I thought I should share results of this season's experiment with icing igloos vs. adding wet snow onto an igloo.
Without any need I wouldn't do either as I like Icebox igloos as they are naturally, but I if there are unsupervised boys in the area or warm weather coming it is worth the effort.
This is my 3rd season of adding extra snow to the outside walls in advance or just at the end of a warm spell. With the right timing is is only a matter of time & effort to add 2-4" of thickness by hand-packing more snow on. The snow needs to be wet and sticky, requiring warm weather. The timing challenge is, if freezing temps come, that wet snow will turn into icy crystals the next day and be useless for this use.
After freezing weather returns the wall is thicker and stronger than ever. The sticky snow is denser than the original wall likely was, and the extra thickness will defend the original walls from the weather for a time.
This is my first year of icing igloos, and was a measure against damage by unsupervised boys playing on the igloo's pad. I used both a typical plant watering can as well as modified 4L milk jugs to evenly sprinkle or lightly pour water over the walls & exposed pad. The icing did harden the walls very well and toughen them, but after a warm chinook that had melting temps over at least two nights one of the igloo's walls buckled under the extra mass on/within the walls. The igloo was still standing, but I thought it best to destroy it as there was still another night of melting weather to come, and I couldn't undo the loss of geometric shape.
In summary, I would ice an igloo again as an initial defense against wear or vandalism, but it requires that extra snow be added in the first warm spell to reinforce it. I see no reason not to pack more snow on the exterior of the walls given the opportunity; the only reason not to is it means the loss of the original block outlines - but if warm weather is coming those marks will be lost anyway.
In addition to these two methods, I am now a big fan of building 4' high wind walls of snow 4-5' away from the igloo's pad, to the side that warm winds will come from. I used scrap plywood to make a u-shape, I recommend making the open end slightly wider than the other, and to attach a 'bar' across the top near the open end. Build the wall as long as you think will block most of the wind. I built the bottom 2' high section 2' wide, and the layer above 16-18" wide so the plywood would sit reliably on the bottom level.
Let me know if you've any questions!
General discussion on winter camping.
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