I recently had the opportunity to take a group of teens and young adults into the park for some outdoor bush craft activities. Our team was contracted by an organization and was responsible for facilitating group activities including starting a fire, setting up a tent and hanging your food pack. Novice skills.

When our participants started to roll in to our meet up spot, out team immediately noticed that majority of them were underdressed. The forecast was a couple degrees more than freezing, but one by one, participants stumbled into our group thinking they were ready for the day. Not one arrived with a pair of gloves, or a hat. Maybe two came with a jacket. All were wearing runners.

Our team had checked the forecast and we expected a few light showers and the temperature to balance around 10 degrees mid-day. But it does not always go as planned.

When we arrived at our destination, we stumbled upon the majestic and harsh scene of snow. Snow everywhere. How are these kids going to make it through the day?

As an instructor it is imperative to watch your clients for signs of distress that might dampen their experience and learning outcomes. One of the most common and avoidable signs at this time of year is cold. So what can you do when clients come unprepared? There are a few tips and tricks to keeping your clients warm when you can anticipate packing an extra 15 jackets for the day.

First Does a Fire Really Help?

When we are cold outdoors it doesn’t take long before we fantasize about standing next to a fire. But can a fire make you warm? In short, the answer is no. A fire provides temporary comfort for your extremities. It may warm up figures and toes but that will immediately dissipate the second you step away from the fire. Heat needs to be create from the inside your body.

Move Round

The quickest way to produce heat that will feed to your figure and toes is to move. Your core will push blood to your extremities, warming your entire body. Sprints, jumping jacks, and pumping your arms up and done is a sure way to warm up.


Layers are important for when you sweat. When you sweat your clothes gain moisture that can trap cold next to your body. Wearing an under layer is the best way to keep moisture in one garment, so the rest of your clothes act as insulation. When you start to sweat, remove a layer and let your body acclimatize. You will be happy to put on an extra layer when your body starts to cool down. Remember to share this information with your group.


Eating food is a great way to warm up. The digestion process causes your core to produce heat. If clients are starting to shiver or complain of being too cold, take a snake break.

Bathroom Break

This the least known method to staying warm. The body uses energy reserves to heat up your bladder and is preventing warming other areas of the body like your extremities. Eliminating fluids is a quick way to get your body to focus its energy on keeping you warm.

Exposure to unpredictable environments and experiencing discomfort and cold is a reality of working in the outdoor industry. The question is, when you are heading out and find yourself underprepared in the blow of winter, how do you keep warm and your spirit up? Some of the tips provide some comfort against the elements.

Winter camping a favorite of outdoor activities and I have tried all tips. They work. Give it a try!

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