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Monday, April 20, 2009

Snow Caves


The old snow cave was the standard for winter shelters. You would just find a snow bank or hillside and just tunnel in. They worked fine but the building process of trying to crawl through a small hole and keep it lower than the beds meant getting covered with snow and very wet, not to mention all the bent over back breaking and knee crawling work. Not a good combo for survival. Now let's take a look at the new way...

The "T" Cave is the new and improved method and a whole lot easier. The name says it all, you basically cut a "T" shape into the snow bank, then carve out the dome inside, then put snow blocks across the front, all while standing up (no crawling). A pretty slick method and you can build one in about 15 - 20 minutes, so let's learn how...

1. Step One
Dig out a section of the snow bank about waist high, two feet in and no wider than your hips (the key is to keep it narrow because you will need to bridge this gap later).

2. Step Two
Now dig out each side to form a "T" shape about chest high.

3. Step Three
Now duct under lip and carve out the ceiling to form a arch or dome inside.

Here's a view looking up the snow bank at the inside of the cave with the shovel standing on end. You really only need enough head room to be able to sit up in the sleeping area because you'll be able to stand in the entrance.

Testing it out for size and making final adjustments.

4. Step Four
Now cut a big block to bridge across the entrance, this is probably the most technical part of the whole thing and why it was so important to keep the entrance at the beginning of the process as narrow as your hips. (Any bigger and it becomes really hard to find a big enough block to bridge the gap and not break). After you place the main block just fill in around it to the point where you're shoving snowballs in the holes. You can usually make blocks out of the snow you have shoveled out and packed down, along with where you've been standing. (Don't worry I'll be carving out the block over the entrance to form an arch, the trick is to just get it in there at first, you usually break a few).

5. Step Five
Now just put some snowballs in the small holes and shovel snow over the whole wall. Finally put in your vent hole over the doorway and you're done. Climb in and enjoy.

Here I am laying inside with a student taking the picture from the doorway.

Here's a cut out the next morning with a student laying inside, so you can see how it looks from outside.

Now let's see how to build a Quinzee in the next post...
See you on the trail,

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