A Dutch oven is a thick-walled cooking pot with a tight-fitting lid. Dutch ovens are usually made of seasoned cast iron; however, some Dutch ovens are instead made of cast aluminium, or ceramic. Some metal varieties are enameled rather than being seasoned (see next section).
Food sticks easily to a new bare metal pan; it must either be oiled before use, or seasoned. The coating known as seasoning is initially created by a process of layering a very thin coat of oil on the pan. Then, the oil is polymerized to the metal’s surface with high heat for a time. The base coat will darken with use. This process is known as “seasoning”; the color of the coating is commonly known as its “patina”.
To season a pan (e.g., to season a new pan, or to replace damaged seasoning on an old pan), the following is a typical process:
cleaning the cookware to remove residues from manufacturing or manufacturer-applied anti corrosion coating and expose the bare metal,
applying a thin layer of animal fat or cooking oil (ranging from vegetable oil to lard, including many common food-grade oils), and
heating the cookware to generate the seasoned coating.
If it is not pre-seasoned, a new cast iron skillet or dutch oven typically comes from the manufacturer with a protective coating of wax or shellac, otherwise it would rust. This needs to be removed before the item is used. An initial scouring with hot soapy water will usually remove the protective coating. Alternatively, for woks, it is common to burn off the coating over high heat (outside or under a vent hood) to expose the bare metal surface. For already-used pans that are to be re-seasoned, the cleaning process can be more complex, involving rust removal and deep cleaning (with strong soap or lye, or by burning in a campfire or self-cleaning oven) to remove existing seasoning and build-up. Once the pan has been heated, dried, and thinly layered with oil or fat, it is placed in an oven, grill, or other heating enclosure for the oil to be polymerized onto the metal’s surface. The process of polymerization is dependent on the oil, temperature of the enclosure, and the duration. The precise details of the seasoning process differ from one source to another, and there is much disagreement regarding the correct oil to use. There is also no clear consensus about the best temperature and duration. Lodge Manufacturing uses a proprietary soybean blend in their base coats as stated on their website. Others use lard, or animal fats. Some advocate the use of food-grade flaxseed oil (a drying oil). The temperature recommended for seasoning varies from high temperatures above 260 °C (500 °F) to temperatures below 150 °C (302 °F). Some say that a temperature around the smoke point of the oil or fat should be targeted since this will allow vaporization of the lighter hydrocarbons from the oil, leaving behind heavier molecules for optimal polymerization and carbonization to occur. And, there is also no consensus on the correct duration of heating: from half an hour to an hour is often recommended.
Storing your Dutch Oven
After use Dutch ovens are typically cleaned like other cast-iron cookware: with boiling water, and a soft brush or sponge. Where possible, a cleaned and freshly oiled Dutch oven should be stored in a clean, dry location with the lid ajar or off to promote air circulation and to avoid the smell and taste of rancid oil. If the Dutch oven must be stored with the lid on, a paper towel or piece of newspaper should be placed inside the oven to absorb any moisture.
Drum roll, please … find the winners of the Scouting magazine Dutch Oven Master Chef Contest below. Click on each winning recipe to see photos and find instructions on how to make these on your next campout.
Apparently, Byron’s Dutch Oven Cooking site (without a doubt the best resource for Dutch Oven cooking) has been removed from the internet. There are some pages archived in the Internet Way Back Machine here.
The entire site has been reconstituted into a PDF file, downloadable here.
Make sure that you have a good knowledge of the signs of
frostbite and hypothermia. You should be able to recognize it in others and in
yourself. Tell someone right away if you or another scout is showing signs of
Keep out of the wind if you can. A rain fly for a tent can
be pitched to serve as a wind break. The wind chill factor can often be
considerable and can result in effective temperatures being much lower than
Bring extra WATER. It’s easy to get dehydrated in the winter. You aren’t visibly sweating, so you don’t think to drink water, but since the air is so dry, you lose a LOT of water through breathing. Drink lots of water!
Polyester materials are intended to wick sweat away from the
skin (e.g., Under Armor T-Shirts). Sweat
wicking material is often disguised under other material names such as: nylon, polypropylene,
capilene, spandex, and lycra. If it is made with more than 40% cotton, it is
NOT a satisfactory wicking material.
The key to cold weather camping is to stay warm and dry.
Bring both light and heavy weight clothing in order to “layer” if the
weather is cold. Scouts should remove layers if they start to overheat and
sweat. For base layer (i.e., underwear, socks, t-shirt), bring at least one
change per full day of camping.
Everyone must be dry by sundown. No wet (sweaty) bodies or
wet inner clothing.
Dress in layers, the trapped air helps keep you warm, and
you can shed layers if you warm up.
STAY DRY!! If you get wet, make sure you change into dry
clothes as soon as possible. In order to do that, you must have more than 1
article of clothing with you. For example, 3 pairs of wool socks, 2 pairs of
NO COTTON clothing as your primary clothing. NO JEANS! (This is especially true in the snow or icy
Make sure you have snow pants, nylon wind pants, or wool
pants, and polypropylene or wool long underwear.
Dress right while sleeping. Change into clean, dry clothes
before bed. Your body makes moisture and your clothes hold it in – by changing
into dry clothes you will stay warmer and it will help keep the inside of your
sleeping bag dry. Wearing wool socks and long underwear (tops and bottoms) in
the sleeping bag is OK.
Put on tomorrow’s t- shirt and underwear at bedtime. That
way you won’t be starting with everything cold next to your skin in the
morning. Put tomorrow’s clothes in your
bag with you to take up space in the bag and to warm them for the morning.
Put a couple of long-lasting hand warmers into your boots
after you take them off. Your boots will dry out during the night.
Don’t sleep directly on the ground. Get a closed cell foam
pad to provide insulation between your sleeping bag and the ground. A foam pad
cushions and insulates. The air pockets are excellent in providing good
insulation properties. Use more than one insulating layer below you – it’s easy
to slide off the first one.
No cots! Better to lay on 30F earth instead of -10F air.
If in tents, leave the tent flaps/zippers vented a bit, it
cuts down on interior frost.
Drain your bladder before you go to bed. Having to go in the
middle of the night when it is 5 degrees out chills your entire body. Drink all
day but stop one hour before bed.
Bring extra food that doesn’t need to be heated or cooked.
Granola bars, trail mix, etc.
Keep a pot of hot water available for cocoa or Cup-a-Soup –
these warm from the inside.
Always eat hot meals (breakfast, lunch, & dinner.) Dutch
ovens are the best – they keep the food hot longer. It doesn’t need to be fancy
DO cooking. Meals should be 1-pot meals to keep cleanup to a minimum. Don’t get
too fancy with the meals – it’s hard to chop onions & carrots at -10F with
gloves on. Prep all meals at home in the warmth of the kitchen.
Shelter the cooking area from wind (walls of tarps, etc.)
Fill coffee/cook pots with water before bed. It’s hard to
pour frozen water, but easy to thaw it if it’s already in the pot.
Eat a high-energy snack before bed, then brush your teeth.
The extra fuel will help your body stay warm. Take a Snickers bar to bed and
eat it if you wake up chilly in the night.
Always bring a bit more than what you think you’ll need – water, food, clothes.
Winter Camping Games and Fun
Broom Hockey: play hockey on a lake or pond using brooms for hockey sticks and a tennis ball for a puck.
Water Machine Contest: a water machine is simply a old burlap bag or other porous material (tarp). Gather snow in the bag or on a tarp, gather the top or the corners and tie off the too. Then hang the bag or tarp with the snow in it near a fire. Put a pot or No. 10 can below to catch. Have Scouts start from scratch by gathering wood and building a tire as well as gathering snow. This promotes teamwork and gives everyone in the Patrol something to do. The first patrol to “make” a quart (or gallon) of water wins. The water machine is also an excellent technique for maintaining a continual water supply while winter camping.
Snow Golf: the same as miniature golf, except that the fairways are snow covered and the greens are packed down areas with a tin can buried in the snow for the hole. The golf balls are hockey pucks hit with old golf clubs.
Learn the Basics of Winter Photography:sponsor a winter photography contest by Patrols or individuals.
Exploring: no phase of Scoutcraft can better form motive for a long hike than exploring the Woods in Winter. Exploring (and mapping) a given tract of woodland will prove rich in all around Scout training. It will furnish instruction, recreation and exercise. It will involve not only technical practice in surveying and map-making but also cooking, camping and woodcraft in general. The instructive side will be interesting in itself and one may rest assured that the games, stunts and story-telling contests around the campfire will have unusual energy.
Patrol Animals Snow Sculpture Contest: The actual carving of statuary is another fascinating pastime.
Mystery games like Murder in the Dark and Mafia are a great option when you’re sitting around the campfire at night. No cards or table needed and the darkness and night noises will help make the game more mysterious.
Corn Hole, Ladder Toss, Bocce Ball are all good choices for no snow winter camping. Anything that keeps the gloves on and keeps the Scouts active will be enjoyable.
Winter Camping in Middle Tennessee
Expect the Scouts to wear jeans and a hoodie in cold
weather. This is plenty to get them from
the front door to the bus stop in cold weather, it should be fine for Scout
camp too, right?
Except it’s not. Encourage
them to pack and wear warmer clothing, in layers, and to at least bring a
waterproof layer in case it rains, sleets, or snows over the campout. Also, be certain to build a fire, not a pretty
fire that’s nice to look at, a warm fire that can heat up cold hands and cold,
Winter Camping “up North”
If you’re camping in the snow, wear snow pants over your
Bring extra hand covering – mittens are warmer than gloves.
Bring 2 changes of socks per day.
Fill a couple of Nalgene water bottles with warm water and
sleep with one between your legs (warms the femoral artery) and with one at
your feet. Or use toe/hand warmers. Toss them into your sleeping bag before you
get in. Some of the toe/hand warmers will last 8 hours.
Use a sleeping bag that is appropriate for the conditions.
Two +20F sleeping bags, one inside the other will work to lower the rating of
Use a bivvy sack to wrap around your sleeping bag. You can
make a cheap version of this by getting an inexpensive fleece sleeping bag. It
isn’t much more than a blanket with a zipper, but it helps lower the rating by
as much as 10 degrees.
Use a sleeping bag liner. There are silk and fleece liners
that go inside the sleeping bag. They will lower your sleeping bag’s rating by
up to 10 degrees. Or buy an inexpensive fleece throw or blanket and wrap
yourself in it inside the sleeping bag.
Most cold weather bags are designed to trap heat. The proper
way to do this is to pull the drawstrings until the sleeping bag is around your
face, not around your neck. If the bag also has a draft harness, make sure to
use it above the shoulders and it snugs up to your neck to keep cold air from
coming in and warm air from going out.
Don’t burrow in – keep your mouth and nose outside the bag.
Moisture from your breath collecting in your bag is a quick way to get really
cold. Keep the inside of the bag dry.
A zipped-up coat pulled over the foot of a sleeping bag makes an extra layer of insulation.
Winter Camping Kit List
Sleeping bag – warm bag, ideally rated as a
“zero degree” bag or better
Wool or fleece blankets – to put over and under
sleeping bag as extra insulation if sleeping bag is not rated as “zero degree”
(adds 10-20 degrees of warmth)
Ground pad – either foam pad or Therm-A-Rest pad
Stuff sack for sleeping bag (preferably
At least 3 polyester underwear
At least 3 pairs of heavy socks with liner
socks. NOT cotton sweat socks.
At least 3 polyester base shirts – long or short
sleeve (worn against skin)
1-2 insulating fleece pullovers or wool sweaters
Hooded sweat shirt and sweat pants to sleep in
(this can be cotton for sleeping at night)
Insulated coat/ jacket that is wind/water
resistant – suitable for camping environment
Winter stocking cap that covers entire head and
Balaclava or ski mask to cover head and face
Bandana or handkerchief
2 pair warm gloves or mittens (outer material
should be wind/water resistant)
Winter boots (with adequate insulation and
Extra Pair of footwear – sneakers are OK as
supplement to winter boots; Crocks/sandals are NOT appropriate footwear for
Rain gear (poncho or water-resistant pants/top
Back pack or duffel bag for personal gear
Garbage bags to store your clothes (and keep