Is Life Inside an Igloo as Easy as You Think?

An igloo is a type of shelter built of snow. In Inuit language, it is also known as a snow house or snow hut. Although igloos are often associated with all Inuit and Eskimo peoples, they were traditionally used only by the people of Canada's Central Arctic and Greenland's Thule area. Other Inuit tended to use snow to insulate their houses, which were constructed from whalebone and hides. Snow was used because the air pockets trapped in it make it an insulator. Outside an igloo , temperatures may be as low as −45 °C (−49 °F), but inside, the temperature may range from −7 to 16 °C (19 to 61 °F) when warmed by body heat alone.

Types of Igloos

The smallest were constructed as temporary shelters, usually used only for one or two nights, so they are easier to build.

Intermediate-sized igloos were for semi-permanent, family dwelling. This was usually a single room dwelling which housed one or two families.

The largest igloos were normally built in groups of two. One of the buildings for a temporary structure built for special occasions, the other built nearby for living. These had up to five rooms and for up to 20 people. These were used to hold community feasts and traditional dances.

Life in an Igloo

Igloos are built to different configurations to suit the size of the family. Nobody wants it to be dripping inside, or for soot to build up, especially after a storm. The igloos are cleaned every day. It is recommended to smoothen the sleeping platform (also made of snow) with the feet on waking up. Igloos usually have two entrances-a block of ice serves as a window, and it has to be scraped frequently to keep it transparent, because it supplies light during the day. It is also necessary to clean the floor of accumulated dirt, soot and sometimes urine.

The old snow should be removed and replaced with clean snow. The bed at the rear of the igloo requires a lot of maintenance, because it is one of the places that gets the dirtiest. The Inuit are careful to keep their igloos clean and livable, just as they keep their houses. The worst chore is to clean the cracks in the floor. Once cleaned, the igloo is tidy and bright.

In the morning, the igloo is very cold, because it’s not heated during the night. Everyone sleeps naked in the big bed, with their clothing piled on top to keep them warmer. By morning, the kamiks (boots) are frozen stiff, and they have to be forced on. Everyday, the children have to fetch water and take out the waste bucket even if it is very cold outside. The only source of heat and light in the igloo is the qulliq. Clothes were hung to dry above the qulliq.

The snow used to build an igloo must have enough structural strength to be cut and stacked appropriately. The best snow to use for this purpose is snow which has been blown by wind, which can serve to compact and interlock the ice crystals.

Snow's insulating properties enable the inside of the igloo to remain relatively warm. In some cases, a single block of clear freshwater ice is inserted to allow light into the igloo. Igloos used as winter shelters have beds made of loose snow, skins, and caribou furs. Sometimes, a short tunnel is constructed at the entrance, to reduce wind and heat loss when the door is opened. Animal skins or a snow block can be used as a door.

Architecturally, the igloo is unique in that it is a dome that can be raised out of independent blocks leaning on each other and polished to fit without an additional supporting structure during construction. An igloo that is built correctly will support the weight of a person standing on the roof.

Traditionally, an igloo might be deliberately consolidated immediately after construction by making a large flame with a kudlik (qulliq, stone lamp), briefly making the interior very hot, which causes the walls to melt slightly and settle. Body heat is also adequate, if slower. This melting and refreezing builds up a layer of ice that contributes to the strength of the igloo.

The sleeping platform is a raised area. Because warmer air rises and cooler air settles, the entrance area acts as a cold trap whereas the sleeping area will hold whatever heat is generated by a stove, lamp, body heat, or other device.

The living area is lined with skin, which could increase the temperature from around 2 °C (36 °F) to 10–20 °C (50–68 °F).

Carry the Right Gear

One should carry a mummy sleeping bag designed and rated for 0ยบ F temperatures and a fleece liner, a schema that's similar for each village around the globe. That sleeping bag alone will keep most cozy throughout the night.

Prepare Your Body and Stay Active

A good warm meal, heavy food is recommended before starting your journey, and staying active during your visit is essential.

DOs & DON’Ts


- Prepare your body and stay active.

- Have a drink - a warm drink.

- When going outdoors in extremely cold weather, wearing a down coat, double socks, snow pants, gloves and a hat is strongly recommended.


- Don’t wear more than one layer of clothing inside of the bag. Too many layers can result in sweat, which can freeze and actually make a person colder.

- Don’t eat unhealthy food, as the lower immune system of the body can make you sick.

- Do not over exercise, as due to cold temperature, it can lead to cramps and body pain.


Is It Warm Inside an Igloo?

Temperatures outside can sometimes reach up to minus 45 degrees (chilly!), however, inside an igloo, the temperature can be anywhere between minus 7 and 16 degrees because of your body heat. It's not going to be warm enough for a t-shirt, however, it's much warmer than being outside the igloo.

How Does an Igloo Keep You Warm?

Ice's thermal conductivity is low, like the thermal conductivity of air. An igloo works by stopping heat being transferred into the surroundings, even when the temperature is really low. The ice and the unmoving air-both act as highly effective insulators.

Does the Inside of an Igloo Melt?

Igloos do melt. However, the heat capacity of water is substantially higher than the heat capacity of air.... But because the snow/ice/water that makes up the igloo structure has so much more mass and has such a higher heat capacity than the air inside, the igloo melts slowly.

Can You Have a Fire in an Igloo?

A central fire will always deliver some heat to the ice of the igloo, the ice of the igloo will also tend to lose heat to colder air outside.... Still, the air right around the fire can be quite warm without threatening the walls.

How Cold Is It to Sleep in an Igloo?

It can be as cold as minus fifty degrees Fahrenheit outdoors but as cosy as 19 to 61 degrees Fahrenheit indoors, not always warm enough for a T shirt but a temperature difference that'll feel really good all the same, sometimes as much as seventy degrees warmer than the other.

Igloos are an adventurous place to live. Although it’s quite cold & not as comfy as your home but it’s worth it and people who love adventure are very keen to be here. Other than adventure, it can be a shelter when you are stuck at any such place.

Written by- Atul Bihari Chakrawarti

Edited by - Prachi Raheja