Building Snow Shelters

Shelters Are Critical to Survival Fire and Shelter are the two elements necessary to increase your chances of survival. You must stay dry and keep out of the wind.


There are many different types of shelters; listed below are a few of them.


LEAN-TO- Use your saw, cord, and space blankets to construct a lean-to type shelter with logs and pine branches. Use pine boughs to thatch the roof and make a bed. Do not sit or lay on the snow as you will get wet and lose too much heat through conduction. Put one space blanket on the under side of the roof to reflect heat back to you. Use the other space blanket under the pine boughs for a bed. Face the opening of the lean-to away from the wind. Build your fire in front of the lean-to but far enough away so your shelter doesn’t catch fire. (Keep the fire small) You can use a space blanket alone for a roof although it may not hold up in a strong wind without reinforcing it with the sheet of plastic.


SNOW CAVE- It is not advised to build a snow cave if you soak your clothes in the process. The temperature in a snow cave is between 26 and 28 degrees F., and will raise a couple of degrees from body heat in several hours. If you have good waterproof clothes and the weather is extreme, a snow cave is a good shelter. Start digging into a snowdrift, (away from avalanche danger), in a slightly upward direction for 2- 3 ft., then make a sharp right or left hand turn and continue for another 6-8 ft. or so. The upward direction and turn will help keep the cold air and wind out. Start making the cave, just large enough to sit or lay in comfortably without touching the sides. Keep the roof domed so that any moisture will run down the sides rather than dripping on you. Make a vent hole out the side of the cave and in a downward direction for fresh air. A candle may be used for light and heat but any more heat than 1 or 2 candles starts melting too much snow. If you start seeing blue-green snow on the roof when you are digging, this means you are 8-12 inches from the surface and should not take any more snow from the roof. If you are hoping to be found by a search party, leave some kind of signal outside the cave that clearly indicates you are there, since the snow insulates all sound from immediately outside the cave.


SNOW TRENCH OR PIT- Using your avalanche shovel, dig a pit clear to the ground saving the snow from the pit for later use on the roof. Cut some poles and lay them across the pit or trench about 1 ft apart leaving one end open for a door. Cover the poles with a space blanket or sheet of plastic and then thatch with pine boughs and cover the pine boughs with the snow from the pit. Make a seat or bed in the back of the trench using another space blanket and at least 10 inches of pine boughs. A small fire can be built in the open end of the pit.


NATURAL SHELTERS- The fastest type of shelter is to improve upon natural shelters such as fallen trees, a group of close growing pines, or the tree well formed under a large pine tree. Use some of the methods listed above to improve upon these natural shelters using the least amount of energy for the best shelter against current conditions.


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