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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.

48 Comments on How to Build a Quinzee Snow Shelter

  1. Soaring4Eagle // November 14, 2023 at 1:04 pm // Reply

    I built a small one in my backyard and read books inside. I had to make sure I didn’t leave them in or they would be ruined!

  2. My sister told me about this. She built them in Alberta with the Junior Forest Wardens. Your site is great & shows what she told me in pictures. We’re going to do it tomorrow. Still snowing today.

  3. I am camping soon and am planning to build one of these

  4. Flat Land Johnny // February 4, 2022 at 3:23 am // Reply

    I’ve wanted to do one of these for years. Just got 10-12 inches of snow. Might be a good project for the next Scout meeting.

  5. mush kush // May 4, 2021 at 4:58 pm // Reply

    winter is coming

  6. When piling the snow, toss it a little into the air. This will help build insulating air pockets. If possible, build where there is a slight slope as well so you can make the entrance slightly lower than main chamber. This will help to remove carbon dioxide.

  7. I like at

  8. ideal inside temp +40F, Any warmer will glaze inside wall and hinder oxygen supply. Also walls should be max 1 foot thick for oxygen to filter in.

  9. if ice glaze forms from too much heat inside oxygen will not come trough

  10. A few points:

    After piling the snow, wait before digging. The snow will sinter, or recristalize into a much stronger structure. Walls need only be about 12 inches thick, although a couple weaker spots won’t make much of a difference. With 18 inch walls, I have regularly put a dozen adults on top, jumping up and down, with no effect.

  11. i live in near Canada and when it snows IT SNOWS.

  12. LOL

  13. What is the best tool for digging out the inside? I think a shovel would be too big and unwieldy. The picture shows the guy with a yellow tool that looks something like a dustpan.

  14. bwxrgwfurxuyqfwyxkurbjwg,xgfckcqafg guevatcoxtiuq2tx // February 18, 2019 at 3:33 pm // Reply

    WOW!! it helped me so much!!! NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. Whiskey Jack from The Manitou // November 18, 2018 at 11:43 pm // Reply

    i throw the snow up in the air while building the Quinzee this makes a stronger structure , hollow it out after the pile reaches the proper height . Whiskey

  16. This how we build them in Mother Russia.

  17. I build them when I go camping in the winter in the mountains of British Columbia better than any tent,alot warmer

  18. We always dug the base down to the ground, then ground cloths and sleeping pads to 1 1/2” to 2” thick. To go to the frozen ground theory is otherwise you are melting the snow under the body, which takes more energy than to thaw frozen ground.

    • Scout leader 123 // November 20, 2018 at 5:25 pm // Reply

      but it takes a lot of time and effort.

      • CanuckMan // December 2, 2019 at 1:01 am //

        Frozen ground has a much higher thermal mass than the same volume of packed snow. Frozen ground will draw heat from the body much faster than snow. Digging down to ground level is a great way to freeze to death in your sleep

    • Frozen ground has a MUCH greater thermal mass than packed snow. Frozen ground will draw heat from the body MUCH faster than packed snow. Do NOT dig down to the ground. Doing so is a great way to freeze to death in your sleep.

      • Anonymous // February 3, 2023 at 7:51 pm //

        It said(as shown in the picture) to make SNOW BEDS. The NARROW trench to the ground between the beds (AS IT SAYS) is for the cold air to drop down and go out of the shelter. It DID NOT say to dig to the ground and sleep on the frozen ground.

  19. What is this snow of which you speak?😎

  20. Happy camper // January 9, 2018 at 6:20 pm // Reply

    We built one just recently. If building in the daytime, you can cover the entrance and clear material until light starts to show through. That is almost always the ideal thickness.

  21. I build them every winter you only need about 2 feet of snow on the walls and the roof when you dig it out if you are only using it for sleeping and not coming in and out a lot. Okay good idea.

  22. I build them every winter you only need about 2 feet of snow on the walls and the roof when you dig it out if you are only using it for sleeping and not coming in and out a lot.

  23. I never had this experience before but, that sounds exciting and awesome that I got to learn new skills.

  24. SCOUT101 // May 8, 2017 at 4:43 pm // Reply

    Thanks so much, I hope this will help to prepare me for camping in the snow!

  25. cool art

  26. Northern Master Scout // February 13, 2017 at 3:03 pm // Reply

    There is something missing, it is necessary to pack the snow, with snowshoes, in order to create a compact structure, before digging.

    • Northern Master Scout,

      Actually, it is not necessary to pack the snow down. It will naturally compress under it’s own weight. This process, however, does take some time. In my experience over years in central Michigan, best results are usually obtained by letting the pile sit overnight.

  27. I want to do it but it does not snow here:(

  28. frenchmustard // January 9, 2017 at 1:29 pm // Reply

    You ate my fingers

  29. Bob The Builder // December 14, 2016 at 7:24 am // Reply

    This is way cool 2 cool

  30. Two-Shots Mcgee // December 10, 2016 at 8:52 am // Reply

    once I built several of these and connected them with tunnels, it was awesome

  31. i like it

  32. jabba the what??? // August 3, 2016 at 1:39 pm // Reply

    I want to do this so bad!

  33. Scout den 107 // April 4, 2016 at 5:35 pm // Reply

    That is so cool!!!🙂

  34. I built and slept in one of these before. It’s surprisingly very warm inside!

  35. I think it looks nice I might do it when I get home

  36. I’ve built several of these over the years for my kids to play in. If you put a 3-4″ hole in the dome you can build a small fire inside. The heat will not melt the snow but will form an ice glaze smoke goes out the hole in dome.

    • Northeast_4_life // January 14, 2022 at 8:59 am // Reply

      I’d be careful doing that. A fire sucks up oxygen and glazing the walls stops oxygen from flowing in through the snow. The biggest fire I would burn is a candle. Even then you have to be careful. I don’t think the goal is to have it at 70°F and lounge out in your boxers eating cheers. Although that sounds fun.

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