Building Cold Weather Shelters

According to rule of 3's:

A human can survive without shelter for 3 hours, without water for 3 days, and without food for 3 weeks.

Shelter is crucial, and can save your life. Sometimes knowledge is the only tool you have in an emergency situation.

Listed below are examples of cold weather shelters and how to make them.

In addition to our list of tips from "Building Survival Shelters," these steps can help when the temperature drops:

  • Using nearby materials for insulation: If your environment provides them, use resources like mud, leaves, tree branches, and moss to insulate your structure. You need to trap as much heat as possible while protecting yourself from the elements.

  • Insulating the ground: Laying directly on the ground will cause you to lose massive amounts of body heat. Insulating the surface you plan to sleep on is essential to your survival. Consider using straight branches and pieces of wood to elevate your bed.

Few tools required: Debris and Snow Shelter

Snow Shelters

Quinzhee --  A large pile of snow that has been hallowed out for living quarters. While sleeping inside a big pile of snow might seem crazy, it’s often the best way to protect yourself from the harsh elements in a snowy environment.

Pile up snow to about 7 or 8 feet tall and hollow out the inside. If possible, include straight branches in the roof of your quinzhee for added strength.

Make sure your quinzhee maintains a rounded shape to prevent collapsing (especially when there is heavy snowfall).

Snow Cave

If done correctly, a snow cave is a great shelter for cold weather climates. However, if done improperly, a snow cave may put you at serious risk.

Never build a snow cave from soft snow or powder. Find snow that is hard and ice-like,

then dig a tunnel to a space that you can hollow out.


Unlike a snow cave or a quinzhee,

the igloo is primarily comprised of ice rather than snow. To build an igloo,

you will need some sort of tool to break apart and create makeshift ice blocks.

To get started, check the density of the frozen blocks of snow or ice that you plan on using. 

Outline your igloo with a stick so that it maintains its shape as you build upwards.

Cut one layer of blocks at a time so that you can easily tapper and shape them inward as you build upwards.

Tips for Building Survival Shelter in Snowy Conditions:

The most important aspect of your shelter is its ability to block out the elements and keep you warm, but making sure your cold weather shelter has proper ventilation is important, as well. CO2 poisoning is a serious threat in any enclosed shelter.

You can try this, even in the city. Collect fallen limbs and debris to try it out for yourself!

Sources: Uncharted Supply Co.