A Snowbank of Winter Activities and Tips

Winter camping and activities can be tough, no matter how well prepared you are. Temperatures can be intense. The piercing wind cuts through your face like tiny shards of glass. Not to mention the slippery roads combined with bleak, austere blizzards at times. It sure is a challenge sometimes! But don’t give me the cold shoulder, I’m here to help! Here are some activity ideas that will improve your Scouting skills, and make your winter camp one to remember.

Camp Prep

Being prepared is what scouts are known for. Always go the extra mile to make sure that your gear is waterproof. Also,  make sure to use equipment and warm clothing that is rated for sub-zero temperatures. You don’t want cold feet while you’re there, so pack extra non-cotton socks – as cotton absorbs water. Wool nylon works best. You will have a much better experience at camp if you are prepared beforehand with warm clothes that dry quickly.

Winter Hike

In any season, hiking is a phenomenal way to be immersed in nature that doesn’t require any equipment. Winter hiking is especially fun and somewhat magical when it is lightly snowing. You can observe different wildlife, and you can see animal tracks in the snow. You burn more calories when you are cold, so remember to bring an extra snack like trail mix. You should also dress in layers when exercising to be able to add or remove pieces of clothing as your body temperature varies, to avoid getting to0 wet and eventually cold (see more information below). Hiking is a great activity to do  after lunch at camp.

Shelter Building

It never hurts to be prepared in case of an emergency. Knowing how to make a survival shelter, especially in the winter, can be quite beneficial. Maybe you could have everyone break off into patrols, and make it a competition. The goal is to make the warmest shelter in a set time limit. Knowing this skill can come pretty handy later on.

Cook Off

I would say that cooking is one of the most important camping skills. In the winter it is especially important that you rely on food to give you energy to withstand the cold. How can we practise cooking and make it fun? A cook off, of course! See who can cook up the tastiest winter meal to keep you warm on a chilly camp night. I’m sure that this one will become a tradition in your Troop!

Tobogganing

Tobogganing is a classic winter sport and is tons of fun! Depending on the hill, it could be a little risky. Make sure you come prepared with a helmet, and that your path is clear of all obstacles. If you bring your sled to a winter camp, you could use it to drag your gear across the snow as well. This is useful if you want to carry more gear at once, or to give your back a break.

Fire Building

The campfire is the heart of every camp. It is a method of cooking, and it helps build a sense of community amongst the participants. A campfire is a great source of light, especially on long winter’s nights. A fire is a great source of heat and would help dry wet clothing and assist in first aid if someone fell through the ice. Also, to stay hydrated, you must use the fire to boil water or melt snow (if there is no drinking water available). As fire is crucial in the winter, you should store your wood in a small shelter is possible so it will stay dry.

Snowshoeing 

If you want a good workout, or a great way to travel across deep snow, snowshoeing is for you! It’s a fun but challenging means of transportation that has been around for hundreds of years, and for a very good reason. Snowshoeing could be beneficial for carrying gear on your back, or for a recreational hike if the snow is very deep. Use the snowshoe prints to mark the trail in freshly fallen snow and find your way back to camp.

Bundle Up!

To survive Canadian winters, we must learn how to dress appropriately for the weather. When going out in winter weather, it is very important that we dress in layers. A base layer (non-cotton) sweater, coat, pants, and snow pants. Also include a hat, mitts, and a scarf or neck warmer. Here is a fun activity; your Group could learn to make  its own article of winter clothing, such as knitting a scarf or a neck warmer. A little added warmth goes a long way.

Winter First Aid 

There are high risks that come with the cold. One example is hypothermia, which occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can produce heat. It is extremely dangerous. Make sure your Group understands how to prevent and recognize it, and knows what to do in case of an emergency. Running some practice drills is a good idea.

Use the Snow

Playing in the snow is fun at any age. Building forts, snowballs and sculptures never gets old. But snow can actually be an advantage. You could make an emergency shelter out of snow to sleep in. Or use snow as a warm insulator, since it reflects light and heat. But make sure that everyone knows the safety rules around building a shelter before making any.

Hopefully these activity ideas broke the ice and will help your Group shine during the winter season. Knowing  basic winter camping skills and organizing fun and safe activities will make your camp or hike that much more enjoyable for everyone. The winter is the best season to chill in!

Photo credit: 23rd Geohunters Scout Group, @LuneofNorth, @teacherhann and Andrew Q.

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