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HomeHomeDiscussionsDiscussionsGeneralGeneralBig tipi questionBig tipi question
New Post
1/16/2020 6:05 AM

Thought I'd post this question here, since many of the forum folks seem to have some miles behind them.  How many of you have spent time in a big (12 - 16 man) tipi and can provide your experiences with that?

I take students on canoe trips and sometimes we end up where there are no trees to string tarps.  In inclement weather we lack a place to hang out where we're not exposed to the elements.  (That's less of an issue for me and more of an issue for skinny high school kids who don't always pack enough clothing.)  This has made me start looking at big tipis as a place for us to gather when they're not in their tents. 

A major manufacturer of tipi shelters has offered me a significant discount on a 16 man tipi.  It looks like it would fit a bunch of students, even with my wood stove in the middle.  It might be a real game changer in terms of safety and keeping morale up.  Discount or no it's still a hefty chunk of change for us to fundraise.

Have you spent time in a big tipi?  Can you imagine 15 - 20 kids sitting cross legged on a tarp in one?  Any and all thoughts are welcome.


New Post
1/16/2020 8:45 AM
The short answer is, yes it is a game changer. The ability to squeeze everyone into a head shelter is amazing in inclement weather. Have everyone bring their sit pad or just have a group of kids sit on someones sleeping pad around the tipi works well. Care needs to be taken when moving around a wood stove though.

Depending on the sizes of the kids 15 is doable, but 20 might be stretching it in a 16 man tent. The biggest issue with tipis is they rely on secure stake placement for structure. If you can't get that secure stake placement then you are basically shelterless. If there is no wind then you might be alright, but if it is raining or windy you want that secure placement. I don't know where you are canoeing, but if it is just sand or sand over bedrock then getting secure stake placement can be a pain.

Be aware that not all tipis are created equal and you need to give the materials used, stake loop size, zipper design etc...a hard look. Don't buy into marketing hype. There are a ton of new makers on the market, and I haven't really looked at tipis in years since I wasn't in the market. From what I have personally used Seekout Side would get the nod if you decide you want a tipi. I think they make other styles as well, but not sure how big they go on the other styles. I will say when we were looking a replacing a large Kifaru tipi, we were looking at the Hilleberg group tents, with the knowledge Evan would have to add a stove jack. The reason was the staking issue, and because they are also shorter so you are not heating space you don't use. At the time we were primarily using it during group winter trips, and snow staking is also tricky. In the end we just didn't have the need anymore so I can't say how it would have worked out for us.

Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
New Post
1/16/2020 10:05 AM

Thanks for the info Scot.  I'm sure that the liability overlords in the school division office will have something to say about the wood stove but I think the risks outweigh the benefits.  It's a FourDog so it seals up nicely and can be dampered down to a smolder.

The location where we camp without trees is nice soil with few rocks.  Stakes should hold nicely.  If we're going further north into Canadian shield country we'll use tarps instead.

I've drawn out a 21' circle and I need to find a way to run a center pole with some string down the sides to simulate the tipi fabric.  That might help me get a better idea of how many kids I can squeeze in safely given the angle of the walls.

I do wonder where the heat will go with a nearly 11' peak.  Will it just float upwards or will we still feel it at the bottom of the tipi?  Either way, the tipi will likely be warmer than sitting on a riverbank in the drizzle when the temperature is approaching freezing.  (My coyote ruff works wonders for me in that situation by the way.)

Anyone else with tipi experience is welcome to chime in.

New Post
1/16/2020 10:16 AM
I am not familiar with that stove, but with the right size stove you will be able to get it hot enough in the tipi to turn it into a sauna and have people rushing out into the cold and wet to cool off. The top of the tipi will be warmer as heat will collect there, heat does rise, and the bigger the area to heat the more wood you will have to burn. That means that the upper 4 feet or so of a 11 foot tipi is mostly unused heated space. I say mostly because it is possible to use some of that area for drying socks and the like if the loops are present on the inside of the tipi and can reach cord you run through them. I think more of a dome or yurt shape is a more efficient design for heating as it is only as tall as it needs to be, and both would have poles for structural rigidity, but the poles do add weight and bulk. That is why I think the lightweight options have biased towards tipis, and for those not worried about weight, the canvas wall tent still seems to be the norm.

Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
New Post
1/16/2020 11:30 AM

I can only offer second-hand info as I've only used Seek Outside 3-man but an older gentlemen from Fairbanks that used to post at 24hr Campfire used a Kifaru 12 man with a Ti 4 Dog stove and said that it was the ultimate base camp.  He had used that combo for many fly-in hunts in AK

New Post
1/17/2020 9:54 AM
The plains Indian teepees I’ve stayed in are marvelous. The key to total comfort is the inner liner and a low chair. Small fire in the center is all you need for warmth
New Post
1/17/2020 11:20 AM

Thanks Take-a-knee - they do look good.  I suspect they're faster to set up than a wall tent which makes them pretty darned attractive.  Super portable too.

Frank, I've spent some nights in bison skin tipis with a fire in them.  Crazy experience.

New Post
1/27/2020 3:58 PM
I always find it telling when the Scouts get their pop up 1-2 man tents up and squared away quicker than my wife and I get the 6 man Kifaru tipi setup.
I have yet to find a camp spot that doesn't have a rock under at least one peg. The 6 man tipi barely has adequate space for 4 sleepers, especially if you store packs inside. The pitch of the side uses a lot of space. The tipi doesn't pitch as a cone. It pitches more like an inverted vortex. I would say a solid third of the foot print is relatively unusable. That decreases if the tipi is wet.
The tipi is noisy in the wind.
I like the ability to put a Shepard's stove inside, but rarely use it.

I pack a can lid to hold the bottom of the tipi pole. Otherwise, it can sink in soft soil.

I do like the floorless nature of the tipi. It is handy for breaking camp.
If the weather is good, I stow the stove, drop the tipi, then pack away sleeping bags, pads, packs and gear after stowing the tipi skin. Saves hauling all the stuff through the tipi door.
New Post
1/28/2020 9:20 AM

Thanks Longeye.  I usually bring along a Black Diamond Megalight, so I'm familiar with using pyramid tents.  I've been in big canvas wall tents and I love their floor space to head room ratio but they're kind of a pain to set up and take down.

The students will have their own tents to sleep in.  What I want is a big shelter to use in a treeless environment.  The riverbank usually affords us plenty of real estate to set up in.  Huddling under overturned canoes to cook loses its magic pretty quickly.

New Post
1/31/2020 10:37 AM
You're welcome.
I am not ready to give up on the tipi in its niche. For me, that is family camping, or single man extended spike camps.
It works and has certain weight, simplicity, and density advantages.

But it does have some quirks.

For what you are doing, I am guessing it will work well, provided you get twist in snow/sand stakes.
I would definitely get the biggest, tallest tipi you can find for this application.
New Post
1/31/2020 10:44 AM
Another solution that can be used:

Part of the family does a bunch of mule packing.
They take a large tarp and pitch it like an ersatz pup tent. They drop a slender lodge pole pine to use for the ridge line and lash it between two trees, but a series of aluminum poles may also work.

Last time we camped under it, we had 14 sleeping bags laid out, plus space for the kitchen, and a few chairs... All under the tarp.

It rained on the second day so we hung a second tarp up in the gable end facing the rain. It worked like a charm.

The weight to floor space ratio is probably better even than a tipi, but the tarp would not be as good in a windy scenario.
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