Photo by Kory Pryor used with permission © All rights reserved
Camp Tracy in Winter
Camp Tracy in Winter

Winter camping can be quite an adventure for any Scout or Venturer. My first time was memorable because we camped at Camp Tracy,  staying in the same cabins my dad had used when he was a Scout 35 years earlier. Heat came from a small pot-bellied stove which did little to take the edge of cold.

You don’t have to be scared to venture out in winter; you just have to be prepared.

Program Feature: Winter Camping

Mom had checked my pack more than once. She made sure I had extra clothing, gloves and a sleeping bag insert. She was worried about my warmth and rightly so. As soon as we arrived, we dumped our gear and spent most of the time after dinner sledding. We were all soaking wet when we got to bed.

Photo by Kory Pryor used with permission All rights reserved
Frozen Jeans by Kory Pryor used with permission.  All rights reserved

The next morning all our pants were too frozen to pull back on. It was quite a sight. We all stood around that tiny stove trying to thaw out our trousers while wearing pajamas or long underwear.

No matter, I had the winter camping bug. I got pretty good at winter camping, eventually working at Camp Tracy as a teen and then building a winter cross-country ski program at Beaver High Adventure Base. From that first trip to Camp Tracy, to the dozens I have taken into Beaver, I grew in confidence and ability.

I have seen hundreds of youth do the same.

winter-camping-5Winter presents great opportunities to test any youth’s (and their leaders) mettle. BSA’s Fieldbook says as “air temperatures drop and winter sets in, the back country transforms into challenging landscape where even the most familiar meadow can sparkle with ice and snow. Vistas open as trees lose their leaves. The air is crisp, the quiet broken only by the crunch of boots on snow. A day of traveling across the snow and a cozy night camped beneath a frosty sky are pleasures reserved for those who have learned to thrive even as the thermometer goes in to the hibernation range.” That is exactly what I did, thrive in winter camping environments.

The Fieldbook continues: “Living well in the cold involves a set of skills that can greatly expand your opportunities for outdoor adventure. If you dream of mountaineering, your routes are likely to take you to heights where you’ll need to be prepared to handle chilly winds, sleet, and snow. Winter travels in desert regions can be very cold, tolo, presenting unique sets of challenges for anyone venturing very far from a road.  In fact, almost every environment opens up in icy weather to present possibilities for exploration and enjoyment that will keep you heading for the back country 12 months out of the year.

“You can do planing with others in your group and practice the skills you need on short trips and journeys when conditions are not so severe.   It won’t be long before you discover the satisfaction of being in the outdoors year-around—staying comfortable no matter what the weather throws your way. Build confidence in your cold-weather abilities, and you’ll be ready for just about any backcountry situations you might encounter in more temperate conditions too.”

Living well in the cold for outdoor adventure was a big deal for me as a young District Executive.  I helped all five of my districts with winter camps and Klondike derbies so that Scouts could have the same kinds of winter adventures I’d known.

Some of my old Fieldbook editions

Personally, when it comes to getting prepared for winter camping, I’ve turned to the Fieldbook. Since I was a young Scout, it has been my go-to resource to learn how to make myself comfortable in all kinds of outdoor situations. In the coming weeks we will use the Fieldbook to feature a half dozen articles about winter camping, including the following:

We will also peruse the Program Feature: Winter CampingSo, pull your boots and mittens on, and get ready to stay outside this winter!

Darryl Alder
Darryl is a retired career Scouter with more than 30 years of service. These days he is a Scouting Ambassador and serves on the Council Membership and Marketing Committee. However, his pride in Scouting is his volunteer service as an Associate Advisor, Varsity Scout Coach, Scoutmaster, Cubmaster, Chartered Organization Representative, and Commissioner.


  1. Michelle Carpenter
    Michelle Carpenter ( User Karma: 2 ) says:

    I really enjoyed the story of Scouts toughing it out in such crazy weather. The frozen pants are insane! This is one question I have: what temperature is too cold to take Scouts out? Or, is there a way to keep them safe in any weather?

  2. Darryl Alder
    Darryl Alder says:

    Depending on the normal weather in Utah, we have never restricted winter camping, even in sub zero temps. According to Wikipedia “A properly made snow cave can be 0 °C (32 °F) or warmer inside, even when outside temperatures are −40 °C (−40 °F).)” Be sure to read the next article about layering to learn how to keep warm when it drops below 0 °C (32 °F)

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