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.
(For the tipis we hire out we supply everything needed, this article is for people who own their own tipi and are considering different heating options)
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 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. It will also come with a spark arrestor which you can place on top. A problem with some of the cheaper fire bowls is the robustness of the legs, when attached to a slab they tend to come unattached after very few uses. You can buy fire bowls with a ring instead of legs to keep them raised from the ground; this creates a larger area where the legs can be welded on the frame and a more robust structure.
Most chimeneas you cannot view from 360 degrees. However, you can buy some with a 360 degree mesh screen. For our hire business we use the chimeneas with the 360 degree mesh as we find them more robust than the bowls and you get a better view of the fire.
The wood burner is the safest, produces the most heat output from wood burned and will result in the least amount of smoke. However, they are heavy, generally more expensive and you can only view the flames from the direction of the door. We hire out our tipis with wood burners during the winter months when you need that extra warmth and also we hire out a smaller version in our wedding night tipi. We have the 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.
The flue coming out the top
The flue coming part way up the tipi
Cutting a hole in the canvas, inserting a flushing 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.
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…
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 purchase a larger wood burner with a higher KW heat output to compensate for the heat lost out the top of the tent.
The flue coming part way up the tipi is a very good option. You should use a short flue pipe, a metre at most so that when the smoke exits out the top it has enough time to cool down before exiting the smoke flap poles, all our hire tipis now use this method. You will find that just a metre is sufficient for the tipi to be completely smokeless as wood burners draw very well. This method will also save you the trauma of hacking bits out of your beloved tipi.
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,