USMC Boot Camp: Parris Island Cold Weather Tips
Each season at boot camp offers something new and challenging for the recruits to overcome. And because recruits are there for 13 weeks, it’s unlikely that they will escape these challenges. The two worst seasons by far are the peaks of summer (June-August) and winter (December-February). Peak summer months bring sand fleas and extreme heat, but nothing takes the motivation and morale out of a man faster than standing in formation for 2 hours in below freezing temperatures, and not even being able to rub your hands together to warm them up.
I grew up in northern Ohio, so I know cold weather. Living just south of the great lakes, and east of Chicago, we received some winters as harsh as they get in the U.S. But I’ve never known cold like I did when I was at boot camp and Marine Combat Training. Never.
Boot Camp Gets Cold
I arrived on Parris Island for Boot Camp on October 19th. The weather was fairly deceiving this time of year, and one could argue that it was ideal. Unfortunately, December and January were just around the corner.
I remember the first week of cold weather that hit. It was the worst in the mornings – having to get out of bed and be standing outside in it less than 5 minutes later was terrible. The drill instructors use everything to their advantage too, so weather is simply another tactical tool for them.
The worst of the cold weather during my experience came almost as if it was scheduled by our drill instructors… just in time for the Crucible. I a letter wrote home about the cold weather in my last letter to my wife before leaving for the Crucible, a week before graduating.
USMC Boot Camp Cold Weather Tips
#5 – Hydrate
When your bones begin to develop ice sheets on them, it’s hard to want to take a drink of freezing cold water from your canteen, but your body needs water to function. It’s actually easier to dehydrate in the winter, because you are far less aware of your hydration levels. The last thing you want is to get hypothermia and be dehydrated at the same time. You can warm your water up a bit by putting it in your cargo pocket (not when hiking) or by putting it against the backside of your pack (where it will touch your back). Regardless, you have to drink water even in cold weather.
#4 – Buy & Wear Mole Skins
Mole Skins are a lifesaver in boot camp. On top of adding protection against blisters (especially on your feet), they also provide an additional level of insulation and warmth. Make sure you apply to your knees, feet, and elbows – any point of contact that may end up pulling, dragging, or moving your body across the ground and over frozen mud, sand, and gravel.
#3 – Wear Your Sweatshirt (or 2)
You’ll be issued a green sweat top. Buy a second. Wear it when necessary.
#2 – Flex When Cold
Flexing your muscles will help move blood around your body and warm you up. Try to flex all of the muscles in your body at once and hold the flex for about 3 seconds and then relax. Do this at least 5 times and you can generate small amounts of heat when the cold is unbearable.
#1 – Mole Skin Your Gloves
You’ll be issued pair of awesome green gloves at boot camp. They are pieces of crap, and you’ll be lucky to have the fingers in tact. On top of that, the material is so thin that you my as well be holding ice packs. Out of both of my gloves, I had a total of 3 full fingers still attached. The rest of them had holes, were torn up like a weight-lifting glove, or were just completely missing.
This is the best thing I ever did at boot camp, and it works like a charm.
STEP 1: Take your gloves and turn them inside out.
STEP 2: Cut custom fitted pieces of Mole Skin to fit the ENTIRE inside of your gloves. Try to keep the pieces as large as possible.
STEP 3: Once your entire glove is covered on the inside, turn them back in. This may be a little tricky, but with some work, you’ll get it.
STEP 4: Wear the glove during your free time to stretch it out a bit and get it fitting correctly. Not only will this fix the holes in your gloves, but it will also make them much warmer.