It’s a question that has been asked by many preppers over the years: can you eat snow in a survival situation? It makes perfect sense, in a way.
Water is one of the most pressing survival necessities, and any time you are in an environment where there is snow, you have fresh water all around you, everywhere, in solid form.
It seems like a blessing to be able to just pick up a handful or two of snow and then pop it in your mouth to rehydrate.
But is it really that simple? Are there hidden risks? Can you eat snow in a survival situation?
Yes, you can eat snow in a survival situation, but you shouldn’t. Eating snow quickly lowers your body temperature, potentially leading to hypothermia, and it can also lead to stomach cramps.
Snow may also be contaminated with bacteria and other harmful microorganisms that can lead to illness.
Snow can factor in favorably to your survival plan, but you should avoid eating it to rehydrate unless you have literally no other choice.
I want to make sure you have plenty of choices and also the right info when it comes to using snow for hydration in a survival situation, and in this article, I’ll tell you what you need to know…
Snow is Fresh Water in a Different Form
Snow is a valuable source of hydration in a survival situation, as it consists of fresh water in a different form.
Snow begins as frozen precipitation and is made of small ice crystals, although the exact composition varies based on the atmospheric conditions during formation.
In general, snow is composed of both ice (water) particles and air, making it a viable source of hydration if you can get your hands on it.
In cold, snowy regions and many other places during the winter, this is not too hard!
Is Eating Snow a Viable Survival Tactic?
Eating snow is not generally considered a good survival tactic, though it can be done in truly desperate times.
Eating snow as-is will cause serious issues very quickly, namely a drop in body temperature, headache, tooth pain, stomach cramps, and more.
My advice, right up front? Don’t do it if you can avoid it.
But in the interest of exploring the subject further, we’ll be looking at the pros and cons of using snow for hydration in a survival situation…
Advantages of Eating Snow in Survival Situations
Snow is widely available in some environments, and during certain parts of the year in most places.
This makes snow a valuable resource of water for those who find themselves in a cold-weather survival situation, as there may not be another source of hydration for miles around or normal sources might be made dangerously inaccessible.
Snow is also relatively easy to gather. It can be scooped up right off the ground and from all sorts of other things using whatever is at hand, from tarps and bags to hands, cups, and bowls, among other containers.
These are perks that should not be discounted in a survival situation, and they make snow a worthwhile option if you are in desperate need of hydration straight away.
Disadvantages of Eating Snow in Survival Situations
Unfortunately, the cons far outweigh the pros when it comes to eating snow as a source of hydration.
Eating snow as a source of hydration in a survival situation is highly dangerous because it can quickly lead to hypothermia.
When ingested, snow precipitously lowers the body’s core temperature via an intense cooling effect. This can be extremely painful, dangerous, and even deadly.
Also, eating snow as a source of hydration can lead to severe stomach cramps caused by the rapid intake of cold material into your body. This can cause extreme discomfort and pain in addition to dehydration.
Eating snow as a source of hydration in a survival situation may seem like an easy way to quench your thirst and stay hydrated, but it is not without risks.
Although snow is made of fresh water, it can still contain contaminants such as pollutants, bacteria, and other pathogens that could make you very ill.
Snow collected from any natural or man-made surface, be it the ground, a tree branch, a rooftop, or even a vehicle, could be contaminated with all sorts of germs and inorganic contaminants that may make you very sick.
Eating contaminated snow can cause all sorts of gastrointestinal illnesses, including diarrhea and food poisoning.
Lastly, just handling snow is going to make you even colder than you would be otherwise.
We all know the stuff is damn cold, and there is precious little in the way of technical clothing or anything else that will protect you from being in contact with it for long.
Exposure Will Kill You Faster than Dehydration!
To be sure the point is entirely clear, it must be pointed out that cold-weather exposure will usually kill you faster than dehydration ever will.
You will already be battling the cold air; why make things way harder on yourself by eating snow?
That is only going to chill you that much quicker and make warming up again that much harder.
Now, snow can still prove to be an invaluable source of water in any survival scenario, but you need to know what to do with it, first.
Best Practices for Eating Snow in Survival Situations
Melting snow before consuming it is an important part of keeping safe in a cold-weather survival situation.
Not only does melting the snow make it easier to consume overall (it will be actual liquid water again!) but it also helps to reduce the risks of hypothermia and cold shock by raising the temperature.
Even melting it with body heat or sunlight alone is a huge improvement over stuffing freezing cold snow in your mouth.
Also, reducing the risk of contamination from pollutants or pathogens present in the snow is of major importance.
One way to do this is by taking basic precautions when gathering and melting snow for hydration.
Don’t take discolored snow, snow that is directly contacting the ground or any other contaminating surface.
Instead, take pure white, clean snow from the surface of deeper layers and drifts, and always, always avoid stained snow.
Alternately use a tarp, large container, or some other catchment method when experiencing heavy snowfall to ensure you gather a supply that is as pure as it could possibly be under the circumstances.
Remember: It’s always best to filter out any particulates before consuming snow-melted water, and if possible purifying by boiling or filtering.
Lastly, keep melted snow liquid by holding containers near the body or near the fire. Once you’ve gone to the trouble of melting it back into the liquid you don’t want to let it freeze again.
Keeping your water bottle, canteen, or other containers near a fire or even tucked away close to your body can help ensure that the melted snow stays liquid and doesn’t freeze into ice again.
Ultimately, while eating snow could be potentially beneficial resource in terms of hydration in certain cases. Caution must be taken when doing so, as there are potential risks involved with ingesting frozen water directly from nature due to impurities and temperature hazards.
As such it should be used sparingly only as an absolute last resort during times of need.
Tom Marlowe grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, He has the experience in helping civilian shooters figure out what firearms work best for them.