Cold Weather Survival - Water
(Adapted from the U.S. Army Survival Manual)
There are many sources of water in the arctic and subarctic.
Your location and the season of the year will determine where
and how you obtain water.
Water sources in arctic and subarctic regions are more sanitary
than in other regions due to the climatic and environmental conditions.
However, always purify the water before drinking it. During the
summer months, the best natural sources of water are freshwater
lakes, streams, ponds, rivers, and springs. Water from ponds
or lakes may be slightly stagnant, but still usable. Running
water in streams, rivers, and bubbling springs is usually fresh
and suitable for drinking.
The brownish surface water found in a tundra during the summer
is a good source of water. However, you may have to filter the
water before purifying it.
You can melt freshwater ice and snow for water. Completely
melt both before putting them in your mouth. Trying to melt ice
or snow in your mouth takes away body heat and may cause internal
cold injuries. If on or near pack ice in the sea, you can use
old sea ice to melt for water. In time, sea ice loses its salinity.
You can identify this ice by its rounded corners and bluish color.
You can use body heat to melt snow. Place the snow in a water
bag and place the bag between your layers of clothing. This is
a slow process, but you can use it on the move or when you have
Note: Do not waste fuel to melt ice or snow when drinkable
water is available from other sources.
When ice is available, melt it, rather than snow. One cup
of ice yields more water than one cup of snow. Ice also takes
less time to melt. You can melt ice or snow in a water bag, MRE
ration bag, tin can, or improvised container by placing the container
near a fire. Begin with a small amount of ice or snow in the
container and, as it turns to water, add more ice or snow.
Steve's Notes: If you have black plastic, or other
dark water resistant material, you can melt ice on this by putting
it in the sun. Also try setting ice in depressions in dark rocks
if the sun is shining.
Another way to melt ice or snow is by putting it in a bag
made from porous material and suspending the bag near the fire.
Place a container under the bag to catch the water.
During cold weather, avoid drinking a lot of liquid before
going to bed. Crawling out of a warm sleeping bag at night to
relieve yourself means less rest and more exposure to the cold.
Once you have water, keep it next to your body to prevent
refreezing. Also, do not fill your canteen completely full. Allowing
the water to slosh around will help keep it from freezing.
Steve's Notes: If you are on the arctic coast, try
old sea ice to see if enough salt has melted through and out
of it to make it drinkable once melted.
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