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What is a Yurt and Where to Use One?

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 26 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Yurt Tent Mongolia Frame Felt Portable

Go to any festival, anywhere, and you’re guaranteed to see several large, strangely-shaped structures scattered around the site. They’re like tents, but bigger, sturdier, and often made of odd things.

They’re called yurts, and come originally from Mongolia, although they’ve been adopted over here by a number of people. They’re not so much used for general camping, but at events they can be a blessing in disguise.

What is a Yurt?

The yurt began life in Mongolia among the nomadic tribes there. It was designed to be portable, with a lightweight wooden frame filled in by latticed sections on the walls and roof, and all covered by felt – the felt coming from the wool the herdsmen tended – with canvas on top in some cases.

The name literally translates as home, and that’s what it was for these people, although as they’d pack up and move on regularly, obviously they wanted a home they could take with them, transporting it on yaks or camels.

Of course, the yurts we see here are somewhat different. They’re still very portable, but often made with different materials, and generally without the felt. Given that we’re lacking in camels and yaks for transportation, the yurt needs to break down into sections small enough to be transported in a van.

That makes them different again from the yurts in the US, which tend to be more long-term structures. They can be moved, but erecting them can take several days, not hours, and they’re often built with high-tech materials to withstand prolonged exposure to the elements. In some places, like national parks, they’re a permanent fixture, and available to rent for camping.

That’s not to say a British yurt will go up in a few minutes. It still takes a number of hours of communal work to get one built, and the same to tear it down, so the incentive is to leave it standing for a few days, at the very least.

Who Needs a Yurt?

Realistically, no one in Britain needs a yurt. Even if you’re living a nomadic lifestyle, there are easier and more comfortable options. But a yurt makes a statement (often an expensive one, since prices start right around the £1000 mark!), and it’s certainly different and, because of its height, very visible.

Groups use them, especially at festivals, since they can sleep quite a few people, and offer more space and comfort than most tents. But they’re also used by people selling items, since the yurt can act as a showroom too, while a number of festivals employ them as small workshop venues.

But they can also be good if you have a large family. You can keep everyone under one roof and still have a good family space. However, you still need to bring along things to fill the yurt, so you’ll need a van with a fair bit of space, and the luxury of time to set up and take down (along with willing helpers to move everything). For most people, a yurt simply isn’t worthwhile. Even compared to luxury tents, the cost is prohibitive, and all the other factors work against it.

But if you really want to make a splash, or you want to host a workshop or sell items at festivals, it might be worth the investment. However, if speed is a factor, then forget it. A tent is much better option.

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