In this article I will provide a list of the top practical items needed for a comfortable tipi yurt or bell tent, including beds, lighting and flooring and provide my opinion on them based on my knowledge hiring out and selling tipis, yurts, bell tents andcamping tents for over 10 years.
I will also offer some interior design inspiration on the differnt ways to furnish your tent
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Beds / camping beds
There are three main options for camping beds that I would personally reccommend that combine both comfort and portability and these are:
- Reflex or memory foam mattress (or memory foam mattress topper)
- Air beds
- Megamat (a cross between a rollmat and an airbed buy very comfortable)
1 Although not often considered a camping mattress, Reflex or memory foam mattresses are a very good option for optimum comfort as they are far more easily transportable than the standard sprung mattresses as they are usually a lot thinner and can be folded / rolled.
Compared to a good airbed they can also offer much better value for money, and for increased portability you can just opt for a memory foam mattress topper by itself (what you gain in portability you will however loose in comfort)
The draw backs of using either memory foam or reflex foam mattresses are dispite being more portable than their srung counterparts they are far less portable and much heavier than the other options on the list. They are also much harder to keep clean / mud free.
When we ran our tipi hire business for our lovers tipi we used a memory foam mattress on a steel bed frame for ultimate luxury.
Thickness is very important for portability and it is reccommended for something between 11cm – 15cm. Less and you may feel all the lumps and bumps from the ground, more will make transportation difficult.
You can see some options for reflex and memory foam mattresses on the below link:
Price (at time of writing) £69.99
Air beds. From our experience with air beds we found to either by really inexpensive ones or really high quality ones, as this is because the mid range ones in the £20-£40 didnt seem to be any more durable and will get as many punctures as the inexpensive ones. For sleeping lots of people for our hires we provided airbeds from B&M bargains. Comfort wise these were more than adequate and we found the durability as good as an airbed three times the price – the price of a double was £12 and a single fro memory £9. Occasionally we would some returned punctured so we always supplied spares ( and extra pumps)
The very high quality ones hired out as an optional upgrade / extra these were a definite step up in comfort as they offered an increased level of support. They also were self inflating and a lot more durable than the less expensive B&M bargain ones as the plastic was much thicker.
The downside of airbeds are they are slightly less comfortable than foam mattresses as they offer less support. They are also colder as the airpocket does not provide good insulation (fine during summer months or if using a sleeping bag) They are however much lighter, easier to transport and keep clean.
The one we hired out as a luxury bed is below:
Price (at time of writing) £64.99
Megamat. The megamat is a cross between an airbed and a roll mat, it is a serious bit of kit and is by far the most portable bed and offers a superior level of warmth. It also offers a lot more support than an air bed and despite being a lot thinner I consider it to be more comfortable as it feels like a regular matress, not an airbed. It also has a 5 year warranty so that speaks volumes for the quality.
The drawbacks of this mattress is it is definetly a firm mattress and at the time of writing they could only be bought as singles. It is also the most expensive of all three options. however if you like a firm mattress and want something highly portable it is worth taking a look at.
Price (at time of writing) £211.95
There are a few options for lighting tents however the best to from our experiences with hires are LED lights, natural candle lanterns and tilley lamps.
- Led lights. You can by large LED lanterns which will be enough to light an entire tent. however a good option is to buy lots of little circular LED lamps and place them all around the tent so that one person can be reading and the other sleeping / easily adjust the amount of lighting by turning some off. Rolson do a magnetic light with a hook so these can be stuck to the pole of the bell or they can be hung off the tipi liner. For such a small size, with 24 LED’s they provide a lot of light and run for a long time off the same batteries.
Traditional candle lanterns.
I would advise against glass lanterns as these are hard to transport without breaking. Instead for portability a metal lantern is a good idea for camping. If you get one with a pleasing pattern this will reflect on the walls of the tent and look beautiful.
Lanterns offer a warm peaceful light but also very low lighting so it would be a good idea not use this as the main source of light but instead to also have an LED light.
Tilly lamps. Tilley gas lamps have become increasingly popular, we often see them hung outside of bell tents. They look very traditional and authentic and create more light than candle lanterns and also a very peaceful soft light. Draw backs are that they are gas so should only be used in a well ventillated environment.
There are a few options for flooring. If you have a traditional tipi tent you can leave it natural to have an open fire or opt for a groundsheet (just an ordinary tarp is fine) with coir matting on top. For bell tents you can just opt for rugs as you will probably already have a very thick groundsheet already.
1) Coir matting. Coir matting is made from coconut husks. It looks beautifully natural and is very heavy duty and hard wearing. For all our hire tipis we would place a large 6 metre tarp down (rolled at the edges) and then coconut matting on top (we would then place rugs, a chimenea attached to a patio slab for safety and then a slate hearth in front)
Coir matting will also increase the warmth of the tipi.
Another great benefit of coir matting if used with a chimenea/fire bowl or woodburner is that it is naturally very fire retardant, which plastic/pvc tarps definetly are not so it protects against sparks from the fire and can protect your groundhseet very well.
(I have a webpage dedicated to comparing chimeneas/firebowls and woodburners for use in a tipi here)
The draw backs of it are that it has a rough texture and it is quite heavy and doesnt pack down small. You can purchase it cut into circles for bell tents but these will also fit the shape of the tipi well
Rugs a great choice if you already have a heavy duty groundsheet or to put over the top of coir matting to add a bit of atmosphere and colour. They are also much more pleasant to sit on than the rough coir matting and if they are placed directly onto a heavy duty flooring provide a little extra warmth.
For our tipis (pictured above – also lots more photos for inspiration on our gallery page) when we hired them out we opted for brightly coloured rugs often with a navajo style for authenticity and because they offered vibrant, rich and intricate patterns which were well balanced against the neutral tone of the coir matting.
Thank you for viewing, for lots of other information including the history of the tipi, how to make your own ash traditional wooden pegs (relatively straight forward) How to make tipi poles and different options for heating your tipi and many other articles everything tipi can be viewed on my website by following the links above.