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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.

62 Comments on How to Build a Quinzee Snow Shelter

  1. –bears do wake up from time to time and if hungry they might get out of the den and wander around for a snack.they will return to the den to
    sleep until another mac attack. from an old eagle scout living in the
    Wyoming mountains

  2. When carrying or burying water bottles, keep them upside down. Water freezes at the air-water interface, and will be away from your opening. (Be sure lid is tight, and “straw bottles” would be opposite.)

  3. HighlandRanger // December 4, 2015 at 2:59 pm // Reply

    My son and I made some of these when we went camping in Minnesota in Jan 2012. Awesome!

  4. Very important to make sure you have dry clothes! That would lead to a very unpleasant night.

  5. Sounds easy enough… just where to put the t.v.?

  6. Hope this works with fluffy snow bc i already started doing it

    • My Brother In Law and his friends built a two story Quinzee type structure their first winter out of college. IT had couches, lights, video games, and of course a TV showing a fireplace.

  7. Icemancometh // February 8, 2015 at 11:54 am // Reply

    I’m building one right now, but today it’s like 36F so it’s right in the danger zone for carving in turning to caving in.

  8. Maybe I`ll build one today!!;)

  9. Make sure to make it big enough.It`s not a doghouse!:)

  10. looks like fun

  11. it cold ot dere

  12. My brother made one of these. These are good instructions. Thanks for them

  13. Test

  14. I made one yesterday it was fun !!!

  15. bob the builder // November 14, 2014 at 7:04 pm // Reply

    im from china

  16. @=||=====> // March 14, 2014 at 9:15 am // Reply

    they work great! so much fun to build

  17. my class is making this for a school project thanks for the tips

  18. Our troop built these at their campout this past weekend. We have a LOT of snow in Michigan, so there was no shortage of building material! I was worried about the roof falling in so we tested them. Each held four scouts standing on top of the roof without any problems. Thanks for the info Boys Life! 🙂

  19. When I was little, we had huge drifts that my siblings & I used to hollow out for the same effect! We had a blast playing in the snow!

  20. Awesome! Wish I could attach photos in the comments. thanks for posting this!

  21. Me and my friend built one and we are going to sleep in it tomarrow

  22. it is awesome thats so cool

  23. great idea i will use it today

  24. cool

  25. Today we cut the work a little by burying our rucksacks, which we dug out when hollowing the quinzee.

  26. great article!
    made a mini quinzee today in meagre UK snow
    the measuring sticks are a stroke of pure genius – you know exactly when to stop
    : )

  27. My troop is going camping his Saturday up in NY. This looks really cool!

  28. my Troops going snow camping this weekend and i and my buddie are going to build a quinzees for are snow shelter

  29. My outdoor ed class is building them tomorrow and i really want them to turn out! This is practice before our actual camping trip in 2 weeks.

  30. Our son first learned how to make a quinzee while in Scouts years ago. He is 22 and still makes one every winter just for the fun of it. He has slept in it each year too and the dog loves to go in there because it is quite warm. When they went winter camping the Scout leaders stayed in tents and the boys were way warmer! A great winter activity for us Canadians!

  31. I have no snow yet. :3

  32. Not aYeti ... at all ... // November 11, 2012 at 11:58 pm // Reply

    Where I live, there’s a ton of snow in the winter but i never knew how to build a Quinzee =-P Thanks for the article!!!

  33. I wish that it would snow often here, that looks fun

  34. Sounds pretty cool. I always try to build snow forts but it never works. Once I even succeeded in making one but my dog wrecked it before I even went in it 🙁

  35. i am going to try this when it snows. I cant wait!

  36. proffesional snow builder // November 28, 2011 at 9:11 am // Reply

    If you want to save time just build a quinzee in a snow bank created by snow plows.

    • have you tried that? you do realize the snow is very hard packed when they do that, plus it’s not very even either so will have many air gaps and hard chunks that make it less structurally sound

    • Snow warning // January 19, 2013 at 9:46 am // Reply

      Please please please, don’t build this in the snowpile created by the road plows. You could easily get hit and trapped inside if they return to push another foot or two off the roads OR if a car parking on the street pushes into your quinzee without knowing it.

      • IT IS Cool but dangerous // December 17, 2013 at 2:52 pm //

        Snow warnings is right that is dangerous and you could get hurt doing that personally I wouldn’t do it dude just my opinion so please don’t do that

  37. Dont light a fire in your quinze unlees you wanyt all of your stuff to get wet if you want to cook somthing bring along a back packing stove and use that to boil water for hot chocolate just make sure you keep all flamables away from it and make sure you put it under the vent in the top(prevents melt-down)

  38. ME TOO

  39. cool I’ll try it next time it snows

  40. james1234567890 // February 17, 2011 at 7:32 pm // Reply

    can you build a fire inseide one of these?

    • mountaineersam // May 28, 2012 at 7:46 pm // Reply

      No you cannot light a fire in one on these because then it melts and gets your gear wet and then you get hypothermic. build a small vestibule so if you want to cook with a stove you are shielded from the wind but can cook and avoid carbon monoxide poisining so dragon fly dont light a fire if you dont want to barf blood and go to the hospital

  41. So we are building these this weekend not sure how well it will work.

  42. i went winter camping this weekend with my troop, and we built snow quinzees. for the most part we were very warm. these quinzees take quite a lot ofwork to build. one thing that you want to remember is to dig out shelves in your quinzee and light about three candles. this will help warm up your quinzee tremendousley. it gets kind of cold after they go out though.

  43. my troop is going winter camping this weekend and we are building quinzees. ive never made one before but i am looking forward to it. ive been tld they are very warm but i dont know i guess i will find out soon.

  44. my troop is planning on camping out this weekend and we are planing to build quinzees. ive been told they are very wrm but i dont know iguess i will find out

  45. Do you ever build a fire in a quinzee to make hot chocolate or cider?

  46. Very cool!! 8) My troop is going snow camping, and I’m going to use this(harness the power of snow!!)!

  47. Quincy’s are awsome

  48. what do you need to make a quinzee???

  49. Our troop is doing a winter camp out this weekend and we are building quinzees and sleeping in them over night. It is going to be a blast!

  50. I build one every time it snows!! It so much fun!!

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