Clever Hacks

Clever Tip 4: How to Melt Snow Before You’re Out of Water

The key word is “BEFORE.” Try one of these methods before you need it. Be anticipatory and BEFORE you decide to melt snow, check the quality of it.

Be certain to collect clean and fresh snow. Avoid discolored and stained ice. Being patient since melting can take a while, especially when you’re out in the freezing wilderness.

It takes quite a bit of snow (is primarily made of air) to make a small amount of water. Clean ice, if you can find it, will actually produce more water in less time.

A rough figure is if you fill a pot with nine inches of snow you will get one inch of water.

If you have electricity or gas and your stove is working, it’s best to place the clean snow in large pot there.

Fun Fact

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It takes as much energy to turn ice to water as it takes to boil water that starts at room temperature.

The latent heat of fusion is ~80 calories for ice. The definition of a calorie is the energy required to raise the temperature of water one degree Celsius. So if room temperature is 20 degrees C (~70 degrees F) then it takes ~80 calories of energy to boil a gram of water.

How To Melt Snow For Survival | 3 Ways

Learning how to melt snow is an effective life hack you need to survive! Here are three ways you can turn ice into hydrating water.

1. Boiling It

kettle stands on fire cooking food | how to melt snow


Boiling is one of the most basic skills you need to learn on how to melt snow. If you have a pot and some fire, you have it made with little worries about being dehydrated.

If you don’t have a stove available (gas and/or electricity is out and no suitable fireplace), try this:

Having a modern camping stove is best, but a pot of snow over a fire pit or outside grill will also work. Start with a small amount of ice at first, then add more along the way. Never fill the pot with snow to the brim to avoid overflowing.

Keep the lid on at all times to maintain the heat. With higher temperatures, the snow will melt easier and quicker.

2. Do the Bandana Trick

If a pot or kettle is unavailable an empty jar or cup can serve as a temporary container for the snow.

Grab a bandana, shirt, towel, or cloth and place a lump of snow on top. Tie the corners up to form a sack, then hang it around a stick or branch over the container.

Much like roasting a marshmallow, put the bag of snow near a fire and allow it to embrace the heat of the flames. This will help the snow melt and drip; it may take some time, but it will fill up the cup or jar.

3. What if you have no fire source?

A mountain man at the Royal Gorge in Colorado taught me this trick in 2005. On a sunny day, get a large BLACK plastic trash bag (larger the better and black absorbs more heat). Make an indentation or “bowl” in the snow in a location that will have Sunlight.

Spread the bag over the space that has the “bowl” (larger means more water). Sprinkle snow along the slopes of the “bowl” so as the sun heat absorbs on the black plastic, the snow will melt into the bowl.

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