During sub-artic Saskatchewan winters, one must spend a few nights sleeping outside. A Quinzhee is exponentially warmer than a tent and proves to be invigorating to build. This PowerPoint will share an overview, instructions and tips I have learned in my previous winter camping expeditions.
Winter camping is a fairly cost free activity, requiring few materials. The investment is in quality winter clothing as discussed in Lizzie’s powerpoint. Staying dry is key to staying warm and as you know, playing in snow all day will make one wet. By nightfall it is important to be dressed in warm, dry attire. Fresh socks before bed is a must. Stay hydrated and eat high calorie foods, as this is an energy intensive exercise.
Often people are eager to begin shoveling but it is important to scout a good spot. Finding flat ground is trickier than it sounds sometimes. Stay away from building into a drift as the snow is packed differently and may not be as stable for a shelter. Walk & look for places where snow is thicker and deeper. More snow means less shoveling distance. Building in a tree-d area provides more accumulation of snow and some shelter to the artic winds that sweep our prairie.
For the base, lay in the snow to know where your bed will be. Then walk a circle about 2 – 2.5 meters in diameter around the impression of your body. This is the base circle. Next establish the outer snow perimeter. Shovel from this outer circle towards the base. Pause frequently to catch your breathe.
Even when you think you are done, take another breathe, stare at your quinzhee and add more snow.
When your back, knees, & heart need a break from shoveling go for a hike to find any deadfall you can. Snap this deadfall into 12 inch lengths. These are your measuring sticks to ensure your walls are thick enough and that you don’t shovel through a wall.
Thecoalescence of the snow during the sintering is crucial to creating a stable shelter. Go for a hike, eat, be active for about 2 or 3 hours while the snow does it’s sintering thing.
You might have broke a sweat shoveling but this is where you will get wet. Start with a small door, it will get bigger as you dig and each time your enter or exit the quinzhee. Go slow. Dig as evenly as possible to avoid collapse. Having a partner at this stage is helpful. The partner can assist with moving the snow that exits the quinzhee and can pull you out in case of collapse. Digging upwards will create an elevated sleeping ledge.
The sleeping shelf allows for cold air to sink out of the quinzhee and helps to trap heat in the upper chamber. This phenomenon keeps a quinzhee extra toasty on the frostiest of nights.
This is your palace for the night. Make it home. Carve nooks for candles and other décor, or beverages. Smooth the ceiling to avoid drippage, and flat lumps and bumps on the sleeping shelf. I usually lay a few pieces of cardboard on top of a tarp before unrolling my thermarest and sleeping bag. It is important to lay out your bedding early in the evening so it is ready at bedtime.
A full bladder will steal heat from your body, and force you to wake. I know a winter camper that just pulls back the tarp and pees inside during the night. I haven’t tried this but would advise against it if you are planning to reuse the quinzhee. Fresh socks and thermal wicking underwear are essential before crawling into your sleeping bag. A hot water bottle or two are nice to cuddle with if you are lacking a companion or just want to keep your feet warm.
How to build a quinzhee
How To Build A Quinzhee A Primer
What is a Quinzhee?A Quinzhee is a dome shaped winter shelterthat is made by hollowing out a pile of snow.
Materials• Shovel• Waterproof, breathable clothing or change of clothes• Bedroll (cardboard, tarp, sleeping pad & bag)• Candle• Water & Food
Scout a SpotLocation is not to be taken lightly.Consider:Flat groundSnow DepthShelter from wind