Staying hydrated is just as important in the winter as it is on hot summer hikes.
It can be a challenge to get enough liquid in on winter adventures if you are not prepared. You might not even feel thirsty. Because your body directs less blood towards your peripheries and instead sends it internally, your insides feel full. Thus, your organs such as your kidneys do not recognize reduced blood volume and will not trigger a thirsty feeling.
Many people think they can get away with eating a bite of snow or two.
I plead guilty.
There is a lot of debate and misinformation around whether eating straight snow is safe or not. Some say it lowers the body’s core temperature, which can be dangerous in the winter and especially in a survival situation. Some say since snow is distilled water, consuming a lot of it can be toxic without adding any electrolytes. Plus, snow could contain toxins, pollutants and impurities.
Most agree that fresh white snow scooped from the top of the mountain is safe to eat or melt to drink. The best way to eat snow without chilling your insides is to form a ball and suck on it rather than swallowing solid snow.
Of course, melting snow over a fire or camp stove and drinking the warm water is better as it's a quicker way to hydrate and warms you up, too!
How to Stay Hydrated in the Outdoors
Always come into the backcountry prepared. Bring plenty of water to start with. As you go, fill up on water from flowing sources such as creeks and streams. Be cautious about venturing onto or punching through ice to access water.
A small propane stove or a fire-resistant pot you can fill with snow and set in the fire are great survival options to add to your pack. These come in handy for boiling and purifying water.
Large-mouthed water bottles will not freeze as fast and are easier to pour melted snow into. Soft water bottles are handy to break up ice that forms inside. Tip: Storing your water bottles upside down will prevent the top layer and caps from freezing!
It’s also wise to bring some type of filtering or treatment option for the water you collect if you're not boiling it. Some people prefer to pack in water treatment pills which are light and easy to pop in your water bottle after filling it.
I like using a microfilter/bag system, like the Base Camp Hanging Water Filter. Although snow does not necessarily need filtering if it's free of particles, the bag we have is big and dark coloured, so it can be filled up with snow and, when set out in the sun, the snow melts fast. The resulting water is fresh-tasting and free from the chlorine aftertaste some people complain about with the water treatment pills. Plus, if we take water from streams or tarns, we can hang the bag in a tree and large volumes are gravity-filtered very quickly.
You can bring electrolytes to add to the melted snow just in case you consume enough for its distilled nature to be an issue. Electrolyte packages are light, small and handy when you are sweating, too—like when you’re snowshoeing through the snow-blanketed wilderness.
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Lindsay Davies | ivebeenbit.ca