During the winter, snow can be an invaluable asset when it comes to protecting yourself from the cold. However, many people are at a loss as to how to build their own shelters using nothing but snow, and wind up freezing in the middle of nowhere because of it.
Building a quinzee shelter during the winter takes a bit of know-how and determination, but it’s well worth the effort if you find yourself lost in whiteout conditions with no other shelter options around you. Follow these instructions on how to build a quinzee shelter in order to keep yourself warm and safe until help arrives!
What Is A Quinzee Shelter
A Quinzee a hollowed out pyramid of snow. The secret to a quinzee’s warmth is natural, thick insulation. There’s almost none better than snow. You can stay warm and snug in a quinzee even when air temperatures plunge well below freezing.
Building A Quinzee Shelter
Selecting Your Quinzee Shelter Location
Pick a spot to build your Quinzee. Don’t make a quinzee under a tree or other object that might deposit a load of snow unexpectedly on your shelter. Look for an area of flat terrain with no rocks, long grass or underbrush. These will weaken your structure and make construction difficult.
Figure out how big your quinzee needs to be. (Per individual) Lie down in the area you’ve just cleared out & add a foot or two all the way around and that’ll be the diameter of your quinzee.
Pile Up The Snow
Shovel the snow right back into the area that you have just cleared. Pile up the snow as high as you want it.
Form the snow at the top of your structure into a slightly rounded shape. The arc will help support the snow’s weight, and prevent it from collapsing.
The key to a strong durable quinzee is time and sintering. This is the process of where your snow pile re-freezes into a solid (more solid that it started) mass.
Depending on the temperature, wait anywhere from 1 hour to 4 hours to begin hollowing out your snow pile. This will allow the pile to re-freeze (sintering) and become suitable for your quinzee.
Packing the snow as you pile it up.
There are two thoughts here, the second of which I agree with.
The first is that you shouldn’t pack the snow because packing the snow will reduce its insulation properties. This is generally considered wrong.
The second is that you should pack the snow as you build your mound. This will help speed up sintering and make your quinzee more stable. As long as your walls are thick, they will still insulate just fine.
Start Digging Out The Interior
Find a spot on the down-wind side and start digging out the interior of your quinzee by tunneling down to ground level, and then up into the snow dome to make your entrance. Try to keep it as small as possible; just big enough to crawl through.
Dig out the interior carefully, being sure to leave a thick base of insulating snow on the floor. Arch the quinzee’s inside roof so it is no higher than the space you will need to sit up. All warm air will rise into the empty space above your head so you want to make the quinzee’s interior as low as possible to minimize heat loss.
Keep hollowing your space until you can see light coming through the snow of the walls. Snow is translucent enough that even when it is about a foot thick, you’ll be able to see sunlight coming through. A thickness of one foot is good for the walls & ceiling. If you want to be more precise about it, you can poke foot-long twigs (ski poles, etc.)into the snow pile before you begin to hollow it out. Then, when you dig up to the twigs, you know the quinzee’s walls are as thick as you want them to be.
Finishing Your Quinzee Shelter
Finish your quinzee by poking one or two air holes (a bit less than an inch round) through opposite ends of the roof.
Tips: If you are going to use the quinzee shelter for several nights, chip away the ice build up on the inner walls each day. This will maintain breathability of the structure.