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The word tipi is Lakotan in origin and although it is literally to dwell, it is generally meant to refer to a house or home. Tipis, more commonly known as teepees are usually associated with native American Indians as seen in many cowboy and western films – it is also associated with band followers and has become a common sight at rock music festivals. In recent years a good number of people seem to prefer tipis for camping holidays than the more usual tent. Tipis are also becoming popular among the younger generation who like them for sleep outs in the garden as they tend to hold the heat better than an ordinary tent. Tipis have better insulation and that’s a boon in an unpredictable climate.
Tipis are a firm favourite among environmentalists who are attracted by the fact that tipis are made from natural materials such as animal skins and bark. The more prevalent family tents that litter the English countryside at certain times of the year are made from synthetic materials, the production of which is not particularly environmentally friendly.
The tipi is very different from the usual tent, it is conical in shape and because it is made from natural materials it provides more protection from the wet and the cold. Native Indians also knew that the way the tipi was constructed also meant that it was cool during the hot summers. Many native Indian tribes lived a semi-nomadic existence, it was easier for them to move from place to place as the tipi was easily packed up, which meant that they could take their home with them.
The modern tipi is still more environmentally friendly than most of the tents around but it is generally made from canvas rather than animal skin and birch bark. It is meant to be built from ten or twenty saplings (or specially designed wooden poles) with a skin or canvas covering and door. Ropes and pegs are used to bind the poles together and attach the lining, covering and door. Modern linings have trapezoid shaped canvas strips which are then put together to form a truncated cone.
The inner lining is designed to keep the heat in and the pests and draughts out of the tipi. One of the more practical aspects of the tipi compared to a tent is that a fire can be built inside it as the top is designed to allow the smoke to escape. While the hole at the top may seem to be a drawback in very wet weather modern tipi users may tie a bucket underneath the crown of the poles to act as a rain catcher.
In the original tipis the lining formed a sort of false ceiling that could be fastened back in really warm weather to allow extra ventilation in. Some camp site owners have recognised how popular the tipi is becoming on the English camping scene and are setting up eco friendly sites. People can holiday in peaceful surroundings with a great view while they are staying in a tipi.
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