Gauging Ice Thickness

December 28, 2022

Whether you want to fish, skate, snowmobile, or drive a truck on it, ice can be dangerous if too thin for the activity you pursue. But how do you know if and when it’s thick enough to hold substantial weight? 

All ice that contains cracks or is located near inlets or moving water should be avoided. If there is any question about whether the ice is thick enough, chances are, it’s not. Use extreme caution when driving on ice with heavy vehicles, as it should be at least eight inches thick to hold a small pickup truck. 

Any cars parked on ice should be located at least 50 feet apart and moved every couple of hours. Use caution while driving slowly; ensure the doors are unlocked, and your seatbelt is off. 

Always make sure you – and your group – are equipped with a life jacket, ice pick, cell phone, a long rope, and an ice auger. 

Ice color is a huge giveaway when determining safety. Here are some guidelines: 

  • Clear ice is the strongest, as it’s also the newest
  • White or opaque ice is loaded with air pockets, making it weaker
  • Light gray to dark black ice is unsafe and should be avoided
  • Mottled, slushy, or “rotten” ice that is thawing or melting will immediately give way to weight

Once the ice is observed to be safe using the suggestions noted above, the ice thickness needs to be determined as well. To test ice thickness, use a drill to make a small hole, hook a tape measure to the bottom edge, and read the measurement. Ice color, thickness, external temperature, local conditions, and knowledge of frozen waterways are all important factors to consider when gauging ice thickness. 

The buddy system is also imperative for ice activities. Ensure someone knows where you are at all times. Make sure a flotation device is always within arm’s reach, especially while testing ice thickness. 

Ice augers can come in handy to drill through the ice; axes are also helpful in measuring thickness accurately.

Generally, ice for skating, walking, cross-country skiing, or fishing should be thicker than four inches and can support roughly 200 pounds. 

Ice for snowmobiles or ATVs should be five inches and can hold 800 pounds.

Eight to 12 inches of ice can support a small car or a larger group of people, while light pickup trucks or SUVs can clear ice 12 – 15 inches thick.

Have fun out there but be safe and use common sense. Check out Wolf Survival Gear for outerwear that will keep you warm.  

Wolf Survival Gear is a hub for your prepping and survival needs. We are your trusted resource for concerned families, avid hunters, or serious preppers. Make us your one-stop-shop and prepare now, before you need it later. 

Written by the digital marketing team at Creative Programs & Systems: