Safety Moment: Being Prepared for Winter Safety

BS Klondike 6

Winter can mean exciting activities such as skiing and snow shoeing. Scouts can be very enthusiastic about the adventures of winter camping. Winter activities can also mean bright stars and thoughtful conversations. However, a safe and successful winter activity requires an even greater level of preparation than a similar activity in warmer weather. Winter activities are unforgiving and any misstep can be magnified by cold weather conditions. Here are some important tips to keep in mind when planning a winter campout or activity.

Two deep leadership is critical. Remember that two-deep leadership is even more important in winter activities, when you might find yourself “two feet deep” in snow. If someone gets lost in the winter, the chances of survival drop dramatically. Leaders need to know where the boys are and what they are doing at all times. This can only be accomplished when there is an adequate number of leaders to supervise the Scouts who are participating.

Everything takes longer to do in the winter. From cooking an egg to hiking a trail, freezing temperatures slow things down. Plan for the additional time. Also keep in mind that there is less sunlight in the winter and the days will be shorter. Allow adequate time for travel, setting up camp, and cooking meals, remembering that there are fewer daylight hours and tasks may take longer in cold weather.

Activity planning is a must. The boys must be kept active to keep them warm, but just as importantly to keep them busy. Boredom can set in quickly when it is dark. So prepare plenty of activities to keep the Scouts engaged. Then create a back-up plan… and maybe a back-up plan to your back-up plan.

Be sure someone knows your itinerary. Where will you be? When will you get there? When will you return? Which emergency personnel should be notified if you do not return on schedule? After you have carefully planned the details of your activity, be sure someone knows your plan. Leave a detailed itinerary behind with a responsible person who is not attending the activity.

Winter can be one of the most exciting times to be outdoors. Cold weather camping, when warmed by good companions and dedicated leaders, can create a memorable learning environment as well as opening the heart to feel the glow of the Spirit. A winter activity requires a significant amount of preparation but the result can be a meaningful experience for everyone involved.

BS Klondike 2

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  1. Marla Thomas says:

    Unexpectedly, I just earned the POLAR BEAR AWARD by camping in freezing (about 26°) weather at spring Wood Badge. I am in Central Texas and there was no snow; but, there were ice problems. Every region has its own safety issues in cold weather. Snow avalanches can be a huge concern in mountainous areas. Yes. It can be fun in the winter and a lot of lessons can be learned. This is a perfect time to actually introduce “Guide to Safe Scouting” and actually have the young men, parents & leaders read of the possible hazards. For most people they will be teachable and go to the effort of reading the appropriate sections because they do realize there are some dangers in freezing weather. Where there is snow or ice there is freezing weather or very low temperatures. (Making sure everyone has a sleeping bag designed for low temperatures is often overlooked. Also, there should always be a ground cover for under the tent no matter what the temperature.) At Wood Badge I learned how to put boiling water in a HDPE (hard plastic) water bottle which has a good sealing lid and then put it in a zip locked sealable plastic bag and then into a sock. By putting that in the bottom of my sleeping bag my feet were warm all night. (It would just be terrible if the water leaked somehow in the night though.) I trusted the retired fireman/paramedic scouter who suggested we do it.

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