Constructing and sleeping in a quinzhee is truly a remarkable experience, one that every outdoor enthusiast should attempt at least once if not more. My experience was overall a great one. We had a sufficient amount of food for four of us, the group was very warm and comfortable.
I feel that there were some things that definitely went well for us, and things that didn’t. Three things I feel we did well were the amount of food we brought, the platform and the size. We all brought easy to cook and sufficient amount of foods that satisfied us all until morning came. Matthew and I brought hamburgers, Tristan the hamburger buns and tea lights for heat, and Andrew some snacks as well as hot dogs and hot dog buns. They were extremely easy to cook. We built a coal fire in a firebox, and using the heat generated, cooked the meat. We placed a grill over the fire and a pan on top of the grill, making it much easier to cook. We also placed butter on the pan to prevent the meat from sticking, which in the end proved to be very effective. I was very happy with our food choices and the outcomes. Due to our struggles creating a fire, we all became more hungry with every passing minute. Eating our dinner may have been one of the highlights of our night! The sleeping platform I feel we also constructed with great effectiveness. When we were hollowing out our quinzhee, we always kept the concept of the sleeping platform in the back of our minds. There were many times where the feeling of claustrophobia sank in. We each hollowed out sections of the quinzhee in about ten minute intervals, which helped extensively and made our work much more efficient. We made sure to not shovel all of the snow out of the quinzhee as we would have to put more back in. Our platform was above the height of the entrance which was crucial in staying warm through the night. We also had a slight incline behind us which was used as a backrest so we could sit up while we weren’t sleeping. It was overall very comfortable throughout the night despite a few bumpy spots. The bumps beneath our backs couldn’t dampen our attitudes for the night. We were all too excited to let comfort set the tone for the night. Lastly the size of our quinzhee was sufficient for us to all sleep comfortably. We had enough room on the platform for the four of us to have a comfortable sleep through the night. However since the tarp we had was not quite large enough, we were forced to be a little more tightly packed than preferred. The overall size of the quinzhee was done well though.
As for the things that didn’t go quite as well - the lack of a vent hole and the construction of the fire. The vent hole would have been very effective. We all woke up the next morning with our sleeping bags soaked. We became very frustrated as we woke up due to the fact that we had to pack it all up in its condition and got very wet in the process. We contemplated a few theories as to how they could’ve got this wet. The mats we were sleeping on had some snow on them, but not enough to get the sleeping bags that wet. The vent hole would’ve eliminated any moisture in the air thus making ourselves dryer. Also the construction of the fire could’ve gone better. Due to the falling snow and high winds, it was a challenge to try and construct a functional fire. At this stage we had just finished hollowing out our quinzhee and were extremely hungry. The fact that the fire kept blowing was simply grinding all of our gears. Something that could’ve been of value to help get a fire quicker would be a wall outside the entrance of our quinzhee. The wood Ms. Trumpower had gotten for us was hard to keep dry due to the snow. If we had put up a wall blocking the wind, it would have reduced the chances of a fire being blown out and kept things dry as well. We were getting wet from the falling snow as well as tired just from being out in the cold. Our plan was if after the next ten minutes the fire did not continue to burn, we would head inside to use the stove. Eventually were able to get the fire going and cook dinner, however it could’ve gone quicker if we built the wall. The feeling after getting the fire started was very rewarding and relieving, knowing we did not give up.
Three recommendations I would make to anyone sleeping in a quinzhee for the first time would be to stay dry, build a proper platform, and don’t sleep with too many layers. Staying dry is crucial in containing a warm core body temperature. If the clothes you are sleeping in are soaking wet, then you are automatically increasing your chances of getting hypothermia or frostbite dramatically, possibly putting yourself in danger. Having dry sleeping clothes will help keep you warm and overall be more comfortable. Also, it is crucial to build a proper sleeping platform. If your sleeping platform is too low, then you run the risk of wind blowing at you during the night and even possibly snow, making you much colder, and putting yourself at a larger risk of hypothermia and frostbite. Lastly do not sleep with too many layers. If you are sleeping in a minus rated sleeping bag with too many layers, you are not letting the heat radiating off of your body go into the sleeping bag, then back out to keep you warm. If you have too many layers, you are containing all of your body heat and not letting it go into the sleeping bag. It will actually be colder sleeping with more layers in a minus rated sleeping bag then with less layers. All of these are crucial to stay warm and dry throughout the night, making your quinzhee experience much more enjoyable.