How To Build A Snow Shelter
quinzhee or quinzee (pronounced /ˈkwɪnziː/) is a shelter made by hollowing out a pile of settled snow. This is in contrast to an igloo, which is made from blocks of hard snow.

The snow for a quinzhee need not be of the same quality as required for an igloo. Quinzhees are not usually meant as a form of permanent shelter, while igloos can be used for seasonal and year round habitation. The construction of a quinzhee is much easier than the construction of an igloo, although the overall result is somewhat less sturdy and more prone to collapsing in harsh weather conditions. Quinzhees are normally constructed in times of necessity, usually as an instrument of survival, so aesthetic and long-term dwelling considerations are normally exchanged for economy of time and materials.

Chapter 11 - Snow Shelters Field Manual for the U.S. Antarctic Program

The choice of which shelter to build will be dictated by the local snow conditions.

FM 21-76| Chapter 15 - Cold Weather Survival

Snow Cave

The snow cave shelter is a most effective shelter because of the insulating qualities of snow. Remember that it takes time and energy to build and that you will get wet while building it. First, you need to find a drift about 3 meters deep into which you can dig. While building this shelter, keep the roof arched for strength and to allow melted snow to drain down the sides. Build the sleeping platform higher than the entrance. Separate the sleeping platform from the snow cave's walls or dig a small trench between the platform and the wall. This platform will prevent the melting snow from wetting you and your equipment. This construction is especially important if you have a good source of heat in the snow cave. Ensure the roof is high enough so that you can sit up on the sleeping platform. Block the entrance with a snow block or other material and use the lower entrance area for cooking. The walls and ceiling should be at least 30 centimeters thick. Install a ventilation shaft. If you do not have a drift large enough to build a snow cave, you can make a variation of it by piling snow into a mound large enough to dig out.

Snow Trench

The idea behind this shelter is to get you below the snow and wind level and use the snow's insulating qualities. If you are in an area of compacted snow, cut snow blocks and use them as overhead cover. If not, you can use a poncho or other material. Build only one entrance and use a snow block or rucksack as a door.

Snow Block

Use snow blocks for the sides and parachute material for overhead cover. If snowfall is heavy, you will have to clear snow from the top at regular intervals to prevent the collapse of the parachute material.

Snow House/ Igloo

In certain areas, the natives frequently use this type of shelter as hunting and fishing shelters. They are efficient shelters but require some practice to make them properly. Also, you must be in an area that is suitable for cutting snow blocks and have the equipment to cut them (snow saw or knife).


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