Rain and Snow
"LESSONS WE LEARNED ABOUT RAIN AND SNOW"
1. Locate your lodge on high ground. If you must be in a low area, choose a site (if possible) that has lower ground all around it. Try to visualize two to four inches of water flowing across the surface of the ground. Select a spot that will be above water.
2. If it is not possible to set-up on high ground, try to locate your lodge where you can dig a ditch around it to divert the run-off to lower ground. Dig your ditch so as to catch the water running off the tipi as well as the water running toward the tipi. This ditch must have an outlet to lower ground or it will just fill up and flood your tipi. If you are in a low area where no digging is allowed, find a supply of sandbags and/or pray for good weather.
3. If the tipi is on high ground all the way around, you have three easy options (or combination of options):
(1.) Tie the bottom row of ties (at ground level) to stakes with the flap pulled to the inside of the tipi. This is the preferred method of securing the liner.
(2.) Place rocks, firewood, or small sand bags on top of the bottom flap of the liner to hold it down, with the flap pulled to the inside of the tipi.
(3.) Pull the bottom edge of the liner, which extends 8 inches beyond the bottom row of ties, out under the butts of the poles.
If the tipi is on low ground and you expect rain (or snow) you may want to bury the bottom edge of the dew cloth (like a sod flap on a wall tent). This makes the edge of the liner dirty and, if left for more than a day or two, will cause it to rot. However, in an emergency, it is sometimes the best solution. This, of course, is not possible if you are on property where digging is prohibited.
We try to select a site that makes this unnecessary, but we do not hesitate to bury the bottom edge if we need to but we never leave it buried for more than a day or two. Later, we wash it down with a garden hose while brushing it with a scrub brush. We then let it dry thoroughly before putting it away. If you see mildew or the appearance of rot in the flap, wash the affected area with a mild solution of common household bleach and water before rinsing, drying the liner thoroughly and putting it away.
Some of our family liners have a worn look from hard usage, but have held up well and should give us many more years of service. Even having to trim off a few inches around the bottom does not seriously impair a 7.5 ft liner such as we have.
If you plan to leave your tipi up winter and summer, we suggest putting 2" by 6" panels of redwood, on edge, to reach from pole to pole (except between the door poles). This should be done after the poles are carefully fitted to the tipi. Taper the ends of the 2x6 panels to fit against the inside surface of the poles. It's a good idea to drive stakes on both sides of the panels to hold them in position. Long stakes with hooks or angles on the top will hold the panels firmly in the ground.
click on image to enlarge
click on image to enlarge
click on image to enlarge
Each pole should be lashed to a stake, driven into the ground next to the pole from the outside. With the panels in place, staple or tack the liner to the top of the 2x6 panels, and allow the remaining lower end of the liner to hang inside of the tipi, and in front of the 2x6 panels. In the long run, this will cost less than replacing a rotted liner. If you expect deep snow, you can use 2" by 8" panels. A few coats of linseed oil, on the redwood panels, will greatly increase their life expectancy. Do not attach the liner to the panels until the oil is completely dry.
4. Accumulation of snow, around the bottom edge of the tipi, can block the airflow essential to keep the fire going properly. This can be prevented, by brushing the snow away from the bottom edge of the tipi. If snow is deep or coming down too fast, concentrate on three or four small "breather" openings spaced around the bottom of the lodge. Even one opening will keep a small fire going. Also, the liner can be closed with the bottom of the door open, and the bottom of the liner door flaps propped up with some pieces of firewood, to allow air circulation.
In deep snow, stovepipe type tubes can be angled up from the base of the tipi at intervals to conduct air from the surface down to the gap between the cover and the ground. However, these "air conduits" must not be blocked or plugged with snow.
It is also possible to run a pipe, a covered trench or a tube up under the fire from outside the tipi. This works very well as long as both ends are kept free of obstructions.
Note: Leaving the liner against the surface of wet ground for long periods of time without drying it out frequently can cause it to mildew and rot. In a one day or two day snow storm, the liner will not mildew or rot if it is removed and dried when the snow begins to melt. We have had no problem for an entire winter where there was no dirt or mud (meadow grass, actually) and where the bottom of the liner was frozen most of the time. However, the bottom of a liner permitted to lie (for days at a time), in water and mud during the spring thaw, or during warm weather, will definitely have some serious problems with mildew and rot, regardless of the quality of the fabric.
5. Quality fabric with a tight weave is dramatically superior to ordinary canvas when subjected to rain, wind or cold temperatures. The nights I spent in the "Crazy Horse" village with heavy rains, and cold winds, gave me ample opportunity to compare the capabilities of different fabrics and learn the differences first hand. There is absolutely no substitute for quality.
Single fill duck with its loosely woven construction, becomes saturated with moisture and sends out sprays of mist into the tipi when rain drops thud against its outside surface. Tightly woven fabrics (even those that are not water-repellent treated) do not do this.
Untreated fabrics, even the tightly woven ones, after hours of soaking rain, have a tendency to wick water through the fabric where it touches the poles. The water gradually forms into little rivulets that run down the poles and drip into the Lodge. Smooth poles and a good liner, properly installed, will partially solve this problem. (The "Crazy Horse" tipis had no liners in them.) Also, these fabrics take a lot of time to dry out.
6. Even with the best fabric, and with the smoke flaps closed, a tipi will allow a certain amount of water to creep down the poles in a heavy, prolonged rainstorm. Straight, smooth poles will almost eliminate dripping. However, if a pole does drip, simply twist the pole until the obstruction causing the drip is turned out of the water's path.
7. Sometimes water running down poles will pile up against liner ropes and drip over. If the liner is tied directly to the poles, the ties can also dam up the water and cause dripping. If the water is dripping behind the liner, don't worry about it. If it drips into the tipi, place two small sticks under the obstructing rope or tie with a space between them to straddle the flow of water. This channel allows the water to run down behind the liner to the outside.
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8. Tightly woven fabric in both tipi cover and liner provides much better insulation than loosely woven fabric. The diffusion of air through the fabric is essential to prevent sweating (condensation) but very little air is needed for this purpose. Cotton fabrics of even the highest density provide adequate ventilation to prevent condensation except in the most extreme situations. This is especially true in a tipi where the addition of the 'Dew Cloth' (Liner) provides a sandwich of insulating air between itself and the Tipi Cover.
9. A site for long term winter camping should be carefully selected to protect the tipi from run-off from rain and melting snow. Our experience has taught us to avoid beaver dams and bluffs that collect drifting snow - nuff said!
10. Snow on the ground should be removed before you move into your tipi. If you allow snow to remain, it will melt when you start your fire.
One winter we put our tipi up in a grassy meadow at the mouth of a canyon near Wanship, Utah. This was on private property with controlled access. We had permission to leave the tipi all winter, but there was an early snowstorm before we put the tipi up and we had snow to deal with. However, it quit snowing after depositing about 2 inches and there was a weather forecast for five days of clear and cold weather. We took our poles and the tipi cover and put up the tipi without the liner. We shoveled as much snow as possible out of the tipi, and hauled in an ample supply of dry firewood. Two different days we traveled to the tipi and burned a medium size fire in the tipi. There was very little wind, but from time to time we had to go outside because the smoke would hang in the tipi because there was no liner. After the second day the grass was dry enough, in the tipi, to persuade us to install the liner. After installing the liner, we stayed the rest of the day, cooked our supper in the tipi, and lounged around the fire, roasting marshmallows. The next day the tipi was dry and inviting, and we moved our gear in for the winter.
We were there for the deer hunt; and from time to time, for the remainder of the winter, one or more of our children would bring their friends for winter camp outs and fireside parties. Even mom and dad came a few times. We still remember, with nostalgia, the crisp winter nights and brilliant stars against cold black skies as we hiked in to our tipi. And we remember how warm and cozy the tipi seemed with its cheerful fire, and the smells of food cooking, and the pleasant interactions with our children and with each other. The frozen world outside was almost always completely silent. However, on rare occasions, the lonely howl of a coyote would drift into the tipi and give us that far-away feeling that cannot be described. In that secluded setting, our tipi was a place to escape from the noise and confusion of the everyday world. For us, it was a place to find peace . . . .
© 2001 - Frank Reese - All Rights Reserved.