Quinzee Building

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Posted in OutsideCamping

Introduction: Quinzee Building

About: My blog: http://wrique.blogspot.com My band: http://www.folkjam.com

Quinzees are much faster & much easier to build than igloos. We built this one just for fun, but we've also made them for sleeping in while winter camping.

Step 1: Find a Spot & Start Shoveling

Where you build your quinzee is pretty important. If we had needed quinzee to sleep in, we would have found a nice sheltered spot, on level land. We opted to build ours on a lake instead. Now, frozen ice conducts heat much better than frozen ground, so sleeping on a lake will draw your body heat away much faster. That really sucks. Not a good choice for over-night campouts, but were just building this one just for fun, so it wasn't an issue.

Where ever you choose to build yours, start by digging out all the snow from the area that your quinzee will sit. Then shovel it all right back. Moving the snow like this will cause it to settle out and give your quinzee a good solid base.

Step 2: Build Up a Big Pile of Snow

Figure out just how big your quinzee needs to be: get everyone that you want to fit in it, to lie down in the area you've just cleared out & make sure everyone fits! Add a foot or two all the way around and that'll be the diameter of your quinzee. Easy.

Keep shoveling on snow until the base of the pile is as big as you need it to be. Once you're done, it'll look pretty conical (perhaps even comical), so feel free to use your shovels to round it into a nice dome shape.

Step 3: Hollow It Out

Now comes the fun part.

After about a half hour or so (depends on the temperature) you can begin hollowing out your snow pile. Find a spot on the down-wind side, and cut in your entrance. Try to keep it as small as possible; just big enough to crawl through. If you make it big to begin with, some idiot (usually yourself) will invariably bump into it with a shovel handle, making it a gapping mess. It's easier to start small & enlarge it later, rather than trying to add snow to make it smaller when it's too big.

This hollowing process takes a lot longer than the piling process, because you can only have one person tunneling at a time. It really helps though, to have someone on the outside removing the snow that gets pushed out of the quinzee.

Step 4: Check the Thickness of the Walls

Keep digging until you can see light coming through the snow of the walls. Snow is translucent enough that even when it is about a foot thick, you'll be able to see sunlight coming through. A thickness of one foot is good for the walls & ceiling. If you want to be more precise about it, you can poke foot-long twigs into the snow pile before you begin to hollow it out. Then, when you dig up to the twigs, you know the quinzee's walls are as thick as you want them to be.

Step 5: Make In-floor Lighting

Now the main reason we chose to build our quinzee on a lake was so that we could give it in-floor lighting. To achieve the desired effect, we built a second quinzee beside our first one, and joined them together with a tunnel to reduce the light reaching it from the entrance. We also kept the walls of the second quinzee thicker to make it even darker inside.

With both quinzees finished, we scraped down to lake ice & cleared a patch on the south side of the second quinzee, creating a window. We also scraped down to lake ice inside the second quinzee. And when I say "we", I really mean Eric. He was our diligent scraper.

To help clear the ice even more I flooded the outside window & the floor of the second quinzee with twenty liters (4.3 gallons) of hot water each.

What was the result of all this extra work? Sunlight shone down through the ice window outside the quinzee & was transmitted up through the ice in the floor, giving off a wonderful green light.

Step 6: Since We're Having So Much Fun, Let's Add a Wall!

While the rest of us were busy hollowing out the two quinzees, Carl was looking for something to do. So he took it upon himself to incorporate into our design, a little wall - complete with seating - to shield us from the wind. This proved to be a most welcome addition when later that night, we built a fire within the walls, and sat around star gazing!

Step 7: Snow Is Very Strong

You can see just how solid the walls of these quinzees are. The next morning our friends' kids clambered all over them with out causing any damage. They'd even support the weight an average adult. Just don't try jumping on them.

Step 8: The Horror... the Horror... (I Loathe the Smell of Quinzees in the Morning)

One last thought: If you ever sleep in a quinzee (or igloo for that matter), I highly recommend that when you wake up in the morning, the first thing you do is pack up all your gear, shove it out the hole ahead of you, then get out yourself and never go back in again. I once made the mistake of waking up, crawling out of the quinzee to take a pee, and then going back in to pack up. You would not believe the STENCH in there! Granted, perhaps our choice of chili for supper the night before was not the best planning, but I guess that over the course of the night one gets used to the little odors as they accumulate inside the quinzee. Be warned though, stepping out & getting a breath of fresh air in the morning only primes your olfactory sense to receive the full brunt of that special horror on one mind-numbing shot.

Remember, friends don't let friends back into the quinzee in the morning.

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    108 Comments

    wow you guys did a very good job

    Ohmygod, they killed Henry!

    RE: the smell , When ever I had made a "snow cave" a hole big enough for your fist , was made at the high point . This allowed all the flatulance (!) a way to escape

    Much time & effort is wasted on hollowing out the center of a Quinzee. This method uses less snow too.

    Instead, make a hollow area before you pile snow. Use 6-10 old fiberglass tent poles and a heavy blue or silver tarp to create a dome. Duct-tape the centers of the poles together. Do not let the tarp edges extend too far from the dome. Keeping the tarp tight is the trick — use logs/rocks/ice to roll the tarp inward. To start, a person inside helps. PIle snow >2 feet deep, using sticks to measure depth. Let solidify for >2 hours. Tunnel under dome, remove tent poles, remove tarp, add an airhole, and then create another dome. Use a backpack for a door.

    If you’re packing large shovels, might as well take a tarp & poles too.

    I feel so angry that I have to show Instructions to someone! He/She should know that we know how to build a snow quinzee! we just don't remember how!

     I have built and slept in quigloos (same idea as quinzees) for several nights with three other people and never had a problem with the smell. Granted, we weren't very good at patching the hole on top from how we hollowed it out, and I think that could have helped air it out.

    Another tunneling idea: have one person start at the top, and one at the door, and have them dig a chute until they meet. It should follow the slant of the quigloo wall, and be a good foot thick (at least). Once the top and door person's tunnels meet, the top person hollows out the quigloo from the top down, sending the snow down the chute. The door person then clears it away from the door, making new mounds that can be carved into walls (or a kitchen, if winter camping.) The top gets plugged up with snow blocks before the quigloo is too unstable, and the top person says inside hollowing out until it is big enough for someone else to come in the door and help hollow. It took us less than two hours to hollow this way, and make a space big enough for four people to sleep comfortably. 

    1 reply

    another building tip is to put the hollowed out snow on top, then dig it out again.

    no matter what, ANY structure can be used for nerf, as long as the owner is okay with it. saying the obvious is unnecessary. also, if you have ever tried to do nerf in cold weather, you know that it's hell on earth, so quinzees in nerf are a BAD idea.

    o ya for sure.
    me and my friends do it all the time. we actually got a 5 foot fall once all the way around and we were able to sit upright in are quinzee. and for fun we laid in some plywood and a tarp. we even got a torch (i dont small torch i mean this thing shoots a 4 foot flame) and made an ice layer on top and bottom.

    I've made these before. A good trick to get uniform walls is to put sticks that are the same length into the snow hill. When you are digging and you hit a stick stop digging. This way all the walls are the same thickness.

    skrubol has it right. My kids and I built a 3-man version in Michigan back in the 1980s after reading a how-to article in the local paper. We piled all the snow out of our backyard (we had 19 feet of snow that year), let it sit over night to crystalize, stuck in a bunch of twigs and started hollowing it out. As soon as we came across one of the twigs, we stopped digging and changed direction until we came to another twig. It lasted for weeks and was strong enough for my son, age 5 at the time, to climb all over the outside.

    4 replies

    sweet. Michigan isn't getting much snow over here... i tried building a quinzee this year... i tried

    That winter we had 19 feet of snow. I shoveled my driveway twice a day from Thanksgiving until Easter. Maybe you'll have better luck next winter.

    19 feet!!! That ridicules!!! You could make tunnels from your house to your freinds house! Man i wish Kansas got that much snow.

    Isn't that the truth!

    Those pics of the green and blue light is beutiful!!! Nice work! I will try this, but since i live in Kansas it might be hard.

    michigan and minnisota are the only US states with real snow

    1 reply