Winter’s unforgiving grip can turn a routine outdoor adventure into a life-threatening situation. What you thought was just a fun weekend skip trip or a hike in the woods has turned into a desperate battle against creeping death.
When the temperature plummets and the snow falls, you need the knowledge and tools to create an emergency winter shelter. You don’t need to be a prepper or a survivalist – this is paramount for your survival if you enjoy outdoor winter activities.
There are various types of winter shelters that can keep you warm and safe in cold weather emergencies. There’s no reason to be paranoid, but having these skills in your back pocket can make the difference between life and death if you ever find yourself in a winter emergency.
Why You Need To Learn How To Make Emergency Winter Shelters
When the temperature drops, your body’s core temperature can drop rapidly along with it. That means you’re at risk of hypothermia, frostbite or even death.
A winter shelter, even a crude emergency one like the kinds we’re about to describe below acts as your first line of defense against the chilling danger of the cold and damp. They provide you a warm and dry place to get your body temperature back up and rest while you wait for the cavalry to arrive.
Emergency Shelters For Winter Survival
There are some extremely easy to build but also extremely efficient winter survival shelters. Just about anyone can build these, even with their bare hands if they have to – but we recommend carrying around a shovel in your survival pack to help with construction.
A snow cave is a winter shelter you can build anywhere there’s snow. Here’s how to build your own snow cave:
- Step 1: Find a compacted snowdrift or mound of snow.
- Step 2: Create an entrance by digging a tunnel into the snow..
- Step 3: Create a larger “room” inside. You want to have smooth, even walls. This reduces dripping water and condensation to keep you dry.
- Step 4: Dig out a small vent hole near the top. This allows air circulation while preventing carbon dioxide buildup.
A lean-to is another simple shelter you can build. It consists of a sloping roof leaning against a supporting structure such as a tree, rock, or wall.
- Step 1: Find a suitable supporting structure. It should be firm, sturdy and have good support from the ground.
- Step 2: Construct your roof using nearby branches, foliage, tarp, or even the snow.
- Step 3: Ensure proper ventilation while blocking one side to keep out the cold.
A quinzee is a snow hut made by piling up, the hollowing out, a mound of snow.
- Step 1: Pile up a mound of snow and pack it down.
- Step 2: Allow the snow to settle for a few hours.
- Step 3: Hollow out the mound, smoothing the walls for even insulation, just like you would on a snow cave.
- Step 4: Dig a ventilation hole at the top, allowing fresh air while preventing carbon dioxide buildup.
Survival Tips for Building Emergency Winter Shelters
There are some tips you should know about building emergency winter shelters for survival generally speaking.
Site election is arguably the most important part of building a winter shelter. Avoid areas with unstable snowpack as these are prone to avalanches and landslides. Flat, well-drained spots away from strong winds are going to be your best bet.
Wet snow is unstable snow and thus not suitable for building shelters, so look for dry, compacted snow usually found in snowdrifts or mounds.
You must properly ventilate is vital for carbon monoxide prevention, which can be life-threatening… fast. Always dig out a vent hole near the top of your shelter.
For the most part, you should not be building a fire inside your shelter. If you do, it’s important for you to be extremely cautious because of the fire, its impact on your shelter and the resulting carbon monoxide.
Warmth and Insulation
Insulating materials like pine branches, dry grass, or foam sleeping pads laid on the ground can create a barrier between you and the cold. This, in turn, will help you stay warm and retain body heat.
Surviving in the winter wilderness requires knowledge, determination preparation, and resourcefulness. Understanding the types of emergency winter shelters and how to build them is a valuable skill that can save your life in extreme conditions. While it’s essential to have the right tools and supplies, your survival ultimately depends on your ability to adapt and persevere.
Have you ever built an emergency winter shelter? Did you end up spending the night in it? What did you learn from the experience? Share your experiences in the comments below.