Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tipi, Teepee, Tepee

Here's what I've been doing all spring and half the summer in my free time: making a tipi! My daughter in the back is eight years old, and is sitting on a deflated air mattress; the cloth in the foreground is the edge of the door opening.

Since I haven't taken the time to write even one blog entry on it, I'll try and capture the story now, starting with this post. It all started when we were wanting to plan a camping trip for the summer. Our tent is more complicated to set up than we would like, and is nothing special. We found a Tentipi online, and thought it was really nice; well, until we found out that they don't sell them in the USA, and besides that they're very expensive. The main thing about them seems that they are a tipi made with a single center pole, rather than the 17 or so poles of a traditional tipi, and the outer shell goes up very quickly. Clearly the next best option was to try to build our own.

   That put us on the path of researching tipis. It just so happens that tipis are fascinating. There's a lot more to them than it seems at first glance. There's the inner wall, that insulates them. You can light a fire inside, something that was never possible in any tent I have owned. They have big smoke flaps with poles to maneuver them around and control the air flow vs rain. And they are stitched together up the front with those nice wooden stitch pins.

   In the end, I would be happy with nothing less than a traditional tipi cover and inner wall design, but I had to convert it to use a single, collapsible pole so it will fit in the car. This required a special design that made my 3d printer and Alibre modeling tool just the thing I needed to achieve it with. It's standing in my back yard right now, waiting to be packed up and taken to a campground in a weekend or two. It did not cost less than the Tentipi in the end, but I sewed every bit of it, made it be just how I wanted it, and I also have a new sewing machine. It is also very pleasant to sit in. :)

Note: while technically the single-pole design makes this more of a "bell tent", the canvas is a traditional tipi design, and would work equally well attached to a traditional 17 pole tipi structure. Also, the black nylon webbing straps running from the top of the pole to the ground act like poles, although not as rigid. I continue to think of it as a tipi, and choose to refer to it as such.