In all the winter survival classes I have taken and in the many dozens of books I have read, eating snow to replace vital body fluids is frowned upon, discouraged, warned against, and even made a “taboo.” I certainly don’t recommend it as an ideal method, but it sure beats the dangers posed by becoming dehydrated in cold weather.
Did you know that becoming only 10% dehydrated can cause you to lose as much as 25% of your ability to perform work? That is only about 1-2 cups short in a day! Up to 90 percent of our body weight comes from water. Up to 60 percent of the human body is water, the brain is composed of 70 percent water, and the lungs are nearly 90 percent water. About 83 percent of our blood is water, which helps digest our food, transport waste, and control body temperature, etc. (usgs – edu)
As you can see from the above information, any time our bodies start getting short on water, essential body functions will deteriorate. It has been found that the most common cause of hypothermia is dehydration. When you see that the brain is 70% water it is no wonder that the ability to think clearly is greatly impaired when there is a water shortage in the body.
Each day adults must replace about 2 1/2 litres of water, some through drinking and the rest taken by the body from the foods eaten. Because of this I maintain that it is worth trying whatever you can to get fluids into the body, it may be a matter of life and death.
You can watch our video on how to do this on YouTube. After reading this post, click the link at the bottom.
Here are the key points. You don’t just fill your mouth with snow and chew it up and swallow, that will cause headache, chills,bleeding lips and tongue. Take a comfortable lump of snow the size of an Oreo cookie or a little larger, whatever is comfortable. Place it in your mouth, as you breathe, inhale through your nose as usual and exhale through your mouth, the warm air will quickly melt it and warm it. It is easy to do and with a little practice you will hardly notice any discomfort.
If you are healthy and you have energy, it is no problem at all to get a good portion of the water needed by eating snow, but it must be done cautiously. If your mouth is becoming uncomfortably cold, slow down your intake, and make sure you are exhaling to melt the snow not chewing or eating the snow.
Now let me state again, this is not the preferred method, you should carry water with you at all times, and you should drink every 20 to 30 minutes of exertion. If however, you have no other means and are out of water, use the above method to stay hydrated to the best of your ability, until you can get to a water source or melt some over a fire or on a stove.
Stay hydrated and have a fun and safe winter!!
– Perry Peacock