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Discussion Starter #1
Just found this article while surfing, its about 10 years old but contains some relevent information.



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."

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 word


C keep yourself and your clothes Clean.

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 for me 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. If you get warm you can take layers off

and add some more clothing layers if you get cold.

Keep yourself dry, both from the weather and perspiration.

Wear loose fitting clothing, to optimize insulation.

Remember when buying clothes for cold weather that wool retains

most of its insulation properties when wet, while cotton loose

most of its.

There are also excellent manmade fibers and insulation's that

retain their insulation properties as good as or better than wool.

Other benefits include light weight, wide design options &


Remember your rain gear is water proof and will not allow

perspiration to exit. During rainy weather change your clothing

several times a day.

Athletic shoes and nylon hiking boots do not provide enough

insulation. You should wear either mukluks, water-proofed leather

hiking boots, rubber overshoes or rubberized boots.

Waterproof your leather hiking boots with the appropriate

commercial treatment. Be sure to 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. Also 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 take the perspiration way from your feet.

Pull trouser legs over top of shoes to keep out snow. You

may want to use nylon gaiters (leggings), or tie or tape them

to make sure of the seal.

Wear mittens instead of fingered gloves when you do not need

independent use of your fingers. This will allow the fingers to

help keep each other warm.

Use a pair of socks to cover hands if mittens get wet.

Wear a stocking cap or other warm hat. One that covers the

ears and neck area is particularly effective. Remember, most heat

loss is through the head. Wearing a warm hat warms the rest of

your body, too.

Wear a scarf to reduce heat loss around the neck. Use a "ski

mask" or scarf over your face for protection from the cold

and wind.

In an emergency use your neckerchief to cover your ears.

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 cold.

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 pull over type sweatshirt to sleep


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 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.

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.

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 down.

Hang your sleeping bag up or just lay it out, 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 dressing.

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, you do have a tent mate. Remember to empty the bottle

away from the camp in the morning.


If at night you get cold, let the adult 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.

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


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 adult leadership if symptoms do occur.

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


No open flames (candles, matches, etc.) inside the tents.

Wiggling your toes inside your boots will help keep feet warm.

If your feet get cold put on a stocking cap.

Take and wear dark sunglasses if snow is in the forecast.

The glare of the sun off the snow could lead to snow blindness.

The sunglasses will reduce the glare.

Use the solid fuel hand warmers. They are cheaper and you

can light them yourself. Adult leaders must handle all liquid


The solid fuel hand warmers tend to have a flair up of heat

after burning for a while and then they start to cool down. Placing

them in an old sock will help to protect you from this "hot


Keep off ice on steams, lakes and ponds.

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 your 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 your wood and tinder for the morning fire in the evening

so that you will be able to start the fire quickly in the morning.

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 easily.

Flashlight batteries are effected 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.

Cold weather camping references:

OOPIK manual, No. 34040

BSA Field manual

BSA Snow Camping Venture manual


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.

Clothing layers:

Long, thermal underwear. polypropylene

Shirt or inner layer

Sweater, light jacket

Wind or rain gear

Long, thermal underwear. polypropylene

Inner pants wool, wool blend

Wind or rain pants

Wicking inner socks polypropylene

Insulating socks wool or wool blend

Boot liners insulated insoles

Footwear, boots waterproof, loose-fitting, mukluks or snow


Head coverings

Gloves and mittens


Wet cold: 50º F to 14º 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: 14º F to -20º 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 -20º F

Requires the most insulation and wind-proofing. Many materials

change physical properties, becoming brittle. Only for the most

experienced campers.



The body's process for maintaining an even temperature. The arms

and legs are used as a radiator to remove excess heat from the

body. This process dilates the blood vessels, allowing more blood

to flow to the skin surfaces. When the body temperature drops,

these blood vessels constrict, decreasing blood flow, and thereby,

heat loss. This is why hands and feet get numb when cold, and

why they're particularly vulnerable to frostbite.

Since your brain needs oxygen to function, your body can't cut

off the flow of blood to your head in order to conserve heat.

Consequently, much of your body head can be lost through an uncovered

head and neck.

Radiation. (55%) A major source of heat loss. Heat is lost directly

from exposed skin and the head. The head may lose up to one-half

of the body's total heat production at 40 degrees F, and up to

three-quarters at 5 degrees F.

Conduction. (15% w/convection) Heat is lost through skin contact

with cold objects, primarily the hands, and wet or tight clothing.

Handling gasoline, and other super-cooled liquids, at low temperatures

is especially dangerous.

Convection. Heat is lost from the wind carrying away heat from

the surface of the skin. This includes wind-chill effects.

Evaporation. (21%) Loss from evaporation of sweat, moisture from

the skin and lungs produces substantial heat loss. This is little

that can be done about this. We need to allow for this by using

breathable fabrics to allow this moisture to pass out freely.

Respiration. (2-9%) Heat lost from inhaling cold air and exhaling

warm air.



Excessive loss of body water. Impairs the ability to reason, so

the victim may not react properly.


Drink at least 2 quarts of water a day.

Avoid dehydrating foods (high protein) and fluids (coffee,


Increase fluid intake at first signs of darker yellow urine.


1 to 5 % deficiency

Increased pulse rate

Nausea and loss of appetite

Dark urine or constipation

Irritability, fatigue


6 to 10 % deficiency

Headache, dizziness

Labored breathing


Absence of salivation

Inability to walk

Cyanosis (bluish or grayish skin color)

11 to 20 % deficiency

Swollen tongue, inability to swallow

Dim vision, deafness

Shriveled, numb skin

Painful urination

Delirium, unconsciousness and death


Mild cases - drink liquids, keep warm.

More severe cases require professional medical treatment.


Lowering of the inner core temperature of the body. Can and usually

does happen above freezing. The victim may not recognize the symptoms

and may not be able to think clearly enough to react. Injury or

death may result.

Predisposing Conditions:

Poor physical condition.

Inadequate nutrition and water intake.

Thin build.

Nonprotective clothing.

Getting wet.

Inadequate protection from wind, rain and snow.



Loss of ability to reason.


Slowing, drowsiness, fatigue.


Thickness of speech.


Irrationality, poor judgment.


Cyanosis (blueness of skin).

Dilation of pupils of eyes.

Decreased heart and respiration rate.



Shelter the victim from wind and weather.

Insulate the victim from the ground.

Change wet clothing.

Put on windproof, waterproof gear.

Increase exercise, if possible.

Put in a prewarmed sleeping bag.

Give hot drinks, followed by candy or other high-sugar foods.

Apply external heat; hot stones, hot canteens.

Huddle for body heat from others.

Place victim in a tub of 105º F water. Never above 110º



Keep rested, maintain good nutrition.

Consume plenty of high-energy food.

Use proper clothing.

Make camp early if tired, injured or lost.

Get plenty of exercise. Don't sit around much.

Appoint an experienced person to watch the group for signs.

Take immediate corrective action for any signs.


Tissue injury involving the actual freezing of the skin and underlying

tissues. Recovery is slow, severe frostbite can lead to gangrene.

Once exposed the victim will be predisposed toward frostbite in

the future.

Predisposing Conditions:

Prolonged exposure to temperatures 32º F or below.

Brief exposure at extremely low temperatures, -25º F

and below.

Exposed body parts

Restriction of circulation.

Fatigue, poor nutrition, low liquid intake, poor physical


Previous case of frostbite or other cold injury.


First Degree (Frostnip)

Redness, pain, burning, stinging or prickly sensation.

Pain disappears and there is a sudden blanching of the skin.

The skin may look mottled.

Skin is firm to the touch, but resilient underneath.

On thawing, there is aching pain or brownness. The skin may

peel off, and the part may remain cold for some time.

Second Degree (Superficial Frostbite, Frostbite)

No pain, the part may feel dead.

Numbness, hard to move the part.

Tissue and layers underneath are hard to the touch.

After thawing (takes 3 to 20 days) pain, large blisters, sweating.

Black or discolored skin sloughs off, leaving tender new skin.

Third degree (Severe Frostbite)

Full thickness of the skin is involved.

After thawing, pain continues for 2 to 5 weeks.

Fourth degree (Severe Frostbite)

Skin and bone are frozen.

Swelling and sweating occur.

Gangrene may develop, amputation may be necessary.


Do not rub affected area with snow. Hold it over fire, or

use cold water to thaw it.

Exercise the affected area to promote blood circulation.

Use any warmth available to thaw area.

Do not attempt to thaw frostbitten limbs in the field. It

is less harmful for the victim to walk out on a frostbitten limb

than to thaw it in the field. Thawing only risks additional injury

and the victim will be in too much pain to walk.

Check for hypothermia.

For more severe cases refer to more complete instructions.


Proper clothing.

Good nutrition, drink water, maintain core temperature.

Use buddy system to check face, nose, and ears.

Immediate treatment of minor symptoms.

Snow Blindness

Inflammation of the eye caused by exposure to reflected ultraviolet

rays when the sun is shining brightly on an expanse of snow.


Sensation of grit in the eyes, made worse by eye movement, watering,

redness, headache, and increased pain on exposure to light.


Blindfold the victim and get rest. Further exposure should be

avoided. If unavoidable, the eyes should be protected with dark

bandages or the darkest sunglasses. The condition heals in a few

days without permanent damage once exposure is stopped.


Wear sunglasses when any danger is present. Do not wait for discomfort

to begin.

1,690 Posts
Thanks, Garand!

This is the kind of information that many of us need. I certainly could benefit from more cold weather camping and working knowledge.

10,279 Posts
I appreciate your post too. Thanks Garand.


1,815 Posts
I was born in Montana, and grew up in Eastern Washington. I can tell you everything Garand has posted here, is absolutely the best way to cold weather camp.
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