Heading for the great outdoors? Don't forget the Yurt
By Paul Ridden
April 4, 2011
Youngsters who trek off into the back of beyond tend not to concern themselves too much with comfort. As you get older though, and perhaps have kids in tow, you may find that your camping needs undergo some modification. While some just opt for a bigger tent, the solution for Richard Waters and his wife Alicia originated in ancient Central Asia and has many names – such as Ger in Mongolia, Kherga in Afghanistan, or Yurta in Russia. Known as a Yurt to the English-speaking world, this round, lattice-framed portable dwelling has now been given a new lease of life in the world of recreational camping.
Waters says that permanent Yurts are very popular in his home State of Oregon, with many parks now having year-round structures set up for campers. Like their nomadic ancestors, though, his Camping Yurts are made to be portable – the 12 foot (3.65 meter) model weighs about 120 pounds (54 kg) and can be loaded onto a car's roof rack or bundled into a trailer. Waters says that although some localities in the U.S. now require planning permission for the construction of a Yurt, the temporary nature of his models makes them exempt (but he does advise checking local regulations, just to be sure).
I remember being surprised by just how spacious Yurts can be when I encountered one being used as a reception point at the Green Air Show in Paris last year. Waters says that he uses a 16 foot (4.87 meter) Yurt when he goes camping, which is big enough to accommodate a collapsible-frame queen bed with inflatable mattress and three cots for the kids plus all the camping gear, and still has room to spare.
The Camping Yurt is made up of five basic parts. The roof wheel or Tono is usually made from pine but oak, cherry, and walnut are also offered. The poles or Uni, and a lattice wall called Khana – which breaks into sections for easy transport – are usually made from Douglas fir or cedar, but oak, ash and other woods are also available. There's also a door frame or Nars, and the whole structure is covered in light colored cotton canvas (to let in the maximum amount of natural light) or Sunforger Marine Canvas – the latter being treated for UV, water and mildew resistance. An untreated organic cotton option is also available.
Waters says that it takes him about half an hour to erect his Yurt on his own and that after only a few dry runs, most people will be able to have theirs ready to use in under an hour. Raising the bottom of the wall canvas will draw in cool air to keep things comfortable in the summer, while a small stove placed in the middle will provide warmth in the winter. If you're not blessed with dry weather while enjoying the great outdoors, there's a special cover for the hole in the roof called an Orkh, or an umbrella will do just as well. Clear polycarbonate domes are also available.
Recognizing that different people have different needs, Camping Yurts come in a few different build options and are sold in three sizes – 12, 14 and 16 feet (3.65, 4.26 and 4.87 meter), but other sizes have been made on request. For the self-builder there's a basic kit which consists of the roof wheel, roof and wall covering and detailed build instructions. Everything else will need to be made and installed by the buyer. This option starts at US$1,050.
For the slightly less adventurous, there's a full kit that includes everything you'll need to build and erect your very own Camping Yurt – prices for this version start at US$1,700. Similar to the full kit, but supplied ready assembled and fully finished, the Ready to Go Yurt starts at US$1,900.