How to Use Snow in Survival Situations

Getting lost in the wilderness can be stressful but there are generally more resources available to you in warm weather than in cold weather. If you find yourself lost in the wilderness or stranded on an isolated highway in cold weather, knowing how to use snow in survival situations may very well your life.

Use Snow for Drinking

If you are in a survival situation where you need water to drink and your only source is snow, it’s important to know how to properly use snow to keep yourself hydrated.

Although under normal circumstances, picking up a handful of snow and eating it, won’t kill you, in a survival situation just eating snow or sucking on ice should be your last resort option. Eating snow or sucking on ice actually reduces your body’s core temperature, something that can do more harm than good.

Melt snow slowly in a pan over the fire. Start with a small amount of clean snow rather than packing a pan full of snow. A pan packed full of snow actually insulates itself and melting takes longer.

In some cases, your pan may burn through before enough snow can melt. As the snow melts, add additional snow slowly until you have the water you need. You can also wrap snow or ice in a t-shirt or piece of cloth suspended over the fire using cordage or sticks and allow it to drip into your container.

Once you have melted enough snow for your needs, purify and filter when possible as with any other water source to further protect against contaminants.

If you are without a way to start a fire, use the warmth of the sun during the day to heat dark colored rocks, place the snow or ice on these until it melts and allow it to run off into your collection container.

In a survival situation, you can also use snow to water animals. Follow the same steps given above to melt enough snow for your animal’s needs.

Snow for Refrigeration

In an extended survival situation, you may need to hunt game in order to feed yourself and your family or group. If you are lucky enough to kill a deer or other large animal, you can better ration the food over several days by keeping uneaten meat cold.

In a cold weather situation, you can wrap or pack the uneaten meat in a container full of snow to keep it from spoiling and allow you to ration the meat over several days

Use Snow for Personal Hygiene

In a SHTF or survival situation where you are still in your home, but utilities such as power and water are down, you can melt snow to get a bucket of water which can be used to flush your toilet.

Using snow to get water to flush your toilet allows you to conserve your stored water for drinking and cooking. This, by the way, is called “grey water”, because you’re reusing it instead of throwing it away.

You can also conserve your drinkable water by using snow for other personal hygiene tasks such as bathing, washing hands, and cleaning utensils, pots, and pans. 

Snow for Injuries

If you are injured or become ill in a survival situation, you may not have access to the first aid supplies you need.

To help reduce swelling and hasten the healing process for a sprain or break, make a cold compress using snow in t-shirt, plastic bag, piece of tarp or whatever is available. Apply cold to the injury in short periods of time, twenty minutes every other hour.

The ability to ice and injury during the first 72 hours can be critical to the healing process. Never place snow or ice directly against the skin as the extreme cold can cause damage and complicate the injury. For high fever, use snow to make a cold compress for the forehead or back of the neck to help temporarily lower body temperature.

You and also use snow in a survival situation to numb an injured area before you cut into it or stitch it.

Disclaimer: please don’t take anything written here as medical advice. Neither the author nor Survival Sullivan shall be held liable for the misuse of the advice given here. The advice given here is for information purposes only!

Use Snow to Throw Someone Off Your Trail

If you’re in a situation where there is snow on the ground and you suspect someone with ill intentions is following you, use it to throw them off your trail.

You can cover your tracks by using a branch to erase your tracks or take it one step further and create some fake tracks to lead your stalker in a different direction than where you are headed.

Use Snow to Hunt Game or Identify Predators in the Area

If you are lost in the snow in a wilderness area, use snow to track or hunt game or to monitor whether there are predators in the area. If you are skilled in identifying animal tracks, they will be easier to see and follow in the snow.

Trails in the snow from animals can even lead you to water since animals frequently use the same general path to get to and from water sources. If you see tracks from a predator in the area, this could alert you to a future threat or help you know to relocate so you can avoid a confrontation with them in the future.

Use Snow for Insulation

Unless you’re an experienced cold climate outdoorsman, you may not have considered the insulation properties of snow. Freshly fallen snow has more air trapped within it and is more insulating than packed snow.

If you use approximately 10 inches of fresh snow, it’s roughly the equivalent of six inch thick fiberglass insulation. It’s the pockets of air within fresh snow that gives it the insulating property. In a survival situation, you can use the insulating property of snow to create a an insulated bed in the snow.

Go One Step Further and Use Snow to Build a Shelter

There are several different ways you can use snow in survival situations to build a shelter if you feel you may be stranded for an extended period of time. Snow shelters are typically called igloos and quinzhees.

For those that spend a lot of time outdoors in the cold climate, you may want to invest in and take along the proper tools such as a snow saw and cave carver seen in this video, to build a Snow Shelter:

…or if in a forested area, follow some of the tips in this video on how to use snow to build a shelter under a tree.

When things go awry and you are trapped in the wilderness during colder weather, remember all of these ways to use snow in survival situations to help you make the best of your situation.

It’s a good idea to carry basic tools with you, dress for cold weather in layers, and follow safety procedures such as carrying signaling gear and letting someone know where you are going, and what time you expect to arrive back.

If you follow the basic wilderness safety precautions and keep calm, you can use snow in survival situations to stay dry and warm until help arrives or at least until the weather clears enough for you to get back to safety.

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About Megan Stewart

Born and raised in NE Ohio, with early memories that include grandpa teaching her to bait a hook and watching her mom, aunts, and grandmothers garden, sew, and can food, Megan is a true farm girl at heart. For Megan, the 2003 blackout, the events of 911, and the increasing frequency of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, spurred a desire to be more prepared for whatever may come along. Soon to be living off-grid, this mother of four and grandmother of six grandsons, is learning everything she can about preparedness, basic survival, and self-sufficient homesteading. She is passionate about sharing that knowledge so that others can be increasingly prepared to protect their families.

One comment

  1. Great ideas! Thank you so much!

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