Adventist Youth Honors Answer Book/Recreation/Winter Camping

Winter Camping
General Conference
Skill Level 2
Year of Introduction: 1970

1. Earn the Camp Craft Honor.


Instructions and tips for earning the Camp Craft honor can be found in the Recreation chapter.

2. Make up a complete list of necessary camping equipment for winter conditions, such as possible sub-zero (-18° C) temperatures, storms, and snow.



  • Several thin layers of synthetic clothing.
  • Wind-proof shell, such as a parka.
  • Thin, synthetic socks with thick, wool socks over them.
  • Waterproof boots, such as Mukluks, or rubber boots. Avoid steel-toed or leather boots.
  • Gaiters to keep snow out of your boots.
  • Wind-proof mittens over wool gloves.
  • Wind-proof pants over wool or fleece pants. Do not wear jeans.
  • Down-filled vest.
  • Warm headgear. Your body loses most of its heat through the head, so keep it insulated!


  • Sleeping bag, rated for the expected temperatures
  • Sleeping mat made of closed cell foam will protect the camper from the cold ground. It should be considered essential for cold weather. They roll up about 6 inch diameter.
  • Compass, map, and flashlight. It is illegal to venture into some areas without these essential items!
  • Knife
  • Personal toiletries
  • First aid kit
  • Small tents are easier to heat than large ones (and your body is the furnace - see requirement 6 for more information).
  • Sled, snowshoes, or cross-country skis.
  • Rope
  • Camping stove - make sure your stove will work in cold temperatures. Propane, butane, and alcohol stoves can be difficult (or impossible) to light at low temperatures. Wood-fueled camping stoves such as the Trailstove or Littlebug stove are strongly advised.
  • Matches
  • Cooking gear and utensils.
  • Dining sets (plate, cup, cutlery).
  • Whistle (one for each member of the expedition).

3. Explain the principles of maintaining body warmth and dryness through the proper use of clothing and sleeping gear under all temperatures down to zero while traveling, resting, and sleeping.


The key to staying warm in the winter is to stay dry. This is done by dressing in layers which are easily vented. While snow shoeing, hiking, or cross country skiing, an individual generates an enormous amount of body heat. Unless the person is careful, the body will overheat, and the person will begin to perspire. When the person stops to rest, the perspiration will begin to chill the body. It is therefore imperative that the active person dress in layers. When the body begins to heat up, the outer jacket should be vented, which is to say, unzipped. If heat continues to build, the outer jacket should be removed. If this does not cool the body enough to end perspiration, another layer should be vented, and perhaps shed. Eventually, the clothing will match the person's level of activity, where enough body heat is generated to keep the person warm, but not sweaty. If it is snowing, sleeting, or raining, be sure the outermost layer is waterproof.

If a person finds that he (or she) has not controlled his (or her) perspiration sufficiently, it is important to change out of the sweat-soaked garments as soon as possible. For once the chills set in, they are difficult to overcome. Do not wear cotton garments for winter camping. Cotton will keep you warm only if it is kept perfectly dry, and keeping it perfectly dry is nearly impossible. Winter campers are quick to admonish that cotton kills. Instead wear woolen or synthetic garments.

When the day's exertion ends, it is time to start adding layers again. When it is finally time to go to bed, the winter camper should climb into a warm sleeping bag and zip up. Sleeping bags are generally given a temperature rating. It would be foolish to set out on a winter camping expedition with a $10.00 sleeping bag that is only good down to 40°F . Make sure the temperature rating matches the expected conditions, and reserve a little margin for bad forecasting. Also, don't forget that weather forecasts often do not cover higher elevations, so if you're hiking in mountainous areas, be aware of the conditions at the altitude you're going to be spending your time. Again, if perspiration begins, the bag should be partially unzipped to allow the air to cool the body before sweat does.

4. List and explain the characteristics of winter campsite selection.


Camp on the snow or on bare ground. Camping on snow leaves almost no environmental impact. Be mindful of animal tracks. You do not want to pitch camp on a trail used by animals - that would cut them off from their source of food or water.

Cold air sinks, so you want to avoid low ground. Ridges and mountaintops are exposed to the wind, so you will want to avoid those as well. If camping on a slope, the tent opening should be positioned so that it faces neither downhill nor uphill. In the evening as the sun sets and the air at the higher elevations cools, it will sink, creating a breeze blowing down from the mountain top. In the morning as the air at the lower elevations is heated by the sun, it will rise, creating a breeze blowing towards the mountain top. Though this air is warmer than the air at the top of the mountain, it is still quite cold, so you do not want your tent door facing it.

Avoid areas prone to avalanches. Look around for evidence of avalanche debris from the current season (chunks of disturbed snow) or from previous seasons (downed trees).

Consider where the sun will rise in the morning, and where the first light from it will fall. It would be a pity if you pitched your tent in the shadow of a mountain peak, while 100 meters away is s spot that will receive sunlight an hour earlier.

Choose a site with a nearby source of water. You might have to break through some ice to get to it, but once that's done, you will not want to haul it any farther than necessary. Water is heavy!

Watch for tree limbs, and do not camp beneath snow laden branches. The branches will either drop snow and ice on your tent, or they may even break off themselves.

5. Describe, or show where possible, the preparation of a level tent site in snow and pitch a tent in winter conditions.


The difficulty posed when pitching a tent in winter conditions is in anchoring the tent to the ground. Winter winds tend to be stronger than summer winds, so securely anchoring the tent is even more important. Meanwhile, the ground is frozen, making it difficult to drive stakes into it, or it is buried beneath several inches of snow.

If pitching a tent in snow, first stomp down an area as large as the tent. If the ground is not level, you can move snow from the high side to the low side, and add more snow from elsewhere to level it out. Pack it down as well as you can, and immediately smooth it out. Fluffy mounds of snow have a strange way of turning into bumpy chunks of ice very quickly, and they are exceedingly uncomfortable to sleep on.

Then lay the tent out, and anchor it before erecting the poles. As soon as you raise the tent, it will be susceptible to being swept away by the wind, and that is the reason for anchoring it before raising it. To anchor it, fill a bag with snow, ice, or rocks, tie it to the tent's anchor point, and bury it in the snow. Then pack the snow down firmly around the bag. Be sure to retrieve the bags when you break camp.

In deep snow, you can also excavate a kitchen by digging out a small area and building up walls with the snow you scoop out of the kitchen hole. Dig a path from the kitchen to the tents, and build snow chairs and tables too if you want. By submerging your kitchen below the snow, you get both your fire and your cook out of the wind. If you make it big enough to eat in, you get yourself and your dining companions out of the wind too.

If pitching a tent on bare ground, you can try to drive stakes into it, but if it is too frozen to allow this, you can again turn to anchoring the tent to weighted bags. Fill the bags with as many rocks as they will hold, and then pile more rocks on top of them. You can also tie the anchor points to fallen logs, but you will need to move the logs close to the tent for this to work well.

6. Prepare a balanced three-day menu to be used in your winter camping experience.


The key to eating on a winter camping is to provide lots of calories. If you are snowshoeing or cross country skiing, you will need at least double your normal caloric intake. Furthermore, you need to be aware that calories are what fuels your body's furnace, and this internal furnace is what generates the heat that your clothing traps. The body metabolizes calories to generate heat, so it needs something to work with.

That said, it is also important to eat a balanced diet. Be sure your menu contains plenty of vitamins and minerals and draws from all the food groups (Meat and beans, fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy). There is no need to eat like a pauper on a camp out, and indeed, many outdoorsmen find the meals to be the most satisfying aspect of winter camping. In a person's normal, sedentary life, excessive calories need to be carefully avoided, and this often means skipping dessert, sweets, or fatty foods. Not so on a winter camp out! You will need those calories, so pour them on! (Just be sure to back off again when you return to your sedentary ways.)

Winter camping also affords the opportunity to bring along foods that would normally spoil for lack of refrigeration. If the temperature is going to stay below 4°C , you can bring anything with you that requires refrigeration. If you are expecting the temperature to stay below freezing, you can bring frozen foods with you. If you are snowshoeing or skiing into the wilderness, you can cram all that extra food onto a sled and drag it behind you. It's easier to drag a sled than it is to shoulder a backpack, and you can carry a lot more weight too.

7. Know how to get water from snow.


Though snow is a form of water, it is foolish to eat it while it is still frozen, especially when spending an extended period of time in the cold. Eating snow can lower the body temperature, leading to chills at best, hypothermia and death at worst. That said, snow is still a great source of drinking water, so long as it is melted first. Pack snow into a pot and put it on the camp stove. Add 250 ml  of liquid water to the pot of snow before heating it. If the only water you have in the pot is snow or ice, there will be air pockets. If there is nothing there to conduct the heat away from an aluminum pot, a stove can easily burn a hole in it, or scorch the inside (which will impart a bad taste to the water). The easiest way to get water for this purpose is to keep it in a bottle carried in an inside pocket near your skin. Your body heat will prevent it from freezing.

8. Know five safety rules of winter camping.

  1. Do not embark on a winter camping expedition unless you have adequate equipment and provisions and are in good physical condition.
  2. Never light a fire inside a tent unless the tent has been specifically designed for fire. Most tents are not designed for this purpose.
  3. Do not camp alone - use the buddy system. Frequently check your buddy for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
  4. Allow plenty of time to set up camp before it gets dark, especially if you plan to build a shelter from snow.
  5. Check current conditions and know the weather forecast before setting out.
  6. Always let someone outside your group know your itinerary - where you will go, what route you will take, and when you expect to return. Get a permit when camping in the back country and register with the ranger.
  7. Wear a brightly colored outer layer so that you can be easily seen by other members of your party. This is essential if a snow storm blows in.
  8. Do not overestimate the capabilities of your group.
  9. Do not underestimate the dangers of winter conditions.
  10. Use common sense at all times.

9. Explain the proper steps to take if stranded without equipment in winter conditions.


It is best to not become stranded without equipment in the first place. Never venture into the wilderness unless you are prepared for winter conditions.

The most important action a person can take if stranded in winter conditions - with equipment or without - is to get to a shelter or build one. Most wilderness fatalities are a result of exposure to the elements - in other words, hypothermia. If you are on skis, you may be able to ski to safety, but allow at least an hour before darkness falls to begin looking for shelter.

If you are in a vehicle, stay with it. It makes an excellent shelter. If the vehicle gets buried in snow, do not run the engine, as this can force deadly carbon monoxide inside. It is better to shut off then engine and keep the doors and windows closed than to go outside and dig the car out. If the car gets buried in snow, it will add a layer of insulation and keep the inside warmer.

If in a snowy area without a vehicle, dig a snow cave. If in a forested area with a little snow, find a fallen tree and scoop the snow away from it, building a snow wall with the removed snow, and using the fallen tree as another wall. Often, a large fallen tree will raise a rootwad which provides an excellent starting point for building a shelter. First, the rootwad can be as high as 2.5 meters  tall, and second, it will create a depression in the ground from whence it lifted its roots.

If in an area with no snow build a debris hut by piling up tree branches leaving a hollow space in the center of the pile. Cover the branches with leaf litter, dead grass, sod, and moss to keep the wind out and to provide insulation. Make your shelter as small as you can comfortably fit inside. This will create a smaller space to keep warm with your body heat. Lay branches on the ground to provide a layer of insulation underneath you. If available, use small pine branches over the larger ones to create a softer cushion, or a layer of leaves. The more you can put between you and the heat robbing ground the better.

If you can find a cave, take shelter inside that.

If you are able to light a fire without equipment do that as soon as your shelter is ready, but not before. Shelter is more important than fire, and it is imperative that you keep your priorities straight in a survival situation. A fire will greatly increase your odds of survival, as you will then have an external source of heat, and the fire will help attract a rescuer.

However you decide to provide yourself with shelter, stay put and wait for rescue. They will find you, and if you have conserved your energy and found (or built) a shelter, they will find you alive. You can help any rescuers find you by leaving some sort of indication of your presence near your chosen shelter, such as a bright article of clothing securely tied to a pole.

10. Show knowledge of and ability to prevent, recognize, and care for mild frostbite, hypothermia, mild snow blindness, and dehydration.




Frostbite occurs when ice crystals form in the skin or deeper tissues after exposure to a temperature of 32 °F (0 °C) or lower. Depending upon the temperature, altitude, and wind speed, the exposure time necessary to produce frostbite varies from a few minutes to several hours.

The areas most commonly affected are the face and extremities. The symptoms of frostbite are progressive. Victims generally incur this injury without being acutely aware of it. Initially, the affected skin reddens and there is an uncomfortable coldness. With continued heat loss, there is a numbness of the affected area due to reduced circulation. As ice crystals form, the frozen extremity appears white, yellow-white, or mottled blue-white, and is cold, hard, and insensitive to touch or pressure. Frostbite is classified as superficial or deep, depending on the extent of tissue involvement.

Superficial Frostbite

In superficial frostbite the surface of the skin will feel hard, but the underlying tissue will be soft, allowing it to move over bony ridges. This is evidence that only the skin and the region just below it are involved. General treatment for superficial frostbite is as follows:

  1. Take the victim indoors.
  2. Rewarm hands by placing them under the armpits, against the abdomen, or between the legs.
  3. Rewarm feet by placing them in the armpit or against the abdomen of the buddy.
  4. Gradually rewarm the affected area by warm water immersion, skin-to-skin contact, or hot water bottles.
  5. Never rub a frostbite area.

Deep Frostbite

In deep frostbite, the freezing reaches into the deep tissue layers. There are ice crystals in the entire thickness of the extremity. The skin will not move over bony ridges and will feel hard and solid. The objectives of treatment are to protect the frozen areas from further injury, to rapidly thaw the affected area, and to be prepared to respond to circulatory or respiratory difficulties.

  1. Carefully assess and treat any other injuries first. Constantly monitor the victim’s pulse and breathing since respiratory and heart problems can develop rapidly. Be prepared to administer CPR if necessary.
  2. Do not attempt to thaw the frostbitten area if there is a possibility of refreezing. It is better to leave the part frozen until the victim arrives at a medical treatment facility equipped for long-term care. Refreezing of a thawed extremity causes severe and disabling damage.
  3. Treat all victims with injuries to the feet or legs as litter patients. When this is not possible, the victim may walk on the frozen limb, since it has been proven that walking will not lessen the chances of successful treatment as long as the limb has not thawed out.
  4. When adequate protection from further cold exposure is available, prepare the victim for rewarming by removing all constricting clothing such as gloves, boots, and socks. Boots and clothing frozen on the body should be thawed by warm-water immersion before removal.
  5. Rapidly rewarm frozen areas by immersion in water at 100 °F to 105 °F (38 °C to 41 °C). Keep the water warm by adding fresh hot water, but do not pour the water directly on the injured area. Ensure that the frozen area is completely surrounded by water; do not let it rest on the side or bottom of the tub.
  6. After rewarming has been completed, pat the area dry with a soft towel. Later it will swell, sting, and burn. Blisters may develop. These should be protected from breaking. Avoid pressure, rubbing, or constriction of the injured area. Keep the skin dry with sterile dressings and place cotton between the toes and fingers to prevent their sticking together.
  7. Protect the tissue from additional injury and keep it as clean as possible (use sterile dressings and linen).
  8. Try to improve the general morale and comfort of the victim by giving hot, stimulating fluids such as tea or coffee. Do not allow the victim to smoke or use alcoholic beverages while being treated.
  9. Transfer to a medical treatment facility as soon as possible. During transportation, slightly elevate the frostbitten area and keep the victim and the injured area warm. Do not allow the injured area to be exposed to the cold.



Hypothermia is caused by continued exposure to low or rapidly falling temperatures, cold moisture, snow, or ice. Those exposed to low temperatures for extended periods may suffer ill effects, even if they are well protected by clothing, because cold affects the body systems slowly, almost without notice. As the body cools, there are several stages of progressive discomfort and disability. The first symptom is shivering, which is an attempt to generate heat by repeated contractions of surface muscles. This is followed by a feeling of listlessness, indifference, and drowsiness. Unconsciousness can follow quickly. Shock becomes evident as the victim’s eyes assume a glassy stare, respiration becomes slow and shallow, and the pulse is weak or absent. As the body temperature drops even lower, peripheral circulation decreases and the extremities become susceptible to freezing. Finally, death results as the core temperature of the body approaches 80 °F (27 °C). The steps for treatment of hypothermia are as follows:

  1. Carefully observe respiratory effort and heart beat; CPR may be required while the warming process is underway.
  2. Rewarm the victim as soon as possible. It may be necessary to treat other injuries before the victim can be moved to a warmer place. Severe bleeding must be controlled and fractures splinted over clothing before the victim is moved.
  3. Replace wet or frozen clothing and remove anything that constricts the victim’s arms, legs, or fingers, interfering with circulation.
  4. If the victim is inside a warm place and is conscious, the most effective method of warming is immersion in a tub of warm (100° to 105 °F or 38° to 41 °C) water. The water should be warm to the elbow - never hot. Observe closely for signs of respiratory failure and cardiac arrest (rewarming shock). Rewarming shock can be minimized by warming the body trunk before the limbs to prevent vasodilation in the extremities with subsequent shock due to blood volume shifts.
  5. If a tub is not available, apply external heat to both sides of the victim. Natural body heat (skin to skin) from two rescuers is the best method. This is called “buddy warming.” If this is not practical, use hot water bottles or an electric rewarming blanket. Do not place the blanket or bottles next to bare skin, however, and be careful to monitor the temperature of the artificial heat source, since the victim is very susceptible to burn injury. Because the victim is unable to generate adequate body heat, placement under a blanket or in a sleeping bag is not sufficient treatment.
  6. If the victim is conscious, give warm liquids to drink. Never give alcoholic beverages or allow the victim to smoke.
  7. Dry the victim thoroughly if water is used for rewarming.
  8. As soon as possible, transfer the victim to a definitive care facility. Be alert for the signs of respiratory and cardiac arrest during transfer, and keep the victim warm.

Snow Blindness


Exposure to reflected sunlight from snow, ice, or water, even on grey overcast days, can result in sunburn of the tissues comprising the surface of the eye, as well as the retina, producing snow blindness.

Symptoms may not be apparent until up to 12 hours after exposure. The eyes initially feel irritated and dry; then, as time passes, eyes feel as though they are full of sand. Blinking and moving the eyes may be extremely painful. The eyelids are usually red, swollen, and difficult to open.
Remedial Action
A mild case will heal spontaneously in a few days, but you can obtain some relief by applying cold compresses and a lightproof bandage. An ophthalmic ointment can be applied hourly to relieve pain and lessen the inflammatory reaction.
Do not rub your eyes.



Dehydration is the depletion of water from the body. It can be prevented by drinking plenty of water, especially during periods of physical exertion. One to five percent dehydration will make you lose your appetite, become sleepy and nauseated, and begin to vomit. As dehydration goes up to 10 percent, dizziness results. You will have headaches, difficulty in breathing, tingling of the legs and arms caused by poor circulation, indistinct speech, and, finally, an inability to walk. Still, 10 percent dehydration generally causes no permanent ill effects. When dehydration exceeds 10 percent, you will become delirious, spastic, almost deaf, and barely able to see. The skin shrivels and becomes numb. At temperatures above 90 °F, dehydration over 15 percent is generally fatal. At 85° and less, the body can stand up to 25 percent dehydration. Dehydration is quickly cured by water—in fact, only water can cure it. When you are dehydrated, you don’t have to worry about how much water you drink or how quickly you drink it, or if the water is warm or cool. Cold water, though, will upset the stomach.

11. Spend a total of six days and nights in cold weather camping.


We assume that this can be over many camping trips. Does not have to be 6 straight nights

a. All nights should have temperature lows in the 40's (5° C).


We assume that this means the temperature should be below 49 °F, which is 9.4 °C. Below 40 °F (4.4 °C) is also acceptable.

Bring a thermometer with you on all your camp outs. If the temperature drops below 50 °F, you can count that. If you wake up in the morning and find frost on the grass or on your tent, that counts too.

b. Two nights should have temperature lows below freezing (0° C).


Again, you should bring a thermometer on all your campouts. If you wake up in the morning and find frost on the tent or on the grass, that counts as a below freezing night.

c. All nights should be spent in tents, tarps, or the open.


We assume that an igloo, snow cave, or quinzhee would also qualify. This portion of the requirement is there so that the winter camper does not try to count a night in a cabin, recreational vehicle, or pop-up camper as a winter camping night.