Finding Water in Winter and Alpine Environments

traci j macnamaraTaking a swig of water on a winter backcountry trip is a sweet reward for all of the work that’s required. Often hikers, climbers, and skiers must carry extra gear in the winter–a stove and fuel for melting snow into drinking water; a thicker sleeping pad and sleeping bag; a four-season tent; and more layers of clothing. All of this extra weight might not seem warranted…until you experience the solitude of a snowy winter night or the camaraderie of a backcountry winter camping trip with friends.

Here are a few scenarios when you might want to melt snow for water in the backcountry–either in the winter or in summer conditions. First…in the Alps or in other alpine environments; it’s often difficult to find water sources at high altitudes. But…if you can find a snow patch…

snow patch1

…then you can gather snow and melt it on your camping stove so that you have water to make noodles, tea, and (most importantly) coffee in the morning.

alpine camp

If you’re on a winter hut trip in Colorado, for instance, then you will likewise melt snow from your surroundings for cooking and drinking water.

10th mtn hut

Most huts are equipped with burly wood stoves and snow melt containers for this purpose:

hut trip snow melt

In the perhaps unlikely instance that you stumble upon a shelter on the ice shelf in Antarctica, such as this one…

kiwi shelter

…then you’ll quickly notice that snow is your most abundant natural resource. If the said shelter possesses a camp stove and fuel–as the above shelter, in fact, does in a super-slick compact kitchen…

kiwi stove

…then you’re in luck. You’ll at least have enough water to drink until you figure out what you’re going to do about food…

Want to know more about water in the winter?
Read my article on the About.com Survival Skills website:
“How to Find and Purify Water in the Winter”
Humans can survive for weeks without food but only days without water. In the winter, finding water and having the right tools to ready it for drinking can be a challenge; however, the winter season also provides an additional resource: snow…click here to continue reading

Photos © Traci J. Macnamara.

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