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. I spent a summer in a Teepee at Cook Washington.
    The life style was awesome.
    The teepee lights up like a Japanese lantern when you build your fire for the night. Waking up to deer poking their heads in the door was amazing.
    The most important thing I can say is that you need to put in an inner liner, or you cannot keep it warm during cold weather. Get a copy of this book

  2. Hello again,
    I wrote a few comments up.
    I was unable to get my tipi for last winter, which was discouraging. However, this spring, I have been very blessed. While I still do not own my own tipi, I have met an elder who has lived in one for the past 35 years. He has taught me so much in the past two weeks, it is mind boggling.

    I met him at a tiny festival tucked away in the woods of Eastern Kentucky. While it was technically spring, the days were still very chilly, and everything was wet. He lived for 9 days in a meadow there on the side of a mountain, and he couldn’t get me out of his tipi. I watched in amazement how much creativity it takes to live within on.

    Due to the season, and the terrain, everything was soggy wet. In fact, after setting up camp on what appeared to be dry land, rains set in, and bam, a natural spring emerged from the ground directly behind his fire pit. It never stopped running from that point on. To fix this problem, he dug a trench from the spring, out of the tipi, down to the nearest creek. We would sit in silence watching the fire, and use chopped wood to play in the trench, keeping it wide enough for good water flow.
    Because the spring was so close to his bed, we found two big chunks of wood and a few boards, and with the aid of a shovel, we laid the wood chunks onto the ground, digging at angles until it was level, and raised the bed. He told me the secret of a cheap sleeping bag he has had for 20 years, it was water proof, and as long as it was on top of all of his bedding, no matter what the water situation was like, he stayed dry.
    To solve the problem of the mucky mud mess, we simply collected a great bunch of pine needles and spread them as a carpet. They were soft on the feet, and helped dry up the area very quickly. On the sunny days, they made for great kindling, or an extra bright few moments after the sun had set. And for the rest of the stay, they kept the mud at bay.

    He brought me off that mountain and back to my home base. As a surprise, he pulled his truck into the yard, and told me to start unloading the poles.
    Not to sound ego driven, but this man has lived in tipis for 35 years. He has been all over the nation with them, even set up for two weeks on the White House lawn alongside 20 or so other tipis. He told me a few nights ago, out of all this time, all the pow wows and travels, he has yet to meet anyone with the natural skill, desire, and drive for tipi life. This is why he left his prized home with me for the past week and a half. He wishes for me to keep his legacy going.

    I watched it raise on the mountain, with four people doing it. He allowed them to raise it with just a few pointers because they are like me with the dream to live in one, and have helped him in the past. I watched as they placed the poles incorrectly three times, having to start from scratch each time. I watched as the tipi liner wasnt put high enough considering the placement in the meadow. I watched and looked at the unsightly wrinkle of an incorrect cover the entire time.
    Yet, when it arrive here, it was just he and I who raised it together. I had never done so, and we got it right the first try. He smiled brightly at the beautiful set. The only issue has been this slight Dogwood winter that has come the past day, and the spring time set we used, with the cover a few inches high off the ground. The low pressure kept my fire from flaming all night, so I just hunkered down under all my blankets. Otherwise, it has been smooth land sailing this entire time.

    I have learned from my elder how to build a warm lodge fire. If you choose your hardwood logs correctly, you can place one in the back of the fire pit so that it angles correctly and directs the warmth to your sleeping area. It will last all night, sometimes two.
    The tricks I have learned for winter in watching him during those cold nights, and listening to his stories, is simply learning how to place the cover correctly for the weather you will be experiencing. During winter, it goes on the ground, and your firewood can be placed upon the cover behind the bed area to reduce the draft. Any amount of things can be used for insulation. From his stories, and the Laupin’s book, simply adding blankets or throw cloths inside or outside on the cover works as wonderful insulation.
    So, what I can say is find people who have truly done it for a long time. They are out there. It may require going to a pow wow and immersing yourself in the culture. And just do it yourself. Your creativity comes alive when you live in harmony with the elements. You will make it work.

    I would also like to address the issue of safety. Many above seem to imply it will not be safe. I was fearful of that same issue. Humanity can be nasty. However, I sit in my tipi and I think logically. I have an ax, and three hatchets right by my sleeping space. I have an open fire that I have experience tending long hours…meaning my hands have adjusted to the tremendous heat. My elder showed me how to close the door properly for night time, and told me for added protection, I can place my kitchen cooler directly in front of the door. Someone trying to enter through there would trip as soon as they came in. If someone was trying to enter with negative intentions, it would be nothing for me to take a flaming log to smack them in the face, and grab a hatchet to slice their guts. I know that is visceral, but for someone to come in with intentions of causing harm, there are plenty of weapons within arms reach that simply living in the tipi day to day have prepared me to use should something happen. Anyone with half a brain watching a tipi would see, those who live in them are unique already, are aware of the vulnerabilities, and clearly has tools that can inflict damage readily and with ease. Not to mention, if they haven’t been inside a tipi before, they surely don’t know the set up. Simply placing a trip device in front of the door would have them landing face first into the fire.

    With all of that said, I am happy to say, my elder has never had any type of problem what so ever in over 3 decades of this life style. He has been a peace bearer, and his lodge has always been protected.

    Finally. I want to address the idea of having to pay rent for land, and thus still ending up paying the same amount a month as you would in a normal dwelling. Learning from him, a tipi is meant to move. It can go anywhere. He has told me the story, in all these years, whenever he has needed to stop and rest, he has never had to knock on any more than 3 doors before granted permission. He has rarely had to pay any fees anywhere he has set up. So, if we truly remember the traditions of the ancestors, and move frequently as a tipi dictates, you maybe very surprised at the lifestyle you find yourself living. 🙂

  3. Hello there, i have a question. We would actually love to move into a tipi tent ourselves. We have also found a website to buy one but we have been told that there is no cover for the tents. Which left us confused. How is it possible to live in a tipi tent when its raining or snowing. All that is in the tent will get wet. Does any one know how that works? thanks so much,

  4. I know someone who lives in a tipi year-round. He lives in the Southern California high desert, pretty dry but when it rains it pours. He got tired of the canvas wearing out, so one year about ten years ago, he actually applied cement to the exterior. The way he did it was he stapled cardboard to the poles on the exterior and then stapled chicken wire over that, then applied cement. He said the cement ranged in thickness from an inch to maybe 4 of 5 inches toward the bottom. He also said he would sleep with a hammer and chisel under his pillow in case the whole thing came down on him, but it never has. He has a woodstove inside and he built in glass windows through the ‘wall’. He also built a walk-in door so that you don’t have to lace and unlace the door or step over the laced threshold, you just walk in like it’s a regular house. It’s pretty amazing!

  5. I have camped (about 2 weeks) in the winter using a homemade tipi using a kerosene convection heater. I made my own tipi by duct taping reflective bubble insulation (Reflectix) into a 16 ft radius half circle. After setting up the tipi on 8 poles (sectional poles made of 10 feet 2 inch PVC with 8 foot 2×2 lumber inserted into the ends of the PVC poles) and laying the reflective insulation cover on the poles, I laid on 8 more poles and added a large, uncut poly tarp (I tucked the excess tarp material under the poles and the excess tarp became part of my floor) thus creating an air space between the reflective insulation and the outside cover tarp. I was warm. I didn’t bother with flaps, but in case of rain, I used another small tarp to cover the hole/poles on top so I was quite dry. I was comfortable, warm and I had no condensation. The tipi worked. It’s not traditional with the lining, flaps, and all, which might have been much to it’s credit as a serviceable winter shelter.

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