BSA Winter Camping School

TOMAHAWK SCOUT RESERVATION'S SNOW BASE

For several years, I've taught at Northern Star Council's Winter Camping School at Tomahawk Scout Reservation in Birch Lake, WI. As you might expect, the Boy Scouts of America Northern Star Council, which includes the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro and sounding areas, has a very strong Winter camping program.

Camp Tomahawk Winter Camping School

Each year, hundreds of youth experience Winter camping through the formal council Winter camping programs at Tomahawk Scout Reservation's Snow Base and Camp Stearns North Wind program. This is, of course, in addition to any camping that individual troops or Scouts do on their own or the outstanding Okpik Winter camping program run by the national BSA at their Northern Tier High Adventure Base in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

Northern Star Council's Winter Camping School offers a lot of information and experiences packed into one weekend! While the program teaches universally applicable cold weather skills, it is specifically designed for anyone bringing troops through the Snow Base and North Wind programs. In previous years, we had participants from Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, and everyone's Winter camping experience was different. Some participants had no experience, while others had decades of experience camping in the cold. The course outline works for everyone though and is essentially a condensed, weekend version of the Okpik Cold Weather Leader School run by the national BSA at the Northern Tier High Adventure Base on the Canadian border.

The skills you’re teaching here saved my life. My truck had broken down in a blizzard on the plains outside of Minot, North Dakota. Without the engine running, the cab was quickly frosting up, and I was freezing. I dug a quinzhee in a snowbank next to my rig and was able to pass the night in relative comfort, while waiting for road crews to come through in the morning.
— Scoutmaster and Winter Camping School participant
A fraction of the gear used to outfit participants at Camp Tomahawk's Winter Camping School.

A fraction of the gear used to outfit participants at Camp Tomahawk's Winter Camping School.

Tomahawk Scout Reservation has a fantastic gear shed, and as long as Scouts show up with their own skivvies, the Snow Base staff are able to outfit each participant from head to toe, and also set them up with all crew gear needed for a Winter adventure in the northwoods of Wisconsin and Minnesota.

During my last Winter Camping School, I taught classes covering the prevention and treatment of cold weather injuries and first aid procedures. I also helped during field sessions, offering advice on general Winter skills. I reiterated the importance of diet, hydration, and clothing systems to prevent cold weather injuries, as well as how vital it is for group leaders to actively monitor and coach their participants to ensure they never get to the point of being a victim of hypothermia or frostbite. 

Winter Camping School participants at Camp Tomahawk.

Winter Camping School participants at Camp Tomahawk.

Winter Camping School 2016

Camp Tomahawk Winter Camping School

The 2016 Winter Camping School runs December 16-18. The forecast is predicting lows of -17F, so this will be the real deal! 

I'll be teaching courses on preventing and treating cold weather injuries again this year. If you have the weekend free and are a Scouter looking for new experiences, skills, and ideas, I highly recommend you get yourself to Snow Base for the Winter Camping School!