IR - ICEBOX Igloo Tool - Andy H
Here is my IR for the ICEBOX Igloo too. As a bonus, it's been snowing a
lot recently! The html version can be found at
http://tinyurl.com/6avhda <http://tinyurl.com/6avhda> . Thanks for the
Grand Shelters ICEBOX Igloo Tool
Test Series by Andy Henrichs
December 4, 2008
Initial Report - 12-4-08 <#Initial%20Report>
Name: Andy Henrichs
Height: 6' 2" (1.88 m)
Weight: 185 lb (83.9 kg)
Email address: a_henrichs@...
City, State, Country: Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA
Most of my backpacking has been in the mountains of Colorado and the
deserts in the southwestern US. I've gone winter camping several
times, but I still prefer backpacking in the warmer months. Most of my
trips are 2-3 days, but I have taken several trips of 5-6 days. In the
summer of 2004, I was fortunate enough to have thru-hiked the 476 mile
Colorado Trail over 35 days. Recently, I have been leaning towards the
lightweight side of the spectrum.
[ICEBOX packed up]
The ICEBOX Igloo Tool packed up
Manufacturer: Grand Shelters (www.grandshelters.com)
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturers Stated Weight (7 foot igloo): 4 lb 12.8 oz (2.18 kg)
Manufacturers Stated Weight (8 or 10 foot igloo): 4 lb 14 oz (2.22 kg)
Manufacturers Stated Weight (9 or 11 foot igloo): 4 lb 14.7 oz (2.23 kg)
Testers Measured Weight (7 foot igloo): 4 lb 12 oz (2.15 kg)
Testers Measured Weight (8 or 10 foot igloo): 4 lb 12.5 oz (2.17 kg)
Testers Measured Weight (9 or 11 foot igloo): 4 lb 13 oz 2.18 g)
Packed Size: 24.5 in by 3.5 in by 14 in (62.2 cm by 8.9 cm by 35.6 cm)
Block Width: 8 in (20.3 cm)
Block Length (outer edge): 23 in (58.4 cm)
Block Length (inner edge): 20 in (50.8 cm)
Block Height: 14 in (35.6 cm)
MSRP: $179.95 US
[ICEBOX pieces stored in sides]
The ICEBOX Igloo Tool pieces stored for transport
The Grand Shelters ICEBOX Igloo Tool is a plastic form that allows the
user to construct an igloo. The tool can be adjusted to build igloos
with diameters of 7 ft (2.13 m), 8 ft (2.44 m), 9 ft (2.74 m), 10 ft
(3.05 m), or 11 ft (3.35 m). These igloos sleep 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5
people, respectively. The tool allows the user to build an igloo with
walls that follow a catenary curve. According to the Grand Shelters
website, the catenary curve is the arc used in the flying buttresses
found on cathedrals throughout Europe. This curve allows the snow to
support its own weight and significantly reduces the chance of
collapse. The ICEBOX Igloo Tool appears fairly complex initially. It
comes with 14 parts, 4 straps and buckles, a 23 page instruction
manual, and instructional DVD. The parts include an outer panel, and
inner panel, a U Bar, an end panel, 2 stakes (one for shallow snow, one
for deep snow), a small diameter pole, 4 large diameter poles, a toggle
handle, a toggle link, and a socket pole. I will briefly summarize the
basic assembly here. Those seeking more detailed information should
download the instruction manual from the Grand Shelters website.
After unpacking the ICEBOX, the form itself is constructed by snapping
the end panel onto both the outer and inner panel. The U Bar is then
slid into the appropriate slots. The pole assembly is slightly more
complicated. Different poles will be needed depending on the size
igloo the user will be building. This is the reason for the slight
difference in the weight of the ICEBOX tool between igloo sizes.
Regardless of the size igloo being built, a stake, socket pole, toggle
handle, toggle link, and small diameter pole are mandatory. In
addition to these mandatory parts, two additional poles are required.
If building a 7 ft (2.13 m) igloo, the poles labeled "IGLOO SIZE 10 ft"
and "7' IGLOO" are used. If building a 8 ft (2.44 m) or 10 ft (3.05 m)
igloo, the poles labeled "IGLOO SIZE 10 ft" and "IGLOO SIZE 8 or 9 ft"
are used. If building a 9 ft (2.74 m) or 11 ft (3.35 m) igloo, the
poles labeled "IGLOO SIZE 8 or 9 ft" and "IGLOO SIZE 11 ft" are used.
Each length of pole (except for the small diameter pole) has several
other labeled holes. These labeled holes are used to adjust the pole
to its required length, which varies depending on which row of the
igloo is being constructed. The instruction manual can clarify this
much better than I can. After the poles are assembled, one end is
snapped into the socket pole, which in turn is snapped into the
appropriate stake. The other end of the pole is inserted into the
toggle handle. The handle is then lifted away from the pole and the
toggle link is snapped into the appropriate holes.
The ICEBOX Igloo Tool poles
The ICEBOX Igloo Tool pieces
According to the manufacturer, the ICEBOX igloo tool can be used to make
an igloo in any type or consistency of snow. This tool is designed to
be used with 2 or more people. One person serves as the shoveler and
shovels snow into the form. The other person is the form handler.
This person lightly packs the snow into the form and moves the form
forward once a block is complete. With the tool completely assembled,
a platform must first be packed down. For maximum durability, the
manufacturers recommend packing the platform with boots only. This is
significantly more work but supposedly results in an extremely strong
foundation. In most cases, this platform will be packed while wearing
skis or snowshoes. Once the ski or snowshoe-packed platform begins to
harden, it can be packed further with boots. The platform should be
solid enough that the form handler can move about the platform in boots
without sinking in or disturbing the platform. The platform should be
of a larger diameter than the igloo being built. This will provide a
solid outer ledge that the shoveler can walk on during construction.
Once the platform is packed, the stake should be inserted into the snow
in the center of the platform. The first 3 blocks of the first row of
the igloo form a ramp. The form should be filled 1/3 full against the
end panel for the first block, 2/3 full for the second block, and to
the top of the end panel for the third block. For all blocks of the
first row, it's important to make sure that the form is aligned to the
ground correctly. The end panel has 2 plumb lines. One is marked "8,
9 FT" and the other is marked "7, 10, 11 FT." Aligning the form
correctly ensures that the proper catenary curve is kept throughout the
igloo. After the first row is complete, it is no longer necessary to
heed these plumb lines. The form is simply aligned with the previous
row. After a block is completed, the form handler raises the U Bar,
lifts the toggle handle and gently slides the form out of the way.
Once clear of the completed block, the U Bar is dropped back into place
and the toggle handle is snapped back down.
[form connected to the tool]
The ICEBOX Igloo Tool form assembled
The ICEBOX Igloo Tool form connected to the pole
Once the igloo reaches a certain height, depending on the size being
built, the U Bar and outer panel can be removed. This makes it easier
for the shoveler to pour snow into the form. For the last block, the
end panel is removed and the form handler positions the pole straight
up so the inner panel is parallel to the ground. Snow is then gently
poured onto the form and gently packed. The manufacturer stresses that
the form should be removed as soon as the final block is in place. If
it is not removed, settling snow can bend the pole.
[ICEBOX poles assembled]
The ICEBOX Igloo Tool poles assembled
The interior of the igloo is accessed by building a door. Ideally, the
top of the door is at or below floor level. This helps to keep the
igloo warmer by trapping in heat. The manufacturer recommends building
a door slightly wider than shoulder width and tall enough so that one
can walk through it when stooped over. They also recommend building a
trough measuring 18 in (45.7 cm) deep part of the way across the igloo.
This creates a more comfortable seating area for occupants and also
allows most people to stand inside the igloo. One question that
appears to have been asked repeatedly of the manufacturer concerns
ventilation. The manufacturer recommends creating a 1 in (2.5 cm)
diameter ventilation hole in the ceiling and states that carbon
monoxide levels are well within the allowable standard as determined by
the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), even while
using a candle and stove inside the igloo.
For those interested in more details regarding assembly of the Grand
Shelters ICEBOX Igloo Tool, I strongly recommend downloading the
instruction manual from the Grand Shelters website. It's a great
resource and covers the topic in much more detail than I've been able
to provide here. In addition to assembly, it also provides great
detail on snow gathering, igloo construction, and ventilation concerns.
It also contains information on how one can construct a solo igloo.
I was fairly overwhelmed when I first opened the ICEBOX. There are a
lot of pieces and while I could intuit how some of them would assemble
upon first glance, the instruction manual is vital. I had spent a fair
amount of time perusing the instruction manual online before the ICEBOX
arrived, so I had some idea of what was to be expected. It was with
great relief that I discovered that the instructions (particularly
relating to pole assembly and adjustment) made much more sense once I
actually had the ICEBOX in my hands. Still, I had to read sections of
the instructions 2 or 3 times before I felt like I completely
understood them. I was also relieved to discover that not all of the
pieces are required for every igloo. I will get to leave the shallow
snow stake and 2 large-diameter poles at home on every trip. After
assembling and disassembling the ICEBOX several times, I feel quite
confident in my ability to assemble it correctly in the field. Still, I
plan on bringing the instruction manual along on my first couple of uses
to ensure that nothing goes wrong.
I watched the instructional DVD last night and was pleased to find that
it clarified construction even more than the instruction manual. While
the manual is well written, some of the nuances are difficult to put
on paper. It was quite beneficial to see the ICEBOX in action. The
instructional DVD is available for free download on the Grand Shelters
website, but my computer would only download the audio for some reason.
The plumb lines and plumb line labels I mentioned previously are simply
raised plastic. As the plastic is yellow, it can be difficult to see
them clearly. According to the instructional DVD, the manufacturer has
highlighted their plumb lines and labels with a black marker. I will
probably do the same, as any misalignment of the first row results in
an unstable igloo.
The yellow straps on the ICEBOX serve to secure the two halves together
during transport and also serve as a way to attach the tool to a pack.
I typically pack heavier items close to my back for stability, so I'm
not thrilled with the idea of having it strapped on the outside of my
pack while skiing. I'm anxious to see if this bothers me at all.
Another concern I have is that of noise. One of my favorite things
about traveling in the backcountry in winter is the silence. With all
those parts stowed inside the ICEBOX, they seem to rattle a fair amount
when it's moved. I'm wondering if I'll have to wrap any of the poles
in cloth to keep them quiet.
One extremely useful feature found on the Grand Shelters website is the
Forum. Most of the entries in the forum are from the inventor of the
ICEBOX. He uses them to clarify certain aspects of igloo construction
and also adds some useful tips. Again, I've found that the information
found on the Forum page makes much more sense when I actually have the
ICEBOX tool in front of me. In addition to the entries by the
inventor, several other individuals have added their thoughts,
experiences, and questions to the board. As I begin to actually
construct igloos, I believe I will refer to the Forum page fairly
This concludes my Initial Report. I will append this report with my
Field Report in approximately two months.
Thank you to Grand Shelters and BackpackGearTest.org for giving me the
opportunity to test this tool.
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