Winter Scout Gear
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- This topic has 23 replies, 15 voices, and was last updated 3 years, 10 months ago by Kevin Sweere.
Oct 21, 2014 at 7:11 pm #1322010
My son bridged over to Boy Scouts last spring and I need to start building up his gear. I have read through a lot of the other threads and documents on scouting. However, the gear recommendations lean more towards 3-Season trips and not winter. I'm looking for recommendations for gear so that my son stays reasonably warm and has a good experience.
His troop camps throughout the winter mostly in southern Ohio / Indiana. I'm told there have been times when the temperature has dropped to the low teens with 4-6" of snow on the ground. However, if I had to guess, typical low temps will probably range between 20-35 degrees.
His troop is a bit old school. Their gear lists lean towards overkill and higher weight.
I have been told these kids are hiking out with 50+ lbs for a weekend trip. Also, my son isn't eligible for overnight backpacking trips until he has reached first class. However, I would like to start to teach him and the others of being more choiceful in their gear and the merits of a more minimalist approach even while camping. Additionally, he really wants to go backpacking, so we will probably start to go out on our own.
1) Footwear – His troop recommends against athletic shoes in favor of leather shoes and boots. Part of the rationale is that their feet will get wet from morning dew and then get cold. My preference would be for the trail runner route. While it is less of an issue if he is actively hiking, would he have problem with this if his shoes are wet and he is sitting around camp for an extended time? Or, should we go the more waterproof route? What do you recommend for socks/liners?
2) Sleeping system – I'm thinking about a 20 degree bag should be sufficient. They recommend synthetic due to its being a bit more forgiving if the kids don't give it as much care (highly likely). I'm willing to get a little bit better full size bag (lighter, more compressible) so that it will last him several years. I use a quilt, but I'm guessing a bag may be easier for a youth? Any recommendations for a decent bag (<$125)? Thoughts on ground insulation/pad?
Any other recommendations?Oct 21, 2014 at 8:52 pm #2143450Christian EdstromSpectator
@bjorn240Locale: Westchester County, NY
I'd go with down – my son is 6 years old and a Tiger Cub, but we're pretty frequently out in the winter, and he ends up using mom's Marmot Never Summer 3d F bag more than his own 20d REI synthetic bag. I'm not entirely sure exactly how he's supposed to abuse his bag, but he's careful with it, and doesn't seem to wear on it any more than we grown ups do.
In that vein, I'd recommend the Kelty Cosmic Down 20d down bag. Decent quality, perenially on sale for around $150.
If you think he should have a synthetic bag, I think it's hard to go wrong with the NF Cat's Meow 20d bag. I have one that I've owned for 20 years – it's not very light, it doesn't pack down very small, and it doesn't have quite the loft that it had in 1994, but it still keeps me plenty warm at 35d. All for something like $120. That's ok with me.
For sleeping pads, I'd go with a Thermarest Ridgerest and a blue CCF pad from Walmart, doubled up. Keeps me comfortable in the winter. He'll need an R-value around 5-6 if he's sleeping on snow, FWIW.Oct 22, 2014 at 3:58 am #2143478Michael GunderloyBPL Member
Our Troop is in the same neck of the woods (SE Indiana) and camp year round as well. A lot of our boys wear tennis shoes of one sort or another in the winter and do fine. For that matter they tend to wear shorts till it gets down to about 30 degrees. I conclude they come with an extra furnace inside at that age.
The North Face Cats Meow bag is a popular choice for our guys – a bit more than you're hoping to spend though. 20 degree bag should be sufficient, along with some training about how to stay warm inside it in really cold weather. Nalgene hot water bottle is easy to pull off for most Boy Scout camping.
Good luck with the minimalist approach. If you find a way to sell it to your Troop let us know what worked.Oct 23, 2014 at 8:35 am #2143784
Thanks for the sleeping bag suggestions. I'll keep a lookout for the Cosmic Down. I grabbed a Walmart Everest as a short term backup. Hopefully I can find some winter close outs on the Cosmic or something else so I can return the WM bag (big & heavy (~4.5 lbs). Worse case, he can use it for a few years until he starts backpacking or swap it to another scout.
We picked up a base layer at Walmart ($9), some poly glove liners at Costco ($10) and some Kirkland merino wool socks ($11 for 4 pack) in medium that fit his feet. Any thought on winter shoes?
In terms of shifting the paradigm, I'm going to chaperone the backpackers this weekend, so it will be good to get a first hand perspective. Hopefully the Scouts and the other parents will start to see the benefits of light backpacking when I bring out my ~11 lbs base weight pack!Oct 23, 2014 at 8:43 am #2143788Stuart .BPL Member
Brad – Which WM bag do you have that weighs in at ~4.5lb? From their spec sheet the only two that are in that range are the long Bristlecone MF (-10F) and the monster Bison GWS (-40F). Both would be overkill IMO. And definitely waaay more than the $125 budget you mentioned.Oct 23, 2014 at 8:53 am #2143791
Definitely not the Western Mountaineering :). It's the cheap Walmart bag that has been mentioned in a couple of other threads. It is the Ozark Trails Everest bag. It was $30. Specs say it is 4.5 lbs and good down to 10 degrees I believe. The bag is huge (packed & open). http://www.walmart.com/ip/Ozark-Trails-Everest-Mummy-Sleeping-Bag/19887499Oct 23, 2014 at 8:56 am #2143793Link .BPL Member
Stuart, WM is the WalMart bag he bought at 4.5 lbs not a Western Mountaineering bag.Oct 23, 2014 at 9:08 am #2143797Stuart .BPL Member
LOL! I was going to say, if you have a Western Mountaineering bag weighing that much, the materials on their own would cost far more than $125. Shows where my brain is, when I read 'WM' and 'sleeping bag' in the same sentence – it never occurred to me you might be talking about Sam Walton's empire.Oct 31, 2014 at 9:11 am #2145828Bob ShaverBPL Member
Footwear: I would steer him toward boots vs running shoes. Cold feet can ruin an experience, and wet = cold. To save money, make the boots ones he can hike in in summer, My son insisted on wearing Keen sandals on backpacks, but switched to boots at college in a rainy climate.
Sleeping bag: kids do have more furnace capability than adults. A really nice bag is the Big Agnes BootJack 24. its rated at 24, but I slept in it at 17 degrees, with a wool hat, long johns and wool socks. It has waterproofing treated down, weighs less than 3 lbs. Its a bit over your budget at $185, but he is growing fast and will be in college in no time. If the bag can survive his youth, it might last another 10 or 15 years.Oct 31, 2014 at 5:57 pm #2145994Jeff GrayMember
In Cincinnati as well. We have the boys carry grocery or bread bags on cold, wet hikes to put between dry socks and wet shoes. They dont weigh much and do a good job as a vapor layer barrier. It's always worth showing how to go lighter. Make sure you get them hiking around red river gorge. hit miguel's pizza afterwards.Oct 31, 2014 at 9:32 pm #2146039
I wanted to write a reccomendation, but honestly, I have little good to say about most scout backpacking.
Other than that for kids who have no parent inclined to take them, its a good thing.
From the time my son was 11, we did awesome trips together. Anything our scout troop did paled by comparison. YMMV.
It would have been quite foolish to listen to our troops advice on nearly anything to do with gear. It was oriented toward scouting trips. Cheap, heavy. Slow.Nov 1, 2014 at 4:26 pm #2146199Christian EdstromSpectator
@bjorn240Locale: Westchester County, NY
If what the troop does pales in comparison, then isn't it incumbent on you to help steer them in the right direction?
I'm a tiger cub den leader and yes, a lot of the parents are outdoor-averse, but you have to push them little by little. Get them a good, cheap gear list. Get them cabin camping. Get them tent camping. Get them tarp camping. Get them out there in the shoulder seasons. Get them on a 2 mile backpack, then a 5 mile backpack.
Sure, I can take my 6-year old to the Bob Marshall and he's happy to sleep under a tarp and eat out of an oven bag. But there's value in doing local smaller things with his peers too. And if his enthusiasm and the enthusiasms of a couple more boys continue, we'll be SULing in the Pemi as soon as they transition to Boy Scouting.
If not you, who?Nov 1, 2014 at 7:11 pm #2146225
It is comparitively easy to plan and execute trips with only you and your son. If you know what you are doing. Trips that suit your desires.
It is no small task to to try to do it for a group of varying gear, vacation time, other obligations, fitness, maturity, responsibility, and finances. You have to cater to the weakest links as well.Nov 3, 2014 at 4:45 pm #2146687Rick AdamsBPL Member
Scout backpack trips can be very frustrating to organize and lead. This weekend we are taking 21 scouts and 4 leaders on a 2 night 3 day trip. We will have to un-invite 5 scouts if we can't get some other drivers to go, that sucks. The difficulty getting enough adult support and dealing with parents and gear is tough. I have a hard time with a parents unwillingness to by a sleeping bag light enough for their son to carry while driving up in a Land Rover. I don't expect them to buy top shelf gear, but I also don't expect them to send the boy with a batman sleeping bag either. Our boy scout trips are physically less demanding than what we did when my son was 8. I think many scouts are in the program because their parents believe being an eagle scout will help them later in like. Most go to summer camp and Camporee and that is all. We are signed up for a Philmont 2015 trek and have doubts about the wisdom of that decision. The "Philmont way" appears to be dumbed down to the point of being ridicules.
I think scouting is supposed to be fun for the adults as well as the boys. If MB is tired of pounding his head against the wall he should stop. Our re-charter deadline is tonight, I might stop too.Nov 3, 2014 at 7:38 pm #2146731
Hey, your troop sounds like one I know well. I'm done with it anyway. I wish it could have been better. But its the adults that drive the direction. If all you have is car camping adults, concerned with spending minimum time and money on activity, then thats all you will get. I too was like"these people live in a $300,000 house, drive nice cars, kid goes to private school, but yet they can't buy their kid a tent or a sleeping bag that doesn't come from wal-mart?
Philmont is what it is. Packaged pseudo-adventure, marketed to never-evers. On a crowded ranch, teeming with people and vehicles.
It is however, the perfect place for the kind of scouter and scout that makes up the majority of most troops today. For most their one and only foray into the realm of backpacking. It mirrors the general population of the US quite well.Nov 4, 2014 at 6:16 am #2146798Michael GunderloyBPL Member
Don't underestimate the difficulty of changing the entrenched culture of a Boy Scout troop, especially when you're new to it and the guys (youth and adult) running it have been around 5 years or more – and THEY learned from guys who were there 5 years before them.
At least our troop does backpack rather than exclusively car camp – but to most of the troop, "backpacking" is synonymous with "50 pounds or more on your back at Philmont." There's one other adult and a few boys sympathetic to going lighter, but most of the leaders consider me a dangerous lunatic and some work to actively undermine things I say about getting rid of excess weight.
Fortunately I have other opportunities to get out with my boys, and Scouting is good for other reasons. And perhaps I'm planting seeds that will flower in the future. But it does get frustrating at times.Nov 4, 2014 at 5:58 pm #2146949
Yep. Had a leader who had been on 2 treks question my sanity for choice of trailrunners for philmont. Told me I really needed boots. When he asked if I'd ever backpacked in them on rocky trail, I said "all mountains are rocky, and yes, more than 1000 miles." He left me alone after that.
Same leader said me and my sons packs were too small, I pulled out a Zpacks blast foodbag that contained 5 days food for 1 person, actual philmont meals. He still said it was about one days worth of philfood. I just said OK.Jan 8, 2016 at 11:30 pm #3374711Monique SchaefersBPL Member
If not you, then who?
Our Scoutmaster is not interested in snow/winter camping. We have ONE adult who is and has. I am willing to learn. MY NEEDS winter camping match those of the scouts as I do not have the funds to outfit myself let alone my three scouts with the top of the line, top price gear.
MYOG is an awesome way to go! Teach your scouts how to sew (slow and steady) and get the awesome gear they deserve for MUCH less!Mar 12, 2016 at 7:36 pm #3388686Bruce TolleyBPL Member
@btolleyLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
For one and two night outings out here in the West it is possible to adapt 3 season gear for winter camping. But the Troop should not go out untrained. Perhaps the high adventure training at your district includes winter camping or check out the youth program at your local Mountaineers. Here in the SF Bay Area some local councils have pretty active snow camping programs while other smaller councils have reached out to the Snow Camping Section of the SF Bay Area Chapter of the Sierra Club.Jul 6, 2016 at 7:49 pm #3412773DAN-Y/FANCEE FEESTBPL Member
A good alcohol stove for base camps. Melting snow ;-)Jan 14, 2017 at 8:55 am #3445070Tommy MBPL Member
I love the Land Rover observation. My pet peeve is 10 and 11 year old scouts who show up with a $700 Iphone and their gear in a trash bag. The first time was on the adults because we didn’t insist upon a gear shakedown, but the second time the Scout had brought his completely packed bag to the previous meeting and unpacked it in front of us and repacked it with assistance. He was supposed to take it home and leave it alone for 3 days… Apparently, he misplaced his expensive Iphone and decided it was in the backpack (despite the fact the bag had been packed three days and he had used the phone that morning!) So, of course, he dumped the gear on his bed, didn’t find the Iphone and then threw about half the gear in a trash bag and ran for the car on the way to Scouts. Instead of half of his gear, he had a $20 bill which he planned to use on sweets.
Back on topic, however, I think the best we can do is find other adults who are committed to backpacking with Scouts and design the outings around the # of adults available, rather than the kids willing to try backpacking.
When it comes to guiding toward ultralight, just lead by example. On a November trip, I got up early in the AM and made myself a cup of coffee on a little triad alcohol burner. I brought packets of instant cocoa and one at a time the boys learned to light the stove and make themselves some cocoa. They were all fascinated. Even the titanium version of that stove is typically about $30 on Amazon so I reminded them to add one to their Christmas list.
Similarly, when an adult leader who normally demands the troop camp as close as possible to the road while hauling an entire extra SUV full of unnecessary gear was going to arrive a day late… the first two of us had the early arriving, and adventurous, boys pick the campsite. The campsite was only 200 yards from the closest parking spot, but it was over a stream, around a bend, under a falling tree along a half-broken trail…. and lo and behold… in an absolutely breathtaking small clearing along the far side of a pond. When a couple of boy started to complain that they were tired of hauling stuff that far and asked for help, I pointed at a little pile and said “that’s four peoples gear, the entire troop food, the kitchen for the weekend, and the conservation supplies for you to earn your Paul Bunyan Award… what exactly are you boys hauling into the woods and wouldn’t you rather be chopping wood, fishing or cooking dinner?” Some of them got the point and one of them started unpacking bags and leaving mass amounts of stuff in the van. (And, of course, he never once had to go to the van to get anything he had unpacked).Jan 14, 2017 at 10:23 am #3445087Monique SchaefersBPL Member
January 2016 five of our boys and three adults (I was one) went out of a Snopark for a weekend. It was fun. It was cold. No one got wet despite the sleet which started to fall at 730PM on the last evening. Snowshoeing was a blast on the snowshoes they made. We all learned a lot!
My 12 year old son and I slept in a 3 season 2 person tent quite warmly. Two sleeping pads each meant we had a place to store clothing to dry out and not freeze. A couple of Nalgene bottles of hot water worked great as body warmers. Son was thrilled he could keep a little chocolate for a mid-night snack if he woke up (never did).
This year the adventurous boys in the troop are headed out a little earlier on the Friday and hope to get farther away from the Snowpark. Son and I will be hammock camping with the MYOG underquilts and winter tarps we (yes he really helped) made.
Lead by example and they will follow. We now have several young men hammock camping in the spring/summer/fall seasons. We now have a couple young men dehydrating their own meals. I have several Boy Scouts wanting to dual enroll in my Venture Crew because we do this adventure stuff all the time!
This year the project is making and using pulks. Inexpensive and so much easier to snowshoe camp with than a backpack on the back.
If not you, then who? Thank you BPL Scouters! You have been a treasure trove of information and questions I didn’t even know I should ask. :-) You have helped me tremendously so I can help the youth along too.Jan 20, 2017 at 3:10 am #3446174EJVCBPL Member
@ejvcLocale: Near the Klarälven river
Pulks — those must be cargo sleds, right? The Swedish word for sled is pulka, we use them all the time!
ElizabethJul 31, 2019 at 1:07 am #3604237Kevin SweereBPL Member
Make an Extreme Cold Sleeping Pad
R-10 Warmth Good for -30˚F or so $15 in materials 30 minutes to make Flat sleeping surface Waterproof Simple
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