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Winter Camping is FUN

Knowledge is power! Do not wait on someone to tell you how to prepare – seek out resources. Most of this information can be found in your Boy Scout Handbook

As a Troop, we primarily camp in a temperate Georgia climate. We experience large swings in temperature in the winter months. Layering is crucial to staying warm and dry. Getting over-heated and sweaty on a 60 degree day can become an uncomfortably cold experience when the sun goes down. Layering allows you to cool off when the temps get warm.


  • Read Clothing for Outdoor Adventures (Pages 270-276) in your Boy Scout Handbook.
  • Read the First Aid for Hypothermia and Frost Bite (Page 152-153) in your Boy Scout Handbook.
  • Read Chapter 11 “Gearing Up” in the Boy Scout Field Book.
  • Read Chapter 13 “Cold Weather Travel and Camping” in the Boy Scout Field Book.

Sleeping bags

Your sleeping bag is what is going to keep you warm on those cold nights. Here is a list of tips related to your sleeping bag.

  • Use a sleeping bag that is appropriate for the conditions.
    • I recommend a 20 degree bag, but a 30 degree will suffice with a sleeping bag liner
    • Buy a sleeping bag that is the right size. A large sleeping bag that a scout can “grow into” makes for cold nights.
    • Do not buy “Down” or “Feather” sleeping bags. Young scouts do not have the skills to use these properly.
  • Use a sleeping bag liner.
    • These are silk or fleece liners that go inside the sleeping bag. They will lower your sleeping bag's rating by up to 10 degrees.
    • Alternatively, buy an inexpensive fleece throw or blanket and wrap yourself in it inside the sleeping bag.
  • Most cold weather bags are designed to trap heat. The proper way to do this is to pull the drawstrings until the sleeping bag is around your face, not around your neck.
    • Don't burrow in - keep your mouth and nose outside the bag. Moisture from your breath collecting in your bag is a quick way to get real cold.
    • Keep the inside of the bag dry.
    • A zipped up coat pulled over the foot of a sleeping bag makes an extra layer of insulation.
  • Don't sleep directly on the ground. Get a closed cell foam pad to provide insulation between your sleeping bag and the ground. A foam pad cushions and insulates.
    • NO AIR MATTRESSES. Air mattresses do not insulate.


A little preparation goes a long way.

  • Drain your bladder before you go to bed. Having to go in the middle of the night when it is 30 degrees out chills your entire body. Drink all day, but stop one hour before bed.
  • Eat a high-energy snack before bed, then brush your teeth. The extra fuel will help your body stay warm. Take a high-energy snack to bed (like Snickers Bars) to eat if you wake up chilly in the night.
  • Dress right while sleeping.
    • Change into clean, dry clothes before bed. Your body makes moisture and your clothes hold it in - by changing into dry clothes you will stay warmer and it will help keep the inside of your sleeping bag dry.
    • Wearing wool socks and long underwear (tops and bottoms) in the sleeping bag is OK.
    • Put on tomorrow's t- shirt and underwear at bedtime. That way you won't be starting with everything cold next to your skin in the morning.
    • Wear a stocking cap to bed, even if you have a mummy bag.
  • Put tomorrow's clothes in your bag with you. This is especially important if you’re small of stature. It can be pretty hard to warm up a big bag with a little body, the clothes cut down on that work.


Since cotton and down are very poor insulators when wet, look for pants, shirts, sweaters, jackets, vests, socks, hats, and mittens made from wool; piles and fleeces such as Berber Pile, Borg Pile, Synchilla, and Polartec; and fiber fills such as Hollofil, Lamilite, Lite Loft, Microloft, Polarguard, Primaloft, Quallofil, Thermoloft, Thermolite, and Thinsulate.

  • Remember C O L D:
    • C - Clean - dirty clothes loose their loft and get you cold.
    • O -Overheat - never get sweaty, strip off layers to stay warm but not too hot.
    • L - Layers - Dress in synthetic layers for easy temperature control.
    • D - Dry - wet clothes (and sleeping bags) also loose their insulation.
  • COTTON KILLS! Do not bring cotton.
    • Staying dry is the key to staying warm. Air is an excellent insulator and by wearing several layers of clothes you will keep warm.
    • Cotton holds onto moisture, keeping it close to the skin, and thereby losing all insulation value. Cotton absorbs perspiration, which would normally drip off the body keeping it close to the skin and further cooling the body. This could easily mean the difference between comfort and hypothermia.
    • “Thermal” undershirts found at department stores are almost always 100% or 50% cotton. Go to the sports department and look for polypropylene. Most man-made fibers and wool will wick moisture away from the skin.
  • Remember the 3 W's of layering - Wicking inside layer, Warmth middle layer(s) and Wind/Water outer layer.
    • Wicking should be a polypropylene material as long underwear and also sock liner.
    • Warmth layer(s) should be fleece or wool.
    • The Wind/Water layer should be Gore-Tex or at least 60/40 nylon.
  • Bring extra hand covering - mittens are warmer than gloves.
  • Bring a Knit Cap.
  • Bring 2 changes of socks per day.
  • Everyone must be dry by sundown. No wet (sweaty) bodies or wet inner clothing.


  • Stay hydrated. It’s easy to get dehydrated in the winter. Eat and drink plenty of carbs.
  • Bring extra WATER. It’s easy to get dehydrated in the winter. You aren’t visibly sweating, so you don’t think to drink water, but since the air is so dry, you lose a LOT of water through breathing. Drink lots of water!
  • Bring extra food that doesn’t need to be heated or cooked. Granola bars, trail mix, etc.
  • Keep a pot of hot water available for cocoa or Cup-a-Soup – these warm from the inside.
  • Always eat hot meals (breakfast, lunch, & dinner.)
    • Dutch ovens are the best – they keep the food hot longer. It doesn't need to be fancy Dutch Oven cooking.
    • Consider 1-pot meals to keep cleanup to a minimum. Don't get too fancy with the meals
  • Fill coffee/cook pots with water before bed. It's hard to pour frozen water, but easy to thaw it if it's already in the pot.
camping/troop_279_cold_weather_camping_guide.txt · Last modified: 2016/05/01 15:06 by Jack W. Parks