Eating Snow Myth

There is probably no category of knowledge with more myths stuffed in than survival skills.  Survival myths are all over, they get repeated word of mouth around the campfire, find their way online (I’ve even repeated this one), and even taught by experienced survival trainers.  How does this happen?  Someone says something that sounds good, even scientific, and it just gets repeated by those who believe it, nobody really wants to go against it because unlike other categories of knowledge, if you get this stuff wrong you could die.  So with the threat of death on the mind, few people ever put these myths to the test.  But luckily some have, and the information has gotten out there.  So, let’s dispel a survival myth that I myself have fallen for.

You Can Eat Snow

You can eat snow if you have no other source of water in a cold weather wilderness survival situation.  Most people that have heard the myth over and over again will not be easily swayed away from believing that eating snow could be deadly though.  They have heard, as I had, that eating snow can cause dehydration and drop your core temperature, both of which could kill you.  Both of which just aren’t true.


This part of the myth sounds scientific, counterintuitive, but scientific.  It just doesn’t take any significant amount of water for your body to warm snow as it equalizes with your body’s temperature.  On the other hand, if you are not consuming any water (including snow melted in your mouth), then you will be suffering from dehydration, even in cold environments.

Core Temperature

This part of the myth makes sense, putting something cold in your body will require your body to warm it due to the laws of thermodynamics, but just how much heat will your body lose?  Well, your body won’t lose any heat, it will simply have to burn calories to maintain its temperature.  If you are not eating any food, these calories will come from your body itself, which is not good, but your body can last much longer without calories than it can without water.  There is also confusion over how many calories are required.  Calories can be measure in “little calories” and in “big calories”.  Without getting into the physics of it, in order to melt a gallon of water from snow your body would need the amount of calories found in about 4 or 5 slices of bread.  Not that much, really.


I can understand if you still don’t believe me.  But before you die of dehydration with frozen water all around you, you might want to read a little about the Inuit and how much snow they eat, or the man who survived 43 days in the Himalayas with no water source except snow he melted in his mouth.  Just don’t let it touch your lips, as you don’t want chapped lips in the wilderness.

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