The Savage Line’s Winter Survival Shelter: A Guide

Does being stuck in the winter wilderness without shelter, overnight and in presence of predators seem like a terrifying scenario?

What would be a nightmare for most are possibilities that Jason Lesmeister and the trackers and outdoorsmen of The Savage Line face daily in their line of work. These professionals don’t put themselves into harm’s way for an adrenaline rush: they do it to gain a greater understanding of the creatures that lurk in the night. The ecosystem is alive under the cover of darkness, and the largest predators often use the nighttime to their advantage. On tonight’s episode, Lesmeister attempts to track some local wolves, and hunkers down overnight in the cold in the hopes of understanding their nocturnal habits.

But Lesmeister doesn’t have room to bring along fancy tents, so one of the key ways that he stays safe is to construct a temporary shelter. And while Lesmeister possesses a few skills which should not be mimicked by the everyday natural explorer, the same techniques that they use to construct makeshift shelters out of their surroundings could prove useful should you ever find yourself in the scenario above.

The Easiest Makeshift Winter Shelter

For lovers of the outdoors, getting lost is always a possibility: thousands of hikers and explorers get lost in state and national parks every year, some of them during the winter and spring months.

There are many different types of natural shelters – rock shelters form in the sides of hillsides, debris shelters are scraped together from discarded wood and fallen leaves. The debris shelter is typically a summer or warm climate shelter, and can make waiting for daybreak much more comfortable. But in winter climates, where freezing temperatures can be dangerous and falling snow can quickly cover up tracks and make traveling slow, a shelter can mean the difference between life and death.

The most common type of emergency winter shelter is called a quinhzee. Pronounced kwin-zee, these shelters are used globally by unfortunate explorers caught out in the cold at night. The shelters provide warmth, insulation and protection from the outside and increased chances of hypothermia.

Don’t mistake a quinzhee for an igloo: igloos are long-term structures built of snow and ice which take much longer to build, but are generally sturdier and can withstand a greater fluctuation in temperature.

Construction is relatively easy. The first step is to find a flat area. Then, shovel or pack a mound of six-to-ten foot high, and around seven-to-eight feet wide, mixing the snow to allow it to sinter (this helps it lose its hard edges, and form a smoother surface). If building one of these, give yourself some time, as you’ll need to let the mound sit for at least two hours to allow this process to occur.

After the snow has effectively sintered, begin to dig a small entrance. Once inside the center of the mound, make sure that the ceiling is smooth and thick, removing snow or packing it in if necessary. Poke a hole for ventilation in the top of the quinzhee, and you’re finished!

Don’t miss an all-new episode of The Savage Line: Wolf Watch tonight at 10P.


  1. david
    June 3, 2015, 2:21 am

    What did Puma apply to Rob’s twisted ankle to make it better so fast in The Savage Line: Wolf Watch episode ?