Answers to the cold-weather camping quiz

Take the interactive, online “Out in the Cold” quiz.


Check your answers to the “Out in the Cold” quiz, which appeared in the January-February 2013 issue of Scouting.

1. Temperatures may dip to zero at night. Which sleeping system is best?

a) an air mattress and a 35-degree sleeping bag
b) a closed cell foam pad and a 35-degree sleeping bag
c) a minus-20-degree bag; snow is soft, so there’s no need for a foam pad
d) a closed-cell foam pad and two 35-degree sleeping bags

Answer: D – Two nested sleeping bags work as well as one cold-weather bag. An air mattress provides no insulation. 

2. You don’t need a water bottle in winter. If you get thirsty, just eat snow.

a) true
b) false

Answer: False – Eating cold snow will drop your body temperature and cause you to burn more calories.

3. Given equal thermal efficiency, which sleeping-bag fill is best in below-freezing temperatures?

a) goose down
b) Polarguard Delta
c) Primaloft
d) all are good, if you keep them dry

Answer: D – Down absorbs moisture, so it’s not the best choice for winter.

4. You’re going on a five-mile hike on a cold (10-degree), clear day. What shouldn’t you wear?

a) fleece pullover and cotton-shell parka
b) snowmobile suit
c) acrylic sweater and nylon shell parka
d) polyester long underwear and wool sweater

Answer: B – Several thin layers are better than one. You can overheat quickly in a snowmobile suit. Cotton-shell parkas (outer wind layer) are more breathable than nylon.

5. Which of the following shouldn’t you wear when winter camping?

a) wool sweater
b) blue jeans
c) acrylic stocking cap
d) polyester long underwear

Answer: B – Wet blue jeans wick away heat from your body.

6. You are building a Quinzee hut. The wind is blowing from the north.  In which direction should the door face?

a) to the north
b) to the south
c) it doesn’t matter

Answer: A – Discourages blowing snow from sealing the entry. If you face the door into the wind, the snow will blow over the hut and pile up in back. But if you face the door away from the wind, the snow will blow over the hut and possibly seal the entry to the hut (in a big blizzard). Always face your hut into the wind and utilize a partial snow-block door or low wall at the entry to keep out the blowing wind and snow.

7. Which of these should you have inside your Quinzee (snow) hut at night?

a) trail stove
b) folding saw
c) candle
d) shovel

Answer: D – If the entrance is buried by blowing snow, you’ll have to dig out.

8. You have a jug filled with drinking water. Best to:

a) set it upside-down in the snow
b) set it right-side-up in the snow
c) cover it with a tarp
d) put it inside your tent

Answer: A – The buried end won’t freeze.

9.  Where should you place your plastic ground cloth when tenting in snow?

a) inside the tent
b) under the tent floor
c) you don’t need a ground cloth in winter.

Answer: B – Under the tent to keep the floor from freezing to the ground. In summer, place it inside the tent to contain flowing ground water.

10. Which trail stove is bad for winter camping? 

a) gasoline
b) butane
c) kerosene
d) propane

Answer: B – The thermal efficiency of butane decreases as the temperature drops. 

11. Which of the following would be most useful to those who are washing dishes?

a) leather gloves
b) rubber gloves
c) a sponge
d) a thin plastic food scraper

Answer: B – Wear warm gloves inside rubber gloves when you wash dishes. The plastic scraper may freeze and break.

12. You’re going on a five-day hike. Temperatures may vary from zero to freezing.  Which item is best left at home?

a) raingear
b) cotton hoodie
c) cotton-shell parka
d) all of the above

Answer: B – Bring rain gear if temperatures could reach freezing.

13. What should you do with your winter boots at night?

a) set them outside your tent
b) put them in a stuff sack then set the sack inside your sleeping bag or under the foot of your sleeping pad
c) change socks and wear the boots to bed

Answer: B – This will keep boots from freezing.

14. You’re camping in deep snow and cooking on a one-burner gasoline stove. Which of the following would be handy to have?

a) a short length of steel chain
b) 12-inch-square piece of light plywood
c) 12-inch-square of closed-cell foam
d) two aluminum poles

Answer: B – The wood square will keep the hot stove from sinking into the snow.

15. What should you do with your sleeping bag when you get up in the morning?

a) stuff it immediately so it won’t collect moisture
b) wait 20 minutes before stuffing it
c) hang it on a limb or cord (for 20 minutes) outside your tent
d) any of the above

AnswerD is correct, but C is also good — It’s best to air out your sleeping bag. On a sunny day, moisture will evaporate by sublimation.

16. Besides a cell phone, what’s the best signal gear to bring on a winter campout?

a) a whistle
b) an air horn
c) a hand-held, marine-orange smoke signal

Answer: C – Orange smoke is visible for miles. Flares can only be seen at night.  An air horn is useful only if rescuers are nearby.

17. What’s the best water bottle for winter use?

a) aluminum
b) polycarbonate
d) any of the above

Answer: B – Water freezes faster in metal than in plastic. Metal bottles can cause “ice burns” when touched to skin.


[Answers to the tree additional questions that did not appear in print. Want to read the questions? Take the interactive, online quiz.]

18. D – Warming the extremities too rapidly (big fire) can send cold blood to the heart and brain.

19. B – A fire built on the snow will soon sink out-of-sight; foam could melt with direct exposure to flame.

20. C – Batteries should be kept warm for maximum light.  Lithium batteries are best in winter.


Find more tips for staying cold during winter activities.

15 thoughts on “Answers to the cold-weather camping quiz

  1. Pingback: A quiz to test your knowledge of winter camping - Scouting magazine

  2. Good quiz, but a minor quibble with the explanation of Question 15: “Sublimation” is not the correct word unless you have ice on or in your sleeping bag.

    http://www.about.physics.com defintion:
    Sublimation is the term for when matter undergoes a phase transition directly from a solid to gaseous form, or vapor, without passing through the more common liquid phase between the two. It is a specific case of vaporization.
    The most well known example of a material that undergoes sublimation is dry ice, or frozen carbon dioxide.

    • Frozen water will also sublime from ice to vapor – so, if the moisture in your sleeping bag has frozen, it may sublime directly from ice to vapor under the right conditions. This is why ice cubes in your home freezer “shrink” – However, for all practical purposes, (see my other comments on this subject) it would have been better to say that the moisture will “wick” away.

  3. Took the test. Three times, best I could score is 75%
    Why? Because no matter what you mark on certain answers. In the final check they have magically changed.
    Its all right though, this is what I’ve come to expect from a BSA webpage. ha,ha,ha
    Good test though and good questions.

  4. I spent time with my son and his family over Christmas. I picked up off the coffee table the Scouting Magazine and was looking through the articles until I found the article out “Out in the Cold” on page 48 of the Jan-Feb 2013. I wanted to test my friends with the quiz at out annual New Years Day stained glass party. I hope they do better on the test then I did. Living in Colorado will give me opportunties to use this useful information.

  5. While I agree with your answer to Q9: Ground cloth should be placed under the tent floor, I have to disagree with your comments included in the answer key. You say in warm weather the ground cloth should be placed inside the tent to protect against flowing water. Your best defence against ground water entering your tent is a well maintained bathtub tent floor. If water gets through your tent’s floor barrier it will be very easy for it to flow over a 6 mil thick piece of plastic. It is my opinium to always place your ground cloth UNDER your tent to prevent ware and preserve the integrity of your tent’s bathtub floor. Of course you do need to remember the ground cloth should not extend beyond the tent’s floor to prevent water from pooling between the ground cloth and tent floor.

  6. I was always told to put plastic under the tent ( not to stick out beyond the sides of the tent) and inside the tent. It keeps the inside of your tent cleaner and protects you sleeping bag and clothes if the floor of the tent gets wet.

    • As the answer eluded to, in winter putting the plastic under the tent will keep the tent from freezing to the ground. You’re right about the plastic keeping your gear dry if it’s inside the tent. However, liquid (rain) in most cases, is the least of your worries in cold weather camping.

  7. Can’t see how “D: All of the above” can be the right answer for Question 15. “A” indicates stuff it immediately, “B” says wait 20 minutes before stuffing it. They can’t both be right!

    • Depending on the material your stuff bag is made from, the moisture from your sleeping bag can “wick” through – so, although not a good answer, “A” is still a viable solution, especially if you have to break camp quickly and don’t feel you can spare the time for the alternate answers. After all, if you want to be a technical nit-pickin perfectionist, put your sleeping bag in a commercial clothes dryer for twenty minutes before rolling it up. – - (From Vaudville Days, “We do asbestos we can!”)

  8. I was camping with the 6th ID in Fairbanks Ak we were in some of the most brutal terrain and weather you could ask for. The first thing we did from experience was use one sleeping bag, two makes for too much air which makes it harder to heat up and keep heated with your body temp. The water was always kept close to your body and melted snow in an emergency is a good water source, unless you find a better one. Do not eat the snow melt the snow it takes a lot of snow to make an 8 oz glass but in a pinch go for it. Always sleep with your boots in your sleeping bag. Experience tells me anywhere else is a recipe for frost bite. Good luck have fun. I only camp now when it is warm. I learned that one from Alaska it is harsh up there.

  9. Question 6: No correct answer was given as an option. The correct answer is, “Quartered away from the wind at about a 135 degree angle – so the entrance faces either South-East or South-West. Preferably with a baffle wall running due east-west. This way, the snow that piles up from the wind helps improve your shelter without blocknig the entrance. (That is, the new snow pile will accumulate north of your entrance, providing additonal protection from wind and blowing snow, rather than either blocking it or winding up uselessly on the south side of your shelter.)

    Question 10: Butane is the correct answer, but the explnation was feeble at best. At sub freezing (or near freezig) temperatures butane simply will NOT evaporate with enough pressure to leave the bottle – unless you waste a lot of energy shaking the container or holding it inside your clothing or using some other means to heat the fuel. On a not so long ago trip, butane was the only type of stove available (and fuel was hard to find, so I stocked up when I found a source – DUMB!). I had to warm the cylinder under my clothes for about a half an hour, then there was enough pressure to heat about 2 cups of water to a boil. After which the (disconnected) cylinder was wrapped in a towel soaked in the hot (and rapidly cooling) water and re-attached to the stove. There was then enough pressure to cook a light meal. That night, my companion and I slept with ALL the butane cylinders inside our sleeping bags, so we could rotate them between the stove and the sleeping bags (with us still in the sleeping bags) to cook breakfast. I am now stuck with about a dozen butane cylinders that are only useful when camping in the summer! BUMMER! (I finally found an old “White Gas” two burner stove – works fine on low octaine unleaded automotive fuel. But they are pricy if you can find them because everybody is switching to propane – a safer alternative, but a bit pricy and produces hazardous waste in the form of the “not so” empty bottles.)

  10. #8: Here, again, the best answer was not presented as an option. Whether a Quinzee hut, a line cabin, an Igloo, or a tent, store your drinking water inside what ever shelter you have – but, if the container allows, and you are expecting sub-freezing temperatures, store it up-side down and wrap it in dirty clothes, dry grasses, dry bark or what ever insulation you can come up with. When water freezes, ice floats to the top and will block any opening. If the container is stored upside down, and ice forms, you can turn the container right side up to access the unfrozen portion. Being inside your shelter will provide additional warmth to help prevent the water from freezing in the first place.

  11. #11: Rubber gloves? Are you NUTS?! Are you REALLY going to carry several pairs of rubber gloves into the back country?! (Again, no correct answer.) – It is not going to kill you to get your hands wet (and clean?) when you wash dishes. And odds are you will discard the rubber gloves along the trail or in some sad campground after you find it nearly impossible not to drop your nice clean dishes into the dirt when they slip from your rubbery-soapy, grasp. Plastic scraper? What? You can’t cook without baking the food onto your pot? If you cannot get the food out with a spoon or fork, a plastic scraper SURE won’t do the job! If absolutely necessary, use a sponge with a scrubber back – or steel wool if it is SO bad that you can’t use sand to clean your pot. I have always used wash rags, then – when they became available, paper towels (the kind that stand up to being used as wash rags) and then burned them (the paper towels) in the camp fire or carried them out when I left. For those who cannot be certain the remains of their campfire don’t harbor garbage to attract wild life (garbage is surprisingly resilient!), zip-lock plastic bags can serve very well to tote your grubby stuff out with you. (We didn’t have zip-lock bags when I was a scout master, but we made due with the cardboard boxes, with their wax paper liners, or the tin cans, that our food came in, or packed our garbage out inside our mess-kits. No, rubber gloves is NOT a good answer, and not even the BEST answer of those offered – IMHO (after a life-time of camping under all sorts of conditions) – is “C” – a sponge – preferably a synthetic sponge with a scrubber back.

    (Gabby Jim is 70+ years old and was a well trained Scout Master (Starting with the Arrowhead council, Ft Worth, TX and later serving in California, Utah, and Minnesota) for many years, taking after HIS father who was not only an accomplished Scout Master (awarded the Silver Beaver and Order of the Arrow—Distinguished Service Award), but a combat Marine and skilled out-doorsman as well. Gabby has repeatedly taken Scouts on challenging outings – some of which involved severe cold weather and extreme altitudes.)

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