It was where we learned survival tactics in real time in below freezing conditions with nothing but the camping gear we brought with us. This particular year, we went to a place called Camp Banner Flag. That name is not important, except perhaps for those who were present. To this day, just to mention it will stop anyone who was there in their tracks and result in a cold stare (pun intended).
Words like brutal, insane, barbaric, slipped past our lips through chattering teeth from the moment we arrived. Our first night we had 15" of fresh snow, making our tents look like igloos. To make things worse, our "cook" planned cold meals that didn't require actual cooking over a fire--supposedly to save us time and effort. Miserable didn't begin to describe how we all felt after the first meal. Our scoutmaster was kind enough to invite us to his campsite to share his big pot of chicken noodle soup. Of all the campfire meals ever eaten, I assure you that was one we will never forget.
The difficulty of that trip taught us lessons we won't ever forget about cold weather survival, and personal limitations.
What we also learned was how dressing for cold weather is a necessary skill to learn--especially as a wilderness tactic.
Layering is an absolute necessity, both to create air pockets between the layers that stay warm, but also allow you to take off layers to avoid getting overheated and sweaty (a bad combination in sub-zero cold). Cotton might be preferable next to your body, but wool actually IS warmer, and great as a layering piece--and absolutely necessary in your socks. This is because wool fibers are naturally "crimped" which allows them to trap pockets of air within the yarns. Down in a jacket is similar in that sense--and proves that a coat doesn't need to be heavy to be warm and cozy.
Today's apparel selections with technology in new fabrications are vast, and it's a whole lot easier to conquer the elements today than it was for us back then. It's even easy to stay warm and fashionable at the same time, and many apparel lines have been built around that very thing. Here's to enjoying your time spent camping this Fall in the outdoors...hopefully not making any of the mistakes we made.