History and How a Tipi Works

The Exact Origins of the Tipi Remain a Mystery

Indigenous people have been living in conical tents for centuries. The circular plan mirrored nature: the earth, the sky, the seasons, life itself. The buffalo hunters of the Great Plains were the ones who made the design innovations distinctive to “modern” tipis. First, they tilted the cone into the prevailing winds, making it slightly asymmetrical and nearly vertical in back. This had two effects: it made the tipi stand strong against the weather and it increased the headroom and usable living space. Second, they moved the smoke hole down the more gently sloping front of the tipi and added flaps, supported and adjusted with poles from the outside, to control the draw for the fire. These flaps give the tipi its elegant winged appearance.

The Five Key Elements

The very basic elements of a tipi (teepee, tepee) are the cover, liner, ozan, poles and pitching accessories. The poles form the framework that supports the cover and provides a lattice from which the liner and ozan are hung. The tipi is tilted into prevailing winds so it is nearly vertical in the back making the tipi stand strong against the weather and increasing the useable living space. The smoke hole is positioned towards the more gently sloping front and has adjustable flaps that enhance the draw for an open fire.

Heating Your Tipi

When a tipi is properly pitched, the cover is staked several inches above the ground. The liner hangs against the inside of the poles and seals the bottom of the tipi. The liner makes a double wall and creates a chimney effect–air flows under the cover, is channelled up between the cover and the liner and finally, rises up through the smoke flaps taking the smoke with it. The addition of an ozan can increase the heat retention in your sleeping area and redirect any moisture that may enter through the smoke flaps.

A tipi may also be heated with a wood stove. A few lacing pins are removed from the front of the tipi to accomodate the exit of the stove pipe. A detailed pitching guide is included with every tipi order and includes information on heating with a wood burning stove.

Cooling Your Tipi

In hot weather, the smoke flaps are left open and the bottom of the tipi cover is rolled up (either all the way around or just on one side). Even the most gentle breeze creates a nice cooling effect.

 

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