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Is It Safe to Eat Snow When Thirsty?

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Pentair Water Solutions
Pentair Water Solutions


How to Turn Snow & Ice Into Drinkable Water

In the winter, we’re surrounded by seemingly drinkable water supplies in the natural world, snow and ice are everywhere! Mountaineers and hikers exploring cold environments should master the essential skill of turning snow into drinking water to remain hydrated on longer journeys.

Can you eat snow? Yes, if you learn how to convert it and filter it properly. Let’s explore the best methods of drinking snow and ice.

Is It Safe to Eat Snow?

Can you eat snow when you’re thirsty? Grabbing a handful of powder seems like less work than turning snow into drinking water. A small amount of ice or snow along your journey is fine, but don’t rely on large quantities of cold snow or ice for rehydrating.

The cooling effects of eating snow can change your body temperature, which can create trouble when enduring the elements. Your body will burn a substantial amount of energy converting the snow and ice into water and that energy depletion lowers your body temperature.

Keeping your body temperature elevated is crucial in the winter, especially when hiking long distances. Instead of chewing a ball of snow, collect snow and ice to turn it into drinking water.

Pathogens and contaminants can compromise the quality of snow or ice, even if you avoid tainted or discolored patches. Collecting snow and ice for drinking water and treating it will help you avoid some common contaminants.

1. How to Turn Snow Into Drinking Water Using a Stove

Happy woman cooking near winter tent camp in the snow forest. Bushcraft, survival and people concept; Shutterstock ID 1076679137; purchase_order: pws blog; job:

The easiest method of melting snow for water is to use a modern camping stove with its own fuel, like propane gas or petrol. First, collect your ice or snow. If possible, melt ice rather than snow, as it is more compact and contains more water than snow. Use a pot with good insulation and always use your lid to conserve fuel.

Start with a thin layer of snow or ice on the bottom of your pot — never pack it to the top. Snow is an efficient insulator, so if you stuff your pot full of snow, you can burn out the bottom. Add a little at a time until you have the amount of water you need.

Pour the tea from the thermos into a mug. Water flows, pour a hot drink against the background of snow. Black metal thermos, flask for drinks. High quality photo; Shutterstock ID 2136907155; purchase_order: pws blog;

Other Ways to Turn Ice and Snow Into Drinking Water

Without a stove or pot handy, try these three methods to treat ice and snow for drinking water:

2. Collect ice or snow and wrap it inside a t-shirt or large bandana. Use sturdy branches to suspend the snow above a fire. As the snow or ice begins to melt, it will start to drip through the fabric. Use a large cup or container to catch the falling water.

3. Harness the sun’s power. Fill a water bag or a large Ziploc bag with snow and seal it. Place it atop a black garbage bag and allow it to melt in the bright sun. Keep the bag near your campsite so you can check it regularly.

4. Carry an insulated water bottle and fill it with water before you depart. Store the water bottle inside your thick winter clothing, but keep it separated from your skin. As you explore, fill the water bottle with a fresh scoop of snow whenever you take a drink. The snow should melt by the next time you stop to hydrate. Be sure to use purification tablets periodically.

How to Remove Contaminants from Ice and Snow

If you’re using a stove or a fire with a pot to melt your ice or snow, bring the water to a rolling boil and allow it to boil for an additional five minutes to remove many potential pathogens and contaminants. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, boiling snow will treat some of the organic contaminants that could be present, like bacteria and protozoa. You won’t have access to a multi-stage water treatment solution in the wild, so boiling is the safest option.

However, if you can’t use a pot or stove, you can still convert ice or snow into drinking water. When using the methods above, bring purification drops or tablets to use after melting the snow and ice. Iodine and chlorine tablets are your best options.

With these methods, you should have enough drinking water, even when exploring the winter tundra. Prepare for your next outing and bring plenty of filtered water in your pack.

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Disclaimer: The information on this website has not been reviewed by the FDA. Products offered for sale herein are not intended to treat, cure or prevent any disease or health condition. No medical claims are being made or implied. Contaminants mentioned are not necessarily in your water.

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