Tips from Taz: 10 Ways to Embrace Winter Camping

Outdoor Program Specialist and Camp Director

Megan “Taz” Hardy, GSCM Outdoor Program Specialist

Have you thought about taking your Girl Scouts on a winter camping trip? While camping in the wintertime might seem like a daunting task–especially with younger girls–it can actually be an awesome experience that will have your girls excited about camping and the outdoors all year round!

During the winter there are no bugs or crowds–and who doesn’t LOVE playing in the snow? With a little preparation, you might be surprised by just how comfortable it can be! Here are a few tips to get you and your Girl Scouts outdoors for a winter wonderland adventure:

  1. Stay close to home by camping at one of our Girl Scout Camps! 

All of our facilities are open in the winter for both day and weekend camping opportunities. While Camp Ilchester is only available for day use, our other three properties have heated buildings that will be warmed up and ready for you when you arrive. Each camp offers a wealth of indoor and outdoor opportunities for your girls in this frosty season. Plus, our online reservation system makes it easier than ever to book a site last minute!

  1. Dress for success!

One of the keys to staying warm in the winter is layers, layers and more layers. To stay dry and warm, choose clothing layers that wick moisture, dry quickly, and insulate. 3 basic layers are:

  • The base layer is the basics: underwear, shirt, socks and pants. Avoid cotton. Instead, wear synthetics or wools that wick moisture and sweat away from your skin.
  • The middle layer is the insulating layer: This layer is designed to keep you warm indoors and out: sweaters, sweatpants, fleece, microfleece shirts or mid-weight jackets. Again, look for synthetics, and be sure to add and remove layers as you go from indoors to outdoors.
  • The outer layer, or shell is most important. If you are planning to play out in the snow make sure this layer is both waterproof and breathable.

More resources about layering basics are available online from R.I.E. experts and Scouting Magazine. There are also many fun and exciting activities, you can do to teach your girls about dressing for the weather.

  1. Accessorize!

A girl is never fully dressed without a good accessory. This is especially true for your winter adventure. When heading out, make sure you remember these key accessories:

  • Hats: You lose a significant percentage of your body heat through the top of your head. Wearing a hat on your head can actually keep your toes warm.
  • Gloves: A must for snowballs and snow forts! Gloves save your skin and fingers from frostbite and keep you toasty warm. Be sure to bring gloves that are designed for winter use especially for snow play activities.
  • Socks: Extra socks should be at the top of your winter camping packing list. Wear a thin, snug layer next to your skin and a second layer over it (avoid cotton). Why extras? If your socks get wet, you’ll have a pair to change, if your hands are cold, you have a second pair of mittens for your fingers too!
  1. Involve the girls.

Girls learn by doing and they love to help and plan–let them take the lead. Have them plan the meals and activities before you head out to camp. Then once at camp, have them help set up the site: sweep the floor, prep meals, hostess the tables, and clean up. Even shoveling snow outside or stomping out a snow trail to the fire circle can be a fun game for the girls. You might be surprised just how excited the girls will be to chip in and run the camping trip.

  1. Meals made easy.

With all of winter fun you’ll be having at camp, you do not want to spend extra time on meals. Try making a simple one-pot meal by tossing everything in a crock-pot or Dutch oven, and having a great stew or soup for lunch or dinner to warm your bellies. Even better, bring liners for the pot and there will one less dish to wash! If you have not tried it before, try making Hobo Stew for dinner with garlic bread and salad as a side. You can also find several recipes online or in your Let’s Go Camping resource from camp training.

Hobo Stew: (serves 12)

3 lbs ground beef

1 cup chopped onion

1 clove garlic (garlic powder ok)

2 med jars of Spaghetti Sauce

1 lb elbow macaroni

1 can sliced white potatoes (do not drain)

3-4 cans mixed veggies (do not drain)

Heat large skillet over medium high heat. Add ground beef, onion and garlic. Cook until browned, making sure to crumble the beef as it cooks. Place ground beef mixture into a slow cooker. Add sauce, macaroni, and the potatoes and veggies with their liquid. Stew is ready when the macaroni is cooked.

Garlic bread – spread butter on sandwich bread, sprinkle with garlic powder. Stack bread slices and wrap in foil. Set near fire to heat.

  1. Make snack time tasty with S’mores!

Need I say more? Who can resist the ooey-gooey, sticky goodness of a fresh made s’more? Build a fire in an appropriate place and roast marshmallows with you girls. Have fun keeping warm by singing songs around the campfire or telling funny stories. Warm your bellies with tasty winter-camping drinks such as hot liquid Jell-O and of course, hot chocolate.

  1. Get girls outdoors!

It can be easy to be stuck in an indoor slump, especially when it is cold, but there are so many fun and exciting things to do outdoors. Help girls burn off some energy and play outdoors by trying some great winter outdoor games or activities. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Snowball targets– instead of snowball fight, set up some targets to see who has the best aim! Try making snowman targets out of cutout cardboard, covered in trash bags and decorated with sharpies.
  • Hula-Hoop competition– girl will go crazy try to keep the hula-hoops up on their hips and watching the girls try to hula-hoop in all their winter gear should provide great entertainment for all of the adults!
  • Icicle scavenger hunt– freeze colored water in ice cube trays, or clear water bottle and hide them throughout camp. It is like a winter treasure hunt for lost gemstones!
  • Footprint Tag– Play tag as you normally would, but only by stepping in each other’s footprints.
  1. Have a slumber party.

No really, have a slumber party! Since you are sleeping in a heated lodge, you can have all of the girls bring their favorite slumber bag to camp. A slumber bag is lighter weight then a sleeping bag, and often has cartoon characters or action figures on the outside. Generally, these bags are not for cold weather camping, but they ae perfect for a heated lodge sleepover. Especially with an extra fleece blanket and your favorite stuffed animal. Also, make sure the girls change all of their clothes before bed, even down to the socks, to make sure they do not wake up chilled in the middle of the night.

  1. Keep it safe, and keep it fun.

As always, keep activities safe and fun. Help the girls stay warm and dry throughout a winter camping trip by reminded them when to change their clothing or add and remove layers. Also, remind them to pack and to use, sunscreen, Chap Stick and a water bottle while at camp. Dehydration and sunburn are as important in the winter as they are in the summer.

  1. BE POSITIVE!

Most importantly, be happy, excited and totally into the trip and the girls will follow suit. If the girls have fun in the snow, fun in the lodge and fun outdoors, they’ll probably want to venture outdoors again, maybe spring camping, or possibly even tent camping. This trip could be the start a lifetime of great outdoor adventures.

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5 replies »

  1. Love winter camping took my C/S/A troop 3989 to Camp Whippoorwill Big House side A the first weekend in January and am heading to Camp Conowingo with my other troop for a C/S Journey Breath/Sow What weekend in later January!

  2. One mnemonic phrase that can help scouts remember how to be active or camp in the winter in comfort is “To stay warm, remember COLD.”

    C stay Clean (dirt allows moisture to stick to you/your clothes which will make you cold
    O Ovoid overheating
    L dress in Layers (that way you can stay warm when your in-active and remove Layers to avoid
    Overheating when you’re active
    D stay Dry ! Rolling in the snow and throwing snow balls with wool mittens is fine when you can go inside,
    throw your clothes in the dryer, drink hot chocolate, and sit by your fireplace,
    But wet pants, gloves, or jackets will be uncomfortable and possibly dangerous in the wintertime.

  3. What? In a house? You haven’t winter camped until you’ve done it in a tent. This was one of the many Operation Snowflakes we have attended. http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080227/PUB02/802270422&emailAFriend=1 It was 16 degrees with a 16 degree wind chill factor. Here are our patrols: http://www.wrenthamtimes.com/plainville/2013/02/courage-confidence-character.html
    Anyone is invited. There is an Operation Snowflake patch that will prepare everyone to pass the inspections that will ensure everyone’s safety.

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