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Cold Weather Camping
Pointers for stayin' warm. Brrr.
Is it all about the beads?
(Answer: Yes & No)
Cold Weather Camping
Cold weather camping as
defined by BSA is "camping in weather where the average daily temperature is
below 50 degrees Fahrenheit and conditions are cold, wet or windy." Chances are,
this describes SWC.
The most important thing
to remember about cold weather camping is to KEEP DRY. Moisture will reduce the
insulating properties of almost everything. To keep yourself warm, remember the
C keep yourself and your
O avoid Overheating
L wear clothes Loose and in Layers
D keep Dry
The hints listed below
are in a random manner. There is no order of importance to the list, just some
suggestions that have proven true over the years.
Layer your clothing. Wear
several layers of lighter clothing instead of one heavy layer. This way you
can better regulate the amount of insulation. When you get warm, take layers
off. Getting chilly? add some more clothing.
Keep yourself dry, both from the
weather and perspiration.
Wear loose fitting clothing, to
Remember when buying clothes for cold
weather, wool retains most of its insulation properties when wet,
while cotton loose most of its.
There are excellent manmade fibers that
retain their insulation properties as good as or better than wool. Other
benefits include light weight, wide design options & wind-blocking.
Rain gear is water proof AND will not
allow perspiration to exit (SEE #2). During rainy weather change your
clothing several times a day.
Athletic shoes and nylon hiking boots
do not provide enough insulation. Wear either mukluks, water-proofed leather
hiking boots, rubber overshoes or rubberized boots.
Waterproof your leather hiking boots
with the appropriate commercial treatment. Use only silicon-based products
on leathers which require it. Check the care tag that came with the boots.
If you choose to wear rubberized boots,
remember they do not allow for ventilation, therefore you will need to
change your socks several times a day (SEE #2). You may want to get some
felt inserts for insulation.
Wear a pair of cotton AND a pair of
wool socks to increase insulation and wick perspiration away from your feet.
Pull trouser legs over the top of shoes
to keep out snow. Use nylon gaiters (leggings),
or tie or tape them to make a good seal.
Wear mittens instead of fingered gloves
when you do not need independent use of your fingers. Mittens allow fingers
to help keep each other warm. Use a pair of socks to cover hands if mittens
Wear a stocking cap or other warm hat:
one that covers the ears and neck area is particularly effective. Heat loss
happens through exposed skin of which your head is about 10%. So wearing
warm head gear is a must when it's cold and windy.
A scarf reduces heat loss around the
neck. Alternatively, a "ski mask" or baklava offers protection from the cold
and wind on your face.
If you need a fire to keep you warm,
you are not dressed properly. If the heat can get to your body, so can the
Paper is a good insulator and can be
wrapped around the body (under your clothes) to add insulation.
Natural fiber sleeping bags do not
maintain their insulation properties when damp, down bags also fit here. A 3
to 4 pound synthetic bag will take care of most of your needs.
A mummy style bag is warmer than a
rectangular, as there is less space for your body to heat. Also, most mummy
bags have a hood to help protect your head.
If you only have a rectangular sleeping
bag, bring an extra blanket to pack around your shoulders in the opening to
keep air from getting in.
Do not sleep with your head under the
covers. Doing so will increase the humidity in the bag that will reduce the
insulation properties of the bag and increase dampness.
Remember to air out your sleeping bag
and tent, when weather permits. Perspiration and breath condense in the tent
at night and the water will reduce insulating properties of your bag.
Wear a stocking cap to bed in order to
reduce heat loss.
Wear a loose fitting hooded pullover
type sweatshirt to sleep in.
Make a loose fitting bag from an old
blanket or carpet padding to put both feet in when in your sleeping bag.
A bag liner either purchased or made
from an old blanket, preferably wool, will greatly enhance the bags warmth.
Insulate yourself from the ground as
much as possible to avoid cold spots at the shoulders and hips. Use a
sleeping pad of closed cell foam instead of an air mattress. A good
rule of thumb is that you want 2 to 3 times the insulation below you as you
have over you. Sleeping bag's insulation becomes compressed and is not as
effective below you.
Use a ground cloth to keep ground
moisture from your bag. Your body will warm up frozen ground to a point were
moisture can become important.
Space blankets, if used as a ground
cloth, will not reflect the body heat. Instead it will conduct the cold from
the ground to your body.
Cold air will be above and below you if
you sleep on a cot.
Put a hand warmer (in a sock) at the
foot of your sleeping bag before getting into it. Or, fill a canteen with
hot water (not boiling) and place at foot of bag to keep warm. Be careful
with plastic canteens.
Exercise before bedding down to
increase body heat. This will help to warm your bag quicker. Be careful not
to start perspiring.
Remove the clothes you are wearing
before bedding down if they are damp with perspiration. Put on dry clothing
or pajamas before entering the sleeping bag.
Build a wind break outside your tent by
piling up snow or leaves to a height sufficient to protect you when laying
Never store your sleeping bag
compressed. Hang it up, lay it out, or use a very large stuff bag between
trips so the filling will not compress and lose its insulating properties.
Before you get out of bed bring
the clothes you plan to wear inside your bag and warm them up some before
Place an empty capped plastic bottle
outside your tent door for "night calls." This will reduce your exposure
when you have to answer that call. Think twice before using it inside the
tent, especially if you have a tent mate. Remember to empty the bottle away
from the camp in the morning.
ODDS AND ENDS
If at night you get cold, let the
leadership know so action can be taken before injury from cold weather
health problems occur. In other words it's better to be kidded about
forgetting your sleeping bag than risking hypothermia. If shivering does not
go away after 10-15 minutes in your sleeping bag, seek help and warmth. It
till not get better.
Organization and proper preparation is
very important in cold weather camping. Good meals, proper shelter and
comfortable sleeping arrangements make for an enjoyable outing.
Drink 2 quarts of fluids per day
besides what you drink at meals. Cold reduces your thirst feeling but you
are still becoming dehydrated through exertion and dry air.
Learn to recognize and treat cold
weather health problems. These include frostbite, hypothermia, dehydration,
chilblains, trench foot, snow blindness and carbon monoxide poisoning.
Use the buddy system to check each
other for cold weather health problems. Notify the leadership if symptoms do
If you feel cold gather some wood or do
some other type of work. Working will help warm you.
Eating ice or snow can reduce your body
temperature and it is not pure. Don't eat it. Snow and ice can be used for
drinking water but only after boiling.
No open flames (candles, matches, etc.)
inside the tents. It consumes the oxygen and is a fire hazard.
Wiggling your toes inside your boots
will help keep feet warm. If your feet get cold, they are not insulated well
or your body is conserving heat in it's core. Speak to the leadership.
Take and wear sunglasses if snow is in
the forecast. The glare of the sun (even if it's going to be cloudy) off the
snow could lead to snow blindness. Sunglasses will reduce the glare.
Use fuel hand warmers. They are cheap
and easy to use. The double as foot warmers, too.
Keep off ice on steams, lakes and
ponds. Always, always, always!
It takes longer to cook food in cold
weather, so plan accordingly. Before going to bed pour enough water for
breakfast into a pot. It is easier to heat the pot than a plastic water can.
Keep matches in a metal match safe as
plastic can freeze and break if dropped.
Gather twice as much fuel as you think
you'll need for fires.
Carry tinder from home. It may be hard
to find in snow or wet conditions.
Gather wood and tinder for the morning
fire in the evening so that you will be able to start the fire quickly in
Space blankets make good wind shields
only. The metallic properties take over the insulation properties in cold
weather and become cold conductors.
Carry extra plastic bags in cold
weather. They can be used as personal wind shields and ponchos by slitting a
hole in the top for your head to go through.
Carry extra matches because the more
you need a fire to warm up the less likely you will be able to start one
Flashlight batteries are affected by
cold. You can revive a dead battery by warming it up near the fire.
You may want to take a bottle of
propane into your tent with you at night. This will keep it warmer and make
it easier to light your stove for breakfast.
Heaters inside your tent can lead to
carbon monoxide poisoning.
LAYERED CLOTHING SYSTEM
Select the proper type
and amount of clothing. Regulate your clothing according to your activity rate.
This is the most effective way to ensure comfort. Pay attention to your bodies'
signals. Don't wait until you are cold to put on more clothing. Act when you
first begin to feel cooler.
Wicking inner socks polypropylene
Insulating socks wool or wool blend
Boot liners insulated insoles
Footwear, boots waterproof,
loose-fitting, mukluks or snow boots
TYPES OF COLD
Wet cold: 50° F to 14° F
The most dangerous. Wide temperature variations from melting during
the day to freezing at night makes proper dressing difficult, and important.
Damp conditions from melting snow or rain makes keeping dry difficult.
Dry cold: 14° F to -20° F
Ground is frozen and snow is dry and crystallized. Strong winds
cause the most concern with keeping warm. Extra clothing layers and
wind-proof outer garments should be added.
Arctic cold: below -20° F
Requires the most insulation and wind-proofing. Many materials change
physical properties, becoming brittle. Only for the most experienced