Staying warm in cold weather is dependent on careful planning and decision making, appropriate flexible clothing
layers, and the knowledge of how to use them effectively in changing conditions. Clothing selected should be for
comfort and not appearance. Clothing systems for cold weather camping must incorporate the three principles of
insulation, layering, and ventilation.

Three types of cold

1. Wet Cold- 14°F to 50°F -The most dangerous, great temperature differences between warmest and
the coldest time of day. Thawing during the day and hard freeze at night. Also, need to deal with the
wetness. Snow is not a prerequisite.

2. Dry Cold- 14°F to -20°F - Although dry it may seem colder, due to strong winds. More insulating
layers may be needed and the use of windproof and water repellent outer clothing.

3. Artic-like Cold- Below -20°F - Requires the most insulation, camping in these temperatures require
a great deal of experience.

Factors affecting heat loss or heat retention

· Physical activity increases heat production, lack of physical activity reduces heat production
· Thermal insulation of clothing is proportional to the thickness of the dead air space enclosed
· Layering is key to providing flexible dead air space and comfort
(warmth and freedom of movement)

Insulating Materials

1. Wool - Natural Fiber
· Advantages ? depending on texture and thickness of the fabric 60-80% of wool cloth can be air.
Wool can absorb a fair amount of moisture without feeling damp and still retain dead air space. It
releases moisture slowly with minimal chilling effect. It can be tightly woven, therefore wind
resistant. Relatively inexpensive.
· Disadvantages ? wool can absorb a lot of water, as much as one third of the garment weight
making it very heavy. Can be itchy and uncomfortable for some people including allergic reactions.

2. Cotton - Natural Fiber
· Advantages ? wicks water
· Disadvantages ? absorbs moisture, loses dead air space, difficult to dry, useless in cold weather

3. Fleece or Pile Fabrics - Synthetic Fiber
· Advantages - similar insulative capacity as wool. Absorbs less water and dries quicker.
Manufactured in different amounts of loft and insulation allows for flexible layering possibilities.
· Disadvantages - poor wind resistance.

4. Polypropylene and Hydrophobic fabrics - Synthetic Fiber
· Advantages - plastic fiber that offers dead air space and cannot absorb water. Wicks water vapor
effectively away from body
(source), which will then evaporate.

5. Polarguard™, Hollofil™, Quallofil™ ...Synthetic Fibers
· Advantages ? does not absorb water and dries quickly. Polarguard? is produced in large sheets,
Hollofil? is similar but hollow to increase dead air space, Quallofil? furthers the concept by creating
four holes running through the fiber.
· Disadvantages ? bulky and heavy.

6. Primaloft™, Microloft™, Thinsulate™... "Super thin" Synthetic Fibers
· Advantages - Thinsulate™ twice as warm as down, Primaloft™ and Microloft™ have similar
warmth to weight ratios as down, they all retain, relatively, their insulating properties even when wet.
· Disadvantages - Thinsulate™ is 40% heavier than down, all relatively expensive.

7. Down - Natural Fiber
· Advantages - very efficient insulator, lightweight, very compressible.
· Disadvantages - absorbs water and when wet lose insulating properties, some people are allergic to
down, compressibility requires good insulation under sleeping bag
(foam pad), good construction a
(baffles to prevent shifting), relatively expensive.

8. Radiant Barriers - aluminum
· Principal of radiation used in "Space Blankets", in some bivy sacks and sleeping bags.

9. Vapor Barrier Systems
· How It Works - when worn near (not directly on skin) body it keeps the water vapor near the skin.
Humidity level rises to the point where the body will sense this and shut off insensible perspiration.
This prevents evaporative heat loss and slows
· Advantages - impervious to water, may require fewer layers.
· Disadvantages - does not work for everyone, effective for some people in some conditions,
generally more effective if you do not sweat a lot or in situations of rest such as sleeping, may be
uncomfortable if you cannot adjust to moist clammy feeling. Not a sure thing, you must experiment
to see if vapor barriers will work for you.

Clothing and The Body

1. Body Protection, Upper and Lower - use layers of comfortable and proper fitting clothing
· Outer Layer ? must be of windproof and water repellent fabric, ideally it is able to be ventilated
(zippers), applies to pants and jackets
· Middle Layers - layers of medium weight clothing
(again zippers and buttons facilitate the
ventilation process)
, the number of layers is dependent on each person's comfort
· Inner Layers - long underwear made of wicking type material

2. Head - can account for up to 70% of heat loss
· Hats are essential, remember adage "when your feet are cold, put on your hat"
· Balaclavas are effective and versatile
· Facemasks may be required in high winds
(protects face from frostbite)
· Earmuffs can be effective in combination with hat or scarf in colder weather

3. Neck - heat from the body escapes if this area is not protected
· Use scarf to protect neck and throat
· Long scarves are particularly versatile, as emergency head gear

4. Hands - cold hands can be very frustrating
· Use wristlets to keep whole hand warm
· Mittens are warmer than gloves
· Layering of mittens and/or gloves can be very effective
· The need for dexterity in various functions make gloves necessary

5. Feet - essential to keep warm and dry (see Chilblains and Trench Foot)
· Change - socks to keep feet dry (foot powder with aluminum hydroxide may help)
· Socks - use the layering system; thin inner polypropylene sock for wicking followed by 1 pair (2 prs.
if they fit in boot)
of wool or wool blend socks. Key is that they are comfortable and not tight around
the feet, the boots must be comfortable and not tight with the sock system you choose. A vapor
barrier may work for you
(try a storage bag over the sock).
· Boots - must match the climate and terrain of your trip, in winter boots need to be one size larger to
accommodate the sock system and still be comfortable
(loose enough to wiggle toes easily). Insulated
and removable insoles are also desired since they can be taken out and dried faster. Insulated boots
made of rubber or leather and rubber with an inner layer of wool felt work well. Using leather boots
(providing that they can accommodate the sock system) with a rubber, insulated over boot also works
well. Regardless of choice they must be cared for properly to maximize performance. More than one
set of footwear is required on winter camping trips.
· Mukluks - work well in dry cold winter settings, they are not waterproof
· Gaiters - keep snow out of boots and off pant legs
· Booties - large insulated sock, keep feet warm when not traveling or in bed
· Over boots - to complete boot system, or to wear over insulated booties in camp

The Key to Warm Clothing

 Keep Clothing Clean
O          Avoid Overheating
L          Wear Layers
D          Stay Dry
Archery, Indoor Range
Winter Camping
Bird Identification
Planning Your Winter Trip
Camping Trip Checklist
Your Body and the Cold
Fire Building Checklist
Personal Equipment
Sleeping Systems
Map Symbols
Orienteering Club Links
Orienteering Event
Camp Sanitation
Orienteering Training Outline
Safe Hiking
Tree Identification
Aquehonga Tree Trail
Snow Blindness
Back To Skills and Training Aids
Trench Foot

Boy Scout Handbook Copyright 1998 by the Boy Scouts of America
Field Book Copyright 1967, 1984 by the Boy Scouts of America
Okpik: Cold-Weather Camping Copyright 1990 by the Boy Scouts of America
OA Guide to Winter Camping Copyright 1995 Rick Curtis, Outdoor Action Program, Princeton University