Food & Water for Cold Weather Operations

Food & Water for Cold Weather Operations

Andrew’s Note:  The weather in my neighborhood has reminded me lately that man is at the mercy of nature.  Could you operate in cold weather…would you know to increase your water and caloric intake assure your health?  Today we’re providing a lesson from TC 21-3, the SOLDIER’S HANDBOOK FOR INDIVIDUAL OPERATIONS AND SURVIVAL IN COLD-WEATHER AREAS (Approved For Public Release) on Food & Water for Cold Weather Operations.

Cold WeatherRations and Diet


Most of what we eat and drink is used in maintaining our body heat, while only a small portion is used in producing energy for physical work. You must ensure adequate caloric intake in cold-weather operations. About 4,000 calories per day are necessary for personnel performing physically demanding work in the cold. Efficiency may drop rapidly if this level is not maintained.

The body loses liquid at a very fast rate in arctic conditions, regardless of how carefully you adjust and ventilate your clothing. The exertion of movement on foot, preparation of bivouac sites and defenses in the snow, etc., take a toll in sweat and loss of moisture in the breath. These liquids must be regularly replaced, preferably by hot drinks, which provide extra calories if they contain sugar.


Rations provide the needed calories to live and fight effectively. When eaten in their entirety, rations contain the right amount of carbohydrates, fats, protein, and vitamins [Andrew’s Note:  this is one time not to be stingy with calories…you need them to keep you warm].  The proper intake of these essential items depends on the entire ration being eaten in properly spaced meals. The lack of concern regarding eating caused by the cold, combined with the difficulties and inconvenience of cooking, may tempt soldiers to miss meals. The principles of sound leadership and discipline in cold weather require that meals be prepared and that the entire ration be eaten, warmed when possible. Save snacks (cookies, chocolate bars, etc.) for between meals and when on the march.


Because there is a large amount of fluid loss in the cold, you should drink a minimum of 3.5 quarts of water a day when heavy physical activity is involved. Water is usually available either from streams or lakes or by melting snow or ice. A limiting factor may be fuel needed to melt the snow or ice. To save time and fuel, water should be obtained from running streams or a lake. The milky water of glacial streams must be allowed to stand until the sediment settles. When a hole is cut into the ice to get water, it should be covered by a snow block or something similar to slow refreezing.

Ensure that as much of the daily liquid intake as possible is hot drinks, such as soups and cocoa. Your local command may request a special food allowance of warming and cooling beverages. Main meals should begin with soup, and between-meal snacks should include a hot drink.

When running water is not available, ice or snow must be melted. Ice produces more water in less time than snow. When melting snow, first put a small amount into the cooking pot; then more can be added. Continue this process until there is enough water. It must be purified by boiling rapidly for 15 minutes.

When heating water, use all available stoves, since this is a most time-consuming operation. Melting and boiling enough snow for a drink may take 30 to 40 minutes. Areas designated for ice or snow that is to be used for water must be sited far upwind of the latrine and garbage disposal sites. Before going to bed, ensure that stoves are filled and enough water has been prepared for breakfast. Do not let other soldiers eat snow or ice; doing so lowers the body’s core temperature.

Never drink alcohol on operations or when exposed to low temperatures. The aftereffects of alcohol can lead to a feeling of false security. You may forget the main rules to prevent cold injury, like wearing your gloves or not going outside without shoes to relieve yourself.

468 ad

Join the conversation

%d bloggers like this: