This story appeared in the November-December 2018 issue of Scouting magazine.
“Jack Frost nipping at your nose” might be a great song lyric, but it’s not how everyone would choose to spend a winter weekend. Fortunately, most Cub Scout leaders are willing to brave the cold — and the occasional complaining — to take their Cub Scouts to the woods this winter. Once there, they’ll find the rewards are worth the effort.
Jeff Krinsky is the activity coordinator for Pack 552 in Woodinville, Wash. He oversees a range of winter outings, including a weekend at Camp Sheppard in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. There, Krinsky’s Cub Scouts participate in Chief Seattle Council’s Cub Scout Winter Camp, which draws roughly 2,000 campers across its 12-week run. At the event, participants get to enjoy snowy pursuits like tubing, snowshoeing and nature hikes before heading inside for crafts and hot cocoa.
A Shelter From the Storm
And then there are the heated cabins, which Krinsky, an Eagle Scout, initially thought were wimpy.
“That thought lasted about a second,” he says. “Then I realized I’m taking my 6-year-old on an overnight weekend, and if it’s 33 degrees and raining the whole weekend, he’s never going to want to go back.”
Camp director Dale Wills says heated cabins are just one way that Cub Scouts can keep Jack Frost at bay.
“There are always fires going everywhere so you can stay warm,” he says. “In the Scout skills area, there is always a cooking demo so they can have something hot in their belly.”
And then there’s the heated craft lodge, which was just what Elliott Cotter of Pack 955 in Des Moines, Wash., needed when he started getting cold during his first trip to Winter Camp. His dad, Travis, now a Webelos leader, says Elliott ended up completing half a dozen different crafts and was named Craft King at the evening campfire.
“I will never forget the smile on his face and how happy he was to be able to tell everyone he did it on his own,” Cotter says. “That moment hooked us into Winter Camp forever.”
What hooked Benjamin Talbott of Pack 584 in Bothell, Wash., was the tubing. He’d never tried it before, and he befriended another Scout who helped him get over his fear.
“We didn’t make it to the archery or BB range, because the two of them spent most of their time tubing together,” says Benjamin’s mom, Michelle. “This camping trip allowed my son to make a new friend, discover something new and exciting, challenge his fears and fall in love with an activity just in one afternoon. This is why I love Scouting.”
Keys to Success
If you’re ready to brave the elements with your Cub Scout boys and girls, here are some keys to success from these Winter Camp veterans:
Clothing: Be sure everyone packs plenty of warm clothing. “It’s always easier to shed the clothes than to try and make them out of the plants around you,” Cotter says. Extra socks are especially important. “One of the biggest problems we’ve had is where a Scout walks through a puddle and gets their feet wet,” Krinsky says. “That’s not too bad when it’s 85 out, but when it’s 25 out, that’s not so much fun.”
Activities: While it can vary by region, you should use cabins or limit activities to daytime in cold-weather situations. Wills and Talbott suggest having plenty of rainy-day (and snowy-day) activities available, such as board games and crafts. “There will be periods where the Cub Scouts will need to stay indoors, so being prepared with activities (games, stories, books) and snacks for the kids will definitely help with cabin fever,” Talbott says.
Food: Cub Scouts need something warm during the winter, whether that’s hot chocolate or beef stew. Krinsky recommends supplementing the camp’s menu with your own supplies. “It’s really a good idea to have a backup plan [in case] you get there and, for whatever reason, your kids don’t like that meal.” His pack members keep coffee and hot chocolate in their cabin to keep Cub Scouts and adults happy.
Attitude: Adults set the tone. While it will occasionally be 33 and rainy, Krinsky remembers one Winter Camp when a rainy Saturday gave way to a winter wonderland of snow come Sunday. “The kids got to go tubing and had a great time,” he says. “If you don’t like the weather, it’s probably going to change.”
To Stay Warm, Think C-O-L-D
Clean: Keep your insulating layers clean and fluffy. Dirt, grime and sweat can reduce the warmth of a garment.
Overheating: Adjust your layers of clothing to match the temperature, and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Loose Layers: Wear several loosely fitting layers of clothing and footgear to get maximum insulation without impeding your circulation.
Dry: Sweaty, damp clothing can cause your body to cool quickly. Avoid clothes that absorb moisture, and keep clothing around your neck loose to let body heat and moisture escape.
Be COVID-19 Aware
Photographs by W. Garth Dowling.