Introduction: Make Your Own Quigloo! How to Build a Snow Fort.

About: I'm a high school freshman. I love creating things and learning about them.

Winter! This time of year brings around hot cocoa, skiing, and snowball fights.
This is an instructable for how to build a quigloo or quinzee, the best kind of snow shelter ever!
If you are going winter camping this season, or just want the best snow fort in the neighborhood, read on.
A quinzee is a form of snow shelter that’s made from a mound of snow hollowed out on the inside. A quigloo is similar, with the addition of a little igloo snow brick cúpula on top.


I will go over gear in the next step but things you will want to build your snow cave include...


  • Snow Boots
  • Mittens (multiple pairs are always nice)
  • Snow Pants (It's great if they have a gator or sleeve to keep snow from finding its way into your boots)
  • Waterproof parka or rain jacket
  • Hat or sunglasses to keep snow out of your face when excavating
  • Sunscreen (Sure it's winter, but the sun reflects of the snow and burns you twice as much)

Gear & Tools

  • Snow Claw or equivalent
  • At least 10 snow poles, hiking poles, dowels, or sticks of the same length
  • Shovel
  • Trash bag
  • Snow saw

    Step 1: Gear Up

    First of all, if you are going to attempt this make sure you have good gear. It's a necessity that your clothes are well waterproofed -ESPECIALLY if you are in the backcountry and can't go inside to dry off or warm up. Your snow clothes will soak through especially fast when you're digging, because you're sitting down and lying on you back, etc.

    When I built my quigloo, I wore a raincoat over my base and mid layers. I HIGHLY recommend this. My parka was water resistant but I am so glad I had a waterproof layer. Also, when you're digging you get warmed up pretty quickly. I was in sunny, 25F/-5C weather, wearing my rain jacket and a sweatshirt underneath and did just fine. I wasn't too cold or too hot.

    If you're building this in your backyard, you can take breaks often enough to go and change mittens and stick your wet things in the dryer. If you are camping take measures to stay warm and stay dry. You will not want to stay wet, it can be dangerous. Have good gear that you trust, and dry clothes to change into :).

    *Pictures of gear to come in future edits*

    Step 2: Find Good Snow

    Good snow is important to building a good quigloo. When I made my quigloo, I snowshoed about 4 or 5 miles up into the mountains, but theres no need for you to go that far. As long as you have some nice cold temperatures to keep your shelter frozen, you should be fine.

    First of all, you'll want a lot of snow. Not a couple inches, I'm talking a couple of feet. In the picture above, you can see it looks like a have maybe 3 feet (1 meter) of snow, but as soon as we probed down into the snow to the ground, we found out there was really about 6 feet of snow beneath us. Basically, you want enough snow for you to be able to make a six foot tall mountain out of. That's going to become your quigloo, so you want a pretty large heap of snow.

    Next is snow quality. If you've seen many winters, then you'll know what I mean when I say 'packable snow'. The kind that's just perfect for snowballs. It's not slushy and thick, and not grainy like sugar. Powder will also compress down in step 5, so that will work too. Any snow that is able to hold it's own weight and not crumble away will work well.

    Step 3: Make Your Mole Mound

    The goal of this step is to get as much snow as possible into a pile. That seems simple enough, but it's a pretty good workout. Determine the size of your hill first. This instructable is for an approximately 11 foot diameter one, but adjust for the size of your group. If you plan to sleep in your quigloo, make it so that there isn't too much empty space in it once you've dug it out and put your gear inside. More empty space = more air for your body to try to heat up.

    Once you know what size of quigloo you want, stomp a perimeter in the powder so that you remember what you planned out to build. Just a simple walk around with your boots or snowshoes on and you should have a nice circle to mark where to pile your snow.

    Tip: For this next step I recommend getting some friends. The more the merrier! It makes the whole process a lot quicker.

    Get out your shovels and start piling snow where your mound is going to be. Dig from the outside of the perimeter, and shovel snow into the center. Try and get as much snow as you can into that massive pile. You can dig all the way down to the ground, but you don't want to remove any snow from where your quigloo is going to be. That would be counter productive. When the mound fils out to the perimeter nicely, and is over your head tall, then you know you've done a good job.

    Step 4: Put in Your Poles

    Before you go back inside to warm up or take a nap, remember to stick your poles into your snow mound. This step will be very important once you start to dig out your quigloo. The poles serve two purposes, both to provide a measurement for how thick your walls should be, and secondly to function as air holes.
    Both are very important so you’ll need to have some sticks that are 1 foot long, and a few inches wide. Jam them into your snow mound about every 1-2 square feet.

    Step 5: Let It Go (I Mean REST. Let It Rest)

    Alright, now you can go inside. This step is the easiest. All you have to do is wait a few hours. Wait either overnight, or if your in a rush over lunch and for 2+ hours. If you can, I really do recommend waiting overnight. It makes hollowing out your quigloo much easier, and gives you a chance to rest and warm up.

    Step 6: Excavation Time

    And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the excavation.
    This is the step where you’ll find a snow claw comes in handy.
    As you can see from this drawing, a quigloo has two openings. The reason for this is it makes digging it out much quicker. You can have more people working at one time than if you only had one opening. If instead of making a quigloo you opt to make only a quinzee follow all of these same steps, just without carving a hole in the top.

    Tip: keep the holes in your quigloo as small as possible. It will make building the igloo portion much easier and also keep more heat inside the quigloo.
    Top hole: with your shovel, take a few scoops out of the very top of your quinzee, and shovel them away (it doesn’t really matter at this point it you dump more snow on the mound, as long as it doesn’t cover your snow poles). Once you’ve gotten your hole deep enough to the point that your shovel is useless, get your snow claw out. This is where a trash bag comes in handy. Jump down into the hole, and scoop snow into tour trash bag. You can then drag it out of the hole, and things go pretty quickly. Be sure you keep a wall thickness of at least one foot, even on the roof. You don’t want it to collapse on you!

    The second hole at the base is your doorway. This ones a little trickier to dig out , you’ll have to lie on your stomach a lot. Make your entrence close to the ground, (the actual, real dirt ground) and scoop that snow out!

    At some point the tunnels will meet, and then things really step into high gear. From here continue to round out your mound on the inside, but be sure that you don’t dig your walls too thin. If you hit a pole, stop digging on that area and move to one of the thicker parts. Arches are structurally a very strong shape, your walls should be curved like a dome.
    As for the bottom, once you’ve shoved out all the powdered snow, smooth down a floor.

    Step 7: Tips for Digging

    -kick snow with your boots on to break it up quickly. It makes it way easier to shovel out.
    -use what I call “the chisel method”. Using your snow claw make two ‘chops’ in the snow wall, and use the snow claw as a lever to pop it out.
    -the fore mentioned trash bag to drag snow out of the hole

    Step 8: Making Your Cave Your Home

    This step is optional, but I thought I’d mention it just in case. If you want to add a thin coating of ice to the inside of your quigloo, now is the time to do so. Gather some tea candles and spread them evenly on the floor of your quigloo. Whilst doing this try your hardest to not accidentally summon a demon. You probably won’t appreciate it in your snow cave.
    The candles will melt the snow just enough that it will re-freeze and make a thin ice layer in your quigloo.

    Step 9: Assemble the Igloo

    For this step you’ll need your snow saw. Stomp out a patch of ground, maybe 5x5 feet. Make sure you pack it down super well, this is where you mine snow bricks from.
    Take your saw, and with it cut down about 6-12 inches. Cut a square in the snow, and then cut underneath the brick so you can pull it up and out. The first brick is never pretty, but they get better with practice.
    Carefully carry it over to the top hole in your quigloo to build the igloo part. Put the bricks in a circle around the hole, and layer them up just like that. To finish it off, make a big (1-2 foot square) snow brick yo but at the very top.

    Step 10: Take Out the Poles

    Before you live in the cave, remember to take out the ski poles for that but if ventilation.

    Step 11: Bundle Up!

    And that’s it! Your snow cave should keep you nice and sheltered. Hopefully you brought some very warm gear or you’ll wake up feeling like the Abominable Snowman.
    Good luck! Leave comments if you have any questions or tips that worked for you when you tried this!
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