When winter camping, it can get quite cold outside, so it helps to stay warm. A quinzee snow shelter will help you with that. In this article, you will learn how to build one, so you can stay warm despite the cold weather. Read on to find out everything you need to know and how to build one in 7 easy steps.
For the advanced reader, in a previous article, I discussed the basics of camping. While it is not specifically for winter camping, it will help you out if you want to build a quinzee snow shelter. Even if you are an experienced camper, it is always worthwhile to have a refresher. You will find the information there to be helpful. Otherwise, enjoy learning how to build a snow shelter.
1. Select Your Spot
The location of your shelter is the key to its success. It determines whether you are sleeping well or waking up in the middle of night. You want to build it in a sheltered area on level land. This will keep the heat in your shelter. If you choose a place like a frozen lake, then it will draw the heat away from you. In an area with trees, be wary of branches that could fall from overhead.
Start by digging all the snow out from below. The denser layers of snow are at the bottom, giving your shelter a much stronger base. Dig close to the ground, but not so much so that the floor of your shelter is dirt or ice.
2. Shovel Snow into a Pile
Consider how big you want shelter to be. If it is for two people, then aim for a pile of 8-10 feet. If only one person, then 6-8 feet. The diameter is up to you, but, with a bigger pile of snow, the more people you can fit in your shelter. Also, make a pile for your half cylinder entrance.
3. Shape the Snow into a Half Dome and let it Harden
Begin this step by using your shovel to shape your pile of snow into a half dome. Pat down areas that look loose and add more snow as need be. Round it out to make it look nice and smooth. This will give your shelter the good look it deserves.
Next let it sinter for at least an hour while you gather plenty of straight 12 inch sticks. Leaving your shelter for an hour solidifies the snow and makes it stronger, giving it a higher quality structure. The longer you wait, the harder it will become, giving your shelter a sturdier frame.
4. Insert Sticks into Your Dome to a 12-Inch Depth
Before hollowing it out, put sticks into your dome and space them 12 inches away from one another. These will be used to give your dome some framework and let you know the thickness of your dome when hollowing out. Otherwise, you could be running into problems. You do not want a thin layer of dome. It will not keep you as warm.
5. Hollow out Your Shelter
Dig an entrance on the downhill side of your shelter. This makes it easy to come out once you are inside and will cause the cold air to sink out of your shelter. You can also point your entrance away from the wind, so that you do not have a breeze rush in, but I prefer to point my entrance down hill. Keep it as small as possible. This will minimize heat escape from the shelter. You can always enlarge it later.
Otherwise, remove snow until you reach a stick. Then you know that you have reached the thickness you want. If it gets too thin, then that is okay. Just grab some more snow to strengthen it from the inside and outside. You can only really have one person shoveling, so it helps if you have someone on the outside to collect the snow as it comes out.
Smooth the inside of your shelter with your hands to make it look professional and remove the digging marks. If you want to, then you can also create a small hole for ventilation.
6. Build indoor Sleeping Platforms
Once you have hollowed out the inside of your shelter, create level sleeping platforms. Construct an inner trench for the cold air to sink down to and out of your shelter. This will help you keep warm despite the cold weather outside. You can make further barriers around the entrance if you want to keep warmer.
7. Take Pride in What you Built
Congratulations! You have built a wonderful snow shelter. It is well-designed and durable, so be sure to pat yourself on the back. You put in a lot of time and effort to make it work. Now you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. Grab your sleeping bag and lay down for a well-deserved rest.
Top Tips for Building a Great Shelter
There are some elaborations and ways you can make building a shelter better if need be. Some of these are extra work, while others are helpful tips.
- Put your gear under a tarp before shoveling snow on top. Some expert builders will lay their gear in a pile under a tarp before shoveling snow onto a pile, making it easier to hollow out. If you are a beginner, then I would not recommend this. If you do it right though, then you will end up will less snow to clear once you hollow it out.
- When not using a shovel, stick it upright in the snow. Often times, the snow can be quite confusing and your gear can get lost, especially a snow shovel. If you keep your shovel upright in the snow, then you will save yourself a hassle.
- Have people lie down to give you an idea of dimensions. If you lie side by side with a friend, then you can have a rough idea how large you want your shelter to be. Sometimes it can be difficult to envision what 8 feet looks like, so it helps to have a friend.
- Be careful when hollowing it out. Collapses do happen and snow can be quite heavy, so be aware of that once you start removing the snow inside. If you yell while inside, it can be quite difficult for someone to hear you. Also, a bear can sneak up on if you are unaware, so keep a sharp lookout.
- Use a candle. Some builders like a nice and smooth inner wall, so keep a candle lit inside for a few hours. This gives a neat glaze to give your shelter a pristine look.
- Snow falls in layers, so each one is different. One layer may be quite packed, while another is very light. Take this into consideration when shaping your pile. Mix all the snow together, so you can have an even building material.
- Angle your entrance like an L-shaped V. This is another way to challenge yourself. If you orient your shelter in this manner, then you can further minimize heat escape. It prevents strong winds from blowing directly inside.
That should be all you need to know to build a wonderful quinzee snow shelter. If you are looking to have fun in the snow, then it will be sure to do just the trick. Once you have yours built, it will be a wonderful addition to any winter expedition. Have fun building it!
Otherwise, if you have any thoughts, think I missed anything, or have a question, please do comment below and share this article. Thank you for reading and I hope you make it a great day!