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I have a two-layer dome tent, cheap and not particularly designed for winter. Do I need to ever worry that during a heavy snow downfall during the night that tent might be covered up with snow and I will suffocate?

To narrow that down, I worry that the tent walls will be covered, while the surrounding snow level remains below the ceiling level (of course if 2 meters of snow fall during the night, it will be covered, no question here).

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If you get that sort of snowfall, the correct safety procedures include clearing snow every couple of hours. Set your alarm and get out to clear snow - especially from the entrance, but all round if it looks like the tent will get covered.

The tents used in the Antarctic are shaped like steep pyramids to help avoid the problem of snow buildup - dome tents are just too susceptible to this problem.

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I have heard warnings that snow may pile up and brake the poles that hold the tent. Is this the significant risk, or is it silent suffocation? –  Vorac Sep 17 '12 at 16:34
    
I guess it will depend on where you are. If the snow is vertical and heavy, then yes, it could present significant risk to a dome tent as it builds up. If you face drifting snow, the tent is more likely to collapse sideways, probably without the poles snapping. –  Rory Alsop Sep 17 '12 at 17:11
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@Vorac Silent suffocation is the concern I've heard the most. Snapped poles will ruin a trip. Suffocation in your sleep is more permanent. –  BMitch Sep 18 '12 at 2:31
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Heh - 'suffocating...is more permanent' –  Rory Alsop Sep 18 '12 at 10:05
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If the tent is not designed for snow then you'll need to make sure it doesn't get weighted down by the snow on top. The edges with a low gradient get covered in snow and this stretches the tent. You'll need to keep pushing it off the tent. If it has a flat top you'll have to push it off there as well.

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