Grand Shelters ICEBOX - Igloo, winter camping tool

8:54 p.m. on November 28, 2009 (EST)
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The ICEBOX® is an affordable, lightweight, and packable tool for building a snow shelter in any snow conditions. An ICEBOX® igloo engineered for strength, stability, comfort, and ease of use is the added advantage you've been looking for. Much easier to build than quinzhees or snow caves. You already know the advantages of snow camping. No noise, no crowds, the awesome beauty and serenity of nature, the picturesque quality of the backcountry winter landscape. Now discover the new and affordable way to enhance the adventure. Whether you're into snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, or winter camping, you'll appreciate the ICEBOX® advantage. The ICEBOX®. Enhance the adventure.

http://www.grandshelters.com/

9:28 a.m. on November 30, 2009 (EST)
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I was watching the videos on their web site last night. The icebox is a cool system. I'm trying to decide whether to get one to build basecamp shelters this winter. I am leaning heavily in that direction.

2:20 p.m. on November 30, 2009 (EST)
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Looks like a pretty neat set up, tho it says even an expert still takes about 3 hours to build one. Last time I built an igloo was in Yosemite on top of El Capitian in 1980. This sytems says you can use any texture of snow.

11:42 p.m. on November 30, 2009 (EST)
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I have seen some reviews of this thing. Apparently it is harder than it looks. Also, I think I remember someone saying that in really dry snow, it doesn't work all that well because the snow just won't harden and set up like the thicker snow we have in the Sierra will.

I still think that doing it solo, unless you have all day and are going to stay in one place for a while, is way too much work.

8:38 p.m. on December 1, 2009 (EST)
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I have used the Icebox. One of the staff members on the winter and snow camping safety course I directed for 10 years and still help teach got one to try out. So naturally, we all had to try it out. It works pretty well, though there is some dependence on the snow conditions. We have found it works in a wider range of snow conditions than just cutting blocks and stacking them. OTOH, you can dig a snow shelter of similar size in about the same time (no, not the first time you try, but after a little practice and learning some of the tricks of the trade). Given typical Sierra or Rockies snow, a snow shelter takes about 20-25 min per person capacity for an experienced person (3 or 4 times that long for an inexperienced person). A quinzhee takes a bit longer when you include the "pileup" time, but about the same to finish once you have the pile and let it harden up for an hour or so. With practice, we have found that the Icebox takes about an hour and a half for a 3-4 person igloo (the tool can be set to a range of sizes). The big problem is that it is Yet Another Weighty Piece of Gear to carry with you.

11:12 p.m. on December 1, 2009 (EST)
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Bill, when you say "snow shelter" are you talking about a snow cave? I'm not sure I could build anything in an hour that would remotely resemble a shelter unless it might be a snow cave cut into a slope.

1:04 p.m. on December 2, 2009 (EST)
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"Snow shelter" covers a wide variety of shelters built of or into snow (or glacial ice, for that matter). They range from simple "bolt holes" to luxurious accomodations, with trenches of various configurations somewhere between. They can be into snowbanks, tree wells, into the side of a glacial crevasse, and more. Trenches can be roofless (basically just shelter from the wind), roofs of snow blocks (Jim did one at one of my winter camping courses, but had a problem with a careless other participant who bumped it and knocked a block or two down), roofs made from branches with snow on top, tarp roofs, roofs made from your skis or snowshoes, etc etc etc. They can have sleeping shelves or cubicles cut in the walls.

A bolt hole for one person can be done in 15-20 min using your skis or snowshoes, faster with a shovel (you should always include a good avy shovel on winter trips).

As I noted, experience helps a lot with the speed. Also, doing a "T" entry speeds things up tremendously (you dig in the vertical of the T, shoving the snow out the sides of the crossbar of the T - if you tunnel straight in, you end up having to crawl in and out multiple times to remove the snow from the inside).

Princeton Outing Club has a good page on shelters. Here is another and one from the US Antarctic program (http://www.usap.gov/travelanddeployment/documents/fieldmanual-chapt11snowshelters.pdf).

4:58 p.m. on December 2, 2009 (EST)
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I have seen some reviews of this thing. Apparently it is harder than it looks. Also, I think I remember someone saying that in really dry snow, it doesn't work all that well because the snow just won't harden and set up like the thicker snow we have in the Sierra will.

I still think that doing it solo, unless you have all day and are going to stay in one place for a while, is way too much work.

Correct on both counts. A friend of mine got one, built a few igloos and it ended up in his garage for a while before he passed it on to me about three years ago. Out of about 5 starts I have finished only two igloos, both stretched out over a couple of days and mostly solo but with some help from my daughter. I got 3/4 of te way through an 11 footer over Christmas break last winter, it was coming along nicely but it got cold and I couldn't pack the snow anymore. Uses ENORMOUS amounts of snow. Although you can learn to pack some difficult kinds of snow, sometimes blocks will fracture as you move the form and you have to go back and do it again. I would give it four to five hours with good snow and two people, at least one of them experienced. It's also hard to set and hold the correct angle and to hold the pivot in place, and the ball and socket should be replaced with some kind of universal joint. I'm not ready to give up, it still has great promise as a way to build a storm-proof base camp, but I don't think it's quite what it's cracked up to be.

11:55 p.m. on December 2, 2009 (EST)
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We have set up a forum to help people with the ICEBOX and the tutorial video can be downloaded on the forum here: http://www.grandshelters.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=41

We have updated our manual several times since yours was purchased and the difficulties you are having are addressed more clearly. You can download the pdf on our web page here: http://www.grandshelters.com/icebox-manual.html

The eleven foot igloo takes 6 1/2 cubic yards of snow compared to 2 1/2 for the seven footer.

10:54 a.m. on December 3, 2009 (EST)
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In Minnesota snow doesn't generally pack worth beans. The most effective snow shelter is likely the trench with a supported tarp across the top and then pile snow on top of the tarp for insulation. If you are sealed up from the wind and have some snow insulation around the sides and the top you are in decent shape. This type of shelter is also relatively quick to make.

8:50 p.m. on December 3, 2009 (EST)
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Hey Igloo Ed, Thanks for joining and your input. Glad to have you aboard!

10:45 p.m. on December 3, 2009 (EST)
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Thanks Bill, I have seen some of these various designs before. I was going to build something on my last trip to Yosemite, but decided to take my tent instead. Turned out to be a good choice-I got snowed on quite a bit.

As far as shovels go, Telemark Tips did a good review of shovels a while back. I have a small Voile Mini metal shovel that I really like. I'm not out in real avalanche country, but I have used it to set up my campsite and dig out my tent and car.

6:09 a.m. on December 9, 2009 (EST)
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Hi Igloo Ed

Nice to get some input from "the source".

I think I downloaded an updated manual when I got the box from my friend. I took a quick look at the latest one, it doesn't look that different from what I have but I'll print it out and try it next time.

Have you or are you going to do anything about the ball and socket joint on the center pivot? I find that it pops off too easily and I think you should be able to come up with something better. The one on the form works OK, it's just the one on the pivot.

Also, it looks like you have added some kind of strap to help set/hold the correct angle. Can I get an upgrade kit for that?

11:31 a.m. on December 9, 2009 (EST)
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BigRed, you commented that the IceBox uses a tremendous amount of snow. Unfortunately all snow shelters require moving a huge amount of snow, even an emergency "bolt hole" that is just big enoughto squeeze into. One of our staff figured out how much snow he and his partner had moved in doing a comfortable 2-3 person snow cave and then a 2-3 person quinzhee. The snow cave and interior of the quinzhee are about the same volume - roughly 10 feet diameter and the upper half of a sphere (not quite that high, maybe only 3 feet high), so that's something like a 75 sq ft area by 3 ft, or 225 cu ft of water (a bit less since snow is a little less dense than water. That's about 3700 kg or close to 4 tons. The outer shell of a quinzhee adds another ton, so you pile up 5 tons, then hollow out the 4 tons of interior. We were all surprised at the number and several of us repeated the calculation and started counting sled-loads (a quick way to haul the snow out of the interior for a large shelter). For an igloo, you only have to cut the ton or so of blocks (or fill the forms of the IceBox). Thankfully, an emergency bolt hole only takes a couple hundred pounds of snow moved.

10:40 a.m. on December 17, 2009 (EST)
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BigRed, There are only a couple updates this season in the manual. The biggest change is the last paragraph on page 8 that explains the "R" hole. The "R" hole is are new holes we've added to new models and it is used in the ramp area. You could modify your tool by drilling holes half way between the holes that have large changes with no holes between. Drill them just over 1/4 inch diameter.

Concerning the stake/pole pivot popping appart, that is caused by not keeping the pole positioned so the top of the toggle handle is facing directly up or at the packer on higher levels. The pole tends to rotate as one goes around the igloo and it needs to be twisted/possitioned corretly. It can also pop appart if packing incorrectly which resullts in the form being jerked around. This can happen in real wet snow as it takes pressure to compress the chunks of wet snow but if packed correctly it doesn't jerk the form. The packing technique is one that needs to be learned anyway as you will take a very long time to build an igloo with TG snow if packing incorrectly.

We haven't added anything to hold the form at the correct angle. I am interested in where/what made you think we did?

1:52 p.m. on February 14, 2010 (EST)
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Built a 9-footer today, taking advantage of good packing due to fresh snow followed by just above freezing temps. Put up 5 photos on my profile. Went pretty smoothly, no real problems keeping the form aligned or broken blocks. I did the first 5 courses solo, then got my wife to come out and help. The dog just runs interference.

Igloo Ed: I thought I saw a picture somewhere that showed a strap running from the center stake to the bottom of the form. Guess not.

3:46 p.m. on February 18, 2010 (EST)
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Well, Red, you must be a pretty strong fella building 5 courses by yourself. I've done enough solo igloos to know how long a nine footer takes. Sometimes it's good to be solo though so you have full control over what's happening and that helps in the learning process.

August 27, 2014
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