Tipi Living


#1

In the past few days, I have seriously considered figuring out a way to live in a tipi or a similar structure next year. I’m looking for some perspective from those who have actually lived or worked with these structures before to know whether I’m making a sensible consideration. First, some context:

For a few months, I have been planning on moving up to some family land in the mountains with a friend come February next year. Our general idea has been to move into this old house on the property, and do whatever repairs need to be done to the place. The house had been rented to some folks up until a few weeks ago when the tenants, who hadn’t made rent for two or three months, skipped town after attempts at being contacted by my parents.

I went up this past week to visit with my grandmother who lives in the area and survey the house and get a sense of what shape the tenants left the place in. Our worst fears were confirmed. The place was a mess. In all honesty, it nauseated me and I can’t imagine how anyone lived in such squalor. What was perhaps most troubling to me was the amount of stuff these tenants had accumulated when clearly they couldn’t afford or take responsibility for half of it. The yard was littered with used tires, seven or eight lawnmowers, old gas cans, a trampoline, soda bottles, etc… The outbuildings had pool tables, old refrigerators and ovens, mountains of toys. The porch was growing a mountain of garbage bags. The inside was wrecked with torn up mattresses, computer monitors, clothes, toys, and random pieces of furniture. If we were to rent the largest uhaul available, it would likely take 3 or 4 trips to remove all of the things left behind. This, not to mention the awful state they had left the house in when they moved out.

More than anything, this appeared to me as the worst of America’s consumerism, piles of stuff no one needs, can afford, or can take responsibility for.

I returned with my grandmother to her house where we both spoke in amazement at what we had seen. My grandmother was especially rattled by the condition of the place because she had seen the house in its prime. After conversation and dinner with her, I sat down and began to take stock of the situation. The house is in no condition to live in and it needs a heavy investment of work and money to make it livable again. It will not be ready for me and my friend to move into in February, and the vibe of the place gives me pause about moving into another house at all. I also took stock of my own needs, asking myself what I really need to live. I came up with many of the obvious things: clean air, water, food, warm and dry shelter, family & friends, teachers, and stories.

I have noticed in my short life that how I live on a day-to-day basis is heavily influenced by the environment I choose to live in. When I live in my parent’s house, I fall into many of the habits I have developed in this place over many years, for good and ill. When I was in a dorm at college, I lived a certain way. When I lived in Japan, I lived a different way. When I was working at a farm and lived in an old house, I lived a different way. I wasn’t a different person in each of these, but the circumstances largely determined my habits, routine, and way I lived.

When I saw the house in such a shape, I saw many of the possibilities for how my way of life could turn out. Would living in a house lead me to just fill it up with possessions that would end up owning me, and would the house itself with the many needs that come with that territory (electricity, heating fuel) end up constraining my rewilding? How can I avoid this? Would living in the house and getting it fixed up with kerosene heat and electricity encourage me to learn to live without either of those things?

I began to think of other options, ways I could choose my surroundings to encourage me on the rewilding path whilst providing for my needs for shelter (which I define as a warm, dry, place to rest). I began to consider a tipi or a wigwam, leaning towards a tipi because I feel it may be a bit easier, given the time frame, to get materials for and setup. My friend and I, in spite of our suburban upbringings, aren’t completely clueless when it comes to the outdoors and “camping” (though I come fairly close :wink: ). So long as a shelter can keep us dry when it rains or snows, warm when it’s cold, and perhaps give us a fire to cook over, we’re both fairly flexible (and would actually both be pretty excited to live in a tipi). My friend is more adept at dealing with cold than I am – he’s dogsledding in Alaska at the moment where he reports temperatures range into the -20s F – but I feel confident I can deal with chilly weather as well. In short, we’re young, we’re adventurous, and together we’re up for roughing it.

So after all this rambling, I’d like to hear from y’all, particularly if you’ve lived in a tipi or primitive shelter for any length of time. What did you know going into it? What led you to choose to live in that kind of shelter when you did so? What were the major challenges? Would you encourage someone in my situation to buy an already made tipi (at least in terms of cover, liner, etc.) or to purchase canvas and sew my own (I’m not a stranger to sewing machines, but I’m hardly an expert seamstress either)? I appreciate any perspective you can offer.

Thank you.

~wildeyes


#2

Wildeyes-
I’ve lived in tipi’s a lot including through cold N. Idaho winter. If you ask me some specific questions I may be abe to help out with my experiences.

I also happen to live in a place that looked a lot like how you describe your grandma’s place. Our current home had been abandoned for five years and in that time had become the “bush party” place for the local teens as well as an illegal garbage dump. The house was trashed, all windows smashed, interior walls stripped for bonfire fuel, packrat and squirrel shit and piss all over, as well as the usual dump stuff. Hundreds of dirty pampers, a sea of broken glass (mostly beer bottles), tons of old appliances and several burned cars. We were flat broke and had no where to live so we offered to clean it up in exchange for living there. We eventually bought it. I know what you mean about wierd vibes in places like that, but there is also the good work you are doing by rehabbing such a place


#3
More than anything, this appeared to me as the worst of America's consumerism, piles of stuff no one needs, can afford, or can take responsibility for.

Please don’t take this as an attack on what you’re saying, but I have to remind myself all the time, that this kind of thing is not really any worse than rich (or middle class for that matter) people piling up (probably more) stuff and “taking responsibility” for it. just because something is in a storage unit, or 1000 sq ft basement, doesn’t make it any better. the responsible thing would be to not acquire all this kipple at all.


#4

[quote=“heyvictor, post:2, topic:1243”]Wildeyes-
I’ve lived in tipi’s a lot including through cold N. Idaho winter. If you ask me some specific questions I may be abe to help out with my experiences.[/quote]

Thanks for your willingness to help. Here’s some questions off the top of my head:

Did you purchase the tipi or did you sew it yourself? What kind of canvas was used?
What size tipi(s) have you lived in? With how many people?
Did you stay warm? Did you go through a lot of wood to keep it warm through winter? Any idea how much a winter’s wood was for your tipi?
What are some of the most difficult weather conditions you’ve experienced in a tipi? How did you fare?
Did you do much of your cooking in the tipi? Where, how did you store food?

Thanks!
~wildeyes


#5

“Did you purchase the tipi or did you sew it yourself? What kind of canvas was used?”
We got our tipi’s used all except for one. I think we’ve had five or six different ones. They were all made by Nomadics Tipi makers in Bend, Oregon except for one. The canvas was called Vivitex which I beleive is now called Sun Forger or something.

“What size tipi(s) have you lived in? With how many people?”
15’, 16’ and 18’. I have used them alot for seasonal camps like when I was doing farm work or working in the woods. My wife and I also lived in tipis for almost two years with our kids. My youngest was born in one on Oct. 30 of ‘83 and live the first year of her life in a tipi so we had five of us in the Tipi through that winter.
“Did you stay warm? Did you go through a lot of wood to keep it warm through winter? Any idea how much a winter’s wood was for your tipi?
What are some of the most difficult weather conditions you’ve experienced in a tipi? How did you fare?”

We put two 16’ covers on a set of poles that was spread extra wide so that the lodge was lower and wider. We put a wood stove in there for heat and kept the top closed up. We had about ten days in the end of December where the lows at night were 35 below 0. We were warm enough. We burned about ten cords of doug. fir and larch that winter.
One night when it was about 20 below 0 everyone was asleep and I was up reading by candlelight. I heard a wierd sound from the stove. Then again, and I noticed the stove pipe was cherry red. I went outside in my long johns and there was flames about six ft’ tall shooting out of the stove pipe. I went in and closed the draft on the stove but I was worried that the tipi was gonna catch on fire. We only had one bucket of water that wasn’t frozen solid so I threw it on the canvas around the pipe and it instantly froze. I got everybody up and we stood outside in the moonlight at 20 below in our longjohns and watched until the flames died down. The next day we had to take the whole front of the tipi apart and patch it because it did get scorched pretty bad and was coming apart.

“Did you do much of your cooking in the tipi? Where, how did you store food?”
We did our cooking on the stove and on a propane burner. We stored a lot of stuff behind the liner in the tipi. Frozen food was not a problem but when things warmed up we had to deal with it. We had a lot of dried food and our own canning.
I worked in the Yakima valley in Washington doing farm work. We had collected a ton of food. There were a few families that had gone there together to work and we set up a camp for the summer. Aside from working for money we collected food and spent the summer canning and drying it. I had to make a whole extra trip home to Idaho with the truck full of nothing but food that we had preserved. We had a 55 gal. barrel packed full of various dried fruit and veggies along with hundreds of jars of canned stuff. Central Washington is quite a place. There is every kind of food you can imagine grown there except maybe tropical fruit.

We hunted and picked up road kills and that was eaten fresh, canned and dried. Frozen once it was cold enough.

We only used the stove when we lived in the lodge for the winter. Otherwise we always have had an open fire. We cook on it when the weather makes want to be inside. When it’s nice we often have a fire outside to cook on.

One of the difficult things in a tipi is heavy down pours of rain with an open fire. You either have to close it up real tight or keep your fire burning big and clean. Which is not too bad in the day time but sometimes you can end up sitting up all night to make sure the fire doesn’t turn into a smoldering smudge that fills the lodge with dense smoke. If you already have a fire when the rain hits, then you either have to close it up and leave the lodge till the fire is out and the smoke clears or stay with it and keep it burning strong.
When I have used it for seasonal camps I sometimes arrived in the rain and had to set up and get things going with soaking wet wood. The trick is to pile the wood on. Don’t try to nurse a little fire, just pile it on so the wet wood will be drying out as the fire burns.


#6

Last year my wife and I were part of a tipi camp in S. Alberta. There was two days of high wind and driving torrential rain. The rain was coming almost straight sideways. Every dome tent was flattened. Every tipi stayed up.


#7

I am a part of a tipi camp in S.Alberta last year to.,.Do we meet there??


Vending Machines