Winter camping

Winter camp, circa 1969. The gear was, as usual, inadequate. Wool coats and mittens. Cotton pants, flannel shirts, 40 degree sleeping bags and an extra wool blanket. No one owned anything synthetic or waterproof.

The patrols were using Baker tents, something that looked like half of a Wall tent with one straight side that had a flap to cover. No floor, no pads, lots of places for wind to get in. This is a side view of the exact design. Heavy green cotton canvas, treated with something to make it waterproof. It snowed about 10 inches after we set up camp Friday night and we woke up to dig out our tents and fire pits. The snow continued into the morning, off and on, and the wind pushed it into drifts in the open areas. We huddled around patrol campfires, cooked breakfast and boiled water for hot chocolate.

There was a large central fire ring in the area we were camping, and after morning cleanup the older Scouts were tasked to clear it. The Eagle Scouts and the adults found a large dead tree and spent the morning cutting and splitting. When they were done, we had a large pile of ready firewood and we put it to use.

The patrols moved in to the central area, working off of the larger shared fire. It became possible to dry your socks. It even became possible to ignite and burn your socks if you didn’t keep an eye on them. The Baker tents were moved and set so they ringed the fire about 10 or 12 feet back, the large flap open and flipped back.

The heat reflected into the tents, and we worked on advancements, tended the fire, washed our dishes, and spent as much time as possible inside that ring of warmth. As evening came on, we cooked dinner by patrols, sharing and helping each other more than usual across the Troop.

By evening, camp was a pretty cozy place. The snow had stopped and the sky had cleared. The winter stars were bright. We had a long campfire, singing songs, and hearing stories told. At Taps, the Scouts retreated into the tents, flaps open. The adults sat by the fire, talking and smoking.

Sometime during the night, as the fire died down, we closed the flaps. Deep in the sleeping bags, wrapped in wool, the cold was kept at bay.

Sunday morning was clear and even colder. Getting out of the sleeping bag and getting dressed was the toughest part of the day. The fire was rekindled and the morning spent much like the day before. Just before lunch time, there was the sound of a truck working it’s way up the camp road. A dump truck with a plow cleared a path to the parking area. All our gear was loaded into the truck, and then we hiked out to the paved road. We piled into the heated cars, wet and dripping, and drove back to town.

It was a challenging campout. I don’t remember what we had planned, only how it turned out. When I got home, my dad said, “I thought for sure you guys were coming back yesterday because of the weather.” It didn’t occur to me for years that we really didn’t have any good way to get out of there on Saturday. We just used what we had and worked as a Troop.

I threw away my burnt socks.

But the place which you have selected for your camp, though never so rough and grim, begins at once to have its attractions, and becomes a very centre of civilization to you.
–Henry David Thoreau


3 thoughts on “Winter camping

  1. That is a great retelling of a tale; One that I can relate to, albeit almost 20 years after yours, and one that wish my own boys to experience. I intend to experience it with them.

    Thank you for reminding me to remember.

    Eagle Scout – 1993

  2. Great story.

    My first campout — Weblos Scout out with the Troop I was going to join– was a Winter Camporee in Montana.

    Think we got 2 or 4 inches of snow the first night and 6 or more the second.

    I didn't think it could be possible to be that cold and not know it for much of the day — we were having that much fun.

    Thanks for the memories and another Scouting story. Glad I left that first comment

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