Feb 16, 2010 at 8:58 am #1255341
During a recent foray into the wilds of Ohio, (Yes, Ohio has wilds, BION, like the Shawnee State Forest.), I often scooped up a Gatorade bottle full of snow, put it in my pocket to melt, and drank it straight up.
Should I have treated it with Aqua Mira or the equivalent? Should I have filtered. I suffered no ill effects, but did I just get lucky? Under what circumstances should we treat water, and when is it safe to defer?
More than once on the AT, I looked at the beautiful, clear water of some cascading mountain stream or piped spring and felt like an idiot treating the water with Aqua Mira, but I did so anyway. In my "yooth," I drank frequently from a beautiful piped spring near my house with no ill effect whatsoever. Temptations are great. Potentially negative consequences are dire.
What do ya'll think?
StargazerFeb 16, 2010 at 9:07 am #1574423
I ate snow all the time as a kid…just not any snow that wasn't white! Snow can have pollutants in it just like rain, but I'm not qualified to really answer that in detail. I would think you'd be just fine, but sometimes melted snow can have a lot of "floaties" that you may or may not want to drink.
I know that answer wasn't very definitive, but just lettin' ya know that I ate snow and lived to tell about it also!Feb 16, 2010 at 9:07 am #1574424
As long as there were no industries that would have tainted the snow as it fell, and it was not yellow, I do not see a problem.Feb 16, 2010 at 9:11 am #1574426
Ha! The "Don't eat the yellow snow" advice spawned at least two classic rock tunes, one by Yoko Ono and the other one by the late, great, and I hope not forgotten, Frank Zappa.
StargazerFeb 16, 2010 at 9:16 am #1574428
My roommate in college loved Zappa. I also just discovered in my basement a People magazine from December 1980 with John Lennon and Yoko Ono on the cover. Cool stuff!
Oh yeah, and yellow snow, though technically "sterile," is unadvisable to eat.
I also remember as a kid, making a snowball and putting it in my jacket pocket while playing outside all day. If I got thirsty, I'd just take it out and take a bite! Ah, the good old days…..Feb 16, 2010 at 9:41 am #1574447
Also watch out for pink or green snow that is harboring bacteria. I think you will be fine.Feb 16, 2010 at 9:50 am #1574451
Actually, pink snow is not bacterial. In California, we call it "watermelon snow" since it has a pink color and faint watermelon scent. Pine pollen blows off trees and settles on the snow surface. On a warm spring day, a tiny bit of surface snow melts, so the pollen is now wet. An algae grows on it, and that is pink.
It is not seriously harmful, but if you ingest much of it, your bowels will protest. It is self-limiting.
–B.G.–Feb 16, 2010 at 10:07 am #1574458
Pardon my mis-speak
Chlamydomonas nivalis is the algae : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watermelon_snow
JayFeb 16, 2010 at 10:26 am #1574466
When I am running around in the mountains, I sometimes get low on drinking water and seek refreshment from snow. If I can see a pristine snow bank without muddy mammal tracks, and if I can catch the snow melt before it is on dirt, then I will drink it without any treatment.
If there are mammal tracks, then I treat it first before drinking it. I never consume solid snow directly unless it is a hot day and my body is warm, the snow is pristinely clean, and I put only tiny amounts into my mouth. If you take lots of snow, your stomach will rebel since it can't absorb the liquid until it has warmed the melted snow up to body temperature.
–B.G.–Feb 16, 2010 at 10:49 am #1574472
@jeff-kLocale: New York
Can you expand on the fact that your body can't absorb the liquid until it has warmed the snow up to body temperature?
I am curious from an academic perspective with the difference of drinking cold and warm water.
JeffFeb 16, 2010 at 10:52 am #1574475
@halpottsLocale: Middle Tennessee
Stargazer, I often hike in the upper parts of the Smoky Mountains and I confess that I too often look at that swift running crystal clear bubbling mountain stream on the top of the mountain and I just can't resist. I just chug it down and it is refreshing and delicious. Microbes be damned. Or maybe I should say Fear of Microbes be damned. I always think of a phrase I read in The Backpackers Handbook by Chris Townsend, a guy who has hiked many thousands of miles over several decades – "I've never treated water as long as it looks clear and I'm above any habitations or livestock herds."Feb 16, 2010 at 11:22 am #1574488
I don't know much about the academic principles of it, but apparently the stomach normally holds fresh water until it is approximately body temperature, and then the absorbtion happens. Now, I think it will warm up a small volume pretty fast. If you drink a lot of excessively cold water (snow melt), then the stomach is staggered temporarily and some of us would get stomach upset from this. I think that solid snow is even worse in this respect. This is not based on any lab test, but purely based on field observation.
–B.G.–Feb 16, 2010 at 11:58 am #1574510
@bleanLocale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
The only other thing I have to add is that I scrape the surface away and take snow from beneath that. I also try and avoid a buried old surface (if it is pronounced enough that I can recognize it). I.e. I try to get snow that is as clean as I can. I have no idea how much it matters, but that is my habit.
— MVFeb 16, 2010 at 12:15 pm #1574520
Yes, snow from one inch down is typically cleaner than surface snow. Of course, you may have had one bear walking around there in mid-winter, and it had poor toilet hygiene.
The people who tend to know their snow very well are Eskimos, cross country skiers, and avalanche patrolmen.
–B.G.–Feb 18, 2010 at 9:47 pm #1575681
I just want to add this:
Sometimes snow tastes like ass.
Thx for listening.Feb 18, 2010 at 9:50 pm #1575682
Haha! I'm sorry, but Javan's post cracked me up!Feb 19, 2010 at 3:02 am #1575756
The question is, of course,
How does Javan know what ass tastes like?
LMAO (and if it falls off, god knows what I might do . . .),
StargazerFeb 19, 2010 at 4:31 am #1575762
Javan, dude, perhaps I can assist — stay away from the brown snow…..Feb 19, 2010 at 5:57 pm #1576117
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
"Sometimes snow tastes like ass."
That's a little vague. Could you supply us with a synonym?
Or maybe a definition? Otherwise folks are going to be all over the map with this one…Feb 19, 2010 at 9:33 pm #1576204
Well honestly, it's difficult to provide synonymity, because there's a whole wide range of bad tasting snow!
I mean seriously, I don't like melting it and drinking it without filtration. Tastes like freakin ozone if it's fresh.
P.S. as far as how I know the taste of things… =X You look with your eyes, not with your feet?… nm..Feb 19, 2010 at 9:46 pm #1576208
BTW, in regards to consequences in north america, I'd say, a) people in the US are extremely over paranoid about sanitary issues. b) if you have hepatitis vaccination, dont worry. That's just me though, I've been drinking bad water since I was little.
Worst case scenario state-side, is still less bad than Dengue Fever. Believe me, I know.. ;
Louis Pasteur himself famously said "It's the microbes that will have the last word.", in regards to the combat of microorganisms.Feb 20, 2010 at 5:48 pm #1576515
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
"You look with your eyes, not with your feet?… "
Spoken like a true Zen master.
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