How cold is too cold for Cub Scout winter camping?

A photo of a parent and two children walking along a trail in the snow
Photo by Stanislaw Patel / Getty Images

Various parts of the country have experienced extreme weather this winter season, and we’re only halfway done.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac winter forecast for 2023-24 predicts that the average coldest and snowiest period of winter will happen early next month.

All of which begs the question: How cold is too cold for Cub Scout winter camping?

My friends in the BSA’s Outdoor Programs and Properties division were nice enough to provide an answer for me:

There is no national policy for Cub Scout winter camping temperatures. Instead, this is a local council-based discussion and decision.

So how should you determine what’s right for your pack?

What counts as Cub Scout winter camping?

A kid raised in Florida may feel differently about camping in 30-degree weather than a kid from North Dakota.

In Florida, 50 degrees is not unusual at all for a winter campout. In North Dakota, 30 might feel kind of warm.

Talk with the families in your pack about what’s comfortable for them, and talk to your local council’s risk management committee about what you need to know about camping in the winter in your area. (Click here to find your local council.)

As always, use the SAFE Checklist — supervision, assessment, fitness and skill, and equipment and environment.

A photo of Cub Scouts on a hike in cold weather
Winter camping means different things in different parts of the country. BSA file photo by Scott Markewitz

Think about “assessment”

Let’s look closer at the assessment part and how it could apply to Cub Scout winter camping:

  • Assess, “Will our Cub Scouts and their families be able to have a fun and safe camping experience?” Cub Scout camping is designed to create excitement and build enthusiasm for experiencing camping and other outdoor adventures. If it is too cold to meet this goal, adjust the activity.
  • Determine whether the unit has sufficient training, resources and experience to host a successful camping experience. If not, modify the activity accordingly. For example, if it is too cold to camp overnight, perhaps the event can be revised to be a day-only activity balancing indoor and outdoor time.

Think about “equipment and environment”

And now the equipment and environment section:

  • Does the location still meet the assessment considerations for this time of year? For example, are the restrooms, water source and other facilities still available?
  • Will your Cub Scouts and their families Be Prepared for a safe camping experience with appropriate cold weather camping gear and equipment?
  • Be Prepared to adjust the activity plans if the conditions change.

What resources does the BSA offer for information on Cub Scout winter camping?

There’s a Winter Activity BSA Safety Moment that covers some basics of staying safe and comfortable in the cold, including what to wear and how to stay dry.

There’s also a Winter Sports Safety Moment if you’re thinking about sledding or other activities in the snow.

There’s a section of the Guide to Safe Scouting dedicated to winter activities, including a list of special considerations that could apply to all outings — but especially apply to winter outings.

At least one registered adult who oversees the planning and is in attendance for the campout must be trained in Basic Adult Leader Outdoor Orientation (BALOO).

Click here for more information on Cub Scout camping, regardless of the season.

And, as with all Cub Scout camping, the location must be approved by your local council.

About Aaron Derr 449 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.