How to Build Winter Shelters and Survive

Winter Camping can be fun, but it's not if you're cold and unhapy with wet feet, hands and a wet bum. To make winter Camping more fun you should follow the guide down below. First of all, the al important shelter.In the winter a tent will not sufice, they aren't much fun either. If you are camping outside in the middle of a snowy field a little layer of fabric will do nothing. What you need to build is a king of igloo called a quinzhee and then you will need a special bedroll.

You will need:

STEP 1, Pile it up

Find a flat location with lots of powdery snow, preferably a meters worth. Make sure that there isn't long grass or lots of rocks, they will make it hard to shovel. First clear the snow away from where you want your quinzhee to be. Dig down almost to the ground. When you are finished pile the snow back into the area from wich you cleared it making a pile about 2 meters (6 feet) high and 3-4 meters in diameter. Do not make your pile to rectangle, with a flat roof or it will sag and eventually collapse.This makes an OK two person shelter.Take your long stick and chuck it where you think the middle pile is.

STEP 2, The waiting game

Shape and pat your pile of snow to make a smooth surface. Make it fairly flat on top. Let your pile of snow sit for a few hours so it can settle and harden a bit. Three hours is the absolute MINIMUM time, you may want to leave it overnight.

STEP 3, Dig

Start hollowing it out. Be careful and always have a friend outside when you are hollowing it out. Some people like to hollow a tunnel straihgt through the middle and then widen it up. Make sure you don't make the opening to large. When you get to the middle and find your long stick you built your pile around tunnel upwards. You know how long the stick is so you won't scoop out to much. The walls should be at least 10" thick. I like to keep mine at about a foot thick. If you notice the snow seems transulcent where you are scooping you have most likely gone far enough.

STEP 4, Wanna breathe?

Take out your long stick and fill in the hole. Punch a new air hole elsewhere.

STEP 5, Play with fire

Place a candle (lit) inside of your quinzhee. This will freeze the snow on the inside and glaze the walls. It should take about an hour.

STEP 6, Use it

Your quinzhee is ready for use. You may want to put some hay on the floor as extra insulation from the snow. Within a day your quinzhee will be strong enough to support your weight and 11 other peoples too.
After you are done do not leave your quinzhee. Destroy it. During the spring when it is melting animals or children may go in it and they may collapse on them.

There you have it, a quinzhee, igloo, snowhouse whatever you want to call it. If you sleep in it you will realize how warm it can be. Snow is excellent insulation. You may find it gets so ho that your walls drip a little. This will require some special bedding.

The Bedroll
Sleeping in your new Quinzhee may take some preparation. If you have just built a quinzhee in your backyard or anywhere else and you want to sleep in it you should find a person to sleep over in your quinzhee. Your bedroll should have the following components:

  1. A thick foam pad for insulation from the ground, as wide as your sleeping bag and long enough to support your head.

  2. A winter sleeping bag or two summer sleeping bags - with the zippers on opposite sides. If desired, add a blanket between the inner and outer bags, preferably fastened with safety pins.

  3. Within inner bag - sleepaing wear: pyjamas, heavy socks, long underwear or jogging pants, hooded jacket or sweater with a toque. These clothes must remain dry and must not be worn during the day. Change into them right before you go to bed.

  4. Large sheet of poly-ethelene film - 4 mil is best. Wrapped around the bedroll and taped shut with duct tape to form a sheath that will protect the bedroll from the dripping of the ceiling in the quinzhee. A drip could cause a concentrated wet spot on the bedroll wich would be extremely uncomfortable. Any plastic will do, use garbage bags as a last resort.

  5. Large plastic bag to keep the rolled up bedroll dry during transport.

  6. Toboggan to transport your bedroll and other gear. It should have a 6M rope for a harness to slip arond your shoulders and lots of bungee cords or more rope to keep your other gear on board. Your gear musn't sit loosely on the sled.

As in the daytime, "layering" is important to prevent perspiration. If you wake up feeling to warm, open your sleeping bag a bit or take off some clothing. When you cool off bundle up again.

By Craig McFetridge
Feb 19 1995