The Cold Factor: Ten Tips for Keeping Warm, Part 3

I once knew a Patrol that was pretty good at camping in the summer time. But how that gang could shy away from camping when cold weather set in! We called it the “Ground-hog Patrol.” It hibernated every winter. Around Groundhog Day in February it stuck its nose out of the ground – not to see its shadow but to get in on the Boy Scout Week celebrations. Then back in the ground again until the gentle breezes of spring called it out.

What kind of Patrol is yours? Not a “Groundhog Patrol” I hope – but the kind of rough-and-ready gang that goes camping year-round and has just as much fun in Christmas camp as in Summer Cap. It takes guts to go camping up north when the weather hovers around freezing or below – but there’s a special kind of joy to it, provided you are properly prepared for it. – William Hillcourt

This is the third and final post of the series on tips for Winter Camping. In Part 1, we covered three basic principles of keeping warm while camping. In Part 2, we covered some lesser known tips. So, without further ado, here are the final four tips!

7. Keeping Warm Feet

One thing that is easy to forget about when preparing for a winter camp is proper care of the feet. Being very far from your core heat, it can be quite easy for them to get very chilled. The way to prevent that is to prepare with proper foot gear. My personal preference is a good pair of 8-in leather boots. They are very durable and provide excellent protection and support.

There are a few particular things you need to look for when picking out a pair of boots for a winter camp. The first is insulation. Many different kinds of boots come with different types of lining on the inside. Depending upon where you are camping and what temperatures you are expecting, it is important to pick out boots that have proper insulation.

Secondly, make sure your boots are waterproof (or at least very water-resistant). If they are leather, you can waterproof them using a variety of products sold for that purpose. My personal favorite is mink oil. If you are using leather boots, make sure they are properly oiled before the camp and there are no tears in the stitching. Other boots are made with Gore-Tex or some similar waterproof material. These are generally reliable as long as they don’t have any tears and are not too worn.

Make sure you buy your boots from a reputable manufacturer. Trying to go too cheap on boots can be more costly in the long run. Above all, take care of your boots, and they will take care of you.

One last thing to consider are socks. The best socks for winter camping are thick, well-made, woolen socks. They can be a bit pricey, but if you do a lot of camping in a cold climate, they are worth it. You can also double-up regular socks as well, which I have done many times. Clean, dry feet can make all of the difference on a camping trip.

8. Improvised Sleeping Bag Warmer

One tip that was taught to me that I have used on several occasions to great effect, is of using a bottle of heated water as a sleeping bag warmer. Here’s how it works. First, get a very sturdy hard plastic water bottle like a Nalgene (this is important as thin water bottle can melt or deform).

Then, heat some water in a pot over a stove or fire. You don’t want it boiling hot, but you want it pretty warm. Then, carefully pour the hot water into your water bottle, filling it mostly to the top. Be careful, it can be easy to scald yourself if you don’t pour it right. You then fasten the lid of your water bottle very securely.

The plastic of the water bottle will soon get very hot, so make sure you wrap it in a shirt of a towel. It is then ready to slip inside your sleeping bag. Do this right before you go to bed. If you leave the bottle sitting outside, it can loose its heat very quickly. The best place to keep this is right between your legs. There, it can keep warm the femoral artery that runs along the insides of your legs. This will help keep your entire body warm, especially the feet. Like I said, I have used this on a handful of occasions and it works great.

9. Miscellaneous tips

For this tip, I’d like to just quickly list several simple tips:

1. Wear a warm hat to bed, whether you are using a mummy bag or regular one.

2. Make sure you have a good pair of warm gloves. If you don’t need to use your fingers, mittens keep the hands even warmer.

3. Invest in a sleeping bad liner. Something thin and inexpensive can really boost the temperature rating of your sleeping bag.

4. Get a good quality tent. If you can use fires, a great tent is the “explorer” or “baker” style so that you can open up the front and have a small fire heat the inside.

10. Vigorous Activity!

Of course, the best way to keep warm on a winter camp is to use your body’s built-in heater. It’s really easy to get cold if you just sit around, but that’s not what a camping trip is for anyway! Plan with your Troop/Patrol many fun and energy-expending games and activities. There are a whole lot of cool opportunities that winter camps provide; Use your creativity!

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I hope you enjoyed this series on winter camping, and I hope this post was informative and enjoyable!

Thanks for reading! If this post was helpful, please help me to spread this to as many Scouts as possible by sharing this post with your friends.

As always,

Scout on!

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3 Comments

  1. B. Jody Lotzkar's Gravatar B. Jody Lotzkar
    December 14, 2012    

    Happy Holidays from the 5th West Vancouver Mountaineer Scouts!

    Photo: December 9, 2012. 5,000 feet up in the mountains of Garibaldi Provincial Park.

    • DiscoverScouts's Gravatar DiscoverScouts
      December 15, 2012    

      Happy Holidays! Looks like you’ve already had some excellent winter camping! Being up in Vancouver, I’m sure there’s a lot you could teach me about winter camping. Send my best to the 5th West Vancouver Mountaineer Scouts!

  2. B. Jody Lotzkar's Gravatar B. Jody Lotzkar
    December 17, 2012    

    Come visit us anytime and we’ll take you up into the mountains for some fun!

    At some point, we’ll be dropping south across the border to go for a wander up some of your statovolcanoes: Washington (Baker, Rainier, St. Helens & Adams), Oregon (Hood & Jefferson) and North California (Shasta).

    “The mountains are calling and I must go.”
    – John Muir

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