MNWG Cadets
Main Content

Winter Survival Weekend

2024Winter Survival Weekend

The 2024 Winter Survival Weekend is TBA

Dates: TBA

Application link: TBD


Are you ready for a challenge?  Each winter, Minnesota Wing organizes a Winter Survival Weekend!  Temperatures regularly drop below zero, and cadets use skills they've learned to survive and thrive for a few nights outdoors.  Cadets build shelters, take turns on Fire duty, and perform mock search and rescue missions during the day, then sleep overnight in temperatures sometimes approaching -20 degrees! 

Winter Survival Weekend was created in 2003 with two goals:

  1. Teach members to live in extreme cold weather conditions while learning basic winter survival skills.

  2. Teach members to conduct search operations in winter weather conditions.

It is open to all personnel with at least a General Emergency Services (GES) Rating.  Those who have attended previously are welcome to apply to serve as team leaders or staff members.


Safety is always the number one concern at this and any CAP activity.  Contingency plans will be in place before the activity to ensure that personnel have somewhere to go if we are unable to get them warmed up in the field. 

Friday night, personnel arrive and hike into the woods in small teams as they arrive and prepare the campsite and their personnel shelters for the night.  This takes up most of the night. 

Saturday, after waking up and eating breakfast, shelters are critiqued and improved for the following night.   This takes a few hours in the morning.  Late morning and after lunch, personnel work on search training.  The exact agenda varies every year but generally includes various search training scenarios that extend into the afternoon and evening. 

Sunday after breakfast, personnel usually wake up, pack up their gear, clean up the campsite area and then hike out of the woods.

This schedule varies from year to year and may be modified as the weather dictates.

Upon successful completion of the activity, personnel will earn the Winter Survival activity patch pictured here. 

Winter Survival Weekend Patch


2024 Winter Survival Weekend Staff

Project Officer
Incident Commander
Safety Officer
Public Information Officer
Ground Branch Director
Logistics Section Chief
Communications Unit Leader
Mission Radio Operator
Planning Section Chief
Finance/Admin Section Chief
Mission Staff Assistant(s)

Staff applications for these positions are open between three months prior to activity start and two months prior to activity start.
To apply, email the project officer indicating your interest and any relevant qualifications.

This section will be updated as details are finalized.

Additional incident staff positions may be applied for; trainees are always welcome!  In interested, email the project officer with what position(s) you'd like to train on, no later than two weeks prior to the activity start.


Since Ground Team Members need to learn to be self-sufficient on real missions, participants will be largely responsible for themselves at this activity.  Members will be responsible for their own medications.  Please notify the staff of any medical conditions, but be prepared to administer your own medications. 

We recognize that not everyone can afford to buy military gear to support extreme cold winter operations.  Conservative civilian clothing (avoid bright colors if possible) is allowed to be used for this event including hats/gloves/mittens/snow pants/boots/etc.  Please comply with the uniform regulations whenever possible and practical, but do not let them hinder your ability to stay warm in the field.  Safety comes first!

Participants should plan to arrive between 1800 and 2100 hours local on Friday to the Northland Squadron HQ located on the Bemidji Airport.  From there, we will shuttle you out to the site.  We will be complete by 1200 on Sunday and will shuttle all personnel back from the site by that time.  Anyone expecting a ride should plan to be picked up by 1200 hours at the Northland Squadron HQ.

Driving directions to Northland Squadron HQ

Take Hwy 2 west of Bemidji. Turn toward the Bemidji Airport, onto Moberg Drive. Stay to the left and head toward a chain-link gate. Come up to it and push the number 4466 on the number pad to your left before the gate. Once the gate opens and you go through, take the small road to your left. Follow that straight to the end. The last hangar is Northland Composite Squadron. If you have a GPS, the address is 4503 Hangar Dr NW, Bemidji.

Participants need to bring their own food  that can be prepared in the field.  Campfires will be going 24 hours a day to ensure personnel have somewhere to cook and warm up at.  We usually have a pot of boiling water going to provide water for meals and drinking.

Driving costs reimbursement

A funded training mission number is available for CAP members to receive gas reimbursement for transportation to and from the activity.

Use of POV transportation to and from the Mission Base is covered in CAPR 77-1 as supplemented in paragraph 1-8b in the link below.

MN Wing Supplement 1 to CAPR 77-1 (PDF)

Step to step guidance to comply with this regulation and be reimbursed for travel requires:

  •  A letter from your Group, Squadron, or Flight Commander authorizing you to use your POV for transportation to from and/or on the mission.

  •  Upload that letter with your Registration/Cab Card and Insurance ID Card as a pdf or jpg file when entering you vehicle into WMIRS.

  •  Enter sorties into WMIRS for your travel to and from the Mission Base.

  •  Complete a CAPF73 for your vehicle for the trip.

  •  Refuel prior to departing and upon returning from the Mission Base.:

  •  Complete your debriefing entries in WMIRS.

  •  Upload a completed MNWGF10vez with your receipt for the fuel you put in upon return from the Mission and the CAPF73 into WMIRS.

All participants are to contact the Ground Branch Director when you depart with your departure time, number of personnel and approximate arrival time at the activity. 

Units with EF Johnson handheld radios are asked to bring them with.  Please also bring DF gear as well as litters (stretchers) if you have one.  Please ensure your unit number is clearly labeled on all CAP assets and check them in at sign-in.  We do not need more ISRs.  Please do not bring them as we will not be responsible for them. 

Tips and best practices

COTTON SOCKS ARE PROHIBITED and COTTON CLOTHING IS HIGHLY DISCOURAGEDDo not show up with cotton socks or other clothing.  It is a guaranteed way to get frostbite on your feet and to keep you from being warm at all during the weekend.  Wool or Synthetic blends are the best.  Anyone who shows up with Cotton socks will not be allowed into the field.  Most white athletic socks and cheaper long underwear are cotton.  Read the labels on your clothing to ensure you do not have cotton items. 

Here are some tips and best practices compiled over the years for living and working in extreme cold conditions.  Please review them before the activity to help ensure you have the right gear.  If you have any suggestions to add, please email the project officer above.

Survival priorities

Understand the law of 3s when it comes to survival:
You can last on average:

  • 3 minutes without air

  • 3 hours without shelter

  • 3 days without water

  • 3 weeks without food

These are not exact measurements. Your mileage will vary, but this will help you understand what is most important when it comes to survival. 

Living in the cold

The key to staying warm is staying dry! 

  • Staying dry involves several things:

    • Avoiding getting wet

    • Regulating body temperature.

    • Use powder!

  • Avoid water hazards. If at all possible, avoid any situations where things could get wet.

  • Regulate Body Temp. Try to keep yourself warm, but not hot. That means if you get too hot, lose a layer or two of clothing. If you get cold, add one or two. This is where the layering concept comes in. If you sweat, you get wet. Avoid sweating.

  • NO COTTON!!! Use wool or synthetics. Cotton absorbs and holds the moisture causing to you cool much faster. Synthetics and Wool wick the moisture away from your body. Read the labels for your clothing to ensure that you are not using cotton! White athletic socks are generally 100% cotton.

  • Powder anything that tends to get wet. Hands, feet, or other areas.

  • Wet clothing can be dried out by a fire or in your sleeping bag or by putting it under your jacket. 

Treating cold/wet weather injuries

“If your feet are cold, put on a hat”.

  • When your hands or feet are getting cold, it’s a sign your core body temperature is dropping.  Your body compensates for this by attempting to sacrifice the extremities to protect the core body (head and torso).

  • Warm the person

    • More clothing on all parts of the body, not just the parts that are cold

    • Hand/Toe/Body warmers

    • Keep them moving around if able. Have them do some light exercise

    • Get them close to the fire

    • Get close to your neighbor. Use other people’s body heat

    • Warm building (if available)

    • Sleeping bag(s) or blankets (including space blankets)

  • Dry their clothing

    • Setting things near a fire will dry them from the radiant heat of the fire

    • Do not get things so close that they burn

  • If we are unable to warm the person through those methods, we will get them out of the area to safety

Building a cold weather shelter

  • Avoid heavy roofs – possibility of midnight cave-in.

  • Dig a rectangular hole or build up walls of snow. 3 sides, the 4th is your entrance. Keep the entrance as small and low as possible and pointed away from the wind. The shelter should be just big enough and high enough to fit however many people will be sleeping in it.

    • Use a tarp or poncho for the roof. Angle it. This will allow moisture to flow off the inside of the roof as it accumulates.

    • Anchor the poncho or tarp with snow, rocks, sticks or anything available.

    • Use snow to level the bottom so that you’re sleeping on a flat surface.

    • Get yourself off the ground if at all possible. Sleeping pads, dry grass, pine bows are all great insulators and will help keep you warmer. The more of this stuff under you, the better.

      • One layer underneath you is as good as having two on top of you. 

Sleeping in the cold

  • Go to the bathroom just before you go to bed! It’s a pain to get up in the middle of the night and a lot of work and wasted energy.

  • Always sleep on top of a ground pad or natural insulation. The ground sucks the heat out of you.

  • Getting into bed:

    • Have as much clean, dry clothing on as possible. Dirty or wet clothing only makes you colder faster.

    • Remove boots. Leave them outside your bag, but inside your shelter so they do not get rained or snowed on. They will air dry, even in the cold. Pull liners and insoles out of boots to increase drying.

    • Crawl in. As you take off layers, stuff them inside your sleeping bag. Against the zipper, in the feet, etc. Works as extra insulation against cold.

      • Jackets work great wrapped around your feet to keep them warm.

      • Putting mittens over your feet also works.

  • Do not sleep with your head inside your bag. Moisture from your breath will cause you to get cold quickly.

    • Use drawstrings to close hood tightly around your head so the only thing exposed is your nose and mouth.

    • If your nose or mouth get cold, lay a scarf or cold weather mask lightly over your nose and mouth, but make sure that moisture escapes to the outside world and not into your sleeping bag.

    • If you get cold, stand up in your sleeping bag and run in place or do flutter kicks or some other kind of exercises to warm up.

    • If you do have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, do it! Holding it just causes your body to divert energy from other places to your bladder and you will be miserable all

    • night.

    • Open your sleeping bag for a min or so occasionally to let the moisture escape if you are feeling damp.

  • When getting out of bed in the morning, reverse the process.

    • Get dressed inside the bag as much as possible and then crawl out and put your boots and outer clothing on.

    • Make sure you check for small animals in your clothing and boots that are left outside your bag.

  • Leave your sleeping bag open during the day to let it air out. Make sure it does not get rained or snowed on.

Working in the cold

  • Movement will be slowed by 50-60% in snow.

  • Daylight hours are fewer

  • Everything takes about twice as long.

  • Add or remove layers to keep from getting too hot or cold. 

Winter gear tips/tricks

  • Lithium Batteries instead of Alkaline

    • More expensive, but lighter, last longer, and work to -40 F, alkaline batteries generally stop working at 0 F.

    • Don’t always work in all electronics though. Read the manual for your device.

  • A little bit of Gatorade in water helps lower the freezing point

  • Do not fill canteens completely full in case they do freeze.

  • Canteens can be stored upside down in a snowbank to keep them from freezing. Make sure you mark the spot.

  • Hand warmers will help keep canteens from freezing if put in the pouch with them

  • Camelbacks need to be kept under your jacket to keep from freezing.

  • Make sure everything in your pack has at least 2 uses to eliminate weight. 





© 2024 Civil Air Patrol. All rights reserved.