Tipis (French) or teepees (English). These are two common spellings of the Sioux word that means "Live". The tipi was ideally suited for the nomadic life of the Native Americans and its function in the harsh environments of the high plains buffalo country owes to resourcefulness of these ingenious Native Peoples.
The conical shape of the tipi sheds wind loads from all sides and the narrow top allows for least resistance at the point where the wind is strongest. Rain and snow is shed easily. The number of poles used for the frame adds to the sound structure while adding to the beautiful architectural design that is so admired. Tipis were originally made from animal skins, buffalo were preferred but elk was also used in mountain regions where bison were scarce. The switch to canvas came in the mid to late 1800's as bolts of military canvas became a standard trade item. Lighter in weight for tribes constantly on the move, canvas let more light in and was easier to construct than hide tipis. As the bison met their demise from the commercial trade in buffalo leather, (used ironically for military use in Europe and America), canvas became the only alternative at the end of the century. Thankfully, with the American Bison population on the rise, (well over 300,000), I will eventually offer buffalo hide tipis.
Heating the Tipi:
The best thing about a tipi is the opportunity to have an open fire in the dwelling. There is nothing quite like a tipi fire with yellow and orange light from the flames flickering off the inside walls and the faces of those gathered within. Dig a small indentation in the soil just forward of center of the floor. Around this shallow pit place stones to create a hearth. A small and efficient fire will lessen the amount of smoke created. In a tipi, the walls block all the wind and the smoke rises up in a perfect column to exit out the opening at the top. It is important to take note of the prevailing winds before setting up your tipi; put the back of the tipi into the wind and this will help in the drafting of smoke from the lodge. In the Western United States this normally means positioning the tipi facing toward the east.
Keep a large supply of wood to the right of the door and smaller pile of immediate use nearer to the fire. Experiment with different kinds of wood. In Montana we are limited to mainly cottonwood, poplar and pine. Pine throws more sparks than most wood but it's easy to light, burns furiously and gives off very little smoke if maintained and throws ample light. For serious winter living I would suggest a wood burning stove, it contains and controls your fire much better. During a storm the wind can change direction ruining your careful plans for drafting smoke out the flaps. With a wood stove you can keep the flaps closed at the top and keep the heat from escaping.
There are two ways to vent your pipe from the stove. You can vent it out through the smoke flaps using triple layered stove pipe. It is important to note triple layered pipe is used - anything less and you will burn your tipi. The other way is to install a stove jack on the outside wall. This is a square piece of heat shield rated at 600 degrees where the stovepipe is inserted through for safe venting. I offer an extra tall winter liner that extends 8 feet from the ground instead of the usual 5 feet. In addition to a taller liner we make ozans for our tipis, a half circle piece of canvas that ties to the poles on the inside of the tipi and serves as a ceiling, trapping rising heat from the fire.
The smaller the tipi the easier it is to heat. Heating is a major factor in choosing the size of tipi you buy.
All our tipis are built in Waterloo, Montana in my shop located on the Jefferson River. The most important aspect of construction is the double canvas work that reinforces stress areas such as the front of the tipi from around the door all the way up the front pin holes to the bottom of the smoke flaps. Leather is used to reinforce the tie patch above the pins and the rope attachment as well as the pin holes themselves. The smoke flap pocket is a double layer of canvas and is sewn to a smoke flap to a double layered patch. The bottom hem is a strip of Seattle webbing rated at 4000 lb. breaking strength. The stake loops are sewn between this webbing belt and the tipi adding considerable strength and durability in high wind conditions. The seams are a four layered felled seam similar to that on sides of jeans or work pants and is the strongest most long lasting seam available. Thread is a heavy polycore for outdoor use selected for extended exposure to resist breakdown by UV and rot. click here for construction illustration.
The materials used in a Trapline Lodge tipi are canvas, leather, nylon webbing, nylon thread, lodge pole pine for poles, chokecherry staves for stakes and willow for the lacing pins. Three different types of canvas are available depending upon the end use of the tipi. For the serious all season users I recommend the sun forger canvas available in two weights, a 10 ounce flame retardant or 13 ounce. The other canvas, a natural cotton duck can be treated for an additional charge. This is a good quality canvas with a very tight water repellent weave that is less expensive. All canvas mentioned besides the 12 ounce tan are colorless or white.
Sunforger 13oz. Water Repellant Flame Retardant Mildew Resistant Double Fill
ALL tipi covers come with a stuff sack.
Natural 12 oz. Cotton Duck Double Fill
ALL tipi covers come with a stuff sack.
MONTANA LODGEPOLE PINE TIPI POLES
HAND-CARVED LACING PINS AND STAKES