Learn How to Make A Real Igloo in 7 Steps | Trekking Days
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Learn How to Make A Real Igloo in 7 Steps

by | Trekking Savvy

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Igloo construction is no art. In fact, building a real (aka, functional) igloo is relatively easy provided that you have enough snow and the right snow. Indeed, in just a few hours from the moment you decided to make an igloo you could have your own ice shelter in the backyard or elsewhere. While it may be hard for some to understand why you picked this diy idea, stay tuned and learn how to make a real igloo.

The 7 Steps

There are many slightly different approaches to igloo construction. The seven steps described here can help you make an igloo even if you don’t have any previous experience with snow-based buildings. However, knowing these steps won’t allow you to make an igloo larger than the one in the video.

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1. Find a lot of dense snow. A lot means around a foot of snow (30 cm) across a large backyard. Use the denser snow below the top powder, as it is more resistant.

2. Draw a circle. I hope this won’t make you dizzy. Select the center of your igloo by squeezing a stick vertically in the snow. Tie a cord around the stick that’s half the length of the igloo. As a beginner, you should start with igloos that are less than 10 ft (304 cm) in diameter in order to avoid getting overwhelmed from making the dome. Traditional igloo blocks are 15 in high (38 cm), 3 ft long (914 cm), and 8 in (20 cm) thick. Trace a line at the end of the cord as you walk around the stick.

3. Use a form to shape the bricks. You should start with the blocks from inside the circle. The bricks should spiral upwards in a continuous coil.

4. Lay the block around the circle. As a way to ensure that the blocks are arranged on top of each other in a continuous coil, you have to make a ramp going up. Cut a slight incline into the top of each brick to make the next layer tilt inward. Sometimes it can be helpful to support blocks with sticks before you finish each layer. Note: You should make the blocks smaller as you move higher, bevel the edges to ensure the blocks join well, and pack snow into gaps between bricks.

5. Make a doorway. You can make the doorway by removing blocks of ice, cutting the removed blocks in half, and leaning the two sides together to make an awning over the doorway-the awning will help to keep the body heat inside. Note: Igloos often have tunnels as entry points, which is a useful approach to reduce wind and heat loss when the door is opened.

6. Leave a vent at the top. You should cut vents into the side in order to avoid suffocation risk.

7. Freeze a layer of water on top of the igloo. Given that ice is more resistant than snow, freezing a layer of water on top of the igloo will ensure that the structure will have a longer life expectancy.

Important Tips

1) You can carve the igloo out of a snow bank; however, the snow cave can collapse and kill you. As such, you first need to test the strength of the snow bank by asking a few people to walk on top of it. You must also spray it down with water in order to add a layer of ice that will strengthen it.

2) Cooking inside an igloo can be a bad idea, as toxic fumes may accumulate and create an unpleasant situation, or even a dangerous one.

3) If you want to build an igloo in the middle of nowhere, you should consider higher elevations where the snow is more consistent. Of course, be sure to avoid places that are avalanche-prone.

A Few Facts About Igloos

While not popular as a construction material in most parts of the world, snow can be used to build quite a few structures-with sculptures and ice hotels being popular examples. Igloos, typically associated with Inuit buildings, are probably the most famous snow-based structures.

If you want to sleep in an ice hotel, you can consider Hotel De Glace (Quebec)

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, igloos have mostly been used by Inuit people across the Arctic during traveling.  Sometimes igloos were used for housing during the entire winter and had inside temperatures around the freezing point. The buildings included furniture such as cooking pots, oil lamps, and low platforms.  Dome-shaped igloos were connected through passageways and were meant to house 15-20 people.

Today, not all Inuit know how to make an igloo. In fact, as shown in a story published by New York Times (which you can read here), there are Inuit communities such as the Canadian town of Kangiqsujuaq where igloo building has become a privileged knowledge. While there are practical reasons why people are forgetting how to make an igloo (i.e., they don’t need it as they once did), igloos are still a thing for many people. Besides being architectural structures that reflect the lifestyle of the people who built them, igloos are a unique type of shelter that may still come in handy from time to time.

Igloo village near Lake Shikaribetsu (Japan)

Should You Make a Real Igloo?

If you are unsure whether you want to spend some time in an igloo or not, you may want to make a simulation. For instance, you could explore the inside of an igloo with the help of the 360-degree video below. Imagine how you would feel being inside it.

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In case you wonder, I won’t make an igloo today, as there is not enough time or snow at my disposal. Hopefully, those who want to make an igloo today have both, as repressing your building needs can be frustrating. Of course, we will be delighted to see your work in photos or videos. Happy building!


The New York Times. A Lost Art in the Arctic: Igloo Making

The Canadian Encyclopedia. Igloo


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