Ancient Pathways, LLC

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Outdoor Programs in Desert Survival and Bushcraft

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What is the best way to melt snow for water?

This article is taken from Tony Nester's popular monthly column with Outside Magazine. To read more from his "Survival Guru" column, visit

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.

For further info on Tony's survival courses, books, or DVDs, check out

News and Events at Ancient Pathways

It's been quite a while since posting (6 months!) and an extremely busy season teaching throughout the US for government agencies and private groups, editing the Desert Survival DVD (now available), and being immersed in EMT school.

Now that things are winding down for the season, I plan to post more often and will be also adding one of my articles on occasion from my monthly column with Outside Magazine. If you haven't checked it out yet, Survival Guru (their wording) has been one of the most popular monthly columns at Outside since its inception two years ago. There is a backlog of articles archived on their website to review and the column is reader driven so send in your questions-

We have also added a partial list of 2011 fieldcourses in Arizona and southeast Utah. Once our schedule with the military is hammered out further, we will add in more courses along with a return of our summer kids outdoor safety classes so stay tuned.

The 2-hour Desert Survival DVD is finally done and available through our site and Also keep an eye out for it at National Parks throughout the Southwest. The material was filmed in the Four-Corners region last spring and covers material entirely different from our Youtube segments . Nearly half the program covers water location methods and hydration issues along with the most up-to-date information on venomous creatures and flash floods. Rounding out the rest of the program are the skills of firemaking, shade-shelters, signaling devices, and survival kits along with a Special Features section for dayhikers as well as Soldiers Deploying to Desert Regions. For more info-

Well, it's time to go finish tanning a deerhide and get out under open skies. Thanks for catching up.

Enjoy the Wilds!

Tony Nester
Ancient Pathways, LLC
Flagstaff, AZ

About Ancient Pathways

Tony Nester is the author of numerous books and DVDs on survival. His school Ancient Pathways is the primary provider of survival training for the Military Special Operations community and he has served as a consultant for the NTSB, Travel Channel, Backpacker Magazine, and the film Into the Wild. When not on the trail, he lives in a passive-solar, strawbale home in northern Arizona. For information on Tony’s books, gear, or bushcraft courses, visit

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