Let’s talk about living in a tipi year-round

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DUDE, IS IT COLD IN THERE!? tipi © by Philip Post, used under Creative Commons license.
I’m really interested in buying a tipi that you can live in year-round. I found some great manufacturing websites but the only thing is they all say the same thing, i.e.: yes it’s great to live in year-round, it’s so romantic with the open fire etc., etc.

I would love to hear from real people who live in a tipi year-round (in particular, places with cold winters like Canada) and find out the disadvantages as well as the advantages. Because all I’m seeing is that it’s awesome and I don’t want to spend my life savings on something that…well, just isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. -Kit

Kit, this is a long-shot (because I want to believe that I’d already know if we had any tipi-dwelling Offbeat Home readers) but let’s see if we can find any Homies to answer your questions. WHO’S LIVED IN A TIPI YEAR-AROUND?!

Comments on Let’s talk about living in a tipi year-round

  1. While I have not lived in a Tipi year-round, my Native American side is from a tribe that did.

    The most important thing is: Tipis are SUPPOSED to MOVE!

    You don’t stay up in the cold in winter- you travel south for warmth. It will still be cold, but that is when your ‘romantic with a fire’ should work. I don’t know where you live, but where my tribe is from… you cannot easily stay in winter.

    Insulation! You need furs and leather, which means you have to be okay with them or you have to get modernized warming items.

    It is do-able, but life savings do-able? Do you plan to be without a shower? Without electricity? Or do you plan to wire it up?

    When life-savings come into play- see if you can rent or borrow or test it first. Even if other people say things that convince you one way or another, YOU need to be convinced for YOU!

    • The native side of me as 1/3 Cherokee hunted and trapped for fur, the idea of a ti pi was to be mobile to move with the game the bottom of a ti pi has to be open for air to circulate up for the smoke to go out the top. This was done by a second liner inside the ti pi if snow blocked of the air you wouldn’t even know it because the carbon monoxide would have Killed you. Living in a Ti Pi was a life style you hunted trapped and fished for food, do you know how to smoke food for travail ? Winter living was not a option for the Ti Pi you must move to a place of cover in order to survive….

    • Hi

      Hi there fellow tipi lovers,

      I have lived in a tipi off grid year round as a single mother. Not only is it possible, it is optimal! We would never choose to live any other way. We have lived in Oregon as well as Texas and have found it to be quite comfortable. With a deck built of pallets, liner, rain cap, and wood stove, we can be in our undies with ice on the ground. As in, yes it is warm! We haul water in and cut wood on the land. A simple and very connected life.

      Blessings and enjoy. The adventure!
      I hope this helps and I am on my own mission to see more living in tipis!

      • I’d love to connect with you more around your experiences living in a tipi! Im seriously considering moving into a tipi that my friends have on their property in Central California -Morro Bay, CA to be specific. I need to cut down living costs, as Im currently living in SF trying to build a digital nutrition business and all im doing right now is stressing! City living and the full-time jobs that city living requires is not conducive to healing haha…. or building a business.

        Anyway, Im thinkin that the environment that the tipi is located on is ideal, as it doesnt get too cold or too hot. But I know nothing else about tipis!! My friends mostly just put it up for guests or for their kids to play in. It would really need to be homeified. Any advice would be really really appreciated!

        • Hi Kymber,

          I’m looking into this same idea. Are you still pursuing your this idea of living? I see you post is a couple years old but was also looking for direction and advise on where and how this can be achieved. Best wishes, Nick

      • Oh wow, fellow single mama here, based in Melbourne Australia, would so love to connect with you. Right now I’m looking for alternatives to this hamster wheel I’m on, trying to keep a roof over our head. I’m so craving simplicity and connection. Would LOVE to know more about how you make it work…

        • Eeeeh I know this is an old post but I went the pallet route and it was a lot more work than salvaging some old 2×6 or 2×4’ s from the transfer station ( I live on a island in Maine so that’s what we call the dump) we have a big burn pile and I was able to salvage enough lumber in two weekends to… how do I explain this… double up your 2×6 scrap reuse the nails and or screws already in the recycled lumber stagger your butt joints and depending on size of your teepee I made two 16 foot 4×4’s leveled them with scrap shingles or pressure treated blocks then I found 1×6 pieces of an old fence that were eight feet nailed them across the 4×4’s spaced out three inches to stretch the lumber I also found enough scrap it’s called cedar breather you will have to look that one up. It’s. Usually four feet and comes in rolls three layers of that a couple big rugs and had a decent platform big enough for a bed and then some. Rugs needed a little cleaning but not too bad price tag $0
          I’m installing a wood stove with a four foot section of insulated pipe cut through the canvas about nine feet up the extra stove pipe inside makes all the difference make sure u cap the outside end. Painters canvas drop cloths are pretty cheap a coat of latex paint on liner and the inside of teepee layered spruce bows around about three feet high cover with more spruce bows stack four more poles over that and wrap 3/4 of the teepee again with heavy tarp and screw strips of plywood up the poles over tarp holds down tarp in heavy wind storms but leaves the smoke flaps open to mess around with.. hope this helps???
          Had my 20 foot teepee year around going on my second winter but like someone mentioned ten years ago on this post the teepee gives you freedom to go south Maine most of the year by December I’m in New Orleans…

    • I am in the process of building a Coroplastic Teepee based on Paul Elkins design, with a twist. I am making it out of 2 or 3 four foot by 8 foot coroplast sheets which I found at Home Depot for $19 each. Then I cut them in half Diagonally corner to corner which gives a Center Height of close to 8 feet. I also use Gorilla Tape on most seams and 1″ or 2″ Velcro on the final seam. Then I found a 5′ x 8′ utility trailer at Northern Tool for $629 which which perfectly accomodates either size. This gives anyone with practically any vehicle a very comfortable and portable shelter for Under $1000. Then, if you mount a couple of light weight solar panels and a solar compatible battery, you have a self contained and Mobile camper for Still Under $1000. How cool is that??? Thanks for publishing your concepts and ideas. Below is the link to the construction of this TeePee.

  2. I actually lived in a tipi year round for quite several years as a kid. We had an outdoor kitchen, and one tipi for myself and stepbrother, another for my mom and stepdad. We had a building up the hill with a bath tub (it was actually one of those stock watering tubs) and an outhouse. We had it set up for year-round living with a wood stove, carpeting on the concrete and soil floor, and brick and board shelves around the perimeter. The one we had was canvas and, even with the smoke flaps closed, was not entirely waterproof. We had plastic sheeting we added as a waterproof ceiling in the winter. This was in Northern California. I would definitely not want to do this in a colder climate than that, as canvas leaves something to be desired in terms of insulation. Looking back, it wasn’t awful. I just thought it was normal to have to heat water on the stove before doing dishes. If you are used to modern amenities, tipi living is going to be a shock. I definitely wouldn’t spend my life savings on it. You might want to try something like living in a tent for a month to test your willingness to go without before committing yourself. For people of the right temperament, it could be great.

    Another thought…do you have land? Where are you going to site the thing after you spend your life savings buying it?

  3. Hmm, I had some of the same thoughts as the commenter above (showers, cooking, being warm since I am such a baby about the cold). My real question is that I would love if Kit could post a few links with companies that manufacture these!!! I have seen some that are designed for temporary living (basically a fancy tent), but they’re mostly just tents. I would love to see what she is considering. Thanks so much!

    • If you do get a tipi for your back yard, and you live anywhere with much moisture, it wont last long if you are not heating it regularly. One winter without an occupent is all it takes to kill a yurt where my parents live, and they live in the Sierra Foothills at 3000 ft above Sacramento. ie: not that wet a place.

      Also, be sure to make sure that the fabric is treated with waterproofing and mildew proofing, and is UV resistant. (sunforger is the standard for canvas. It only comes in a few colors though 🙁 .)
      And be aware that the flame retardant is even more toxic than the water and mildew treatments. You can get the canvas without the flame retardant though.

  4. In the book ‘Little house on a small planet’ (which I found through and bought because of Offbeat Home) has an interview with someone who has lived in a tipi. Plus, it is a great resource for people considering small and eco-friendly homes!

  5. Well we had our Tipi for several years and did ocassionally sleep in it during the winter.. we had a wood burning stove in there and it stayed pretty warm.. but I do know a couple here in the town I live in ,who lives in their Tipi year round along with their children.. You should be able to find her if you type her name in the search at the top of Facebook.. there are even pics of their Tipi and you can message her for more info.. Here it is … “Shoshannah Hollon”. This couple and their children are TRUE year round Tipi dwellers and I am sure she could be a wealth of information … And they do get snow in the place they live..

  6. I didn’t live in a tipi, but I went to school in one year round for four years in northern Vermont. We built it ourselves from salvaged materials so there was almost no cost! We had no running water and no electricity. Here’s what I took away from hardcore outdoor living tipi style:
    +Nothing (NOTHING) builds a sense of closeness, togetherness and community like a tipi.
    +Morning sunlight is 1,000 times more amazing from inside a tipi.
    +Having totally separate, independent areas for toileting, cooking, eating, sleeping and socializing is AWESOME. Easier to keep things clean, easier to organize. (This only applies to multiple tipi set-ups though)
    +/- (this may not apply to you. I don’t know how extreme you plan on going) Allowing the land and the weather to make more decisions for you. This is a slower pace of life. Period.
    +Truly living with the seasons. Ahhh, spring. Ahhhhhhhhh, fall. As far as snow, we had plenty. And freezing temps to boot. What can I say? You dress warm, push as much of that snow up around the outside walls as you can and sit tight in front of that stove. Most of the time, winter ain’t no thang.
    -Feeling a little vulnerable. Sometimes there are scary noises in the woods. Sometimes there’s a huge, terrifying storm and your tipi almost blows away. I guess that can happen in a house too, but with a tipi? You’re OUT THERE, man.
    -Hunting season. I can’t tell you how many times we got shot at on our posted land.
    -Bugs. You simply can’t keep them out. We stopped trying.
    We were never wet, sometimes we were a little cold, we were always happy. There were day-to-day annoyances but I think we all agreed that the sense of well-being, togetherness, and connection to ourselves and nature was worth the bug bites. I think you need to ask yourself and (grumble grumble) be honest- Can I become accustomed to living a totally different way of life? If you currently live in an off the grid converted school bus in the woods (AWESOME!!) it probably won’t be that big of an adjustment but I wouldn’t advise jumping into tipi life.

  7. I would be hesitent about committing to a tipi year round in canada. I have not personally done so, but I have done a couple of other similar things (tent, tent cabin, built my own yurt. currently dreaming of a bow top gypsy wagon…)

    The biggest question I would consider is this: How similar is your climate to the climate that the structure you are considering was built for? For an extreme example, a woven mat hut may be great in the tropics, but not so much in Canada. Structures can be adapted, especially with modern materials, but only so far. (ex: the wool felt covered traditional yurt, with its amazing wind and temperature abilities, and poor ability to deal with high humidity is much more humidity suited, though still not ideal, when you add a waterproof vinyl or treated canvas layer and get rid of all that lovely warm insulation; but it still sweats, and it doesn’t stay as warm).

    I would think that a tipi would do well year round in a place that had low precipitation, low humidity, and somewhere between warm and moderate coldness. Something like the area it was built for. If you are in the plains, and have a lot of blankets and a kick-ass stove (there are some great ones that are crazy cheep designed for wall tents that are great for cooking, heating, and boiling water, are light weight, and some even have ovens; Id post a link but the last time I did something like that the post got deleted, so you’ll have to google.), I’d say go for it. If you are in BC I would say hell no.

    Also, consider building yourself a yurt, They’re much more comfortable.

  8. I’ve never lived in a tipi. But I did live outside in the fall in Toronto for 40 days of Occupy Toronto, and 10 years ago when I was in the army we would live in winterized tents on the snow for the weekend. I would strongly suggest that a tipi is not a good idea for winter here. We have to look at what these things are built for- in my area (Toronto and region) Iroquois people lived in longhouses which are really sturdy bunks made of bark. Ojibway people lived in huts covered with sturdy bark. Bark is not canvas. I would urge you to check out some kind of native centre in your area and see what winter sleeping arrangements look like for your local climate, it really matters.

    In the army we did sleep in canvas tents in the winter- but this was no ordinary canvas it was super insulated. AND you would have to pile a ton of snow outside the walls of the tent and build a little snow fort around it if you wanted it to be comfortable. AND the vibe was more ‘refugee camp’ than what you’re going for I’m sure. Basically: Canvas is not going to cut it.

    I would be interested in finding out more about what part of Canada you are from- southern B.C. winter shelters are going to be really different and need more protection against rain.

    However, I would really recommend yurts for cold winters. We had these lovely Mongolian yurts (actually gers) at Occupy Toronto and they were warm as well as being kind of magic. They are also somewhat portable as well. And you get a floor! And you still have a hole in the middle and can have some kind of fire (which we didn’t at occupy, body heat was enough). I would really strongly consider a yurt, they are more made for this climate in the winter.

  9. Hi all, just wanted to chime in on the folks cautioning against using canvas in the winter. People do it, and have been for a long time. I am in Labrador, and while I have never lived year-round in a tipi (our style of tent is different), folks here still spend long periods of time in canvas tents in the spring (and lets be honest, spring in Labrador is still winter – lots of snow and plenty of cold). I’m including a blog of a local Innu elder, Elizabeth Penashue, who is a strong environmentalist. One of the things she does is snowshoe in the middle of the wilderness for about a month or so, sleeping in a canvas tent. Family and friends join her, including children, as well as others from various places.


    If you want to do it, you can do it. But, it will taking planning and preparation, and a major willingness to do without some big conveniences. I would love to hear more if you do it!

    • Although i know others were doing so, I wanted to clarify that I was not cautioning against canvas at all, but rather against tipis. Yurts, and many other very functional structures are often made of canvas, but a tipi has a long open seam that is pinned together, has a hole in the roof that is very hard to cover completely, and is often set up directly on the ground. This makes for an extremely unrainproof structure.

      The canvas tent on the site that you linked to looks much more waterproof than a tipi, though I suspect a tipi would handle heavy snow loads better.

  10. Hi it’s me! The question asker! This is the first time I’ve been able to get on my laptop in ages so sorry for the lack of replies 🙁

    Ok so I am north of Toronto, near Barrie. I just moved here from Ireland 3 months ago (with a husband, 3 dogs and a cat in tow) I have been here in the winter on holiday before, so yes I know there is shed loads of snow and it’s cold 🙂

    I would ideally prefer a yurt actually, the only problem is it’s 3 times as costly as a 28ft tipi, so it was an affordability issue. And my sense of urgency to live in my own space has increased since we were ripped off by a sneaky slummy landlord who took us naive immigrants for a ride.

    I was going to put the tipi on a wooden deck (on the horse ranch I work at) and have a wood stove in it. Colorado yurts can put the opening in it and show you how to do the stove.

    All these responses have been wonderful though, so thank you for replying! It’s given me lots to think about. If anyone knows of yurt financing, let me know!!

    I should clarify, it’s not really my ‘life savings’ more like, my savings to date since my husband and I moved to Canada 3 months ago, which is pitiful (immigration is expensive ya’ll!)

    • Did you ever get a tipi? I ask becasue I read the you are looking for a 28 foot tipi? That is much too large, in my opinion, fo rone family. My family of four lives fine in our 19 foot tipi and another family of 6 we know lives in a 21 foot tipi, year round on both accounts. The village we are from has a 28 foot tipi we call the big lodge that the whole community of 17+ live in for each move seasonally up and down the mountain.

    • Why don’t you find an empty house with land and lease it for improvements on the property. I know where there is 160 acres with a house close to where you are.

  11. We’ve also looked at insulated portable geodesic domes, so if anyone has good resources or blogs for those, link me please! The key is portable, because once I am done my schooling here, we’re moving on to somewhere else 🙂

  12. I’ve been living in a 26ft tipi made by nomadics tipi makers since march of this year 2012. Like most who have meandered their way to this lifestyle, my reasons were largely financial. Yet not completely. After all, a box in an alley would be much cheaper! No, I wish, like most, to live a “respectable” life that doesn’t include being cold, wet, and dirty. But I’m not willing to enslave myself to a living condition that soaks up all of my meager paycheck. Hence, the tipi. My buddy has a bit of land and has rented me a spot for $300 a month. Nothing compared to the minimum $600 a month for a trailor lot out here in the pacific northwest. America is made for rich people. The rest of us need to be clever in disguising our poverty!
    Yes it rains all the time here. But rain is only a problem if you dont have a rain cap. Buy one, put some grommets in it; make an umbrella frame out of PVC. It’s a monumental pain in the ass to get it up there but well worth it. You wouldn’t put up with any drips in your house. Why put up with it in your tipi? Especially considering that you need a raised deck to build it upon. Drips will soak into the ground making a wet “spot.”. Drips on a wood floor will puddle and make the whole place wet. It is important (in my humble opinion) to have a floor. This is crucial if you are to cross the subtle threshold between “camping” and “homestead.”. I like camping. But I also like going home and being clean and warm again (call me a pansy!). Get scrap carpet. Assume there will be mildew. Don’t fight it. Replace it.
    For heat: a potbelly stove. Forget the open fire. Everything gets covered in ash! A potbelly stove is made to produce 360 degree heat, sit in the middle of the room and look good doing it. Find one on Craigslist. Don’t pay more than $200. Otherwise they know what they have!
    Let’s see… What else… If you want to get fancy buy a ecotemp point of use water heater. About $200 and a tank of propane and you’ll have running hot water (provided a 300 gL ibc water tote./. Placed above so gravity will be your pump).
    Build a covered porch. Instead of stepping outside it feels like walking into another room.
    Almost forgot: bathroom! Don’t spend the money on a composting toilet. All you’re spending is for the separation of piss and poop. Just make a little outhouse with one bucket for poop and an upside down 3gl water jug for pee that funnels into the ground at least two feet. Go to lowes and get a bag of sawdust from their saw. I never believed that sawdust could quell the stink of poo until I experienced it myself! Just keep the pee separate and you’ll never deal with poo stink.
    Anyway, hope this helps! I’m about to sit back on the tipi couch and watch a movie (extension cord from the neighboring barn). It’s always surprising to me how little I’ve sacrificed, how little has changed by living this way. I hope your experience is the same. Let me help you! Ask me anything!!!

    • how does a woman keep the pee and poop separate? what is the best way to transport lodge poles? has anyone ever considered building a fire pit with water tubes running thru it and into the floor to warm the floor? what is the heat radius of a pot belly pig…i mean stove. how did you get the rain cap up there?

      • Very Good questions! As far as the composting toilet goes: it’s essentially a bucket of shit. Or ‘le shitte buquette’ as I call it prefer. The only difference between a bucket of shit and a composting toilet is sawdust. Line it with a good trash bag, put a little sawdust in and you’ve saved $1500. The reason I suggest a separate place for pee is that the principal of composting is dehydration. Shit is 80 percent water. The drying is the composting. Don’t worry about peeing in it when you poop (few of us have that kind muscle control!). Just don’t pee in it too much.
        As for lodge poles: the longest you can ship is 27 ft. Any longer and they need a special license and the cost becomes prohibitive. Unless you own land with old trees, you’ll have to buy poles. I spent $1000 for 20 lodge pole pine poles. Half the price was shipping. To move, I plan to tape them together in pairs (as they were shipped) and latch them atop a 30ft uhaul.
        Funny you should ask about water tubes for heating. I recently had my folks over for dinner and they were sitting here freezing whilst my son and I sat comfortably. The old potbelly stove plugs away as it should but the place, I’ll admit, is a bit cold. While we discussed ideas like waterpipes, stone floors and the like, it occurred to me that the problem is quite simple: I’m trying to heat a gigantic 30 foot tall pyramid with a stove built for a little school house. Not only that: it has a big hole in the top! All the blogs I’ve read talk about getting too hot in the tipi. I can only assume they weren’t in one this big. I’m currently working on an adjustable interior ceiling that will hopefully contain the heat a little better.
        As I said before, getting a rain cap on a tipi is a royal pain in the ass! I used a smoke flap pole, four guy wires, and four people to get that thing up there. Thinking it would be easier to place a big ladder up the back.
        Can’t say that there is any better teacher than experience. Don’t pretend it’s not hard. Hope this helps!

        • I just bought a 22 ft tipi off craigslist…I’m Setting up a year round (though i dip out for dec & january…) living structure on a friends farm in north cackalack. Could not figure out how to move the lodgepoles, 28′ long from south carolina down some curvy mountain roads… After exploring ladder racks, hitches and trailers, and searching google “moving teepee poles” and the 1st picture being a horse drawn carriage… I finally got reallllly lucky when an old buddy came through with a school bus! They barely fit diagonally..with about 3 inches to spare. phew. Got the poles, now im starting to build the deck…hoping it will be all done in august and ill have my dreamee teepee home!

    • Hey there!
      I live in a 20ft tipi in the Swannanoa river valley, near Asheville. I built a ginormous deck underneath it, and I love it! but whew its super wet here, we’re practically a rainforest. Luckily, there’s a farmhouse for me to stay in while I work out some kinks…My next option for waterproofing (The stick method to have a passageway for water down the poles and behind the liner does not eliminate all wetness, but helps..) was to buy a 13′ umbrella and use it on the exterior like a rain cap…Haven’t seen an example of this being done before, but I figured its worth a try. Anyone know of someone who’s tried this?? Did you actually build a rain cap using PVC pipes, could you describe this? did you use canvas? Thank Ya!

      • our family made an ozan from scrap canvas. it is a large, bird in flight shape that drapes behind the liner and connects to one spot above door as high as you can get it.allowing all drips to run down ozan behind the liner. works great!

      • Hi Ashley,
        We live in Black Mountain and have been considering the best way to move forward with a versatile shelter. Considering something mobile because we’re not sure where we will settle in the near future. Anyway it’s nice to know that someone is in the area in a tipi and we’d like to chat sometime!
        I think you’ll be able to find me on facebook if you wish.

  13. I lived in a tipi year round for several years with my partner and our daughter. Winter is actually the easiest time to manage and the more snow, the better. You need it for insulation. You will want a good liner, a treated canvas floor, and an ozan. I think the biggest challenges were managing the pitch, getting a good cooking system, and storing food. We were living way off grid with no electricity and ended up using a lot of Coleman propane bottles and ice coolers. If I ever live that way again, I will get a good gas grill with a fridge attached and I will build a shelter for it so I can stand up to cook and have safe food storage. Colorado yurts (used to be Earthworks Tipis) sells the best product out there and the owners lived in a tipi o a few years themselves.

  14. Hello. I too have a Nomadics tipi like Denny, but mine is a 22footer. My boyfriend and I are currently wintering in our tipi and we’ve been in it since October of last year (2012) We live in eastern Oklahoma and the current temperatures at night have been down in the 20’s and teens. We are learning a lot as we go. We are still using the house we rent for the kitchen, laundry, and bathroom, but we are fixing to buy some acreage and will then be living completely out of our tipi full time. We have both an interior rain cover (ozan) and a rain cap on our tipi. I agree with Denny that getting the 10ft diameter rain cap on top of the tipi poles is definetly one of the hardest parts about the set up, next for us was lifting the lift pole up into place with the almost 100lb cover attached, and only two people. Nomadics Tipi Makers out of Bend, Oregon have been extremely helpful with our tipi. On thing I have learned, however, is that it is best in winter for the cover to be completely to the ground instead of being 4-6″ above like they recommend. I’ve had several people who have lived in tipi’s full time tell me this, and we’ve discovered it ourselves. Inside our tipi we have a insulated barrel stove that we made for heat and it warms the tipi very well. With this we are able to keep the smoke flaps closed. The only water leaks we have had are at the door and that is only because our poles are not completely positioned correctly which we will remedy the next go’round. To aid in keeping in heat we also have a ceiling of mylar space blankets laying across a string grid that goes from the front of the tipi to the ozan. We left at large space around the stove pipe of course. We sleep on a raised bed off the floor and we have a comforter with a good sleeping bag opened on top. We stay very warm. We are still learning as we go and the summer months here in oklahoma will present other challenges for us.

    • Very curious about why the tipi cover works better “in winter” when completely on the ground; also, how did you find out that other dwellers also found out the same thing? (where did you find each other?)

      Thank you for your time.

  15. Currently in our fifth month of permanent tipi dwelling- with my husband and our two little boys. While it doesn’t snow here (Kauai, HI) we get enough rain. My experience has been that the ‘mildew resistance’ only works for the first few storms. Once the tipi (18 ft 13 oz marine boat shrunk from Colorado Yurt Co.) was soaked, then dried intensely under hot Hawaiian sun- the canvas seemed to lose some of its integrity: ie subsequent rains seemed to soak right into the canvas and drop off on the inside. We are currently researching best practices to waterproof it such as beeswax or possibly…possibly, Thompsons Waterseal. Other than that, tipi living is an absolute joy. Highly recommend both the switch to purposeful intentional living that is both simple and ecologically light. Have fun!

    • You are not going to believe this! I am a 60 year old housewife. My husband and I recently retired into a small 900 square foot home which we are renovating. We are having a blast doing it, I could go into it another time. The house is 82 years young!

      I love looking up what is new in science for very many reasons. What I discovered this weekend, you MUST look into! Nanotechnology! There is a product on the market that only costs $37 for two bottles, you can buy way more of the stuff if you want! It completely repels ANYTHING! Mud, oil, dirt, water, paint, any moving liquidy thing. It waterproofs! So I am sorry I can’t find it on my bookmarks right now. I thought I had bookmarked it but guess not. Nanotechnology, water repellents…good luck! This stuff is amazing! We are going to use it on the bottom of the turnposts in front of our home to stop them from rotting or decaying!

  16. I am considering full time living in a tipi and have a couple of questions. One, I have lived without electricity and running water before and actually prefer it except one thing…food storage. Anybody have any ideas on that one? The other thing Im wondering abot loving in a tipi is security. I’ll be living on a community that holds music festivals and because of this I’m worried about not being able to lock the door. Any suggestions on this problem? Thanks!

    • On the security tip, what about a modified floor safe? Dig out a hidden space for a lock box around the property and store your valuables.

      Depending on the size you do, it may not protect all your stuff, but you could maybe store the most important things.

    • The best way to get rid of trouble makers is to have a nice big dog staked outside the tent doorway, maybe another around back? lol. Just a thought. But why not put valuables in a safe deposit box at a bank, or if that is not feasible, put a safe in the floor of the tent! Dig a hole, and put it in, face up, maybe under your bed…or put something over the hole it would be in and make sure it is too heavy for two people to easily carry off past the DOG!

    • Hi Vanessa,

      Not sure if you are still thinking about the tipi but, if so, I have some very detailed information about food and water storage on my blog. I am currently living alone in my tipi in Canada and have had to solve multiple food storage challenges. It won’t be as difficult as you may have thought.


      • Hi Connor,
        I’m wondering if you can send me your contact information? I am going to be living full-time in a tipi starting this spring in northern MN. I have been following your blog and have a few questions for you. I’ve been bussy preparing for my new ”lifestyle” and am blogging about my experiences at http://returntothewild.net Stay warm!

  17. I’m also considering at least semi-permanent tipi living, and these comments are very helpful. Here’s a question, probably more for the ladies: how do I talk my wife into it? What got you interested? What might be the best approach or “selling point”?

    Many thanks in advance,

    • What size house do you currently live in? I have the opposite problem! I failed to get my husband to complete the dome home we made plans for, and actually put down the grid rebar and cement foundation, and plumbing!
      But, I keep trying! Now I am talking up the tent for our backyard because he will not take me camping, even though we have camping supplies!
      If she is interested in status and the material world, it would take a very humbling experience such as a bankruptcy to wake her up. But that is chancey. And no one wants a bankruptcy. Many marriages break up at the point.
      If you are older and retiring, just purchase and inexpensive lot and pitch the tp!
      We are actually talking about that idea since we also want to maybe build a wapini style greenhouse, which required digging a pit. There are several inexpensive lots near our home we could do that.
      Be creative and pray and God will give answer to your righteous desires.

  18. I was told that the Japanese use a simple firepit in the center of their houses and make a small charcoal fire in it. There are stone lined “Vents” that spider the warm air to other sections of the room and house. Anyone know anything about this? I always thought that charcoal was a carbon dioxide/monoxide accident waiting to happen in a living dwelling. Could it be that owing to the fact that the houses are very permeable to outside air, this problem is negated?

  19. First, the Indian Tipi, It’s Hstory, Construction, and Use by Reginald and Gladys Laupin is the Bible of Tipi living.

    Second, before people start getting all, don’t do it in winter, it was meant for the plains. This is incorrect. The Souix Indians were plain Indians, and they lived in tipis, but the were by far not the only tribe. Their tribe just did it best. There were multiple tribes that lived in Canada comfortably in tipis. It can be done.

    I don’t quite understand the spending an entire life savings on one, unless you are out of high school. The best manufactures can get you an entire winterized set up for $2500. Considering you won’t have any bills other than possible rent on land, that’s a measly investment.

    For those of you who are in doubt, here are some clues on how tipis work. First, there are two walls. During the winter, you can stuff hay for added warmth. Once snow has fallen, the snow pack will also provide insulation. This second wall also helps keep the wetness out. If you don’t have that second wall, aka the liner, life in the tipi is going to be much difficult.

    If you have extreme wind gusts, traditionally, a wall of reeds was built around the encampments. Hardly an option for a lone tipi, but it’s there if need be.

    I have yet to live in a tipi, I plan on having mine starting this winter. Lucky, the house of the land I am living on will be a stone throws away, so it won’t be quite a shock. However, I have lived off the grid, and had to use a real fire to heat in winter, and this would be the largest adjustment. First, you have to have the wood. There is the lazy way of getting wood by purchasing it by the truck load. Or, if you’re going to do this as a change of life, you gotta be chopping wood year round and letting it cure a bit for good burning. I had a very small wood stove, and I’ll tell you, it could get into hellish temperatures quickly in my tiny little 4 room farm house. Many people in stationary tipis use a wood stove, I can’t imagine ever getting cold if that was your heat source. In fact, I imagine having to get out of it quite often considering the size. But the big thing is you have to be able to live a life that revolves around the fire. You can’t just take off and go when you please, you don’t just want to douse your inside fire, cause then you won’t be able to relight another until its dry. You can’t just come home late in winter and expect to get warm quickly, especially if you don’t have good fire building skills yet. There is a natural rhythm of life with a constant fire, it needs to die when the sun is highest and warmest, to keep it going through the night, you gotta get up and tend it. But if you do it right, and your tipi is built correctly, you should be able to live comfortably, in great warmth, and have a canvas that lasts you years.

    Food storage. We will be canning our garden next year. Winter is easy, unless you have big predators, it can stay outside. I’m planning on trying a trick I learned on Pinterest. You use two large clay pots. You fill the outer pot with sand a few inches deep, and have a smaller pot that fits into it. You wet the sand, and have a wet canvas top. The inner pot is what you store the food in. They use this method all the time in outdoor markets in India, so I assume this is a good way to keep perishables if it can handle India’s heat.

    It is interesting to see all these commenters who have lived in tipis, and not one me taion of the Laupin book. My plan is to purchase the original setup, and over the next few years, with four of us hunting, and plenty of hunters in the area, my next cover will be made of leather. The Laupin book gives patterns for the big stuff down to the smallest of details, like a door knocker made from deer hooves. It explains how to make traditional furniture, it explains the proper etiquette for living in a tipi. Even has a huge section on how to cook, with multiple different ways to build earth ovens, and recipes.

    Right now, my only concern is what I’m going to do with the bathroom. Sponge bathing is fine with me, but having a toilet set up (I’ve done the bucket and saw dust thing. I’ve used a regular bucket, and a fancy little three piece campers toilet. I wouldn’t recommend that thing at all during summer due to the creepy crawlies. The 5 gallon bucket with a toilet seat on top was way better) just the sacredness of living in a tipi seems as though this needs to be done outside, and I don’t very well want to dig an outhouse on my friends land. My friend, whose land my tipi will be upon, has her grandfathers journal, who lived in a wigwam as he was a full Cherokee. At least for the men, they would urinate around the wigwam to create a barrier for predator deterrent. For deficating, they dug a decent size hole, and left the dirt close by, and built a small mud hut above it. They would cover their stool with the dirt, and when it was full, they tore the hut down on it. The next year, they would simply plow this land and grow a garden. This may be the option I choose, as it would honor her grandfather, but even then, the area for the garden will be further away for the house 🙂

    I’m excited, and super glad to read what others have said about their own experiences. I am going to modernize a wee bit and have a few solar panels, but nothing expansive. Only need it for my communications. Otherwise, it seems that some of our modernized thinking does disservice to the tipi lifestyle, and probably makes it much more difficult. If you take the pains to actually tan the hides and have fur for blankets and rugs, life is probably much more comfortable. Looking at pictures from the Laupins tipis as compared to the ones I see on the Internet, there is a huge difference. I’m not trying to be negative about the way we do things, but something tells me if we strive to meet the traditions of the tipi, understand its full sacredness and to our best to live as the original cultures did (which is extremely difficult since our culture did our best to wipe all that knowledge out), I’m guessing it would be a very much different experience.

    Just remember, tipis are built to survive tornados, they are actually one of the strongest dwellings known to human kind. Maybe we all just haven’t figured it out yet 🙂

  20. I read bits and pieces of this article- about tipi living.. Yes, a tipi living is something I gave thought toward, but reality set in.. I would have to rent land from a farmer or setup my tent in a State park and be charged by the night. $15 per night at most camping parks. But that is $450 per month. Too me, is would be more interesting to buy a hauling trailer for about $2000, build a tiny house, live in it.. I mean, water could be bought at Walmart in 5 gallon containers. Small refridge gotten for $80, heating LP gas. A cooking stove could be a little camping stove $40. A microwave oven $60. A porta potty setup with a RV septic tank so you can travel a week before dumping- $200.. Your Calligan Water can have hot cold so ready for cool drink or instant oatmeal, hot cocoa, coffee.. You only have electricity if you plug in to power. If don’t have electric still can heat, cook, with LP gas. Can use oil lamps to see. But a tiny house can be setup anywhere for a short duration so saves you money in renting. Like some stay overnight at Walmart, a local street, ect. As long as you move it daily, no city can bother you about living in it.

  21. Hello,
    I am a North American, from the Southwest, who has been living in Europe for a decade … or so. I have a 16′-0″ diamerter canvas tipi which I have spent two (2) winters in the Alps @ 2000 meters plus. I will be spending my third winter in the tipi this winter at 2100 meters…late December until April or May, depending on when the snow melts…100 days of skiing.
    I have quickly read a few of your responses. I never considered closing the air gap between the shell and the ground. It would make it a bit less drafty, however, it would also result in cutting the majority of your air supply. It is already smokey enough with the ventilation coming from the gap. Also, I have never considered attempting to close the top of the tipi.
    When you get the fire just right, with a heavy snow falling; the snow flakes come-in through the top hole and vapourize with the rising heat … mini-rainbows inside your tipi during the winter. Priceless moments.
    Anyway, first-off the shell. My location(s) are cold … real cold. Consistently -30 every morning before the sun rises … outside of the wind. So, the tipi shell freezes with a nice thick layer of insulating ice. By the way, I have not noticed any real significant damage to the fabric after two (2) winters. A friend uses the tipi during the summer, also in the Alps, and he has not noticed any real damage either (he has a whole herd of tipis … about a dozen). So, the frozen ice/canvas works to break the last rements of the wind … I would not worry about the seam … it’s frozen.
    Air gap / no air gap. The first winter the tipi was erected directly over snow. Had a bunch of rugs to insulate over the floor of the liner. As the snow begins to melt it can create problems. As I erected the tipi over a few feet of snow — could not see the natural lay of the ground — I found that I had erected the tipi directly over a small culvert/natural drainage ditch. Woke-up one morning and everything inside the tipi was floating, including me on my air mattereses. Next season was a wood deck — inside/on top of the liner — which worked great. Same for this year. I would suggest that you pick your ground prior to the snow coming in. Back to the air gap. When the ambiant air is well below freezing it works very well in ‘controlling’ the smoke. Tipi design is based on the air gap allowing cooler air to come into the tipi over the top of the liner, thereby forcing the warmer air up though the hole at the top. If you were to eliminate the air gap, the tipi fills with smoke. This is of course an issue if you are using an open fire (a fire without a flue), as I do. I simply do not like having a tube of metal sticking-up through the middle of my space. The air gap is crucial to air/heat/smoke management. In fact, during a heavy snow, I would have to put on my boots and go out and shovel the snow away from the air gap … throughout the night, as long as the fire was burning. Also, the wood deck placed on top of the liner creates a great hard-edge for the liner to turn-the-corner from floor to side wall.
    Is this system warm enough? Well, their were a few nights with a bunch of people in shorts and bikinis having a BBQ and margaritas inside the tipi with negitive numbers outside. Ya, I would say it is warm enough.
    Regrigeration is obviously not a problem. You have to keep your food inside coolers to try and keep everything from freezing. A fresh green salad is a bit of a trick.
    Space. I would suggest a seperate structure (tent, tarp, trailer…) to keep most of your personal goods stored in. This allows you to really enjoy the tipi without clutter.
    Snow Control. Coming from outside to the interior with snow laden boots will quickly get the interior wet. Create an area to remove your boots and ‘dust-off’ by the entrance, and cover the floor in this area with an adequate material that may be removed to dry. Have lots of wool socks and booties to keep your dogs warm while inside.
    Site. Unlike North America, every inch of natural space is very controlled throughout Europe. I have spent significant amounts of time in the Southwerstern and Northwestern wilderness areas of North America … up to four (4) months at a time. In this enviorment, sewage, safe water and hygene require a lot of work. Consider that staying at a campground in the winter — the only real option here in the Alps — has its advantages. First off: I am the only person at the campground usually. Very, very cheap in the winter. Great amenities: showers, water and even electricity if you would like (not for me though, except for computer/internet access). In fact, because I am on the hill on day skiing, I use these big beehive hair dryers to dry my head and make the first run in the mornings.
    I have a bit of experience living in a tipi during the winter (the whole winter) that I am happy to share with you. I choose to do this while I am skiing, which you may not. For my application, the campground alternative (actually, not many options over here regarding that) works very well for me … during the winter. I would not want to be on a campsite during the warmer months … too many people.
    You have my email address, so contact me if you want some more info.

  22. I’m about to start living in a tipi 24-7 starting in the spring of 2014. I’m also located in Northern Minnesota where the temp can get to 50 below… regardless of what happens, it should be interesting.

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