There are many different options for heating your tipi tent from the open fire, fire bowl, chimenea and wood burning stove.The article will examine them, provide the pros and cons of each method and also provide a few tips that we have learnt along the way from running our tipi hire business.
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Only use wood, never charcoal.
You should not use charcoal or coal because it smoulders rather than burns vigorously and produces a lot more smoke than wood.
Keep a ‘lively’ fire
You want to keep a hot fire with lively flames at all times, the hotter the fire is, the faster the smoke will rise and thus the less smoke you will have inside your teepee and the warmer you will be. Hard wood is a good option as it spits less then soft wood and will burn for longer. Chop your wood so it is small and constantly provide the fire with oxygen to keep it well stoked.
Use a tipi liner.
You will see on tipi set ups there is a small air gap at the bottom of the tipi. Inside you should have a liner that hangs chest to shoulder high, goes to the ground and is tucked under the flooring/groundsheet. This design means that air comes in from the air gap, runs up the wall of the liner and out the top of the tipi drawing all the smoke with it. Not using a liner will result in a cold drafty tipi.
Use the door to feed the fire.
The tipi is essentially a giant, very comfortable chimney. The cool air enters the tipi at the bottom (the tipi will be pitched about an inch or so from the ground) and then rises with the heat of the fire out the top between the poles and smoke flaps. If the tipi has become a little smoky inside you can get your chimney to draw better by opening the door just a fraction to increase the amount of cool air entering the tipi (don’t open the door fully)
Secure your wood burner/chimenea
Secure your firebowl firmly to a patio slabs to prevent it from falling over. Always ensure that when you attach it to the patio slab you secure the legs onto the the slab so that the firebowl is raised above it. If you attach for example the bowl directly onto the slab the slab will get very hot and almost certainly crack.
Use a hearth
If you are using anything except an open fire and have carpeted the tipi inside with coir matting, rugs etc a hearth is invaluable. It is far safer as it prevents logs rolling onto your matting and it is a useful flat area in which to place you ale. From our experience hiring out countless tipis the hearth has prevented spills on the matting on numerous occasions.
And lastly, but most importantly, never leave the fire un attended and always extinguish the fire before sleeping in the tipi.
The open fire
The authentic tipi experience, place rocks to keep the fire contained and to absorb the heat from the fire. This is a very enjoyable way to have a fire inside a tipi, naturally you cannot have the whole floor covered and you have less control than using a chimenea with a mesh screen but this is the ultimate rustic experience.
This is a great alternative to the open fire and allows you to have the teepee fully carpeted inside. The Fire bowl will allow you to still maintain a 360 degree view of the fire which is essential for large gathering as seeing the dance of the flames is essential to the enjoyment of the tipi. I would reccommend a firebowl with a spark arrestor for the top and one with a low centre of gravity to prevent tipping over. You can further secure the firebowl by drilling through the legs and attaching it via metal wire to a patio slab. The fire bowl advertised below is a good one for use inside a tipi as it has strong robust legs, a spark arrestor and a low centre of gravity. The beautiful design will also create some stunning images / shapes on the canvas when inside.
Most chimeneas you cannot view from 360 degrees. However, you can buy some like the one below with a 360 degree mesh screen. For our hire business we used the chimeneas with the 360 degree mesh as we found they gave a better view of the fire. The also drew the smoke slightly better than a firebowl the chimney attached funnels the smoke to higher point before it is drawn out by the updrafts from the tipi. As the chimnea has a higher centre of gravity than the fire bowl it even more important to attach it to a patio slab via metal wires through the loops in the legs to prevent it from tiping over. You can also increase the safety by installing small mesh chicken wire on the inside of the bowl of the chimenea, this will mean only the smallest of sparks will escape.
The wood burner is the safest, produces the most heat output from wood burned and will result in the least amount of smoke. However, some are very heavy, generally more expensive and you can only view the flames from the direction of the door. We hired out our tipis with wood burners during the winter months when you needed that extra warmth and also we hired them out in our/ lovers wedding night tipi. We positioned the woodburner door facing the seating area so for a small number of people having a smaller area where you can view the flames is not a disadvantage.
There are 3 methods I will discuss for using a wood burner inside the tipi.
1)The flue coming out the top
2)The flue coming part way up the tipi
3)Cutting a hole in the canvas, inserting a flashing and having the flue come out of the canvas.
The flue coming out the top of the tipi is not advisable, the flue pipe can get very hot and the smoke will also be very hot as it exits, this can cause the canvas to become very brittle or ignite. Also you will some sort of bracket system to support such a large flue.
2)Cutting a hole in the canvas is a drastic option. If you plan to use the tipi in very cold weather this could be employed as this ensures a warm tipi as you can cut the poles very short and then wrap canvas around the top to completely seal the tipi from the elements and stop the heat escaping… Essentially what you are doing here is a fully enclosed tipi shapeed yurt.
However, it seems a shame to hack holes in the canvas, especially if you wish to use the teepee in the summer months where an open fire will be sufficient. It is in my opinion far better to not insert a flushing into the canvas but instead to have the the flue coming part way up the tipi. You should use a short flue pipe, 1 metre or 1,5 metres at most so that when the smoke exits out the top it has enough time to cool down before exiting the tipi. This is the method I use when I take the tipi camping.You will probably find that just a metre length flue pipe is sufficient for the tipi to be completely smoke free as wood burners draw very well.
The stove I would suggest is the frontier stove, at only 12 kg it is light weight and portable which is very neccassary, it also folds down into a carry bag. By having the flue at the side rather than the centre it also has a large hot plate on the top for boiling water or cooking food on. As with the advice with the chimenea/firebowl you can make it more secure by firmly attaching it to a patio slab using metal wire (and drilling a hole in the patio slab)
Please see the following link for purchasing or more information.
This about sums it up, naturally I have only covered a small part so feel free to get in touch to add any tips you may have. Elsewhere on my site I have many articles all things tipi,