How to make a backyard igloo with powdery snow

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Picture of How to make a backyard igloo with powdery snow
If you have a lot of time on your hands, or if you just want an igloo to sit in, then this is an instructable for you. This works with a relatively small amount of powdery snow, and the igloo is strong enough to support a 115 pound kid standing on it. I buiilt his in Texas, so you guys down south could probably use this to build one. Lots of fun if you have the time and energy. Took 2 kids about 4 hours to build. (I think.) I'd like to know if you try my idea, and please post pictures!

featured on 2/3/11! thanks instructables!!
this is my first instructable,  so it's awesome i got it feaured!
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Step 1: Gather your materials

Picture of Gather your materials
First, you need to gather your materials. If you know that its going to freeze, leave your faucet dripping so that it doesnt freeze. Water's a big part of the process. Here's a list.
- bucket(s)
- running water (preferably outside)
- snow (duh. lol)
- WATERPROOF GLOVES. If you dont have these, be prepared for some extremely cold hands.   
       I dont advise building an igloo this way if you dont have waterproof gloves.
- wheelbarrow*
- shovel(s)*


Step 2: Draw an outline in the snow

Picture of Draw an outline in the snow
The next step is to determine the size of the igloo. use a shovel or your heel (using your heel works best) to draw an outline to your igloo. Make sure to add a rectangle that will be the door arch.
Coolest thing EVER!!! SO nice, man!!! =oD
isuppose4 years ago
My little brother and I actually tried to make a cave or an igloo in our backyard. But all we really accomplished was something of a fort XD hahaha we couldn't quite figure out how to do the top
_bradylee (author)  isuppose4 years ago
Cool! and thanks
andygreene4 years ago
Awesome! You built an igloo in Texas. Super cool. Last year I was at Possum Kingdom (west of Weatherford/Mineral Wells) when that snow hit there. I built an "igloo", but mine was a cheater model. I used a snow fort then put a kits sun tent on it and piled the snow up until the tent was hidden. It looked like an igloo and could fit four kids sitting.

Nice work!
_bradylee (author)  andygreene4 years ago
Thank you very much!
build521 year ago

I've built one of those every year.

And it's great!!!!

Not to bad, but it don't look right IMO because its one solid structure when igloos are meant to be built out of blocks like over sized bricks! I know this is for powdery snow and so its not as easy to build an igloo like that, but it is still possible because me and a friend did it a few years ago in the middle of our street :) Nath@Sledges
snowdogs3 years ago
man this is so helpful thanks man!
Plo Koon4 years ago
I have alot of experience in this area since im a boy scout and this is really usefull! A better way to make it stronger and more reinforced is to:
1st-build up your pile to your reasonable height.
2nd-Put some sort of stick into the walls of your pile. Make sure there about the same size and length. Place them roughly -4-6 inches away from each other.
3rd- Dig it out and stop when you can see the all the stick in the walls.
4th-place lit candleson the inside to reinforce the celing.
_bradylee (author)  Shadow on shadows4 years ago
This version on the instructable is basically solid ice, so i dont know if the version you suggested would be stronger. But thanks for the idea.
scifijunkie4 years ago
Back in the late 70's in South Carolina. About 10 kids and I build a 6 to 8 foot model by piling up the snow and then digging it out. then we made a fire pit and used that to heat the inside. I think we had a 4 to 6" hole in the top. I think the walls were about 5 inches think except at the top were someone was in a little too much of a hurry and shaved it down to about 3 inches.

If I remember correctly it lasted about 3 weeks before it collapsed.

Kind of miss those kind of snow. But dont want the stuff that the north east is getting.

gasher4 years ago
Hey there,

As a couple other people mentioned you could simplify the process by using the methods for building a Quinzee.

The quinzee method takes advantage of the thermal / insular properties of snow as you build a mound you mix the snow (which at different depths has different temperatures). Once you have mixed and piled a mound you leave it to 'sinter' for a few hours and then you can go ahead and hollow that sucker out. They are pretty bombproof the same day you build them and will harden even more if you stay a night and add some moisture through your breathing.

I have built these for 1 - 8 people over the years and just this weekend built one with my kids. Very Fun!

Here's a link to a Quinzee page if you want to check out more info ( I love the aesthetic of this page though :)

greatpanda4 years ago
If you really get into making igloos, see if someone has an icebox tool (made by grandshelters) to borrow. Those are really fun to play with, but cost way more than a bucket. Cheers!
geppetto4254 years ago
I agree with marksutzman. We did this at a winter scout camp once. Just make a bit pile of snow with a shovel, let it sit for a couple of hours and then just hollow it out. Easy peezy.
mista.v4 years ago
You can make a much bigger fort by putting a little less water in the snow, and filling trash barrels instead of 5-gallon buckets. An easy way to make the roof is to just put pine boughs (maybe with a tarp) across the roof and pile/pack snow on top of them. This is kind of cheating, but is a lot faster and allows for a bigger fort.
we made a large igloo out of snow blocks
_bradylee (author)  justindouthat4 years ago
(removed by author or community request)
_bradylee (author)  _bradylee4 years ago
How did you make them? id like to try that next time theres a freeze cold enough.
we got an old square kitchen sink then packed it full of snow then dumped it out. to make the blocks
We use recycling tubs to make large snow blocks. They work great.
_bradylee (author)  justindouthat4 years ago
Im surprised i never thought of using some kind of tub to make the blocks
jmfrish4 years ago
Make sure there is always a small metal shovel inside the igloo as they can eventually collapse. Also helps to have a small diameter hole in the roof, maybe 4-6 inches in diameter to facilitate fresh air flow.
_bradylee (author)  jmfrish4 years ago
The reason I didn't add one is for warmth. (seeing as heat rises) I thought of ventilation, but the door seemed enough. And if the igloo collapsed, couldnt you justbust through? I'm not sure how you would get to the shovel....
it looks more like a quinzhee
templbi4 years ago
I watch Survivor Man and Bear Gryls show a lot. I don't get enough snow here in Phoenix to actually try this but could come in handy should you get stuck in the snow somewhere. Perhaps I will take a trip to Flagstaff and try it out.
_bradylee (author)  templbi4 years ago
If you have enough snow, id try building a 'quinzee' as theyre easier to make. this is more of a backyard type deal.
matrix435474 years ago
There's actually no need to pack the snow down or add water, as long as you have enough. Just make a pile of loose snow, wait a few hours, and hollow it out. They're called quinzees.
You don't really need to go through the effort of adding water. I made a snow cave last Saturday with powdery snow, by simply shoveling it into a pile, and periodically compressing it by walking all over the pile, wearing snowshoes. Make a pile of snow, walk all over it. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Once your pile of compressed snow is big enough, start hollowing it out.

I slept the night in mine (we were winter camping), and stood on top of it the next day, without it collapsing. I've made them before, with packable snow, but this was specifically an experiment to see if it could be done with powdery snow, and it can.