Teepee camping is something that I’ve been curious about for many years. I’ve always been attracted to the simplicity of the structure. They’re uncomplicated, but when set up correctly they’re incredibly robust and spacious inside. When you peruse the internet, you’ll see plenty of glamping teepees that are built on wooden platforms that also have air conditioning and queen-sized beds. While this sounds like a lovely way to spend an evening, I’m more interested in an authentic experience with a wood fire in the middle. I’ve also been curious about how warm they are, and I was glad that we were in for cooler temperatures that night. It got down to about 34F, and I’ll tell you what – the fire was quite necessary. There are things that I loved about the teepee, and there were things that made it more challenging than sleeping in a regular tent. Here are 5 tips that I picked up that night.
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1. Dry wood is crucial.
We’ve all played musical chairs around a smokey campfire. It’s annoying, but it’s manageable. When you’re in a teepee smoke will accumulate quickly if the wood isn’t bone dry, and in a teepee, there isn’t anywhere to go. You’re stuck with it. Another tip here is to make sure that your bags and clothing are as low to the ground as possible. Anything hanging up is going to be very smokey when you bring it home. If you have a prized sweater that you’re worried about it’s best to leave it in the car.
2. Set up some indirect lighting for a great vibe.
Teepees can be pretty dark in the evening because the canvas doesn’t let as much light through as a nylon tent. We shined our headlamps up on the interior walls, and it made for a seriously chill camp scene. It’s also essential to have lighting for safety reasons because you’re all sleeping around a fire pit. Yes, you can see the fire when it’s burning, but if you get up in the middle of the night, a recessed coal bed is much hard to spot. Make sure the teepee is well lit.
3. Bring comfy camp chairs!
We sat around the fire late into the night, and it’s so much nicer with a cozy camp chair. On this trip, we had rocking camp chairs that were the ultimate in comfort. We kicked our feet up on the hearth, listened to music, and told stories for hours. When you kick back in something as comfortable as your couch at home, it makes a big difference.
4. Keep a pile of wood close to your sleeping bag.
We had a chilly evening, and I was tossing wood into the fire every hour or so. It doesn’t make for the best night of sleep, but it comes with the territory. The last thing you want to do is get out of your sleeping bag all night long. Put a big stack of wood in between you and fire so you can lean forward and toss a log on while staying toasty warm.
5. Stay safe. Make sure everyone knows where the fire extinguisher is.
If you’re sleeping inside of a canvas tent with a wood fire, you absolutely want to have a fire extinguisher handy. The odds of something happening are slim to none, but better to be safe than sorry. Make sure the fire extinguisher is up to date, and that everyone knows where it is.
Teepee camping was a great experience, but it’s different than what I expected. It’s easy to have a romantic notion of laying around a crackling fire, but in my experience, it’s actually more rugged than a tent. Teepees are designed to allow an air draw at the bottom edge so the smoke can funnel out the top. So, while it’s warm around the fire, the edge can be pretty chilly. The best way to deal with this is to put a large dirt ridge around the inside edge. That way the air will be drawn up the edges to assist with smoke instead of coming straight in to freeze your sleeping bag. Everything you bring in will end up smelling smokey the next day – more so than just sitting around a campfire outside. This isn’t a big deal, because we all have “camping clothes” anyway right? If you get a chance to try some teepee camping I still highly recommend. Sleeping in a nomadic structure that has been in use for thousands of years was a profound experience. Hopefully, these tips give you the best experience possible.