How to

20 May 2016

How to Safely Melt Snow for Drinking Water


Contrary to what you might think, it’s just as important to keep yourself hydrated in extreme cold as it is in extreme heat. One of the key differences is that if there’s been snowfall, you’re surrounded by a verdant source of water. Is it safe to drink though? In short, yes, but it’s not as simple as just melting it, snow picks up a lot of contaminants as it settles, so you have to clean it first.

The best way to do this is to heat treat it. For this you’ll need a fuel source, like a gas stove or similar. Gather up as much white snow from the surface layer as you want and put it into a heated pan. Heat it to boiling point for 10 minutes and then let it cool back down again. It’s still by no means as safe as normal tap water, but it’s safe to drink. You can do the same thing with an open flame, if needs be.

If you’re out in the snow in the daytime and the sun is out, you can find melt water to harvest. Look for sloping faces and listen for the sound of flowing water. You’ll often find that it has collected in little pools at the base, making easy to collect in a canteen or metal cup. Similarly, if you collect up white snow and leave it in the sun, it will melt relatively quickly, but once again, only collect white surface snow for this.


If, in the worst case scenario, you have no sunlight and no heat source, you can use your own body heat. Cup a container in your hands and hold it close, or even wrap it in a sleeping bag or spare clothes to do the job. You’ll still need some form of light source to make sure there’s no dirt (or yellowness) worked into the snow you’re collecting, but frankly, if you’re out in the snow with no heat source, no light and no water, you’ve got bigger problems.


Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop.