Tipi Questions Answered: Can You Live in a Tipi?

Ahhhh, the romance and beauty of the perfect indigenous structure… a tipi. You can imagine staying overnight, camping for a week and maybe doing a meditation workshop in a tipi. But, can you actually live in a tipi?

This question is the essence of our company- our genesis in fact.

Earthworks Tipis started in 1976, when Dan and Emma Kigar decided to live in a tipi of their own creation. Something about their simple lifestyle resonated—soon their friends and mountain neighbors were asking Dan and Emma to make them a tipi of their own. The Kigars lived in their lodge for four years in Colorado and a couple of years in a cozy spot near Ann Arbor, Michigan while finishing college. They learned to make their lodge a comfortable and cozy home. At times, they used an open fire to heat and cook; other times they used a wood stove. They learned how to adjust the smoke flaps to let in the breeze and keep out the rain and snow. In time, they even brought a baby boy into the world.

Dan, Emma and baby Sam in 1985

So, what is the reality of living in a tipi? First, you should not expect it to be like living in a house. The elements are right on the other side of a canvas wall. The wonderful parts of that are the sounds, smells and feel of nature every day.

In the summer, you can roll up the side walls to catch a breeze for cooling. You will burn wood or have some other type of heat source in the winter. Whether you have a firepit, a woodstove, or gas heat you’ll want a liner. Not only does it create a draft for the smoke to travel up and out the top, but it creates insulation and privacy and finishes the interior. With a liner, you can also have an ozan or extended ozan… which brings us to rain.

The sound of rain on the canvas is a soothing, calming way to relax inside your tipi. But, there’s the hole up at the top (where the poles cross and the canvas wraps around). Yes. Rain can come in that hole. Usually, the water will travel down the poles and out behind the liner. Or, it will drip into the center of the lodge. To protect the bedding area from rain, we recommend the ozan or extended ozan. It’s a fabric canopy that hangs in the tipi- diverting rain off of the living area to behind the liner. It also helps hold in heat.

Tipi home in Colorado

We have customers who are living in tipis. A family in Idaho lost their home a few years ago. Since they had some land, they decided to shelter themselves with a 26’ Earthworks tipi. They say, “We got it up within 2 hours of that winter’s first blizzard and moved in on January 3 almost two years ago.  Thank you for making us a strong and beautiful tipi that has withstood all weather and has kept our little family protected.”

Interior of family tipi in Idaho

In Maine, another family has a home- but chooses to sleep every night in their tipis. They enjoy the sounds of the woods around them, the feel of the breeze through the tipi and snuggling under the blankets to stay warm in the winter (-25 degrees one night). Their commitment to tipi sleeping is something they feel very strongly about. They recommend it highly, saying, “Ever feel stress? You need a tepee. That’s what’s missing in your life.”

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Yurt Questions Answered: How Long Does a Yurt Last?

We like to talk about yurts. The best part of our day is spent talking to our customers and potential customers about yurts (and tipis and tents). We’ll be using this blog to address some of these common questions and concerns, and hopefully get the word out about these unique and useful structures.

Yurts in Colorado

Yurts in Colorado

So, this blog: “How Long Does a Yurt Last?”

This question doesn’t have just one answer. Many things contribute to the longevity of a yurt. Our customers have yurts that are over 20 years old, and still going strong. Since a yurt is a structure with several components: frame, dome, doors, fabric walls and roof- you will replace different pieces at different times.

Yurt in progress

The wood frame of a yurt is long-lasting, and should not have a “wear out” date, just like other wood structures. We use quality lumber and it’s built to last. Doors occasionally need refinishing and sometimes need replacing, as they wear out because of weather conditions and use. 

All rafters are MSR lumber. Frame is clear, vertical grain Douglas fir.

It’s all about the conditions your yurt lives in- a yurt in the rain forest in Washington faces much different environmental factors than one on a sunny mountainside in the Rockies. Since yurts are covered in fabric, environmental factors play on that fabric in different ways. Snow and wind are not as hard on fabric as sunshine. Here in Colorado, we have over 300 days of high altitude sunshine a year. So, we have seen first hand how our fabrics hold up. We’ve found that vinyl fabrics (ProTech, ProStructure and DuroLast) hold up better in the sunshine than canvas fabrics. One reason is the seams. Our vinyl is seamed with a welder, not thread, (which tends to degrade faster than the fabric around it). In sunny, high UV conditions, a little bit of shade on your yurt makes a big difference.

Seams are welded on vinyl fabrics.

Most people get many years of use out of yurt walls, but at some point they will need replacing. If thread is showing through the vinyl, the roof is leaking or your windows are coming apart- it’s probably time to call for a price on replacements. We do offer replacement walls and roofs, and can usually fit them to your yurt- (even if you didn’t purchase the yurt from us).

We recommend trying to replace the wall and roof fabric at the same time- just for installation ease. If there wasn’t insulation on the yurt originally, adding roof insulation is much easier when replacing the fabric.

Installing insulation and a roof.

One component of a yurt that will need replacing over the years is the dome. The acrylic is tough, but it will crack or break under certain conditions. We estimate that a dome might need replacing in 7-9 years under normal conditions.

Acrylic dome at the top of every yurt.

Taking care of a yurt will ensure many years of use. Wash fabric walls as needed with a mild soap, such as Ivory Flakes (never pressure wash a yurt, as it can damage the fabric). Re-staining or re-coating the doors and outside wood might be necessary every few years, depending upon the climate.

We are always happy to answer your questions, take your suggestions or make replacement parts for your yurt. We hope you enjoy your yurt for years.

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Becky is Retiring from Colorado Yurt Company!

We aren’t sure what we’ll do without her. Our long time office manager, Becky Meinhold, is retiring.

Our office manager: Becky Meinhold

Becky, being the organized and efficient person that she is, started with Colorado Yurt Company on May 10, 1999 and will retire on May 11, 2012—thirteen years and a day later. We figure the extra day is just to make sure there are no loose ends, typical of the thorough job Becky has always done.

Being office manager is a big job: as chief purchasing agent Becky kept track of the comings and goings of all the fabric, wood and other materials we need to build our tipis, tents and yurts. But, we have a lot of overlap in job responsibilities here at Colorado Yurt. Becky does sales, payroll, human resource management and customer service- as well as watering the plants, taking the cans to be recycled, getting the flower pots planted and leading the morning exercises.

Becky organized us to adopt a street.

She’s our Quickbooks expert, knows when to pay the utilities and knows how many tipi poles are in the rack out back. She organized the holiday party every year, an event where we relax and enjoy knowing Becky thought of every detail.

Becky seems to know everything around here- product specs, customer history, employee days off… plus who supplies our rope and webbing, who delivers the best pizza and where to get bio-diesel for our trucks. We’ll all have to pool our knowledge to know as much as Becky about how this place operates.

Colorado Yurt Company will not be the same.

Becky’s family has become the Yurt company family in many ways. When they lived in Montrose, her grandsons would visit and play ball in the office hall or push the Batman car across the carpet. Her husband has fixed many things in the shop, from lights to electrical outlets and is always up for a round of golf with Cliff or Dan. For many years, Becky gave a ride to work to our favorite co-worker, Arlo the Golden Retriever. When Arlo passed away last summer, we all lost a good friend.

We all loved Becky's dog, Arlo.

If you’ve ever talked to Becky on the phone, you got the right answers delivered in her no nonsense manner. So, if you are one of Becky’s fans- be sure to call or send a note before she leaves May 11.

Becky and her husband, Al, will be taking some time this summer to enjoy their cabin in upstate New York. After that, she’s planning to enjoy her grandkids and her garden (which is amazing), continue to exercise, entertain and relax. Thanks Becky!

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Customer Reviews: Yurt, Tipi and Tent customers… we heard you.

We like to get a report card. Every so often, we ask our customers to tell us how we are doing

This spring, we asked. And, many people took the time to tell us. In fact, that was the first thing about our customer satisfaction survey that made us happy. Our customers returned the survey at almost 20%. (Industry average for a non-rewarded survey is 2%-5%).

Next, we were thrilled to see our overall satisfaction rate. Believe it or not, 97% of our customers said they are satisfied or very satisfied with Colorado Yurt Company. That is higher than Apple or Toyota.

We rated very high on things such as product quality, customer service, knowledge of salespeople and company reputation. Nine out of ten said they’d recommend us to a friend or colleague, and over 30% have already done so.

Here are some quotes from customers:

“We love the light that permeates the canvas at sunrise. It is the most peaceful place to sleep and wake up. It is warm/cool as needed and is the perfect hangout.”

“I love the 30′ yurt for space as I live in it as a primary home. I love the layout of my yurt and the comfort of its shape. I also love the fact that it feels alive and is quite cozy.”


“My favorite part is the roll-up walls, the height of the tent and the height of the walls…”

A few other things we learned:

We redesigned our website last year, and that looks like it was a good investment. The majority of our customers hear about us from the internet, while the next-most-common way to find us is on the advice of a friend.

A few minor issues were brought up in the survey results, and they will be addressed. We’ll personally follow up with customers who had specific issues. And, we’ll take all suggestions into consideration. Customers have been very generous in their praise and with suggestions for improvement. If you have suggestions for us, or would like to give us praise or criticism- we welcome your input. (info@coloradoyurt.com)

The most important message from the survey: Our customers really value having a friendly voice on the phone and appreciate that each tipi, tent and yurt is made by hand.

As we grow, we will always stand by that personal touch.

Dan & Emma: owners of Colorado Yurt Company

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Yurt Questions Answered: The Hot and Cold of it

“How do you heat a yurt?”

“Aren’t they hot in the summer?”

These are some of the most common questions we hear when it comes to yurts. It makes sense: the idea of yurt living is new to many people and thus, the comfort of a yurt is a big unknown.

So, how DO you heat a yurt?

Keystone Adventure Tour Yurt

Most yurt dwellers use a wood stove, pellet stove or sometimes, a propane heater. We also know of customers who have used in-floor radiant heat in a concrete floor and others who use electric heaters. A lot will depend upon your climate, your power/energy source and the type of heat you are comfortable with. In all cases, the key is a good, consistent heat source that is sufficient to heat the size of yurt you have. It also helps to have roof and wall insulation.

Wood stove in our office yurt

Then, summer comes around, and you want to stay cool.

Summer Yurt

In many climates, a yurt in the shade that has a dome lifter, ceiling fan, plenty of windows and a roll-up wall for cross ventilation will stay very comfortable. We also recommend the use of window awnings on the sunny side of the yurt to shade the windows. The tinted bronze dome is available to reduce the UV rays coming through the top of your yurt, which can also help keep it comfortable.

If you find you need more than mother nature to cool your yurt, there are ways to do so.

Here in the arid west, we use swamp coolers. In our 20′ office yurt, we have a floor-standing unit that cools very efficiently.

In parts of the world where humidity is mixed with the heat, a swamp cooler would be miserable. In those climates, a window air conditioner can be fit into a second doorway or one of our operable windows. Or there are free standing a/c units available too.

In all cases, heat or cold, we recommend that you upgrade your yurt with the Astro-Shield insulation package. It is a reflective insulation that bounces your heat back to you in the winter and helps keep heat from coming inside in the summer.

Roof insulation

In most climates and situations, insulation with the heating and cooling solutions above, will make your yurt a comfortable, live-able space for all four seasons.

And to hammer home the hot and cold of it, here’s a few yurt/temperature factoids we thought you might enjoy:

The state of Delaware has a 30’ that they use for a reptile exhibit. It is heated with base board electric heat. Gotta keep those snakes comfy.

The yurts at Pearl Lake State Park near Steamboat Springs are also heated with electric heaters, of the sort you would see in a hotel room.

Yurt at Pearl Lake State Park, Colorado

In the tropics it’s well known that fans of all sorts—ceiling fans, floor fans, table top fans and window units— keep people cooler. CYC yurts in Belize have numerous fans that guest move around to suit their needs.

Yurt in the tropics

We can make water “boots” (or gaskets, or sleeves) to seal around your swamp cooler or air conditioner.

Some customers in extreme weather conditions, like Alaska or the Southwest desert have enhanced their insulation with batting (for recycled denim batting see bondedlogic.com) or rigid insulation. Our staff can help you figure out how it’s done.


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New face at Colorado Yurt Company

We are pleased to announce that Doug Severson has joined our team as Production Manager. Doug is a seasoned production professional with decades of experience helping companies implement lean manufacturing principles.

Doug Severson

Mr. Severson’s experience includes nearly ten years at Chaco Sandals, formerly in Paonia, Colorado where he rose through the ranks to Director of Operations. His background in process and quality control led the company through its major growth period–coordinating facility expansion, managing supplier relationships, and training a local staff of nearly 100 in the Japanese manufacturing technique of Gemba Kaizen, the concept of continuous improvement.

From semiconductors to vacuum systems to photolithography to helping start-up companies with their strategic operations plans, Doug steps into his position at the Colorado Yurt Company with the experience and energy required to help take the brand to new heights.

Bart, working on camp tents

Dan Kigar, Co-Founder and owner of Colorado Yurt Company expressed his excitement, “Doug brings a tremendous amount of experience with him–and his positive and lasting effect on our staff and our product was immediate. Within days, he was showing us ways to improve our processes and in instances where we thought, ‘that’s impossible,’ Doug, in his ever calm and collected demeanor, showed us what was possible.”

Peter welding a yurt roof

“I’m genuinely happy to work with such amazing people on such a great product line–I get to help a wonderful company make people’s dreams come true. It’s not every day that many people can say that,” said Severson.

The Colorado Yurt Company continues its remarkable journey this month by delivering a major order of 200 tents and 100 tipis to the 275,000 attendee-strong, Coachella Music Festival in Indio, California.


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Yurts, Tipis, Tents and All the Cool People: SXSW, How It’s Made, Coachella and Hollywood.

Are yurts, tipis and tents trendy?

We are feeling quite popular these days.

We have always garnered some interest from the press and entertainment industries. But, for a small, family-owned company in a fairly remote part of western Colorado, these past few months have been a whirlwind of attention.

Last fall, we had a very exciting few days when Discovery Channel’s show “How it’s Made” came to our shop to film. They did two separate segments: one about Colorado Yurts, the other about Earthworks Tipis. It was a great time for us to show how our skilled crew of craftsmen and women put together our exceptional quality products. It’s a hands-on process, with lots of detail work, and we hope it shows in the programs set to air in the fall of 2012. We’ll keep you informed, so you can set your DVR! You can see we (and the How It’s Made crew) had a lot of fun in these pretty rough ‘behind the scenes’ videos .

Then, we had a small part in a very well-hyped movie. The recent David Wain directed comedy “Wanderlust” featured our tipis and yurts. We took the structures to the film set in Georgia nearly 18 months ago, and set them up for filming. It was billed as a big deal movie, starring Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd, and some reviewers actually said it was hilarious. And then we saw the movie.

While our movie career was somewhat disappointing, we thought perhaps a stint in the music industry might be better. Cliff, Doug and Peter made their way south and west to Austin’s world-renowned South by Southwest music festival to set up yurts. It was a great and interesting time–mostly because the team had to set up the yurts in a torrential, 3-day rain storm. As an Austin old timer told our rain-soaked team, “Y’all are welcome anytime–it hasn’t rained in 18 months.”

Our pop culture tour continues with The Coachella Music Festival in Indio, CA. We’ve handcrafted 200 tents and 100 tipis for the 275,000 attendee-strong music festival that will feature Radiohead, the Black Keys and Snoop Dog and more than 100 bands we’ve never heard of (so they must be popular!).

There is another “still secret” project we recently completed. We can only say… it’s a popular television show and they used our yurts in a very exciting and unique way… Watch facebook and our blog for more about this in the summer.

We’re happy that yurts, tipis and tents are so interesting, and we are able to show off a bit with these projects. We’re so proud of the unique structures we make and the love we put into them. We continue to craft each one by hand in our shop, and send them to the customer with pride. Whether it’s a big Hollywood movie or a family who needs a tent for the summer, we take the same care with each order.

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Camp Tipi

Colorado Yurt Company is committed to the summer camp experience. We support ACA, YMCA, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and CCCA camps with generous camp discounts and charitable giving programs such as our “Send a Child to Camp” fund. We also display at conventions and conferences.

Here is a story from the lucky camp who won an Earthworks tipi at ACA Tri-State, Camp Amy Molson in Canada:

I remember it started at the ACA Tri-state conference in March, 2011. Colorado Yurt Company was giving away a tipi at the conference. They had distributed tickets at dinner, and after what seemed to take forever, they started the raffle. When it was tipi time, they began calling out numbers to announce the winner. First call, no one comes forward with the winning ticket. Second try… no one claims it again. Then, they call out 9091146….I looked in my hands and saw that I had the winning raffle ticket. I showed the other members from my camp who were sitting with me and they all began to whoop and cheer. We could all think of the great possibilities this tipi would present to our camp and our campers. Also…it just feels great to win.

Brian, Cliff and the crew from Camp Amy Molson at ACA Tri-State.

Flash forward to 5:30 a.m. weeks later, the day a group of campers, staff and our maintenance director (Dave) would head out into the woods (or the bush as Dave affectionately refers to it) to put up the tipi. We had been talking for days with Dave about locations where we could set it up. Finally the big day came, and armed with our willpower and a camper who claimed to have a background in erecting tipis, we trudged off into the early morning. 

At first, we were faced with positioning and placement of the insanely long tipi poles but in the end we figured it out. As it turns out our camper who claimed to know how to set it up really did know a thing or two.

Getting the poles in place.

The tipi has really become an integral part of our camp. For a camp that serves underprivileged kids from the city, it’s nice to have something new and exciting to offer. This is just another reason for our campers to get out of the city, away from their troubles, and to experience nature in a unique way. Most of our campers and staff have had the opportunity to visit the site and enjoy the tipi. We’ve also had our fair share of staff and campers embrace the chance to spend a night in our new accommodations. Our activity leaders have taken to using the Tipi site (dubbed site 4) for activities, offering a change of atmosphere. Our campers and staff all love it, and of course that small group of us who woke up early in the morning have something to be proud of. 

Good ole 9091146…Camp Amy Molson’s lucky number.

Hooray! A tipi!

Camp Amy Molson is a residential camp for inner-city Montreal children, aged 5 to 13 years old. Their mission is to provide underprivileged children with a happy, outdoor holiday where campers can build self-esteem, develop positive relationships and learn valuable life skills in a context that promotes group learning and nurtures each child individually. Camp Amy Molson is located in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge, Quebec.

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Year of the Yurt

We thought we’d be winding down as the weather got colder.

It used to be that we had a busy time and a not-so-busy time. While we expect winter to be a bit quieter, it never slacks off like it used to. And, that’s a good thing.

Here are some highlights from 2011 at the Colorado Yurt Company:

Our customers jumped on the “glamping” trend with tipis for comfortable camping. North Georgia Canopy Tours in Lula, GA had a great first season of tipi rentals and ordered more painted tipis to expand their camp. In Jackson, WY, Sands Wildwater Adventures put up a tipi camp on the Snake River for overnight raft trips.

North Georgia Interior

Inside a tipi at North Georgia Canopy Tours

We installed four new yurts at YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch near Winter Park, Colorado. They have been adding to their yurt village, and have plans for more. The yurts are a huge success for them.

yurts at YMCA of the Rockies

Yurt village at YMCA of the Rockies

Alpine Winter Stout yurts went to a camp in New Hampshire, a ski academy in Vermont and a ski club in New York-making homes for those programs. Also,  Talisker at Deer Valley in Utah has two new Winter Stouts on the mountain. This super strong yurt is being used in snowy places with great success.

major snow

Winter Stout yurt

We sent eight 22’ tipis to Do Lectures in Hopland, California. They’re an interesting organization that we’d like to stay involved with.

Earthworks tipis were in Israel, Panama and Abu Dhabi for events. The appeal of the perfect structure is spreading worldwide. Many customers have added tipis to their backyard, back forty or mountain ranch- and the lodge is loved by the entire family.

beauty of a tipi

We did custom, canvas-covered yurts for a holiday shop in New York City (featured in Vogue -not our usual crowd). They housed a display of eyeglasses for an interesting company, Warby Parker. Dan and Emma took a trip to the city to help pitch the yurts.

We made a big, fancy custom tent for a certain celebrity wedding in our “neighborhood”. It was a huge undertaking, with the entire crew helping out in some way- and it turned out great.

We’re ending the year with an order for five yurts that will end up on an island in the Mediterranean.

The crew of Discovery channel’s program “How It’s Made” came to town to film our company for upcoming shows in the spring. We enjoyed having Francois, Patrick, Yan and Justin spend a few days with us, and we can’t wait to see the show. We might even have a watch party!

We launched a new website. Wow, was that an undertaking! We hope our customers are finding it easier to learn about our company and our products. We always welcome feedback.

We went to a few conventions, including three American Camp Association shows,Christian Camping Association and YMCA leadership convention. We made our annual appearances at National Association of State Park Directors conference and Sustainable Living Fair in Ft. Collins.

We launched our charitable campaign with ACA’s Send a Child to Camp. Most of us have fond memories of going to summer camp, and we see camps using our structures in creative ways. Check it out, and please give if you can.

As always, our best highlights come from our customers. We love hearing how tipis, tents or yurts are finding a place in your lives. Do you have a story to share?

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Colorado Yurt Company sends kids to camp. Will you help?

Nonsense songs, mosquito bites, swimming in a lake, ghost stories, hikes in the sun, being homesick, lifelong friendships, getting soaked by a rainstorm, silly nicknames, late night secret sharing, s’mores, riding horses, tug of war, wet socks, campfires, bunkbeds, listening to crickets at night, sleeping bags, not wanting to go home, pledging to keep in touch… making memories.

Ahhhh, summer camp… Remember summer camp, when you could just be a kid?  What other time in your life have you been known as “Lemur” or “Noodle Arms”? Is there another smell like campfire surrounded by sweaty kids doused in sunscreen?  Whether you rode horses or bikes, ate chili or hamburgers, wrote in a journal or painted a picture… camp was an experience that helped make you who you are now. Do you have great summer camp memories?We want to make it possible for underprivileged kids to swim in a lake and hear ghost stories in a tipi late at night. That’s why we’re partnering with American Camp Association’s Send a Child to Camp scholarship fund.

For many kids, summer camp is the first time away from home, and a rare opportunity to experience nature. At many camps, kids are sleeping in a yurt, tipi or tent from Colorado Yurt Company. We imagine kids listening through the walls of a platform tent to hear a coyote on a far ridge. Or waking up to the sun peeking through the dome of a yurt.

We are proud to be a part of so many camps across the country.  We’ll donate a portion of our sales to the scholarship fund. We invite our customers and friends to contribute also. Send your check to:

American Camp Association Send a Child to Camp  5000 State Rd 67 N  Martinsville, IN  46151 (Be sure to put in your check notes that you are donating at the recommendation of Colorado Yurt Company).

Or you can donate via the web (click here). You’ll get the tax deduction, and we both have the satisfaction of knowing that more kids will enjoy camp next summer.

Be sure to watch our emails, facebook page and other correspondence. We’ll update our fund’s progress and let you know how many kids are going to camp because of our partnership. And, thanks Noodle Arms!
Send a Child to Camp

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