Surviving the Deep Freeze

October 18, 2017 1 Comment

Surviving the Deep Freeze

When we were young scouts, each year we went on what was called a "Deep Freeze" overnight.

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).

How cold was it?

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 learned NOT to do (which is the purpose of a good lesson)


  1. A hot meal is your best friend on the inside when you're freezing cold on the outside. Proper planning for campfire recipes is critical to a great experience.
  2. A space blanket only works if you turn the shiny side in.
  3. Good campfire ghost stories really CAN give you a chill even when you're frozen solid.
  4. Rubber soles on boots can melt if your feet are too close to the fire.
  5. Getting up and moving on a scavenger hunt or even just collecting firewood is as good a way to get warm as any.
  6. When snow is covering the ground, a raccoon can and will find a way to come into your tent for open food packages.
  7. A heavy snow can put out a campfire just as easily as rain does.
  8. Frozen snowballs hurt far worse than big soft ones do.
  9. Toes really can turn blue.
  10. Don't jump right into a hot bath after a "frozen" experience...unless you like screaming like a Banshee.

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.

Kit Carson Half-Zip Fleece

1 Response


October 29, 2017

I remember that well! Even now, as I am driving on the Virginia side of the Potomac River, I can look out and see Sugarloaf Mountain in the distance in Maryland, which was right beside the park where we camped. We kids were so cold! When we got home all my brother and I wanted to do was take a bath to get warm. That was the last time I have taken a bath with my brother (pictured in the photo with the Kit Carson fleece…). That is, if you can believe that I actually got into a bath tub with that guy!

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