Stay Warm with the Best Bushcraft Shelter Designs for Winter

by | Sep 24, 2020 | Shelter

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There’s no better feeling than mastering a new skill, especially one that builds confidence, character, and self-reliance. Bushcraft is a wonderful hobby because it checks all the boxes, and then some. However, the real challenge of bushcraft comes when the temperatures drop, and the environment becomes less than forgiving. Which is why we’re teaching you how to stay warm with the best bushcraft winter shelter designs.

Importance of Winter Survival Shelters

In some regions, winter can be incredibly harsh and unforgiving. Your survival depends on your set of skills and knowledge about how to adapt your way of survival to the weather or climate conditions. You don’t want to build a shelter that is meant for summer days in winter, right? If you do, you can be setting the stage for disaster.

Winter survival shelter provides you protection from all kinds of hazardous conditions, such as blizzards and heavy snowfall. Furthermore, such shelters are particularly important, in cold weather conditions, if you are in an area for prolonged periods of time.

A good winter shelter should protect you from cold winds, should be easy to build, must have adequate ventilation, and should be just the right size to heat easily. 

Such shelters give you the right temperature for a comfortable winter bushcraft experience, as they are said to maintain temperatures around 32 degrees Fahrenheit inside. Even when the outside temperatures reach temperatures of  below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

These winter shelters work as insulators, due to their design that traps your body heat inside the shelter, eventually warming the space. Therefore, you retain your body heat to a certain degree without getting too hot or too cold.

Bushcraft winter shelter designs are also airtight to protect you from extreme cold weather and chilling gusts of wind. However, you have to make holes for ventilation, or you could suffocate.

Best Bushcraft Shelter Designs

Unfortunately, many of the traditional shelters you may be used to just won’t cut it in the colder months. For example, your classic A-Frame tarp shelter won’t be enough to keep you warm. 

Fear not, we’ve gone ahead and put together a list of the best bushcraft winter shelter designs. By taking into account difficulty level, insulation, and a host of other factors, we’ve narrowed things down for you.

Tree Well

The tree well shelter, also  known as a spruce trap, is a design that involves utilizing the space around larger trees. Typically, the base surrounding these trees are protected by the tree itself and its branches. So, when there is heavy snowfall, you can usually find a pocket where the snow couldn’t fully reach. 

Keep in mind, these areas can be dangerous for hikers, skiers and snowboarders as they might fall into them. 

However, you can quickly make a shelter out of a tree well by reinforcing the natural enclosure with additional tree branches around a tree’s lower branches. Furthermore, you have to dig out the snow that accumulates around the trunk of the tree.

And finally, lay boughs on the floor to make a sleeping space. It is similar to that of an umbrella at the beach, except the fabric. Ideally, the branches of the tree well have to extend towards the ground to protect you from being exposed to the colder atmosphere. A tree well can be as much as 22 degrees Celsius warmer than the temperature outside.

Snow Trench

A snow trench is a trench that measures about three to four feet deep, with a length just a little longer than your body. When the snow is not deep enough, you can build the sides of a trench using the snow around you. It’s a good idea to carry a shovel with you, because it makes digging in the snow significantly easier.

They are easy to build and useful for emergencies. Once the trench has been excavated, you have to place leaves, sticks, limbs over the trench in a coaxial manner. Then put a tarp by placing snow on the outside edge to secure it, or boughs to cover up the top.

The trench should have an area where you can crawl in and out. You may also put snow above the top to make the structure a little more rigid. You can see what it looks like here.

Quinzhee (Canadian Snow Shelter)

A quinzhee shelter is dug out from a mound of snow. To build a quinzhee shelter, you need to find a large pile of loose snow that forms a small hill. Then, you begin to slowly hollow the snow mound, while making sure to keep the structure intact.

A quinzhee makes the perfect natural winter survival shelter, and is quite easy to build. However, learning to make a bigger quinzhee will take some time and practice. 

Also, it is easy to make holes for ventilation after it is built. This is similar to an igloo which is built from blocks of hard snow or snow cave built by digging into the snow.

The Classic Igloo

It’s safe to say that most of us are familiar with igloos. They’ve been found in so many history books because of their significance in many cultures and traditions. Have you ever wondered why they’re so popular?

The dome shape of an igloo is the perfect match for harsh winds, as it offers little resistance. These snow structures are both spacious and warm, helping you maintain your body temperature, even in the harshest conditions.

The effort to build an igloo, on the other hand, can be somewhat of a challenge.

If the snow is of low moisture, it can make the process painfully long. Igloos are usually built in extreme low temperatures where blocks of snow maintain their shape. 

They take on a dome shaped structure where blocks of snow are placed in a circular matter and also on top of one another to build a wall and the roof of the igloo. They are more popular than other forms of winter shelter as they are the warmest and the sturdiest winter shelter.

Final Thoughts on Winter Shelters

The best designs for bushcraft winter shelters largely depend on the weather conditions, and what’s available around you. While igloos and quinzees may be the most reliable options, not all weather permits you to build them.

Cold temperatures and harsh conditions are easily some of the most dangerous challenges you’ll face on your bushcraft adventures. We strongly advise that you bring the proper gear with you, and resort to natural winter shelters if you’re experienced or find yourself in a survival situation.

Brian Segal

As an outdoor enthusiast, I was drawn to bushcraft at a young age. I constantly find myself trying to learn and improve on my survival skills, and enjoy writing about everything I discover to help pass along to others.

About Bushcraft Wild

At Bushcraft Wild, our goal is to help people learn the necessary skills to reconnect with nature. From basic survival skills to recreational camping, we’re confident you’ll find a way to spend more time in the great outdoors.

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