Depending on how long it is taking to build the igloo, the door might be dug at different times. Depending on snow depth, the type of door will also vary.
The person inside the igloo, that is packing the form, can step over the wall when it is two layers high but once the third layer is complete he can no longer step over the wall. Because of this, it is best to take a break just before getting to the ramp area and finishing the third layer.
If it is not taking too long to build the igloo, it is best to complete the igloo before digging the door out. This works well because the inside man can poke a vent and smooth off any hanging or protruding snow on the walls and ceiling. If the protruding snow is not removed, it will drip later when the igloo warms up. The inside man can also sweep up the loose snow inside the igloo so the floor is nice and flat.
If the igloo is taking longer and the packer needs to get out for a nature call, the door is dug before finishing the igloo.
If the igloo is being built on shallow snow, the door will need to be up into the wall of the igloo. The wall is strong enough that only one layer is needed above the top of the door to continue building the igloo.
It is best to dig down on the outside of the igloo to the full depth of the door or to the ground, which ever is the limiting factor, before digging into the igloo.
One thing to keep in mind is that if there is a hole in the igloo floor, the inside person will step into the hole and possibly get injured or pull a few muscles. If at least three layers are built before digging the door, the wall leans in enough that the hole in the floor is under the wall and the inside person will not accidentally step into the hole.
Having the top of the door level with or below the floor of the igloo will trap the heat in the igloo.
Obviously in shallow snow this isn't possible but when the snow is deep enough, it is well worth the time spent digging a proper door.
If the igloo has been built in a flat area, a pit is dug out side the igloo to the full depth of the door before starting to dig or tunnel into the igloo. The pit should be far enough away from the igloo that you don't chop into the wall you will be creating after the pit is dug.
To dig the pit, it is easiest if you dig a hole about 10 inches deep and then step into the hole so you don't need to stoop over so far to dig. While standing in the hole, dig another hole on the opposite end of the pit you are digging until the hole is about 10 inches deeper than the hole you are standing in. Then step into the new hole and dig the hole you were standing in about 10 inches deeper than the hole you are now standing in. Continue back and forth until reaching full depth.
After reaching full depth, trim the hole out large enough to work in easily. The hole should be three feet wide where it joins the igloo but can be wider further away from the igloo.
After the hole is trimmed clean, trim the wall of the pit that is against the igloo. The correct shape is to carry the shape of the outside igloo wall all the way down to the pit floor.
When building the igloo on a slant, it is easiest to start digging a trench towards the igloo at the correct depth as you start digging the trench. This results in being able to just chop the snow off a wall and move it off the end of the trench and downhill. This is much easier than digging a pit.
Once the end of the trench is trimmed to the shape of the igloo, at the door end of the trench or pit, the actual door can be dug out. Start small and work your way out bigger in both width and height after you get in fairly deep. This is prevent chopping to deep into the top of the door or the side walls of the door. If you do chop to much snow off somewhere, you will need to replace the snow to get a good seal on what ever you use to seal up the door whether it be a tarp, a pack or one of our doors.
Eventually you will dig the door a little wider than your shoulders so you don’t brush the snow and get wet going in and out.
The best height for the door is tall enough to walk through if you are stooped over because crawling gets your knees and gloves wet and requires more energy than walking.
The further you dig the door into the igloo that harder it becomes to chop the snow out making it easier if you open a hole up through the igloo floor and the inside person can start chopping off and trimming the door walls to full width.
It is best if the inside person has a shovel also so the floor can be swept clean while the outside person is digging the door. Once a hole is broken up through the floor, it is harder to work the floor while keeping it flat.
If you only have one shovel, the shovel is passed into the igloo once the hole is opened up and the inside person then sweeps the floor flat before chopping the hole larger. After sweeping the floor flat, the hole is chopped bigger and the extra snow inside the igloo is pushed into the hole. Continue chopping the trench to full width until the door is full enough with the snow that you can no longer push the snow out of the igloo. At this point the shovel is passed to the outside man and he digs out the removed snow and trims the door better giving the inside person a reference on where and how wide to dig the trench.
The door is dug like this until it is full depth and extends far enough into the igloo to make it possible to just stoop over and walk out of the igloo without brushing your head on the wall.
Once the door is dug like this, it is a pit extending into the igloo nearly 3 feet and the trench can be dug.
While digging the trench, start a little narrow so you don't accidentally chop off the edge of what will become your bed. The trench is dug deep enough that you can sit on the bed and have you feet down just like sitting on a chair.
While digging the trench, the snow is pushed down into the door pit. Temporarily leave the snow in the door until finished digging and packing the trench.
Because the door pit is some 4 ft. deep and the trench is only about 18 inches deep, there is a large step up into the igloo from the door pit to the trench bottom. The edge of this step is usually very weak and needs to be packed better so that it will not break when stepped on. The snow you have been pushing down into the door will now act as a form or brace to pack the step edge. Stomp as deep as possible, in the step edge area, as you can and pack your way up and out of the hole you create.
After the trench floor and the step edge have been packed, the outside person can begin removing the extra snow in the door pit.
At this point, make sure the igloo floor is clean and flat and the trench and door are all trimmed up.
Once all is cleaned up, move in.
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