by adding a cup or two of water in the bottom of the pot before putting in the snow to melt.


9. Punch a hole in the top of your ice chisel and string a stout cord through it. Before trying to chisel a hole in ice, anchor the cord to something large or too heavy to be pulled through the hole so you will not lose your chisel in freezing water when the ice is penetrated.


10. Always test the thickness of ice before venturing any distance from the shore. Ice should be at least 3 inches thick for a small group; 4 inches of ice is safe for a crowd. Since ice thickness can vary considerably, it is best to stay near the shoreline of large lakes.


11. Use alkaline batteries in flashlights. Standard batteries deteriorate quickly in cold weather. Tape the switch of your flashlight in the "off" position until you are ready to use it. This will prevent it from being turned on accidentally while in your pack or on your sled.


12. Encourage everyone in your group to wear brightly colored outer clothing so that each person will be more visible, especially during severe weather.


13. Small liquid-fuel stoves are much better for cooking in winter than fires, which are difficult to build with wet wood. Gathering wood that is frozen to the ground also can be difficult, if not impossible. A pressure/pump-type stove is essential in winter.


14. Always use a funnel to refuel a stove so you won't frostbite your fingers by accidentally pouring fuel on them. Fuel evaporates at a high rate of speed and quickly removes heat from anything it touches.


15. Place a stove or fire on a platform of logs or rocks so it will not melt through the snow.


16. Never light or use a stove inside a tent or snow shelter. A tent may catch fire, and vapors in a snow shelter may lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Neither of these potential mishaps is worth the risk.


17. A windscreen is essential for using a stove in the winter. Even a slight breeze will direct the heat away from its intended mark.


References: Okpik: Cold Weather Camping, Boy Scout Handbook, Scoutmaster Handbook, and Camping Sparklers



Winter Sports Safety (Updated August 19, 2009)


Beyond camping, a number of cold-weather activities present challenges to the Scout and leader, such as cross-country skiing, ice skating, sledding, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and snowshoeing. Essential ingredients for fun include skill training and an awareness of the hazards unique to these activities. Snow conditions, hazardous terrain, special clothing needs, and emergency survival are important issues for a safe and successful experience.


Be sure your winter outdoor activity always follows these guidelines:


1. All winter activities must be supervised by mature and conscientious adults (at least one of whom must be age 21 or older) who understand and knowingly accept responsibility for the well-being and safety of the youth in their care, who are experienced and qualified in the particular skills and equipment involved in the activity, and who are committed to compliance with the seven points of BSA Winter Sports Safety. Direct supervision should be maintained at all times by two or more adults when Scouts are "in the field." The appropriate number of supervisors will increase depending on the number of participants, the type of activity, and environmental conditions.


2. Winter sports activities embody intrinsic hazards that vary from sport to sport. Participants should be aware of the potential hazards of any winter sport before engaging in it. Leaders should emphasize preventing accidents through adherence to safety measures and proper technique.


3. Appropriate personal protective equipment is required for all activities. This includes the recommended use of helmets for all participants engaged in winter sports such as sledding and other sliding devices. The use of helmets is required for the following activities: downhill skiing, snowboarding and operation of snowmobiles (full face helmets).


4. Winter sports activities often place greater demands on a participant's cardiopulmonary system, and people with underlying medical conditions (especially if the heart or lungs are involved) should not participate without medical consultation and direction. For participants without underlying medical conditions, the annual health history and physical examination by a licensed health-care practitioner every three years are sufficient. The adult leader should be familiar with the physical circumstances of each youth participant and make appropriate adjustments in the activity or protection as warranted by individual health or physical conditions. Adults participating in strenuous outdoor winter activity should have an annual physical examination. It is recommended that the medical assessment be performed by a licensed health-care practitioner knowledgeable of the sport and the particular physical demands the activity will place on the individual.


5. For winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, etc. that utilize specialized equipment, it is essential that all equipment fit and function properly.


6. When youth are engaging in downhill activities such as sledding or tobogganing, minimize the likelihood of collision with immobile obstacles. Use only designated areas where rocks, tree stumps, and other potential obstacles have been identified and marked, cleared away, shielded, or buffered in some way.


7. All participants should know, understand, and respect the rules and procedures for safe winter activity. The applicable rules should be presented and learned before the outing, and all participants should review them just before the activity begins. When Scouts know and understand the reasons for the rules, they will observe them. When fairly and impartially applied, rules do not interfere with fun. Rules for safety, plus common sense and good judgment, keep the fun from being interrupted by tragedy.


Reference: Health and Safety Guide, No. 34415




As a youth member in Southern California in the 1960s/early 70s, folks like Trevorum and I got bling for camping below freezing! These days, living smack in the middle of flyover country, Scouts I know need to be prepared for "Cold, Wet" climate regimes (45F to 5F or so, rain falling and snow showering), because you can get mighty miserable if you don't have warm and dry gear to hand, day and night!


As Stosh says... cotton is rotten. I'm old fashioned, I like WOOL. ;-)


Camping in winter is first an exercise to convert survival to having a comfortable operating base in the cold, in the wet. Then, you add in the games :)

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I went to BALOO training in August and they didn't say anything to us about camping when it was cold out and it not being allowed, just for us to use our best judgement with the weather. I took over as CC a year ago and my son is in his 3rd year and he has done two other cold weather camp outs-one was 17 degrees, the other was 27. Our last one I was at and it rained the second night so we sent the boys home because cold is bad but wet and cold is miserable. We are in Georgia so we don't get many chances to do this, December is usually it for us because January and February is either too cold and wet or too cold and icy. Our parents grumble about doing it but our boys think it's the greatest thing to be out there in a tent in the cold, I hate it but suck it up for my little one and for the boys! The nice thing for us camping, we have 5 acres of land that was donated by our CO and it's local so home is just around the corner if we need to leave.


Thanks for all of your comments, I may call council and ask what the rules are, I definitely don't want to be out there if we aren't supposed to be!!


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Our COR is and pack trainer insists it's a written rule that is be 32 degrees out ...


If someone tells me that there's a rule - in Scouting or elsewhere - I ask them to show me where it's "written." They usually can't. That generally ends the debate.

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Our Council has an official (Council are given permission by the national council to do this) Polar Bear award. For our council, the temperature has to remain below 32 degrees, you need to reamin outside all the time (except for a bathroom or worship service) and one has to cook their meals.


We did that once - but did not earn the award because we did not meet another requirement. The outing has to occur in Winter. We easily met all the other requirements but because we did this in mid-December - no soup for us! I felt bad for the boys, it was something I overlooked.

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Well I guess if it is their own local patch awards, they can make up what-ever rules they want to around it..


I might double check the winter rule with our council also.. I too agree, I don't think I will have many Packs interested in winter camping, but might as well get the rules straight..


I went to BALOO training the last day of Sept. this year, and I know it was mentioned that we were getting the training on the last day we could have taken the scouts out camping this year.. They then told us that we were only allowed to camp with a pack from (march/april) through Sept..

But there was other things we were told that was not quite accurate.. This though I did not question as it made sense.. With the G2SS sounds like discouraged, but not denied.. This though could be a tighter rule for our council..

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I don't think it would be a good idea for a Pack to go winter camping (I live in Michigan). However, for a Troop, I think it is fine. There is a mental barrier (mostly for their parents) that has to be overcome and we have to train the boys well but heck, their circulation is 50% better than mine so if I can survive, they have no problem.

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It's quite interesting to read all the variations in what "should" be done. Our Council for instance has the Scout-O-Rama campout (which Packs are invited to) in mid-March and our District Cub-O-Ree is in mid-October. In both instances it is not unuasual for nightime temperatures to drop to 30 degress or even slightly cooler. I think that this big thing that you have to consider is is cold weather camping unusual in your area? For instance in central Alaska, you might not ever camp if you required the temp to stay above 40 or 50 at night. In Florida or southern California it might be considered extreme if the temperature got to 50. the second thing to consider is do your families and/or Pack have proper gear for this temperature. This may or may not be an issue.


One additional thing to consider is age. Our Pack for instance does a Webelos Winter Camp. It is cabin camping, however some Webelos and adults choose to camp out on cots in the covered screened porch. They do this will no issues every year when the temps drop below freezing.(This message has been edited by pack212scouter)

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