Ice Safety – Safe Ice Thickness


Ice can always be dangerous because of changing conditions and inconsistencies in its thickness, particularly when there is running water beneath it.

It is critical to evaluate the ice quality and type before traveling out onto it. New ice that is clear and hard is the only kind of ice recommended for travel. Always avoid:

  • Slushy ice
  • Ice on or near moving water (i.e. rivers, currents, channels)
  • Ice that has thawed and refrozen
  • Layered or ‘rotten’ ice caused by sudden temperature changes
Disaster Survival StoreDisaster Survival Store
  • Best survival gear and disaster readiness products at the lowest prices!
  • Shop for emergency kits, medical supplies, tools, gadgets, and long term survival food.
  • Best selection and deals from Amazon!

Other risk factors that weaken or ‘rot’ ice are:

  • Snow on ice that acts as an insulating blanket that prevents hardening.
  • Pressure ridges in the ice due to wind, current, or ice pressure.

Ice Thickness Safety Guidelines

Know and follow safe ice thickness guidelines, which apply only to new clear hard ice:

Under 4″ – STAY OFF
4″ – Ice fishing or other activities on foot
5″ – 7″ – Snowmobile or ATV
8″ – 12″ – Car or small pickup
12″ – 15″ – Medium truck

White ice or “snow ice” is only about half as strong as new clear ice. Double the above thickness guidelines when traveling on white ice.

Winter Storm Safety Tips and Resources