Drying off with snow
Let’s say you decide to hike the Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland, from the airport at Kangerlussuaq to the quaint town of Sismiut on the coast. The journey is over 100 miles long. You need to know about drying off with snow.
But, you want to make it more interesting and decide to go at the beginning of October, when the Arctic drops below freezing.
You soon discover that you have to cross many ice-choked rivers. Sometimes in blizzard conditions. Developing hypothermia or frostbite is real. Being in the Arctic is tough enough. Frostbite is common. But when you’re backpacking a trail, you will inevitably cross streams and rivers. And this is dangerous when doing it by yourself.
This is what happened to me on my second day of my Greenland expedition in 2008. I began crossing a river in a blizzard. Half way across, I fell in and completely dunked my boots and everything else. I was in trouble. But then I remembered a Bear Grylls show where he dried himself off with snow.
With not much to lose but toes and possibly succumbing to hypothermia, I had to think quickly. So, I began grabbing handfuls of snow and rubbed them on my soaked feet, legs, and body. The snow on wet skin feels like rubbing broken glass on my skin. But, in a minute, I was dry and ready to get dressed.
Crossing a river in shorts
Watch this video I filmed in Jackson Hole in winter of just how to dry yourself off. Drying off with snow makes you want to yell. When it’s over, you’re ready to put clothes back on and warm up:
People ask me what’s my motivation for doing such a thing. I wish I had a video camera or GoPro when I was in Greenland, but my pack was already heavy (50lbs) for traveling over icy bogs. Plus, there was no way to recharge cameras during the whole expedition. So I only had my Nikon D200 SLR to shoot with. That camera doesn’t do video. Hence, why I had to re-film this several years later.
Also, I’m a polar explorer. I speak to audiences about attitude, resilience, and surviving difficult conditions. That is, whether it’s in the office or in the field. I do these crazy things to show people that if I can do something challenging, they can survive their challenge.
You could very well develop hypothermia, lose toes, or even die. This is purely for educational purposes.
Should you find yourself in Greenland hiking by yourself in the Arctic, and you fall in a river, at least you’ll have a chance. You know about drying off with snow. But it’s best not to fall in the river in the first place.