Snow Caves — A snow cave is a temporary shelter dug into the snow to help protect winter campers from wind and cold temperatures. Snow caves are used by winter survivalists to prevent exposure and are also an excellent shelter for winter camping trips and are a fun recreational outdoor adventure.
For winter campers, snow caves offer more protection than a tent and have a more consistent temperature, but they required a lot of work to build. Even with practice, it takes at least a few hours to make a snow cave depending on the conditions and depth of the snow.
There are generally three ways to build a snow cave. If the snow is over 4 feet deep on the ground, you can dig down and into the snow or if you find a tall snow drift you can dig into the side of it. If the snow is not deep enough, you will need to pile snow at least 10 feet long (6 feet on the inside) and 4 – 5 feet high and then dig in and hollow it out.
While a snow cave can have a similar shape to an igloo, it is made entirely of snow instead of ice blocks. The doorway is usually the lowest point of the floor so cold air will naturally flow out. The walls and ceiling are usually curved or dome shaped to prevent water from dripping.
The snow for the walls and roof should be at least 12 inches thick and the base of the wall should be thicker than the ceiling.
In an emergency, small snow caves can be dug with your hands or anything you might have available. Winter campers usually use light-weight aluminum shovels. If you are piling the snow first, you will want to wait a few hours before you dig it out to allow the roof and walls to harden.
Are Snow Caves Dangerous?
Snow Caves are usually safe, but they can be dangerous for two reasons – poor ventilation and they can cave-in. If the ceiling of the cave is too heavy or the temperature is too warm, the ceiling could collapse. Also, if the walls and ceiling are thin, someone could fall through if they accidentally walked on it.
If the snow cave is completely sealed and fresh air is not allowed to flow into the cave, the campers could suffocate. Poking small holes in the wall at the top and bottom will allow air to flow in and out. The holes should not be too big so you can strike a balance between trapping warm air and allowing fresh air inside.
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