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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.

51 Comments on How to Build a Quinzee Snow Shelter

  1. If you put your packs in the center before you pile up the snow you will have less digging out to do. This works great when you have a few people, get all the packs together and do one quinzee at a time.

  2. I live in maine its goin to be snowing in a little bit i will have to try to make one

  3. I live in alaska and I am working on one but I have to wate until it snows alitel more . I have a smol yard and I yousd up all the snow but it sould be fun good web sit

  4. To Willy:

    I don’t think you could. Maybe. I’m not sure… well, I suggest you use battery-powered lanterns. You don’t want to light a candle, accidentlly forget about it, and find your quinzee ruined.

  5. SuperSonicTH // October 10, 2008 at 8:17 pm // Reply

    Man, I am bad at making one without this 🙂

  6. how do you keep the quinzee from falling?

  7. sweet

  8. sick! so awesome

  9. so cool we go camping in the poconos i should try it

  10. wow thats did you come up with something like that. we dnt have any snow here i cnt try it. darn.

  11. cool

  12. Survivor12 // March 8, 2008 at 11:23 am // Reply

    I built a quinzee with my cousins. They loved it! I even admit that I had an awesome time, too!

  13. Great info. Question; if the ventilation seems OK with the cold air flowing down and out of the quinzee, is it safe to use candels or even small fuel stove or heater?

  14. OtakuChick // March 4, 2008 at 6:56 pm // Reply

    good info ^^thanks

  15. I used this when wegot 2feet of snow and it works great:)

  16. cool i might make 1 right now i like this website

  17. Thanks! Me and my mom were going to build one today and we didn’t know how! HA!Ha!

  18. i build them all the time and they are awesome!

  19. its snowin now got to go try it! sounds cool hope it dont collapse!

  20. I made two and I turned them in to one

  21. I’m going to try it now. I hope it works!

  22. I built a quinzee at our local Polar Prowl event for Cub scouts. I made the pile and eventually it worked out, but the hardest part was keeping the Cubs off of the pile.

  23. Thanks! This will help me when I am building by quinzee in tahoe!

  24. I live in Alaska were it snows a lot. I make lots of snow forts and snow cave but not Quinzee Snow Shelter. I will try that sometime.

  25. thanks for the tips i tried to build one this winter and it fell down

  26. banana eater // February 4, 2008 at 9:42 am // Reply

    Quinzee building is alot easier with a snow blower =)

  27. Awesome, I can’t wait to build one!!

  28. pyro maniac scout // February 3, 2008 at 12:49 pm // Reply

    this shelter is a really good idea if you have to do an arctic owl campout i used one and it was -15 below zero outside but in my shelter it was 25 degrees warmer

  29. I made a snow quinzee at winter camp with snow blocks piled up for walls. I used branches for a ceiling. I slept in it overnight too!! It was fun even though I was a little cold.

  30. I made one it was cool and cold but fun to make!

  31. “AWESOME”!!!!!!!

  32. my troop made igloos it takes longer then what they were doing but its worth it

  33. Scout ######### // January 31, 2008 at 6:48 pm // Reply

    I thought this was cool, I am going on the klondike tomarow an this will help us to stay warm. THANKS

  34. I have a questen on the win a wii thing when you half to find the bug can it be on any page? thanks sam

  35. Good Article!!!!

  36. I might make one. IF IT EVER SNOWS AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!

  37. scout #437354375453478564 // January 3, 2008 at 9:35 am // Reply

    this shelter looks realy cool, I am going to build, it in a minute.

  38. Sweet!!!

  39. You should also store water bottles upside down in the snow, or you can simply sleep with them.

  40. rugby playing scout // December 29, 2007 at 9:39 pm // Reply

    I am going to build this next time it snows, sounds fun.

  41. I hope I can make one. Time for lunch.

  42. I have made them when I was a little kid but I never thought that it had

    a name so now when it snows again I will make one how you have


  43. I wish it would snow that much around here. My troop never goes camping when it is snowing. When it does snow we go skiing and stay in a hotel.

  44. Next time I’m at the mountain, i’ll make one.

  45. I wish it would snow so I could make one.

  46. I think i might make one!

    They look awsome!

  47. boyscoutdude // December 18, 2007 at 4:08 pm // Reply

    This is a very cool item, and I wish that I could make one, but there isn’t enough snow around

  48. Cool!!!

  49. awsome 😉

  50. Old Scout 1960 era // December 11, 2007 at 11:13 pm // Reply

    Bury your water jug MOUTH DOWN in a snowdrift. …………….. Putting the jug mouth down means that you should have liquid water not covered by ice.There will be a bubble of air in the bottom of the jug under a layer of ice. (Remember ice floats on water.)

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