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How to Build a Quinzee Snow Shelter

quinzee-feature

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.

BUILDING A QUINZEE

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Step 1: Shovel a pile of snow into a mound 7 to 8 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.

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Step 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 1 to 2 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.

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Step 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.

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

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Step 4: 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.


WINTER CAMPING TIPS

– 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.

24 Comments on How to Build a Quinzee Snow Shelter

  1. I build them when I go camping in the winter in the mountains of British Columbia better than any tent,alot warmer

  2. We always dug the base down to the ground, then ground cloths and sleeping pads to 1 1/2” to 2” thick. To go to the frozen ground theory is otherwise you are melting the snow under the body, which takes more energy than to thaw frozen ground.

  3. What is this snow of which you speak?😎

  4. Happy camper // January 9, 2018 at 6:20 pm // Reply

    We built one just recently. If building in the daytime, you can cover the entrance and clear material until light starts to show through. That is almost always the ideal thickness.

  5. I build them every winter you only need about 2 feet of snow on the walls and the roof when you dig it out if you are only using it for sleeping and not coming in and out a lot. Okay good idea.

  6. I build them every winter you only need about 2 feet of snow on the walls and the roof when you dig it out if you are only using it for sleeping and not coming in and out a lot.

  7. I never had this experience before but, that sounds exciting and awesome that I got to learn new skills.

  8. SCOUT101 // May 8, 2017 at 4:43 pm // Reply

    Thanks so much, I hope this will help to prepare me for camping in the snow!

  9. cool art

  10. Northern Master Scout // February 13, 2017 at 3:03 pm // Reply

    There is something missing, it is necessary to pack the snow, with snowshoes, in order to create a compact structure, before digging.

    • Northern Master Scout,

      Actually, it is not necessary to pack the snow down. It will naturally compress under it’s own weight. This process, however, does take some time. In my experience over years in central Michigan, best results are usually obtained by letting the pile sit overnight.

  11. I want to do it but it does not snow here:(

  12. frenchmustard // January 9, 2017 at 1:29 pm // Reply

    You ate my fingers

  13. frenchmustard // January 9, 2017 at 1:27 pm // Reply

    Ethan sucks

  14. Bob The Builder // December 14, 2016 at 7:24 am // Reply

    This is way cool 2 cool

  15. Two-Shots Mcgee // December 10, 2016 at 8:52 am // Reply

    once I built several of these and connected them with tunnels, it was awesome

  16. i like it

  17. jabba the what??? // August 3, 2016 at 1:39 pm // Reply

    I want to do this so bad!

  18. Scout den 107 // April 4, 2016 at 5:35 pm // Reply

    That is so cool!!!🙂

  19. I built and slept in one of these before. It’s surprisingly very warm inside!

  20. I think it looks nice I might do it when I get home

  21. I’ve built several of these over the years for my kids to play in. If you put a 3-4″ hole in the dome you can build a small fire inside. The heat will not melt the snow but will form an ice glaze smoke goes out the hole in dome.

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