Does Eating Snow Dehydrate You?

Ever wonder if you’re outside and low on water during the winter if you can eat snow for hydration?

Sounds like it should work, right?

After all, snow is really just frozen water, right?

Well, yes but that’s not exactly how it works with dehydration.

In fact, if you’re feeling dehydrated then eating snow is not a good option.

Instead, you need to get yourself some liquid water. 

Sounds crazy, right? So, let’s dig into this a bit more.

Will Snow Really Dehydrate You?

snow camping

Yes, eating snow dehydrates you. Trust me, I know this sounds insane since we all know that water freezes into ice and snow is just precipitation that has frozen.

But, when I explain the “why” here, it will all start to make sense to you.

While snow really is just frozen water, when you eat it that means that you’re consuming something that is solid instead of a fluid.

Water itself is a fluid, of course, where ice is the solid form.

So, you’re chomping down on that snow and now your body has to take it and convert it into a liquid form. Perfect! This is exactly what you need.

Except…your body has to work at warming that snow to melt it into a liquid and warming your body temperate back up after eating something so freaking cold.

And all that energy that the body exerts means that it just dehydrates you a bit more.

Eating the snow can also lead to hypothermia, which of course is not something that you want to deal with. 

So, what you end up doing when eating snow is creating more dehydration than you started with! What a slap in the face, eh?

About Dehydration

If you’re an experienced outdoors person, then you might already be aware of the signs of hydration to watch out for. But, just in case, we’ll briefly go over those here.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that if you’re feeling thirsty, then you’re already dehydrated.

But let’s focus more on the serious signs that you should keep an eye out for.

Some of those signs and symptoms include:

  • Dry or sticky mouth
  • Not peeing very much
  • Dark yellow pee
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Fainting
  • Sunken eyes
  • Sleepiness

You can learn more about dehydration at WebMD.

man eating snow

How You Can Hydrate With Snow

So, since eating snow won’t rehydrate you, then you might be wondering if you can melt snow and use the melted snow for hydration.

Answer: yes, you can hydrate with melted snow!

To hydrate with snow, you need to warm it up to melt it into water.

Obviously, using your camp stove a camp fire is the easiest way to heat up some snow so that you can drink it for hydration.

If you don’t have access to a heat source, then you could put the snow in a cup, bottle, or bag and hold it close to you and use your body heat to melt it.

Though you’ll have to be careful not to get hypothermia.

It’s important to remember that snow itself may now be considered clean for drinking.

So, you’ll definitely want to avoid any dirty snow, of course.

And, of course, it’s ideal if you purify the melted snow water before drinking it.

Melted and purified snow is an awesome source of hydration when your outdoors and feeling dehydrated with no access to water.

How To Boil Snow For Drinking Water

boiling water over campfire

I know what you’re thinking. Melting snow for water is gonna be so freaking easy. 

And I get it, the process does sound really simple. But you might be surprised to find out that it’s not quite as easy as it seems.

Here’s the thing about turning snow into drinking water – when melting one liter of snow, less than one liter of water is produced because it has a lower density than water.

So, you’re gonna need a lot more snow that you think to make it into drinking water.

Drinking 12oz of water is essentially the same as eating a gallon of snow, which can lead to dehydration if you’re not consuming in additional water.

Yup, that is a heck of a quantity discrepancy between snow and water.

Okay, so now that you know that, it’s time to get ready to turn all that snow into some water that you can actually drink.

Just know that this is not a quick process and it takes a fair amount of work.

Here are the steps to take:

1. Get yourself a decent sized pot that you can use over a fire.

2. Put a bit of water in the pot. I know this sounds insane since you need water that you don’t have, but the reality is that you need some liquid on the bottom for this whole thing to work as planned.

3. Find a fire pit or other heat source that you can use to melt the snow and put the pot over the fire.

4. Add the snow to the pot little by little, removing some of the water into a storage container regularly so that you don’t lose too much to evaporation.

5. Once you have a good amount of water, you gotta purify it before drinking cause you need to kill all that bacteria. Since you didn’t get the snow melt to a boil, this water is still contaminated. So, use a filter or tablets to cleanse the water before drinking.

If you prefer to learn by watching, the people with Bush Channel have put together this short video to give you tips on easily boiling snow for what when you’re camping.

Melting snow for drinking water

You can use the tips in the video to create water from snow for any situation, not just hydration.

So, if you need water for cooking, bathing, cleaning your camp dishes, etc. then the tips above can be used to get some of that water.

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