Making Use of Campsite Snow

It’s the opportunity to put one’s skills to the cold-weather test that makes winter camping attractive to so many back-country campers.  One of those tests may be in dealing with all the snow in and around the campsite. Under most conditions, a mantle of the white stuff can be put to use in many ways.

Snow’s insulating qualities (over 90% air ) work well around the frozen temperature environment and can be used to actually keep materials from freezing. Oftentimes just burying a container of freezable liquids in the snow keeps them liquid.  A cooler buried just below the snowy surface will keep foods icy cold but not frozen. Use a stick or flagging to mark your buried cache.

Piling snow up around your tent acts as additional insulation and as a wind barrier, too. In emergencies, burrowing into a snow back can be a life-saver keeping you out of the wind and extending the effects of your critical body heat by a small, but hopefully life-saving margin.

Melting snow is a standard source of water for consumption. Technically one should purify even freshly-fallen snow as the crystal forms around particulates in the air.  In all practicality, however, adding fresh snow to a partially depleted water bottle is a quick and easy way to re-fill. Don’t wait until you need to use a stove or heat source to fill up. Better to leave bottle about 1/3 full and add snow which will melt as it combines with the warmer, liquid water.

When placing bottled liquids around camp for intermittent use, set them upside down. Should the liquid start to freeze, it’ll do so at the upper end of the position of the vessel (which this case is the bottom of the water bottle) thereby leaving the cap/nozzle unfrozen and workable.

Although firewood and some gear don’t require protection from fresh falling snow, having a covered area will provide you with a snow-free storage space. Simply digging out a small snow cave will provide you with a space to stow extra firewood, gear, anything that can remain outside but can be kept nearby for easy access – and don’t have to brush off fresh snow to reach.

Compacted snow can be leveled off and used as a working surface for meal prep, work bench or merely as a place to sit. A small tarp laid out like a table cloth serves as a smooth, dry surface for turning such a simple platform into a serviceable utility area.

Snow has many other uses around camp: as a cold compress directed at a specific area; to thin sauces when cooking; molded into serviceable structures (a heat reflector near your campfire), ground signal media in survival situations and more.

One more use for snow. While this isn’t a dessert one associates with winter tent camping, it might just hit the spot while cabin camping – snow ice cream! A big bowl of freshly-fallen fluffy snow, mixed with a can of condensed sweetened milk, some sugar and a few drops of vanilla – or your favorite fruit – can be turned into a tasty dessert. Once mixed well and turned into a creamy swirl, take the mixture outside and allow to freeze (test texture every 15 minutes or so depending upon outside temperatures). 

It’s an uncommon winter treat using one of nature’s most common and versatile commodities – SNOW.

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