Frequently Asked Questions
What do you use to cover the floor?
If you’re camping for a few days, use a plastic groundsheet covered in rugs etc. For extended stays, cut enough reeds or rushes to form a wonderfully scented, bouncy, comfortable 3″-6″ layer. Place directly on the ground and scatter rugs or sheepskins on top. If the ground is really wet, you can place a plastic groundsheet under the bed area.
How do I make the fire?
The fireplace should be positioned directly under the smoke hole. Remove a thin layer of turf and line the edge of the fireplace with stones. Always use dry wood – preferably ash, elm, sycamore, oak, apple or holly. Avoid green wood and any willow, elder or yew. Elder is considered sacred and is respected by the Celtic shamans. It’s also reputed to attract more than its fair share of unexplained accidents! Pine should also be avoided – it’s prone to sparking.
The smoke flaps are usually pointed away from the wind and kept taut to create a chimney effect.
To cut down smoke inside the tipi, make sure the fire is kept hot enough to create an up-draught – this draws the smoke upward out of the smoke hole. If there isn’t enough heat, some crumpled newspaper will provide a quick fix to help the smoke rise until the wood catches properly.
How does the fire affect the canvas?
The inside of the tipi gradually turns brown from the smoke. This acts as a kind of “seasoning” and helps to make the canvas more waterproof. Native Americans would often season their tipis inside and out using greenwood smoke before they were considered ready for use.
Is it possible to buy collapsible poles?
Many people have tried to make jointed poles for easier transportation, but with little success. The tension on the pole joints makes them prone to splitting.
Do I need a liner?
Yes. A tipi is not complete without one, unless you only want to use it as a very temporary shelter. With a correctly pitched tipi, the cover is a few inches from the ground, making it cold and draughty. This gap is closed by the liner, which is pegged right to the ground. The space between the cover and the liner is what creates the updraught that draws smoke out of the tipi.
Are tipis hard to put up?
No. With practice, two people can easily put up a large tipi in about an hour. We provide full instructions with all our tipis, and will erect them on request. We can re-pitch or dismantle your tipi at any point if required, subject to a mileage charge.
Do you make kits for people who want to make their own tipis?
No. The best source of information on tipi making is The Indian Tipi by Reginald and Gladys Laubin. However, in practice we would advise you to use an industrial sewing machine, as standard domestic machines are not robust enough to handle several layers of thick tent canvas.