Fighter Trench Snow Shelter


The name says it all, this method was developed by the military and taught to their fighter pilots for a quick winter shelter. Basically, you dig a trench, cover it with branches, skis or whatever, and then cover those with a poncho, tarp or snow blocks. Its biggest benefit is that it’s one of the fastest shelters to build; the downside is that it’s not as warm as others. There are a few points that can help you make one, so let’s take a look.

1. Step One First, stomp out your area to dig the trench in. This helps collapse the crystals in the snow and make for a solid shelter.


2. Step Two Now dig a trench a little longer than your height while laying down. Make sure you keep the trench narrow (no wider than your hips if you can), or else it will be hard to bridge the gap this your skis or branches. Dig to about chest high in depth. Notice there’s a shelf in the back where the shovel is sitting. You don’t have to do that, and I just wanted a shelf for gear. One neat thing about snow shelters is as you become more skilled, you can be as creative as you like; snow is easy to work with.


3. Step Three Now carve a bed platform about knee high to keep a cold air sump in the bottom. Make the bed just wide enough for you to lay on. Always remember to keep the ceiling at an arch or half arch in this case (arching from the rim to the backside of the bed). The shovel is laying on the bed, and I’m taking the photo from the opposite corner to look better inside.


4. Step Four Now lay some poles, skis, branches or whatever you can find across the opening. Here I used some ski poles and a branch to show a few examples.


5. Step Five Cover the poles and branch with a tarp, poncho, parachute or whatever you have, then bury the edges with snow. Now you’re done, and it’s that easy. In the photo, you can see the shovel down at the bottom. Here’s a view inside from the doorway. You can see the shovel on the bed platform and the shelf area straightforward.


Here’s a view while lying on the bed, looking out the doorway. You can see my boot on the right. All that’s left is to plug in the door (like your backpack, branches or something). The vent hole in these shelters is the door, but if you did seal up the door air-tight with a tarp or something, you would need to punch a vent hole in the side wall.


6. Alternative Roofing If you don’t have poles or even a tarp, you can use snow for your roof if the snow can be cut into blocks and is not too powdery. I dug into a snow bank for this trench so you could see in easier. The trench is explored, and the bed platform is done with the shovel. Now we can begin on the roof.



Here I’ve begun to lay blocks in an “A” frame across the gap.


Here I am, sitting on the bed with the roof done. I shovelled some snow on the blocks to fill in the holes. Note this is a tall shelter, they don’t have to be that tall, but I wanted to be able to stand in it.


Finally, a photo was taken from bed at night looking at the entrance. I put a tarp over the entrance because of being dug into a snow bank, and as a result, the front was left open (it was still very warm). Note that I put a vent hole in the side with the tarp sealing it up pretty tight. Also, notice the candle on the left; remember, all you need is one stick candle, and they heat up nicely, not to mention the light it puts out with the reflection of the snow.


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