In the warmer months, you can be surrounded by water yet none of it be safe for drinking. This is largely due to the water being warm and stale which is the perfect breeding ground for pathogens, carrying deadly diseases. And, although we live in a world where 70% of its surface is water, we cannot drink it due to the large quantities of salt which causes extreme dehydration.
Does the same hold true in the winter, being surrounded by snow?
The good news is, almost all clean, white snow is drinkable once thawed properly as harmful pathogens are unable to thrive in such cold conditions. As water is essential for survival, it’s vital you know how to properly take it to a liquid state, safe for drinking.
Caution, just because clean snow is considered safe for drinking, doesn’t mean ice is as well. In fact, the harmful pathogens aren’t killed by the freezing process, they are dormant until thawed. So, if you’re planning on using ice, follow the same process you would for water.
As most people know, water is in liquid form between 0 and 100 degrees centigrade or 32 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Below this and it becomes a solid (snow, ice) and above this, it boils and begins to evaporate. Therefore, it’s important to thaw the snow gently otherwise you will cause wastage.
For the safest drinking water, it is important that you collect clean snow which is free from footsteps or yellow coloring! The best thing to do when you set up camp is to set aside a safe drinking snow zone, which is far from toilets and away from rubbish or walking paths.
Put a small amount of snow into a pan, making sure not to fill it to the top. You should then begin to melt it gently; to the point it becomes liquid. You’ll actually need quite a lot of snow to make enough drinking water, as it is surprisingly airy.
As the snow melts, keep adding small bits to the pot to melt, until you have enough drinking water.
If you don’t have a pan, you can melt snow by having it propped above heat/fire and funnel the dripping water into a clean container. How do you suspend the snow above fire? You can wrap it in clothing attached to poles or branches. Alternatively, use a pillowcase handing from a tree branch. Just make sure the water isn’t trickling over the branch, picking up germs.
Another method is the compact snow very tightly into a ball, and stick it on a twig and let the water drip into a container.