Outdoor Survival/Quinzhee

A quinzhee is a type of snow shelter made by making a pile of snow, waiting for it to settle together, then hollowing out the inside. In contrast, an igloo is made by carefully stacking cut blocks of snow.

Design principles


It is not difficult to make a quinzhee, though it will be warmer and stronger if certain techniques are carefully followed and on that note, make sure you live in an area with snow, or this will have little use to you, a stupid wikibook, right?. For strength, the quinzhee needs to be a dome and the lower walls must not need to support too much weight. The walls should be very thick at the base and get slightly thinner towards to the top of the dome.

For warmth, the entrance of the quinzhee should be a tunnel with an upward sloping floor such that the floor is slightly higher than the top of the entrance. Be careful not to increase the height of the door by hitting it with your back each time you enter! And DO NOT bring a heater in with you, or the structure might melt on you.

How to build a quinzhee


To make a quinzhee, make a large dome of snow. When making the pile, consider the inside shape that you want. A quinzhee to sleep two should have an oval footprint. Remember to make it high enough so that the floor can be elevated. Placing it on a hill can help with this. The length needs to be the wall thickness plus the length of your sleeping bag.

Once the pile is done, insert sticks straight in to a depth of 30 cm. As you dig it out, these sticks will tell you when you are near the outside so that you won't dig through. Wait for an hour or two for the snow to settle. The snow will re-form into a hard material that will not fall in when it is dug out.

Dig out the quinzhee with a small shovel. The fastest way is to cut blocks and push those towards the door. Cut the blocks left, right, top, and bottom. Don't pry too much as this can create cracks in the wall. As you get further in, it will be helpful to have a person outside moving the snow out of the tunnel and away. Eventually, two people will be able to fit inside and the digging goes much faster.

See also


Outdoor Survival