Questions & Answers

NEVER leave a fire unattended inside a Tipi and ALWAYS have water or a fire extinguisher handy. All fabrics treated with fire proofing can catch on fire. I do not recommend an open fire in a tipi smaller than 16 feet. Fire proofing treatments, once exposed to the elements, will not last very long- so fire safety is always your number one safety concern.

Fire proofing can be naturally created by the smoke of a very small, very smoky, fire centered in the Tipi.

Make a 2 foot round, contained area, with rocks or bricks in the center of the Tipi. This will be more than large enough for the very small fire needed to keep it warm inside the Tipi. Leaves work well and some oily woods for creating smoke. Light a small fire, add some natural unpainted wood items to the small fire until you’re able to get some smoke.Wearing a mask is healthy but you’ll notice the smoke will be forced from the fire towards the top of the Tipi. THIS IS THE MOST LIKELY PLACE FOR FIRES TO OCCUR.

It is very important to Never let the flames reach any higher than a foot or so. Choose woods that are not likely to POP in a fire. That’s it, from this point on it will take care of itself, with an always watchful eye tending the fire.

The Length Of The Poles Should Be 4′ to 5′ Longer Than The Diameter Of The Tipi

  1. Open the cover out flat, right side up (the smoother side of the seam is the right side).
  2. Select 3 (4 poles) of the strongest poles for the tripod. One pole is laid on the cover, with the butt end next to the door (4 Poles-one pole will be on either side of the door opening) even with the bottom hem and the other end extending past the tie between the smoke flaps. The other two are laid on the cover, side by side, approximately one-third of the distance around the bottom of the cover. Once again the butt end is even with the hem and the other end extending past the tie at the top.
  3. Tie the three (4) poles together at a point approximately 15″ below the size of your tipi. EX: 20 foot tipi measure 18′ 9″ from bottom. The poles should be tied together firmly, but not extremely tight. When the tripod (4) is set up, the knot will tighten and if it is too tight, the result could be broken poles. The poles should be tied with a rope long enough to reach the ground plus 4′ or 5′ extra, so that it can be staked down in the center of the tipi in the event of strong winds.
  4. The tripod (4) is then set up by walking under the poles. Spread the tripod (4) apart so the ends are spread evenly in the approximate diameter of the tipi.
  5. Starting at the front, stack the rest of the poles in the crotch at the top.
  6. Save two of the longest poles for the smoke flaps and leave one pole out directly opposite the door.
  7. Take hold of the rope hanging down from the tripod poles and walk with it to the outside of the frame.
  8. Walk the rope around the circumference of the tipi poles three times to wrap all the poles together at the crotch. The remaining length of rope should then be brought back inside the frame and staked to the ground at the center.
  9. The cover should now be rolled up from both side to the center, having the tie at the top exposed. Slide a pole under the cover and tie the pole to the cover, using the tie at the top.
  10. The butt of the poles should be even with the bottom of the cover. Have someone hold the butt end to the ground and lift the pole and cover into the open spot left at the back of the frame.
  11. Unroll the cover around the frame. Starting at the top, put sticks in the holes that hold the front of the cover together. The left side goes over the right side.
  12. Stake the bottom out and adjust the poles so the cover lays smooth.
  13. Put the ends of the two remaining poles in the pockets (or slits) provided at the top corners of the smoke flaps.

Attaching The Door Flap

  1. Use three round pieces of wood cut at 3 sizes, #1 (top) at 3′ , #2 (center) 4′-5′ and #3 (bottom) at 5′-6′.
  2. Tie a piece of rope about 5 feet long on one side the two top loops, even up wood inside pocket, fold back top ends evenly on both ends towards tipi.
  3. Use the rope around the one of the lace pins to attach the door so the weight of the bottom rest inside the two stakes at bottom of tipi entrance.

It is best to set your tipi up where it will get as much Sunlight as possible. Check the ground for mold first, if there is mold or mildew on the ground, it will grow on the tipi cover and damage cotton fabric very fast.

If you plan to be transporting your tipi poles often, but feel that they are too long to carry on your vehicle, here is an excellent solution: Tipi poles can be easily sleeved together in the middle using plastic PVC pipe. Use “schedule 40″ PVC pipe that is 1-1/2″ in diameter and 16” long. (Longer for 24′ to 30′ poles.) Cut the poles in half and carefully taper the cut ends so that they fit snugly into one-half of the sleeve.

A draw knife is the best tool for the job. Don’t worry if you accidentally shave an end a bit too much. A snug fit can be easily created using one or two wraps around the pole with duck tape. Tap the PVC sleeve half way down on one of the prepared pole ends, for each individual pole, and the job is done!

Tipis do not require preconditioning: The tipi has very steep sides and water will not be able to accumulate on the canvas. Your tipi may shrink due to weather conditions, but it won’t shrink much and it is nothing to worry about. However, if you intend on leaving it up for longer longer periods of time, we suggest you waterproof it. You can use Thompson’s Water Seal for weather-proofing. There are other ingredients you can add to the sealer that can help with very bad weather conditions.

Use one gallon of Thompson’s water seal to One pint of Mineral spirits mixed in a hand pump garden sprayer to water treat your tipi. A very thin coat works best, please be careful not to saturate the fabric.

One of the most common problems that occur in canvas is mildew. Even if the tipi is made of a fabric that is mildew resistant, it will mildew if left damp. Mildew is very destructive to cotton fabrics as well as other materials. Mildew usually forms when tipis are put in storage when damp. But, it can also start for no apparent reason. Mildew can start in a very short time and under certain conditions of humidity and temperature. If mildew has started to grow, it can be stopped from spreading by thoroughly drying the tent, preferably in the hot sun.

If you can not do that, here is a something my Grandmother taught me: “Take a bottle cap of bleach mixed with 16ozs of water in a spray bottle. Spray affected area to kill the fungus, Apply as needed.” You can use a lemon to kill mold as well. Cut a lemon in half and then rub the lemon on the moldy area and turn the cover up so the Sun will hit it as much as possible. The lemon juice will not only kill the mold, it will also take out the discoloration. Once the mold has been treated and the fabric is dry, wipe off the fabric with soapy water, lemons have acid that can possibly eat away the fabric.

Water Proofing Your Tipi

Use one gallon of Thompson’s Water Seal mixed with 1 pint of mineral spirits. (There are two kind of spirits, A dark one and a clear one.) The dark spirits make the canvas looks like a cow hide, and the clear one gives it more of a buckskin or  “Braintan” look. Both are fine for use. This mixture will cover up to a 16 foot tipi, but you will probably need more for larger tipis. You’ll need a GOOD pressure sprayer too, the same kind you’d use to weed your yard or fertilize the grass. You can get all of these at hardware / garden supply stores. Lay out your tipi cover on flat ground and spray one thin coat evenly over the entire tipi, straps and smoke flaps, Let it dry for about 6 hours. Try to do this so you’ll have time to set it up after 6 hours and then let it air out overnight. This treatment will last about 2 years even if you leave it up all year round. Repeat as needed.

I recommend, to everyone that asks, to call their local Parks Department before buying them from a Pole farm. Ask the Parks Department if you can purchase or be issued a permit to fell your own poles. Tell them you need a light wood like Pine, Spruce or Ash. You’ll have to put a little work into cleaning them up but you can save some money and working with your Tipi helps create a greater bond. There are a few places on the internet that will sell you poles for about $300.00 to $700.00 a set. In most cases you will want your poles to be 4 feet longer then the tipi diameter. Try to find a place close to where you live to save on shipping cost that can cost nearly as much as the poles if they are very far away from the supplier.