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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.

64 Comments on How to Build a Quinzee Snow Shelter

  1. memyselfandi // December 14, 2010 at 9:41 am // Reply

    Awesome im gona use it on my snowshoe camp this weekend

  2. this looks so cool i cant wait for snow but when its done can it hold a lookout tower for snowball-warz?

  3. this is going to be easy in an ohio blizzard !

  4. WHAT THE HECK IS A QUINZEE!!!!!??????

    • You must have missed the article. Scroll up and read it. You will find a very good explanation of what a quinzee is.

  5. Me and some other kids from our troop made one yesterday.
    We fit four kids inside. Instead of mixing the snow and letting it sit for90 minutes we just let it sit for three hours. When we got back it was 2 feet smaller cuz some kids went sledding down the mound. At least we still fit 4 kids in!

  6. Negative 22 degrees! That’s nothing! Montana can get up to -50 on NORMAL DAYS! And that doesn’t include windchill!!!!!

    -22, that’s nothing!!!!

  7. I’ve tried this before. I haven’t been on a scout trip when we built quinzees, but I’ve built my own before. It’s fun to do that on snowshoeing trips, and even in your backyard! (if you get that much snow, like hear in Montana, we get lots of snow to practice with!)

  8. outdoorsmanite // February 9, 2010 at 11:49 am // Reply

    I just built a quinze for 10 it took me 3 days!! I slept in it last nite awesome!!!

  9. I havent tryed it yet but how about glazing the outside with water to make a shell of ise on the outside

  10. Minnesota Ice // January 2, 2010 at 8:31 am // Reply

    -22 in minnesota this morning. My 3 boy scouts slept in their quinzee last night. Nice and warm inside … very cold outside.

  11. Mwahaha.... ha ha... I pity da' foo! // December 29, 2009 at 6:17 pm // Reply

    Built one to day i am not looking forward to sleeping it… just kidding i am! I built one right inside my house… its great to escape the warmth of my house…. Gotta love igloos >.> -.-

  12. yea i have to write this down cause i am going winter camping with my friend seqouya and everybody is sleeping in a tent except for us we are sleeping in a quinzee for three nights!!!!

  13. can you make one for a dog?

  14. good for survival.

  15. Chuckles tovog // November 19, 2009 at 7:59 pm // Reply

    that is pretty sweet, i could use in airsoft wars

  16. So Cool!!!!!
    I will sooo build this!!!

  17. gnarly!!! im a skater! could u tel? i hav the lingo!
    dis looks totally wicked! i could skate on maybe? me will biuld 1.

  18. Cool, I wonder if you can have a small woodstove and smokestack in it. Small enough it won’t melt?

  19. i actually made and slept in one of these a year or to back at the Klondike-philmont winter camp, first of the season in fact

  20. campingfreak // October 23, 2009 at 1:20 pm // Reply

    Ill have to try that. It stinks its not winter yet.

  21. thats awsome to

  22. neat we learned this im school

  23. Mix up the snow in the 7-8 foot circle first before you start to pile it.

  24. Troop 637 rules

  25. I Would love to try that

  26. im gonna build 1

  27. it stinks that it not winter yet. that is the only reason i am looking forward to the snow!

  28. an igloo is cooler, but quinzees are easier to build

  29. cowntdowgylaw // August 31, 2009 at 3:50 pm // Reply

    i wanna try it

  30. This will help with my Troops winter survival trip this year.

  31. That sounds cool but it sounds like you need alot of snow.

  32. can’t wait to try in in the winter.

  33. what????????? // August 28, 2009 at 2:23 pm // Reply

    igloos are way cooler

  34. awesomedudeiceman479 // August 26, 2009 at 4:12 pm // Reply


  35. awesome. an igloo is kooler, tho

  36. i going to build one

  37. snowboardman // August 25, 2009 at 9:06 am // Reply


  38. sweet

  39. cool imformation

  40. I am so confused!

  41. that was super cool!!!!!!!

  42. that is cool 🙂

  43. Very impressive. Great instructions.

  44. Me and my brother just built one of these in our back yard today! it is really nice but we haven’t hollowed it out yet.

  45. Try to put a wall on the entire northern side on the quinzee. This keeps the wind and snow from blowing into your hut and making it warmer. Just make about 2 foot tall mound going around the side, make it taller near the entrance.

  46. A better way to do this and should be taught instead is to pile your gear and place a tarp over it. then pile the snow on top of the gear, then let sit and instead of spending a good hour an a half of getting sweaty and cold you just remove the bags and fine tune the inner shelter. it’s faster and better.

  47. You can also poke the sticks in the mound before it sinters and for sure before you start hollowing it out.

  48. When laying out the quinzee, pay attention to prevailing winds. You should make your entrance on the side away from the wind; this will help keep snow from drifting in.

    Don’t try to incorporate trees into your quinzee – living trees give off heat, and will melt the snow around them.

  49. I am going to make on for my zero hero award!!!!!!!

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