Scouts Offer Winter Camping Tips

Brigadier-General David Patterson tries out an improvised shelter built by two Canadian Rangers
Brigadier-General David Patterson tries out an improvised shelter built by two Canadian Rangers

THUNDER BAY – OUTDOORS – Camping is a beloved Canadian pastime, but booking a popular campsite during the peak summer months can be challenging. For more and more families, a great alternative is enjoying camping during the “off” season, when the air is crisp and the woods are lined with pristine layers of white snow.

Add to the reasons that the low Canadian dollar makes planning for a tropical getaway out of reach for many families; winter camping is an affordable way to enjoy adventure outdoors, and time together with loved ones. There is a magical serenity that comes with disconnecting from technology and getting back to nature, no matter what season, but winter camping certainly has its unique benefits.

“There’s something so completely Canadian about camping in the winter,” says Caitlyn Piton, National Youth Commissioner and Chair of the National Youth Network at Scouts Canada. “From identifying animal prints in the snow to ice fishing, snowshoeing, tobogganing, and building a snowman – the activities you can enjoy in the winter are only limited by your imagination. The best thing is, there are no bugs or mosquitoes to swat away!”

Scouts are Canada’s youngest outdoor experts, and they experience winter camping at a young age to learn survival skills and how to work together to safely enjoy ‘The Great White North.’

From the novice camper to the seasoned adventurer, there are a variety of ways to enjoy winter camping for everyone:

Glamour camping or “glamping” is a global trend that offers the best of both worlds, allowing families to take in the serenity of nature while enjoying the luxuries of a home-away-from-home in a caravan, cabin or yurt. Consider bringing comforts from home to create your own glamping experience.

For families seeking the more rustic experience, there’s hot tent camping. This is achieved by connecting a small stove to an external pipe, so that the temperature in the tent remains cozy and warm – to be able to gather and sing camp songs or tell ghost stories. For safety reasons, extinguish the stove before bedtime.

For the adventurous family that loves the outdoors, consider the quinzee: a shelter made from snow. Building a quinzee is fairly simple but does take time to build safely by packing snow into a mound seven or eight feet high, and allowing the structure to settle, ideally overnight.

Winter Camping
“While winter camping can provide an incredible experience, safety is essential,” says Piton. “The best way to have an unforgettable winter adventure is to stay safe by following Scouts Canada’s motto of ‘being prepared’ for any scenario.”

Scouts Canada offers six survival tips to ensure your next winter camping experience is not only fun, but safe:

1. Check the weather forecast
While snow can provide a stunning backdrop and is a lot of fun, it can also be dangerous. Check the forecast ahead of time and avoid venturing out if there is a warning of heavy snowfall or an extreme cold alert. Weather can go from cool to dangerously cold very quickly, especially when the sun sets.

2. Be cotton-free!
Cotton easily soaks up and holds on to cold moisture, so wear wool or synthetic materials that have water-repelling qualities to stay warm and dry. Purchase a quality pair of boots, parka and snow pants.

3. Think like an onion
Onions have layers! Layering is important. Having the ability to get in and out of layers easily will help regulate body temperature and avoid sweating. Any exposed skin – not just the head – results in a loss of body heat.

4. Stay hydrated
Trekking through the snow can expend loads of energy and although you may not feel thirsty, it’s important to drink water. Avoid caffeine as it dehydrates and stick to de-caffeinated or herbal hot drinks to keep warm. Dehydration leads to greater risk of hypothermia.

5. Be aware of surroundings
Camping in the winter requires greater caution than in other seasons. Heavy snow and icicles can fall from branches above, and hazards may be hidden under the layers of snow on the ground. Be cautious near ice and running water.

6. Prepare for any scenario
Always bring along a daypack with emergency supplies when venturing out on any winter activity. Pack essentials like a first aid kit, dry layers, whistle, emergency blanket, snacks and water.

Scout Tip: store your water bottle upside down in the winter. Water freezes from the top; so when you are ready for a drink, the frozen water will be opposite to the spout.

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