In Antarctica all USAP participants deploying to locations in the field are required to attend a basic snow survival course called snowcraft-1, which ice people call Happy Camper school.

Happy Camper is taught in groups of ten students by experienced cold-weather mountaineers who make up FTSP, Field Training and Safety. Initiates are notified of their enrollment in Happy Camper school upon arrival on the ice depending on their assignment. There are no course prerequisites. Personnel with any level of outdoor experience are expected to survive.

From the course introduction document given to program participants at McMurdo:

Welcome to the Field Safety Training Program!

You are required to attend our basic overnight course: Snowcraft-1. First of all, this should be an enjoyable, educational experience and not a cause for any anxiety. Many people find it to be one of the high points of their season. Carefully look over the list below of what to bring with you.

You need to be at FSTP, bldg 138, at 9:00AM on the day of your course. We are located up the hill from the Chalet and BFC; the last building on the right.

Be sure to show up the morning of your course dressed for the Field. Please be wearing your ECW clothing. Leave jeans, cotton T-shirts, sweats, flannel, and other cotton items in your dorm. Trust us! We want you to be comfortable and safe for the Antarctic environment. Once again, NO COTTON.

All students must have the following items of personal gear with them.

  • ECW gear; bring it all! We are car camping!
  • Issue boots, FDX (blue boots) or Bunny boots. You may bring personal boots IN ADDITION to issue boots.
  • Extra issue thermal underwear and mid layers.
  • Extra socks, hats, gloves, and mittens.
  • Issue sunglasses and goggles and sunscreen.
  • Insulated mug; store has several kinds. We can provide one if necessary.
  • Issue water bottle or top-quality backpacking water bottle.
  • Optional personal items: cameras, daypack, camcorder, snack foods (we provide plenty though), and cross-country skis.

If you have any questions, please call us at 2345. We look forward to working with you! Ted, Brennen, Chris, Ty, and Thai.

Course duration is approximately 36 hours and will commence in all weather conditions except Condition One. If a Condition One weather emergency is called after the course has started, the course will not be halted, but rather, be viewed as an opportunity for survival and run to its conclusion. The USAP assures all participants this should not be cause for alarm even if their only camping experience as been with poorly maintained Holiday Inns.

Partipants are given a two-hour lecture on key techniques for survival in sub-zero weather on the ice. They're then driven out onto the Ross Ice Shelf in a tracked vehicle called The Nodwell to a location which they're reminded is no more than 30 miles from where Robert Falcon Scott and his colleagues perished during their push to One Ton Depot.

Students perform exercises in staying warm, eating freeze-dried camping meals, pitching Scott tents, building igloos, snow caves, emergency snow shelters, and making snow angels. Participants learn how to choose sleeping partners, with whom to squeeze into an igloo, and why wrestling with or without clothing is an acceptable means to generate warmth.

Correct use of VHF radio and shortwave radio technology is mastered. Construction and maintenance of white gas field stoves is learned. Rudimentary white out rescue techniques are practiced as well as emergency preparedness. Radio check-in protocols are practiced. Finally, helicopter etiquette is demonstrated.

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