Yurts provide new camping experience in an ancient way

Posted on: October 3, 2019 | Bob Frye | Comments

Yurts are ancient.

Yurts offer a unique way to camp.
Bob Frye/Everybody Adventures

Funny, I didn’t feel like looting and pillaging.

Maybe it was the refrigerator.

I mean, yeah. It was nearly 90 degrees outside. The air was uncomfortably thick and sticky –reminiscent of a locker room shower — courtesy of an early morning shower. And the fishing was slower than hoped.

The whole scene stood in striking contrast to the sight and smell of early October leaves already on the ground or drifting down before us.

Still, who could complain?

Mid-afternoon found us relaxing on a soft loveseat. Overhead a giant ceiling fan moved and chilled the otherwise dead air, all while we sipped ice water.

Genghis Khan never had that in his yurt I’ll bet.

Granted, such amenities likely wouldn’t have stopped him from terrorizing Eurasia back in the day. He enjoyed mayhem and was good at spreading it.

But who knows. I mean, it’s hard to be cranky in the midst of comfort.

We were finding that out.

Long-time campers, we’ve stayed in a lot of places in a lot of ways, from sleeping on the ground beneath a tarp lean-to to tents to cabins and more. Never, though, had we tried a yurt before.

Yurts are interesting.

Modern yurts are canvas stretched over a wooden frame.
Bob Frye/Everybody Adventures

They’re ancient technology, if you will.

The nomadic Native Americans living on the Great Plains developed teepees, or tipis, made of buffalo hides for shelter. They could be set up and taken down in short order, so that tribes could follow the great bison herds.

Well, yurts are the central Asian version of those.

Used most famously the Mongolians, they’re equally portable and often covered in skins or felt. The difference is that they’re round, with a lattice work frame and a domed top.

Shepherds and others use them today, just as their ancestors did for centuries. They’ve been around, according to some records, since about 600 BC.

More recently, they are a fun alternative in a lot of campgrounds.

Almost 20 state park systems now offer yurt camping in addition to tent and RV sites, cabins and cottages. Many private campgrounds do the same.

Staying in a yurt is not glamping, necessarily.

Few of those available to rent have indoor plumbing, though that’s certainly possible. Pacific Yurts, the Oregon company that made the yurt we were camping in, offers some pretty luxurious models, with details for customers on
how to add running water if desired.

And indeed, some do. People occasionally choose yurts for year-round living.

Ours wasn’t quite that fancy.

Instead, in the park we visited, a pump outside the door, near the fire ring and picnic table, offered water. We had access to a central bath and shower house, too, complete with laundry and dishwashing facilities.

It was a short walk away. But we were hardly roughing it.

Yurts offer lots of other creature comforts.

Electricity is one. That meant the aforementioned refrigerator and ceiling fan, along with a stove top, microwave and lamps. We had not only the loveseat, but a table and four chairs and bunks to sleep five, as well.

Ours yurt also had heat – not that we needed it – and a wood floor, with two screened windows. The exterior was heavy canvas.

The whole thing was surrounded on three sides by a deck, complete with a porch list on one corner post.

There are no separate interior rooms or doors inside a yurt. This is communal living.

Yet, that’s not to say there’s no privacy either.

Ours had one interior wall. Providing backing for the refrigerator stood broke, it didn’t go all the way to the ceiling.

But imagine a clock face, with both hands extending from the center to the 12 position. Our wall was like that, breaking the room into a divided U shape.

Staying in a yurt was different and dun.

We didn’t have to fight off any would-be conquering invaders, thankfully. Nor did we see any bison or sheep herds, though a couple of white-tailed deer showed up to eat the apples dropping from a tree nearby.

Instead, we just enjoyed time exploring the woods and paddling on the water, knowing we could retreat to a few creature comfort sat day’s end.

Even Genghis Khan would probably like that.

Yurt camping

So you want to try yurt camping? Here are some things to consider.

  • Some state park systems offer yurt camping year round. In others it’s a seasonal option. Contact the park you want to visit and check out its rules
  • Likewise, consider how long you want to stay. Some park systems require campers to reserve yurts for a minimum of a week at a time between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Two-day stays are often permissible at other times.
  • Pack like you’re tent camping. Stay in a yurt and you’ll most likely have to provide your own sleeping bag or sheets and blankets, pots and pans, dishes and utensils and the like.
  • Buy firewood locally. Some yurts have wooden cook stoves; all at least have an outdoor fire ring. Many state park systems around the country prohibit or at least recommend against bringing firewood from outside the area, though. That’s to prevent the spread of invasive species, like certain bugs. You can usually buy wood in the park or nearby, though.
  • Bring some entertainment. The idea when camping, in a yurt or otherwise, is to play outside, right? But if the weather goes bad and forces you to stay inside, it’s good to have a backup plan, especially with kids. Games, toys and books can all save a rainy day, literally.


See also: Fun times camping sometimes born of chaos


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Bob Frye is the everybodyadventures.com editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or bfrye@535mediallc.com. See other stories, blogs, videos and more at everybodyadventures.com.

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