There’s nothing more fun than bunking out in an igloo, and you can build one with any old carpenter’s saw. But in our experience, the job’s easier with a dedicated snow-cutting tool. These saws are made to shape blocks of well “sintered” snow—that’s powder that has been packed down and settled in windblown polar regions. In such areas, snow naturally settles into a stiff material that’s a little like foamboard insulation.
Not visiting the Arctic anytime soon? You can make sintered snow in your backyard or at a campsite. Start by shoveling it into a large rectangle in a flat spot. Pack it down with the flat of your shovel, and then wait a day. (The measurements and step-by-step process are outlined in the excellent book, How to Build an Igloo: And Other Snow Shelters, by Norbert E. Yankielun.)
When it comes to the actual building, it takes a few tries to form a structure that doesn’t look lopsided and require constant roof repairs. Blocks need to be shaped just right to support the whole, and good tools can make these small adjustments easier. Once you get the hang of it and fill in the dome, the reward is a shelter that’s a lot of fun to explore, and eerily quiet and peaceful inside.
The following are a few tools that will make the job easier. (And as a last step, don’t forget to use your saw to cut air holes into the walls.)