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INTERNATIONAL SNOW CAMPING ASSOCIATION (ISCA)

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The contents on this page has been supplied by members os the International Snow Camping Association (ISCA), much of it can also be seen on ISCA members individual web sites features in our links section.

Make a snow shelter

Find a flat sheltered spot for your shelter. Don't go too close to trees or big rocks since blowing snow tends to accumulate around them. 
Dig a hole in the snow, about a foot longer than your body and about 3 feet wide, use the snow from the dig to build walls around the hole. Try to get one of the short sides downwind.
Keep digging until the hole is 3 ft from floor to upper edge. Keep in mind that the smaller your shelter is the warmer it will be.
Leave a 1.5x1.5 ft opening in the downwind upper short edge with a connecting corridor as in the picture, this will be your door.
If you plan to use a stove in the shelter you must also make a vent opening in the side opposite to the door. This opening should be about 6x6 inches.
If possible, try to make a block of hard snow 1.5x1.5x0.5 ft to use as a door block, place this block inside the hole when you're done.
  

Cover half of the floor on the opposite side of the opening with soft branches to provide extra insulation from the cold snow beneath. This will be your sleeping area, you will later cover the branches with your sleeping pad. If you don't have a sleeping pad with you, make a thicker layer of branches. If it is snowing while you are building your shelter, you can do this step later, after the roof has been put up so you won't get snow on your branches.
  


  

Place a number of tree branches over the hole as in the picture. Keep in mind that these branches may have to carry some heavy snow loads. You can use skis and ski poles for this purpose as well but keep in mind that you won't be able to use them again without ruining the shelter.
  


   

Cover the hole with your tarp. Attach edges and corners as well as possible with stakes made from tree branches or string to a nearby tree. Don't rely on weights such as rocks or big chunks of wood, they will start sliding. You want to make sure that there's no way that the tarp will start sagging or slip down through the openings in the ceiling.
Cover the tarp with a layer of snow for insulation. If there is powder snow available try to get a coverage of at least 3 inches. If there is no powder use wet snow or hard snow to make blocks 1.5" thick to form a sheet on top of the tarp, try to rest the blocks on the support poles and not on the tarp. If it is snowing heavily you can let nature take care of this step. 
    

Move in to the shelter. Put your sleeping pad on the branches and sleep with your head away from the door. You can block the door opening to keep warm but you must have at least two small air vents on opposite sides of the shelter to ensure an adequate air supply.
  

SOME THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
When you're using a stove in the shelter you must open both the door opening and the vent opening. Make sure that the vent opening is kept clear from falling snow on the outside, poke around with a stick periodically if needed.
If you need to urinate during the night, don't go outside in the cold. Just go on the floor inside the shelter. The urine will seep down through the snow, there will be a stained crater left but you can just cover that with some snow.
  


 
 

Make emergency snowshoes
Making a pair of emergency snowshoes to get to safety is extremely simple. It's surprising how many people try to get to safety in knee deep snow and drop from exhaustion.
 
Find two stocky branches about 3 feet long with plenty of small branches and plenty of green, preferably from a fir tree but other trees will do if there are no firs in the area.
 


  

Tie one branch to each foot at the front end of the branch as in the picture. Thread the string through something on the front of your boot otherwise your foot will slip out of the binding. Make sure your foot can swivel enough to walk.

That's it, you're ready to go!


HOW TO MAKE AN IGLOO:

 

PICK A SPOT   
  
You should build your igloo on a level surface where the snow is at least 3 feet deep. There should be enough hard snow for your igloo, if the surface snow is powdery there's probably hard packed snow a bit deeper. Large bumps on the surface of the snow it usually means that there is a large object below the snow such as a boulder or a large stomp, they can get in the way so it's better to pick as flat a spot as possible. Don't make your igloo bigger than it needs to be. Mark out in the snow where you plan to have the wall of your igloo.    
  

  

CUT BLOCKS
  
Cut out blocks from the area which will be the inside of the igloo. The lower blocks should be about 1 foot thick, 3 feet long and 1.5 feet high, the higher blocks should be about 6 inches thick, 2 feet long, and 1 foot high. If you size the blocks as I have said above you will need approximately the following number of blocks:

Sleeping 1 person, 6 feet inner diameter: 30 blocks
Sleeping 2 people, 7 feet inner diameter: 40 blocks
Sleeping 3-4 people, 9 feet inner diameter: 60 blocks

Don't worry if you think you'll have trouble fitting, once the igloo is finished you can carve out a bit of space for your feet from the inner wall.

The hole resulting from your cutting will be the floor in the igloo so you want a sleeping area for each person as high up as possible, a general purpose area that should be a bit lower to allow for mobility, and a deep entrance hole that extends outside of the igloo. The entrance hole should be as narrow as possible while still allowing you to get in and out without too much discomfort. The deep entrance hole will absorb the cold air and release it to the outside while the warm air will rise and stay trapped inside the dome.

  

     

BUILD A SPIRAL CIRCLE
   
Place your largest and widest blocks in a circle around the hole where you have been cutting out your blocks, the blocks should be tilted in towards the center. Start with the block that goes on top of the entrance hole, the whole entrance hole must be traversed by one single block with plenty of support on both sides. Cut the blocks so they form a spiral, make sure that the block covering the entrance hole is the largest block.   

  

BUILD WALL
  
Add blocks to the wall until you only have a small opening in the roof. Before you get to the point that it's hard to get in and out of the dome move any blocks not yet used to the inside of the dome so you can put them all up in one sweep from the inside.
  

  

TOP PIECE
   
When all the blocks are in place cut the final top piece to the right size. If you can wiggle it out from the inside and lower it down into position that's great, but if your hole is very circular this won't be possible, you'll have to put the block on top of the dome from the outside and then lower it down from the inside.
  

  

FINISHING
  

Fill any cracks with snow.

Make a little doorway over the entrance to keep snow out.

You have to make at least one air hole in the roof to ensure proper ventilation. Without good ventilation you could run out of oxygen, very dangerous.

Smoothen the inside of the dome to prevent water dripping.  

Your igloo is now ready to be lived in, check your air hole periodically to make sure it's not blocked. If you've done everything right you will be quite comfortable.
  

  

 

 

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