What are yurts

What are Mongolian yurts?

Yurts have become a popluar way in west for people who wants to downsize and go tiny. These traditional tent-like shelters used by the nomads of Central Asia. Well, actually the word yurt does not refer to the tent. Yurt embraces the camp place as a whole. The tent itself is called öy or ger. But as most of us in the west thinks of the tent when we use the word yurt, so we are going to stick with that here too.

The mentioned Central Asian nomads, encompasses several ethnic groups from the area between China and Russia. In the west, we will often put all these ethnic groups in the same sack and call them Mongolian, but they could in fact be from Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan, Pakistan or any other neighboring state. These people were and still are herders, that moves over the steppes with their animals. Because of this lifestyle, they need a portable shelter that could be assembled and disassembled fast and easy. The Mongolian tents, yurts or gers are just that and their existence was first recorded 3000 years ago by Herotodus, but there are also found remains of yurt dwellings dating back to the bronze age. The yurts are perfect for the environment where they were developed for (as most native shelters are) and are in use today in almost unaltered form from the back then.

what are yurts

photo by Karina Moreton@Flickr

The structure of a yurt can be dismounted and mounted in a matter of hours. This is an obvious key advantage when the group needs to be moved to new pastures with their animals. The shape, a relatively low circular structure makes it very suitable to resist the strong winds on the steppes and in spite of being a very lightweight structure it is very resistant. In fact, it’s aerodynamic shape lets the winds flow around it and as there is no flat surface for the wind to get a grip on, there was no need even to secure it to the flat ground on the steppes.

However, chances are you are not considering putting yours on the steppes. It is much more likely that you will be putting yours on some sort of platform to get it off the moist ground. Also, it is very likely that you will not put up a traditional Mongolian yurt, but rather a western modification or what some will call “a yurt-like shelter”. In any case, it is very probable that the wind will be able to get a good grip on your yurt and start tiring. This is why we strongly recommended that you secure the yurt to the foundation underneath.

Mongolian yurt camp

What are yurts made of

Traditionally the yurt walls are made of a lattice of some sort of lightweight wood. This would then be covered with canvas and insulated with wool felt. The basic traditional yurt consists of:

  • The walls (Khana) that are made of several sections of wood lattice.
  • The door which is set in between to wall sections.
  • The poles that rests upon or are fixed to the walls, depending on the yurt type.
  • The roof wheel holds the poles, and together they comprise the roof. The roof hole is also used for the center chimney.
  • This structure is covered with canvas (and insulated with wool felt in the winter) and then this is secured with a tension band.

Some manufacturers will still offer that, especially in Europe, but most of the yurt kits offered on the market today will use heavier wood and modern water proof materials and insulation to adapt it to the use we make of the yurt in our part of the world.

These yurts are not meant to be moved. Many are meant to be permanent structures for living and will have modern kitchen and bathrooms installed. Others are meant camping, workshop spaces and many other things. This brings us over to yurt camping.

What is yurt camping

There are of course many different forms of yurt camping, but often it refers to the possibility to rent an adequately prepared yurt on a camping ground or also in a more remote area. This allows a yurt-curious to try it out before making the plunge and buying a yurt. If you are thinking about buying a yurt and making it your home, we would recommend that you try yurt camping first. The experience will make you more aware of all the advantages and disadvantages of yurt living and gives you the possibility to determine if it really is something for you.

Yurt camping

Photo by Stefan_fotos @ flickr

Lastly yurts are often used in glamping, which is the glamorous version of camping where nothing is spared to make the stay a luxurious one in a wilderness setting.

Yurtlogning.com have a list of yurts for rent across the nation to get you started.