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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 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.


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.


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.


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.


– 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.

11 Comments on How to Build a Quinzee Snow Shelter

  1. –bears do wake up from time to time and if hungry they might get out of the den and wander around for a snack.they will return to the den to
    sleep until another mac attack. from an old eagle scout living in the
    Wyoming mountains

  2. When carrying or burying water bottles, keep them upside down. Water freezes at the air-water interface, and will be away from your opening. (Be sure lid is tight, and “straw bottles” would be opposite.)

  3. HighlandRanger // December 4, 2015 at 2:59 pm // Reply

    My son and I made some of these when we went camping in Minnesota in Jan 2012. Awesome!

  4. Very important to make sure you have dry clothes! That would lead to a very unpleasant night.

  5. Sounds easy enough… just where to put the t.v.?

  6. Hope this works with fluffy snow bc i already started doing it

    • My Brother In Law and his friends built a two story Quinzee type structure their first winter out of college. IT had couches, lights, video games, and of course a TV showing a fireplace.

  7. Icemancometh // February 8, 2015 at 11:54 am // Reply

    I’m building one right now, but today it’s like 36F so it’s right in the danger zone for carving in turning to caving in.

  8. Maybe I`ll build one today!!;)

  9. Make sure to make it big enough.It`s not a doghouse!:)

  10. looks like fun

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