How to build a quinzee snow shelter

A quinzee is a simple shelter made by hollowing out a big pile of snow. They can take several hours to build, but are an effective way to stay warm when camping in the winter. Here’s how to build one.


Step 1: Shovel a pile of snow into a mound seven to eight feet high and big enough around to hold two people once it is hollowed out. Mix snow of different temperatures to cause it to harden, or “sinter.” Flip the snow over so it mixes when you pile it into a mound.


quinzee-2.jpgStep 2: Shape the mound into a dome and allow it to sinter for about 90 minutes. Then begin to hollow out the mound.

Dig a small entrance on the downhill side. Smooth out the walls and ceiling. The walls should be one to two feet thick. Poke measuring sticks through from the outside of the mound, so you will know to stop hollowing out the inside when you see the ends of the sticks. Hollow the shelter out from the top down.


quinzee-3.jpgStep 3: Use the last foot of snow to make elevated snowbeds. Dig a narrow trench between the beds all the way to the ground. This allows cold air to flow down and out of the quinzee. Poke a small ventilation hole near the top of the dome.


quinzee-4.jpgStep 4: Building a quinzee will make you sweat. Prevent hypothermia by changing into warm dry clothes after you finish building your shelter.

Make sure you mark your entrance in case it gets covered with snow while you are away having fun. Keep a small shovel inside in case you need to dig your way out.



– If you have to visit the latrine in the middle of the night, eat a snack afterward to help warm up your body and get back to sleep. Don’t worry about keeping the snacks in your quinzee — when you camp in winter, you don’t have to worry about bears.

– Jell-O gelatin mix makes a great hot drink. Store Jello-O powder in refillable backpacking tubes and add it to hot water. Try cherry Jell-O in instant hot chocolate!

– Eat your meals from their packages. Vacuum-sealed meals and packages of oatmeal can be opened and used as “bowls.” If you don’t rip the top off completely, you’ll have only one piece of trash to dispose of.

– Bury your water jugs in a snowdrift. The snow insulates the water and keeps it from freezing.


Comments about “How to build a quinzee snow shelter”

  1. memyselfandi says:

    Awesome im gona use it on my snowshoe camp this weekend

  2. womanizer says:

    this looks so cool i cant wait for snow but when its done can it hold a lookout tower for snowball-warz?

  3. scouterman says:

    this is going to be easy in an ohio blizzard !

  4. 007 says:


  5. YOWZA says:

    Me and some other kids from our troop made one yesterday.
    We fit four kids inside. Instead of mixing the snow and letting it sit for90 minutes we just let it sit for three hours. When we got back it was 2 feet smaller cuz some kids went sledding down the mound. At least we still fit 4 kids in!

  6. GEAR MAN says:

    Negative 22 degrees! That’s nothing! Montana can get up to -50 on NORMAL DAYS! And that doesn’t include windchill!!!!!

    -22, that’s nothing!!!!

  7. GEAR MAN says:

    I’ve tried this before. I haven’t been on a scout trip when we built quinzees, but I’ve built my own before. It’s fun to do that on snowshoeing trips, and even in your backyard! (if you get that much snow, like hear in Montana, we get lots of snow to practice with!)

  8. outdoorsmanite says:

    I just built a quinze for 10 it took me 3 days!! I slept in it last nite awesome!!!

  9. R19 D49 says:

    I havent tryed it yet but how about glazing the outside with water to make a shell of ise on the outside

  10. Minnesota Ice says:

    -22 in minnesota this morning. My 3 boy scouts slept in their quinzee last night. Nice and warm inside … very cold outside.

  11. Mwahaha.... ha ha... I pity da' foo! says:

    Built one to day i am not looking forward to sleeping it… just kidding i am! I built one right inside my house… its great to escape the warmth of my house…. Gotta love igloos >.> -.-

  12. tay-dog says:

    yea i have to write this down cause i am going winter camping with my friend seqouya and everybody is sleeping in a tent except for us we are sleeping in a quinzee for three nights!!!!

  13. wolfy says:

    can you make one for a dog?

  14. JWI00 says:

    good for survival.

  15. Chuckles tovog says:

    that is pretty sweet, i could use in airsoft wars

  16. Wise One says:

    So Cool!!!!!
    I will sooo build this!!!

  17. monkeymiser says:

    gnarly!!! im a skater! could u tel? i hav the lingo!
    dis looks totally wicked! i could skate on maybe? me will biuld 1.

  18. sparky says:

    Cool, I wonder if you can have a small woodstove and smokestack in it. Small enough it won’t melt?

  19. a person says:

    i actually made and slept in one of these a year or to back at the Klondike-philmont winter camp, first of the season in fact

  20. campingfreak says:

    Ill have to try that. It stinks its not winter yet.

  21. abc says:

    thats awsome to

  22. ploilo says:

    neat we learned this im school

  23. Sargie says:

    Mix up the snow in the 7-8 foot circle first before you start to pile it.

  24. dude says:

    Troop 637 rules

  25. dude says:

    I Would love to try that

  26. mm says:

    im gonna build 1

  27. smartguy says:

    it stinks that it not winter yet. that is the only reason i am looking forward to the snow!

  28. smartguy says:

    an igloo is cooler, but quinzees are easier to build

  29. cowntdowgylaw says:

    i wanna try it

  30. Scout1216 says:

    This will help with my Troops winter survival trip this year.

  31. Sg says:

    That sounds cool but it sounds like you need alot of snow.

  32. playtaypus says:

    can’t wait to try in in the winter.

  33. what????????? says:

    igloos are way cooler

  34. awesomedudeiceman479 says:


  35. momo says:

    awesome. an igloo is kooler, tho

  36. dog says:

    i going to build one

  37. snowboardman says:


  38. cool says:

    cool imformation

  39. YoYo says:

    I am so confused!

  40. shadow says:

    that was super cool!!!!!!!

  41. Bob Cat says:

    that is cool :)

  42. Thor says:

    Very impressive. Great instructions.

  43. hujabuga says:

    Me and my brother just built one of these in our back yard today! it is really nice but we haven’t hollowed it out yet.

  44. Zog says:

    Try to put a wall on the entire northern side on the quinzee. This keeps the wind and snow from blowing into your hut and making it warmer. Just make about 2 foot tall mound going around the side, make it taller near the entrance.

  45. Smart says:

    A better way to do this and should be taught instead is to pile your gear and place a tarp over it. then pile the snow on top of the gear, then let sit and instead of spending a good hour an a half of getting sweaty and cold you just remove the bags and fine tune the inner shelter. it’s faster and better.

  46. scooter says:

    You can also poke the sticks in the mound before it sinters and for sure before you start hollowing it out.

  47. ScouterDave says:

    When laying out the quinzee, pay attention to prevailing winds. You should make your entrance on the side away from the wind; this will help keep snow from drifting in.

    Don’t try to incorporate trees into your quinzee – living trees give off heat, and will melt the snow around them.

  48. boyscout255 says:

    I am going to make on for my zero hero award!!!!!!!

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