This article is taken from Tony Nester’s popular monthly column with Outside Magazine. To read more from his “Survival Guru” column, visit http://www.outsideonline.com
On overnight winter treks, I always bring a pillowcase that I turn into a snowmelting device later at camp. Simply pack the pillowcase with snow and hang it off a branch near (not over) the campfire. A pot below can catch the dripping water. It normally takes about 30 minutes to fill a quart of water this way so we keep the device going during our evening fire. One woodsman from Michigan I know, prefers using a mosquito headnet instead of a pillowcase as his snowmelting device. Just be cautious not to get the headnet, which is made of nylon, too close to the fire or it will melt.
Other methods that I have used include the “snow marshmallow” where you take a large, soccer-ball sized lump of snow (like the hardpacked kind you make for a snowman), and place it on a stick anchored near the fire. You can also use a few (hopefully clean) socks or a bandanna that are stuffed with snow and hung by the fire.
I have heard of survivors using black trash bags and reflective emergency blankets with snow on top to passively melt snow in the sun.
On short dayhikes, I bring along a Nalgene water bottle that is covered from top to bottom with black duct tape to provide me with a passive solar snow-melting device. I have another (lightweight “whiskey” flask) bottle that has a 3’ loop of webbing taped on so I can wear it around my neck and inside my parka where my bodyheat converts the snow into water while I hike.
If you are going to melt snow in your cooking pot over the fire or campstove, be sure to add a little water first unless you like the taste of burnt snow.
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