Five important do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when using snow and ice as a source of hydration.
Who remembers eating snow as a kid, pretending it to be ice cream? That’s when our parents tought us the #1 and most important rule in the game: “Don’t eat the yellow snow”. A pastime for kids, it can actually come in handy when out in the wild in wintertime: snow as a source for hydration. Here’s how to replenish your supply of drinking water in the cold.
1- Do NOT eat snow and ice to hydrate
Ok. It’s fun. But eating snow (or ice) is generally not recommended as a means for hydration. Besides the danger of contamination, it may actually lead to dehydration and hypothermia, as your body requires too much energy to heat and melt the snow once you eat it.
2- Don’t be fooled by a thin layer of pow
The pure beauty of fresh white snow also gives you some indication of the purity of the water you’ll get. But don’t be fooled: a thin layer of fresh powder can easily cover up layers of ugly polluted old gray snow (or worse, anything else from cigarette butts to feces).
Make sure you collect the snow from a clean area without risk of pollution, and check the layers before you shovel freely into your snow-melting vessel. This means: Fresh snow is always preferable. Stay far away from traffic, toilets or anything that might have contaminated the snow.
3- You’re going to need a lot of snow
Snow obviously comes in different forms, from fluffy pow to more mushy slush. All of it has a lower density than water, meaning that melting 1 liter of snow will result in much less than 1 liter of water. That’s for the physics. Filling up a Widepac with powder and melting it, will result in a few sips.
4 – How to melt snow on fire: start slow
Throwing snow into a heated pot is not recommended – you might end up with a hole in the pot. When melting snow over fire or on a stove, we recommend to start with a few handful of snow. Once the first batch has slowly melted, the water is your melting base. Keep adding snow. The more your pot fills up with water, the quicker you might add more snow.
To finish the job, bring the pot of water to a boil, and you add a level of safety, killing most germs. The water can then be stored in one of our durable water bottles or a high performance water bladder (let the water cool down some before filling), or while still hot in a thermos for later use.
5 – Filters and purification tablets
For complete peace of mind, there’s always the option to use a filter system (for example our Sawyer filter) or adding water purification tablets to get rid of any bacteria and protozoa.
A few more tips
Packing ice or snow into your water bladder to melt it with your body-heat sounds like a better idea than it is: the melting process will cool down your body temperature, which is usually not desirable when out in the cold. And without boiling the water, there’s a higher chance of germs and bacteria getting to you. The same applies to melting snow in the sun: whenever you can’t bring melted water to a boil, opt for filtering or adding purification tablets.
Get more information: check out our blogpost about SOURCE Winter Hydration with useful tips on how to keep the flow in cold weather.