This classic short film shows how to make an igloo using only snow and a knife. Two Inuit men in Canada’s Far North choose the site, cut and place snow blocks and create an entrance–a shelter completed in one-and-a-half hours. The commentary explains that the interior warmth and the wind outside cement the snow blocks firmly together. As the short winter day darkens, the two builders move their caribou sleeping robes and extra skins indoors, confident of spending a snug night in the midst of the Arctic cold!
How To Build an Igloo
Steep 1. Look for a gentle slope (optional). Building an igloo into the side of a slope, hobbit-style, saves time, energy, and a lot of heavy lifting. (Note how the igloo pictured at the top of this article is dug into a gentle slope.) If you’re building an igloo recreationally and want to achieve the classic igloo look, a flat area will do, but in a real survival situation, time and resources are of the essence.
- Avoid free-standing mounds, which are likely to be logs or boulders buried in snow. When in doubt, use a snow prod or a long stick to make sure you aren’t about to excavate an unusable space for your igloo.
Steep 2. Prepare your ice blocks. The easiest way of obtaining snow blocks is to dig a long, straight trench (as deep as you’d like your blocks to be high) and then cut the blocks from the snow on either side of the trench using a handsaw (or, if you have one, a snow saw). If you’re building the igloo recreationally, you can also use store-bought or homemade snow block molds.
- Since snow is sticky and the design of the igloo is highly variable, dig the trench in advance but cut the snow blocks out as you need. This will give you more control over how well the pieces fit together.
- To make your own block molds, nail four boards together at four perpendicular angles (in other words, it will resemble a box with no top and bottom). Rectangular containers, like garbage cans, will also work.
Steep 3. Dig the entrance trench. The entrance is always the lowest part of the igloo so that cold air, which sinks, can be pushed out as warm air, which rises, is trapped around the occupant(s). The trench should be at least 2 feet (.6 m) wide to comfortably accommodate your body.
- If working on a slope, simply dig a horizontal trench straight into the slope at the bottom of where you’d like the igloo to be.
- If working in flat snow, dig a trench downwards and at an angle into what will later be the main chamber of the igloo. Dig at a gentle angle (to make passage into and out of the igloo easier) but deeply; the deeper into the already-piled snow you begin your igloo, the higher your dug-out walls will be (and the fewer snow blocks you will have to make and pile on top).
- Don’t dig so deeply that you hit dirt. Snow is a wonderful insulator and should cover the entire interior.
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