If you ever go camping in the mountains and are caught in a snowstorm or you go snowshoeing in the hills and run into a blizzard, you will probably need to spend the night on the mountain and wait out the bad weather. In order to do this and be safe you will need to build a snow cave. It is a simple, ingenious structure that provides warmth, security from the elements and other predators, and re-energizes your spirit so that you don’t give up. Here’s how to do it:
Let nature work to your advantage. Find a large tree and look at the base of the trunk to see if enough snow has accumulated to make a slope down to the bare ground. Snow often gathers in a “bowl” shape around any large tree so choose a side of this “bowl”, essentially a wall, in which to start digging your snow cave. Begin by cutting a doorway into the snow with what tools you have. Chances are you probably do not have a spade or small shovel with you, but if you do, it will be invaluable to you. If not, your gloved hands are the next best tool. If that does not work, trying using the bowl from your mess kit. Remember, you are in a dangerous situation and every tool must be used to its fullest extent.
Make sure to begin digging the doorway of the cave from the ground up. Begin cutting a hole that is about 24 inches around, big enough so that you and your friends can to get inside. As you dig, place the unwanted snow away from the cave. You do not want to place it on top of the cave. Make sure the roof of the structure is thick and sound. Try not to cut into the roof too much lest you weaken the cave. As the cave becomes larger, take a minute to measure how deep you will need it to be. If there are three of you, make sure that you are digging and carving in such a way as to create enough room for everyone to lie down.
Next, it is very important that you provide air for yourself. It is possible to suffocate inside a snow cave. To prevent this, carve a hole in the ceiling of the cave using a strong stick or other sharp object. A hole that is two inches in diameter is all you will need, but it is very important to have. Also, be sure to not carve the hole out from the top down. Once the cave has been dug out sufficiently and there is enough room for everyone, carve a hole for air upward from inside the cave. Use something long enough to make sure the air can pass all the way through. You can now pack your sleeping bags and backpacks inside and have enough room to sleep for the night, away from the weather.
A flashlight, lanterns or candles are good for lighting a cave really well. Use a backpack to block the opening so that snow does not refill your dwelling. Your body heat will quickly warm the cave, but it will not be enough to melt the snow inside. Hopefully, the next morning the storm will have stopped and you will be able to leave. Before you do, be sure to collapse your snow cave. Take all your belongings out and stamp the roof down until it collapses. This will insure that no other hiker comes along later in the year and is injured by falling through what they might think is solid ground.
These tips can save your life, if you are ever caught in blizzard in the mountains. Remember to work as quickly as you can and be prudent about what you are doing and how you are doing it. Survival skills are necessary in many situations, especially in the wilderness and you can save yourself from frostbite and other dangers by building a snow cave when needed.