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Cold water in the desert? ‘Sock trick’ really works

By FRANKLIN FISHER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 2, 2007

COMBAT OUTPOST RAWAH, Iraq — Any chance you’ll be deploying to the desert anytime soon? Some Marines have a little trick that’ll help you with the all-important business of drinking enough water.

It’s a way to escape drinking water that’s been turned distastefully warm by the searing desert temperatures, say the Marines of 3rd Platoon, Company C, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, which operates out of Combat Outpost Rawah in Iraq’s western Anbar province.

They call it “the sock trick” — and it’s a way to turn water from unpleasantly warm to enjoyably cool.

“Marines, sailors, whoever is drinking water, is going to be more willing to drink eight bottles of cool water than they will to drink four bottles of hot water,” said Sgt. Michael Mills, 29, of Oceanside, Calif. “And when temperatures get like they do out here, 12, 14 bottles a day isn’t uncommon.”

Mills is vehicle commander of a light armored vehicle, or LAV, that’s been operating in the desert recently as part of 3rd Platoon.

He and his Marines don’t claim to have invented the sock trick, and aren’t sure when and where it originated.

But this is how it works:

“Just get a sock — preferably a sock that hasn’t been worn, a clean sock,” he said. “And just take a bottle. You slide the bottle inside the sock.”

Soak the sock. The water you soak it with doesn’t have to be cold; it can be warm, and if you’re in the desert it probably will be.

You can get the sock wet by submerging it in water, say, melted ice in a cooler. Or, pour a bottle of water over the sock until the sock is soaked.

“You hang the sock up for, oh, just ten to 15 minutes, and the water will get cool,” said Mills.

This may expose it to any breezes that may happen to blow, which can speed the cooling process.

“By putting it in the wind or the breeze, the wind or the breeze just helps cool it even that much faster,” Mills said.

But, he added, it can even sit in direct sunlight and still get cool. And you don’t even have to hang it, he said.

The key is to put the bottle in a thoroughly wet sock.

“As your sock dries out, you just slowly add water to it,” Mills said. “Wait that 10 to 15 minutes, pick it up, take a sip and it should be cold. Twenty minutes in the sock and you’re down to maybe not refrigerator level, but still very drinkable.”

“It can make a huge difference,” said Mills.

One of the Marines in Mill’s LAV is Lance Cpl. Thaddeus Herber, 19, of New Braunfels, Texas, a scout-automatic rifleman. Herber values the sock trick, and praises it.

“One of those million dollar ideas,” said Herber, “that never made anybody rich.”


In the desert of western Anbar province, Marine Sgt. Michael Mills, 29, of Oceanside, Calif., slowly pours water on a bottle covered with a sock.
FRANKLIN FISHER / S&S

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