Episode 103 S3-22
Emergency Snow Shelters
The Walls of Freedom Ch 22
Before you fill your brain full of wonderful images of carving out the perfect snow shelter, you have to understand the realities of the emergency snow shelter. You are going to be cold when you start building it and while you build it you may get snow packed into your gloves and clothes, making you wet. Building this shelter is hard work and you will begin to sweat, which is also dangerous in a cold climate. Once all that wetness starts cooling from the cold temperatures you are in big trouble. Understand that the threat of hypothermia is very real and loss of limbs if not death is a major concern in this emergency situation.
The best tool to have in this emergency situation is a snow saw. A shovel can only scoop one small load of snow at a time but with a snow saw you can cut huge bricks. They problem is carrying a snow saw. It does not fold up nicely but at least it is not too heavy. The bottom line is if you are in an area where bugging out means snow camping you may want to seriously consider purchasing one.
If you don't have a snow saw use any other tool you have: a shovel, hard plastic, a rock, or sticks. Use anything but your hands to build it. If you use your hands you will get wet and that is not acceptable in this climate.
Once you have a completed shelter you can build a fire in it but it is more advisable to build it outside of the snow shelter. If you do have a fire inside you have to funnel the smoke out and doing that will make you lose about 90% of your heat. The other 10% may be well worth the fire but if your chimney were to ever get blocked the gasses in the wood can be deadly. The solution is to burn a smaller, cleaner burning item like a candle or your rocket stove. The fire will not melt the shelter. Rub down the inside walls of the shelter to solidify the walls. A layer of ice will form insulating the snow from the inside heat source.
When building an emergency snow shelter find a bank or a drift to build it in. It will be easier to build in one of these areas. Make sure the opening to the shelter faces away from the wind. You don't want wind blowing in and you don't want your doorway to be covered by a drift during the night. Keep a digging tool with you inside the shelter. Always have a candle in a nook with a vent. As long as the candle is burning there is oxygen in your shelter. Keep 18 inches of snow around you on every side all the time. Block the entrance; you can use your pack if you have to.
For this "field expedient trench" it is advised that you build a "cold trap." This allows you to sleep elevated and capture whatever heat there is as it rises to the top of your shelter. Dig a trench, longer than your body, and cover it with tree limbs, forest debris, a tarp and 18 inches of snow. Then put your sleep on that. You should have a way to insulate yourself from the snow, either a foam pad or a thin air pad. Some of these pads come with additional layers in them to insulate your body even further. You should have a mummy bag to curl up in.
You would probably not want to sleep in an expedient field trap for very long. If you have the time to build a larger snow shelter you should take the time to do it. Otherwise, look for a cave or a better sleeping spot.
You should not warm snow to water with your body heat unless you absolutely have to. If you choose to, make sure that you maintain a layer of insulation between your body and the container with snow.
If you have the right gear, snow camping can be fun....kinda, if that is your thing. Even if it is not your thing, you should learn how to build this shelter so that if you ever needed it for survival you would have it in your tool belt.
To help you learn more, Ken has created a Snow Shelter Tutorial. It features four shelter designs and five building methods for their construction, including the expedient field trench and larger shelters. He also included eleven safety items and best practices for staying safe in cold climates. You can find this tutorial at: ThePrepperPodcast.com/SnowShelters
Featured Quote From Today's Chapter:
"We have to make a stand here."