Questions about snow melt.

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Quixoticgeek

Full Member
Aug 4, 2013
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Looks like the area my planned trip next week goes through has about 150-200mm of snow on the ground. I'll have a stove, cookset and fuel with me so I'm pondering if I can utilise the snow to top up the water I'm carrying.

To make it drinkable, do I need to do anything other than melt it in a pan until liquid? Do I need to bring it to a boil? Once I have liquid can I drop it in a bottle with a puritab? What sort of pathogens should I be weary of in Snow?

Thanks

J
 

Robson Valley

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Nov 24, 2014
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I predict that you will be surprized by how dirty snow turns out to be. Yes, boil it just to be on the safe side.
Don't ever drink it neat. Snow melt is essentially recrystallized distilled water and suspended dirt.
and you must have the mineral/ionic content to avoid dehydration, as odd as that sounds.
Add anything like instant drink crystals, instant coffee, jelly powder, broth cubes, etc.
Don't eat yellow snow.
 
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erehwon

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Oct 24, 2017
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Bulgaria
When snow falls it catches and collects all forms of pollutants including carbon and soot so it should be boiled before drinking. If desperate and you have to eat snow I believe (but my memory may be wrong, it is an age thing!) that the ratio of 10:1 should be used, 10 parts of snow equates to one part of water in your body because snow is mainly made up of air, hence it is always best to melt and filter it before use.
 

Wayne

BCUK Welfare Officer
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I agree with Robson. To fully ensure it’s safe to drink it water needs to be boiled or treated not just filtered.

Lots of factors effect the safety of water for consumption. Wildlife, human habitation, chemical contaminants etc.

In the Nordic countries I tend to use bottled water for soft drinks. Tea and coffee gets boiled so that’s straight from the lake.
 

Wayne

BCUK Welfare Officer
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Don't drink distilled water. aka melted and boiled snow.
Could you elaborate on this as it’s been the main stay of my mountaineering career?

Every climber I know at altitude drinks a brew by melting the snow. I’m certainly not going to carry water climbing fast and light.

What reason would you have not to drink distilled water? Would be one method of reducing contamination.
 

SGL70

Full Member
Dec 1, 2014
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Luleå, Sweden
I have a differen take on this, but that could be caused by geography :)

During winter outings you need a lot of water or it could quickly becomes a bit dangerous - mainly because you tend to make bad calls if any of Warm, Dry, Fed or Hydrated doesn't happen. So from that perspective....drink all water you can get!

I'd boil it as it kills some of the germs amd adds energy.

The salts and minrals are vital for the long run.

How long are you out?

My 2 cents,
Greger
 
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Robson Valley

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It is the matter of the ionic concentrations in the snow water versus the ionic concentration of the cytoplasm in cells.
Minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, chloride = the normal things.
Osmotic principles predict that there will be a bulk movement of water into cells in the effort to equalize mineral
concentrations on either side of the cell membrane. The resulting cellular swelling is very unpredictable with respect to kidney function.

Melt snow, fine. Clean it up, all the better.
Make a "brew" as you say = best thing to do.
Add something to the water as a drink. Mineral or organic or both.

Our joke was it looked like coffee, smelled like chicken soup and tasted like Tang (an artificial orange juice drink crystal.)
 

Limaed

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Apr 11, 2006
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Never had a issue on exped but I guess it depends where you are - I agree with the other guys that boiling is probably safest. WRT the melting action its best to add a bit at a time as snow absorbs liquid, there are cases of folk burning holes in their pots as the snow absorbed the water before melting leaving an air gap. Snow melting is quite fuel heavy and you don't get much return sometimes so still look for free flowing water or ice.
 

Janne

Guest
Feb 10, 2016
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Grand Cayman, Norway, Sweden
Drinking (just melted) cold water winter time is not a good idea as it will lower your body temperature. The body then needs to burn extra calories to bring it up to optimal.
In simple words - you need to eat more easily digested food. Like glukose tablets, dried fruit.

Boiled melted snow is hygienically safe, and will bring up the body temperature.

As Robson V pointed out, snow is basically distilled water.
You need to add at least a little bit of salt to get your drink to taste better.

The Same I knew add a pinch of salt to their melted snow coffee, and a piece of reindeer cheese by tradition.
This adds electrolytes.

Get those electrolyte tablets most armies use.

I would not take snow from areas close to roads, towns and airports. Look on it, should be pure white, no pink traces.
 
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Robson Valley

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True, snow/water is about 10/1. Packing it into a pot helps a little. Energetically very costly to melt.

To change the temperature of water 1 degree Celsius costs 1 calorie.
To change 1 gram of ice to 1 gram of water at 0*C will cost you 76 calories = physical fact.
Fast or slow, the energy costs don't change.
To boil 1 gram of water into 1 gram of steam at 100*C will cost you 540 calories.

The fuel cost lesson is not to boil water. From melted snow, you have a risky choice.

Come over to my place. We can get back 10km up some side mountain valley for a sample.
For us, all snow or rain is dirty with rock dust off the mountains. You have to let it settle out!
 

Wayne

BCUK Welfare Officer
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Generally the salt content in most lightweight foods means drinking distilled water isn’t going to upset your sodium balance.

Salt levels are more an issue in hot climates where water consumption can be 5-8l a day.

Climbing around Denali my issues were park fees and fuel stoves icing. High Arctic usually the issue is trying to consume enough calories to stay warm.

Marzipan has always been a good choice on the Hill I have spent many an hour day dreaming about my next fix of almond goodness as the snow pours down my neck. Good job we forget the hours spent cold wet and scared and remember the buzz on standing on the top spot, knowing that very few humans have ever stood there before.

I doubt the original poster will have any issues on a relatively low intensity trip sourcing water from the locale.
 

Quixoticgeek

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Aug 4, 2013
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Thanks everyone for the helpful replies. Sounds like snow -> tea is the way forward. Or I've got some drink tablets I can add.

I only expecting snow in the first 1-2 days of a 5 day trip. And will only need to worry about melting snow if the planned 4.1L I'm carrying isn't enough.

Thanks all

J
 

Nice65

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Apr 16, 2009
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Can you get those sachets of dry sport drink powder?
I think we can, but it's expensive, sold as specialist equipment. Can't get Gatorade though. Or even Libby's Orange C :dunno:

Edited to say, we can get Gatorade, but it's also expensive. And I haven't found grape yet.
 
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santaman2000

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Jan 15, 2011
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.....Get those electrolyte tablets most armies use......
You probably need extra electrolytes IF! If you aren't eating processed food on your outing. Most militaries abandoned those long ago (right after the Vietnam war for us) There's more than enough salt (sodium/electrolytes) in military rations (near toxic levels to be honest) All that aside, water melted from any source tastes pretty bad alone. Tea, coffee, or any instant powder will help loads.
 
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Janne

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Feb 10, 2016
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We only had freeze dried stuff, plus those tablets.

I melt snow every winter I fish. Make coffee.
Brings back memories.

The tap water we have is from a lake fed by melting snow, but enriched by one of the oldest rock formations on Earth.

You know Voss bottled water? Ours is better.
 

Robson Valley

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Nov 24, 2014
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Just get the water and clean it up. Add things to make a nice hot drink and be mindful of the need for electrolytes.

Fill the kettle at my kitchen sink. The mountainside across the valley just to the left (SW). No more than 6,000'.
The snow-melt percolates through the rock before you. Then it is filtered through a very large wetland.
Then it goes into the water treatment plant. Capacity is 1,000m^3/24hrs, usage is 400m^3/24hrs.

Waste water goes into a rare, 4 stage bio-mediated system with no chemicals. It's huge.
This is a ZERO discharge system with a capacity of 12,000 in a village of maybe 650.
= = =
Heating water trivia.
Beef cattle feed lot business is mega-bucks in Canada.
The question arose: "what it the cheapest thing that a feed lot operator can do to help profit?"
Heat the water that the cattle drink, all year long. USask Ag research.
= = =
I think that this need for calories reveals what so many say = don't drink cold drinks.