"Be Prepared" for Winter Safety
Don't Get Left Out in the C.O.L.D.
(Irving, TX, November 2003) Most people think of fall and winter as a
time to sit by the fireplace, watch football, stay indoors, and relax. However,
there are tens of thousands of Scouts and other people who enjoy the outdoors by
camping, skiing, participating in winter sports, and traveling during the
cold-weather months. The Boy Scouts of America would like to remind these
individuals that safety doesn't take a holiday.
The most common errors people make during cold-weather activities include not
eating the right kinds of foods, not drinking enough water, not having adequate
clothing, and being unaware of the signs of frostnip and frostbite.
"One of the best ways to remember what is appropriate to eat when you are
spending extended periods of time outside in cold weather is to use good
nutrition to 'build the fire within,'" says Dave Bates, experienced outdoorsman
and head of the Boy Scouts of America's Camping Service. "Make sure your food
consumption includes sugars, which act like a fire starter, carbohydrates and
proteins, which act as kindling, and fats that produce the energy needed to keep
the fire burning and your body running at peak performance," says Bates. "Stay
away from caffeinated drinks such as soda, coffee, and tea; drink plenty of
plain water or sports drinks to keep yourself properly hydrated," says Bates.
To avoid these and other similar safety hazards this season, the BSA is
sharing its tried-and-true winter safety tips. These commonsense tips can help
winter campers, skiers, outdoor enthusiasts, and families who make highway travel
plans to "be prepared" for winter hazards.
"'Being prepared' isn't just for Scouts—proper planning is the critical
first step for any outdoor outing or excursion," says Bates. "Before embarking
on your next cold-weather outing, don't forget to pack a positive attitude, pace
yourself, and warm up to these easy-to-remember, but often overlooked, safety
TOP OUTDOOR SAFETY TIPS FOR THE C-O-L-D
Keeping warm is the most important part of cold-weather camping and
outdoor activities. Use the C-O-L-D method to stay warm.
- - C - Clean
- Since insulation is only effective when heat is trapped by
dead air spaces, keep your insulating layers clean and fluffy.
Dirt, grime, and perspiration can mat down those air spaces
and reduce the warmth of a garment.
- - O - Overheating
- Avoid overheating by adjusting the layers of your clothing
to meet the outside temperature and the exertions of your
activities. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, and
refrain from drinking caffeinated drinks that act as
- - L - Loose Layers
- A steady flow of warm blood is essential to keep all parts
of your body heated. Wear several loosely fitting layers of
clothing and footgear that will allow maximum insulation
without impeding your circulation. Having clothing that is
bright colored (orange or red) is also a good idea, so
hunters and sportsmen can see you in snowy conditions.
Always have a hat and wear it.
- - D - Dry
- Sweaty, damp clothing and skin can cause your body to cool
quickly, possibly leading to frostnip and hypothermia. Keep
dry by avoiding clothes that absorb moisture. Always brush
away snow on your clothes before you enter a heated area.
Keep clothing around your neck loosened so that body heat
and moisture can escape instead of soaking through your
- Prepare for icy temperatures
- Select bright thermal clothing that can be layered as the
weather changes. When hands and feet begin to chill, it's
time to put on a hat. Hats help trap body heat by preventing
it from escaping through your head. Wear suitable shoes for
walking on frozen ground or ice, and don't forget other
essentials like mittens, gloves, and scarves/neck
- Find supplies for campfires
- Prior to sundown, find tinder and wood necessary for starting
and maintaining a campfire.
- Know the area
- Thoroughly research the area where you are planning to go, or
go with someone who knows the area and may have camped there
before. Be mindful of potential avalanche areas or unstable
- Travel with a buddy
- Groups of four to 10 are an even better idea. Should a problem
arise, such as injury or hypothermia, someone can stay with
the injured person(s) while others seek help.
- Watch for frostnip and hypothermia
- Keep an eye on friends and fellow campers. If the areas around
the eyes and lips, or the lips themselves, begin to turn grayish
white, the person may be experiencing frostnip. Signs of
confusion, inaction, and shivering are all progressive signs
of hypothermia (overexposure to winter elements). If you get
cold, huddle up or sit by the fire. Action and movement will
also stimulate blood flow and distribute warmth throughout
The Scouting program includes an active, year-round set of activities for
boys and young men ages 7 through 20, and young women 14 to 20, and is available
through more than 300 local councils. For more information about Scouting,
particularly winter camping and outdoor programs, visit
EDITOR'S NOTE: Dave Bates, Eagle Scout and current director of camping
and conservation for the Boy Scouts of America's national organization, is
available for media interviews. He is also a board member for Leave No Trace,
Inc. and a member of American Camping Association and the Association for Challenge
Course Technology. He has given leadership to over 200 search-and-rescue missions.
He has climbed most of the major mountains in the 48 contiguous states and has run
in the Pikes Peak Marathon on six different occasions.