Scouts brave ‘Misery Campout’ in subzero weather for coveted clear bead

Every year around this time, Troop 707 watches the weather report for news of an impending snowfall or cold snap.

But unlike others in their hometown of Columbia, Mo., who see a foreboding forecast as a reminder to head to the nearest Hy-Vee for snow shovels and salt, Troop 707 does the unthinkable.

They schedule a campout. It’s called, appropriately, the Misery Campout.

Sometimes Troop 707 Scouts get only a few hours notice before heading outside for what they anticipate will be the coldest weekend of the year. That typically means a January trip, but the troop’s coldest Misery Campout on record was in February 2004. Temps dropped to minus-12 degrees that weekend. Brr!

Last weekend, the forecast looked bad enough (or good enough?) for the emails and Facebook messages to go out: It was time to camp.

The Columbia Missourian wrote a fun story about the troop’s latest Misery Campout, where the temperature dipped to minus-3 degrees.

When the mercury reached below zero, the Scouts cheered. Why were they so excited?

It’s all about the bead.

Great Rivers Council’s awesomely innovative bead program

Scouts in Great-Rivers-Council-beadsGreat Rivers Council, headquartered in Columbia, get specially colored beads every time they go camping.

They get a blue bead for a campout with good weather, black for a rainy campout and white for a campout with snow on the ground.

But the clear bead? That’s the one everybody wants.

Clear beads represent campouts where the temperature drops below zero. Clear, I assume, because not even colors can survive when it gets that cold.

None of the boys in Troop 707 had a clear bead, so when they saw below-zero temperatures in the forecast, the Scouts jumped at the chance to add a clear bead to their belt.

These camping beads aren’t an official part of the Scout uniform, but they’re officially awesome. And they’re a great way to encourage camping, no matter the weather.

What do the beads mean?

Here’s an overview:

  • Blue: Good weather
  • Black: Rain
  • White: Snow on the activity
  • Purple: Below freezing
  • Clear: Below zero
  • Red: Full week of summer camp
  • Yellow: Any district activity
  • Light blue: Any council activity, except summer camp (this would include conclaves)
  • Pink: Order of the Arrow ordeal weekend
  • Orange: National or regional event (except high adventure)
  • Green: Philmont
  • Brown: Any other high-adventure base
  • Green Marble: Council JLT

For a complete look, see this PDF.

Bravery rewarded

Does your troop, team or crew do anything to recognize Scouts and Venturers who brave subzero temps?

Tell me more in the comments.


Hat tip: Thanks to Chip Sandstedt and Hal Johnson for providing photos and info for the post and Senior District Executive Eric Stann for the blog post idea. 

About Bryan Wendell 2854 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.