In a life-threatening survival situation the body requires basic physiological needs in order to stay alive. Proper hydration, calories, sleep, and an adequate core body temperature are all necessary functions that need to be met for sustained survival.
Winter conditions can make survival situations even more challenging; from crippling cold to a scarcity of food. But there is one resource which seems endless—snow. Here lies the question…
Q: Can you eat snow for hydration in a survival situation?
A: No. Eating snow possesses many dangers including induced hypothermia and dehydration. Due to snow’s below-freezing temperature status, consumption requires your body to go into overdrive to bring the snow down to a regulated body temperature. This process is strenuous on the body’s metabolism which creates a major caloric output. In addition, the introduction of freezing snow into the body can drive the body’s core temperature into hypothermic levels. The bottom line—eating snow directly is a terrible idea and can turn a situation from bad to worse.
The solution: Melt the snow before you consume it. Using a container or empty bottle, one can stuff snow into the bottle and allow it melt (typically over a source of fire or the sun). Make sure to only seek out white, fluffy snow and avoid snow that is discolored. Dark, discolored snow may be routed with contaminates, bacteria, and debris—so make sure to treat/purify it prior to consumption.