Serve up some snow — but effectively

3/6/05

Serve up some snow — but effectively

By JOHN GIBBONS, Outdoor Tips

Most people don’t stop to consider how essential water is in a survival situation. Water is the second-most-important need.

The first is shelter for warmth or shelter for protection from heat. You can die within hours without shelter. Without water, it may take three days or longer to die.

In the winter, you are usually surrounded by snow. Snow is between 50- and 70-percent water. The remainder is air.

The problem with snow is being able to melt it into water. If you eat snow, the calories burned will be greater than the hydrating benefit you attempt to gain from eating the snow. Eating snow may alleviate thirst over the short term but will put you in a dehydration deficit in the long term. This deficit is caused by the water needed to burn calories to melt the snow in your mouth.

Snow does contain a small amount of pollution but is usually insignificant with short-term use. Snow is otherwise sterile, and water from snow is considered reasonably safe to drink in a survival situation. It requires no other treatment.

The human body puts out about 500 BTUs of heat on a regular basis. This wasted body heat can be used to make an efficient water melting device. Carry a small plastic oven bag (oven bags are durable) and about 2 feet of parachute cord. I am partial to the reusable plastic squeeze tubes with a closure on the bottom.

Duct tape it to a string, place about a cup of snow in the bag, and tie the top with the parachute cord in a loop that will fit around your neck. Allow the bag to hang from around your neck to about the middle of your chest or a little lower and place the bag inside your coat.

If you wear long underwear place the bag on top of the underwear, not next to your skin.

In about an hour, you will have approximately ¤ to ½ cup of water from the snow melted by your body heat.

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