Igloo How-To: Build an Igloo with only some snow and a knife!

How to Make an Igloo in Your Backyard

Just in time for winter, I’ve got something so fun and cool for you guys that frankly I’m jealous (I live in Texas, so I can’t do this even if I want to 🙁 ). Today, kiddies, we’re going to learn how to build an igloo using only some snow and a knife! Cool! The video I’ve got that shows you how to do this is exceptionally interesting because it’s from 1951, it was

originally released by the National Film Board of Canada as an educational film seriously intended to teach people how to build an igloo should they need to, plus the people building the igloo in it are actual Eskimos who have to do this to have some place to live. First, a few tips:
  • If it works, use it: you don’t need a “snow knife” as seen in the film, just something that will work as one–I suspect a machete or large kitchen knife (e.g. a chef’s knife) would work nicely.
  • The last block that you’ll put at the very top must initially be larger than that hole. Put the block on top of the igloo and then, from the inside, shape and wiggle it to fit snugly into the hole, using the knife to trim away excess snow to get a perfect fit.
  • If you’re doing this as an actual shelter that you’re going to spend more than a few hours in, it’s highly recommended that you make a “cold sink”: this will help keep the inside warm by allowing the cold air, which is heavier than warm air and will fall into the cold sink, to be pushed outside. The warmth from your body and any heating device or fire you have inside will warm the air, that warm air will rise, and the cold air will fall into the cold sink. This diagram on the left should make it clear.
  • For safety reasons, it is absolutely vital to create at least one air hole in the roof to avoid suffocation, even if you’ll only be in it for a short time. The inside of the igloo will get very warm due to heat from your body and the stove/heater/fire, even if it is cold and windy outside. Also, without ventilation, lethal levels of carbon dioxide from your breath and carbon monoxide from any fire or heater will occur eventually, and then you’ll die. And that would be bad.

Alright, here’s the video, stick around for some additional resources afterward:

Additional Resources and Further Reading

An excellent, and only one of two on the subject that I know of, book on igloo construction is How to Build an Igloo: And Other Snow Shelters by Norbert E. Yankielun, a seasoned cold-regions explorer and researcher, which has over 100 line drawings for you to follow.

Here’s an excellent guide on igloo building from the Norwegians with step-by-step instructions and lots of photos.