Skip to comments.Yurts: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask
Posted on 06/21/2013 9:56:58 PM PDT by nickcarraway
Here's your 101 guide on the structure that helped Genghis Khan conquer Eurasia from how they're made to where you can stay in one or where you can buy one.
A yurt is a round cylindrical dwelling capped with a conic roof that's been in use for at least the past few thousand years. Originating in Central Asia (Genghis Khan and his horde used them), the yurt was valued by its native progenitors for its portability, durability and structural soundness. Yurts are easy to put up and take down (requiring just a couple hours of work) and could be transported on the backs of horses and yaks, vital requirements for nomadic pastorialists.
Yurts are still used by nomadic herders on the steppes of Central Asia today, and they've also worked their way into Western society. They were first introduced to the U.S. by yurt pioneer William Coperthwaite in the 1960s. In 1978, Pacific Yurts started operations and became the first modern yurt company in North America. A mountain yurt under a dark blue night sky.
Today's yurts retain the same overall design principles as their East Asian ancestors, but they include modern materials like clear acrylic windows, high-strength steel cables, and UV-resistant marine quality polyester siding. Nowadays you can get a yurt with French doors, windows, gutters and skylights. Yurts can be found high up on mountains serving backcountry skiers, nestled deep in the woods housing campers and hikers, and next to rivers as the primary residence of former insurance executives.
Whether you're in the market for a yurt, looking to spend a few nights in one, or just slightly yurt-curious, the following information will help round out your understanding of this awesome structure.
The history of yurts The yurt basically solved a problem the need for human habitation in tough environmental conditions. Nomadic tribes needed a house that could be easily constructed and moved, built with materials they had on hand (mainly sheep's wool with a little wood), and seasonly adjusted to be warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. A yurt satisfies all of those requirements.
Traditional yurts are made with wooden slat lattice walls supporting sapling beams held together at the top by a wooden ring. The roof beams exert pressure on the lattice walls, which are held in tension by leather strapping running around the perimeter of the building. Woolen felted mats are laid over this framework and can be adjusted according to the time of year when it's colder, add more mats while in the hot summer time you remove them.
The exact origins of the yurt are not clear as there are two variations on the design that sprung out of Mongolia and Siberia the Mongolian yurt or "Ger", has straight roof poles, a heavy wooden center ring that often needed additional structural support, and a heavy wooden door. The Turkik yurt, or "üy," has bent poles that curve down into the tops of the walls, a much lighter center ring that stand on its own, and a simple flap door.
How the modern yurt got its groove on
The fact that you have probably at least heard of a yurt before reading this article can be attributed to one man and a math class that he was teaching back in the 1960s. Bill Coperthwaite was teaching a math class at a Quaker school in New Hampshire and was looking for a way to teach his students about the mathematics of roof design. He came across a National Geographic article by Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglass about a trip to Mongolia and was seized by Douglas's descriptions of the nomadic dwellings. In short order his class built the first yurt in the western world. As the years progressed, Coperthwaite built more yurts and refined and evolved his designs. In 1972, he established the Yurt Foundation with the goal of spreading the word about yurts to build a better world.
A yurt in the snow Photo: Laurel F/Flickr
And spread the word he did. His students moved all over the country and started building yurts. In 1978, Pacific Yurts was founded and offered the first commercially available yurt in the United States. Since then thousands of "modern" yurts have been built all around America and the the broader world. Pacific Yurts has been joined by companies like the Colorado Yurt Company, Rainier Yurts and Spirit Mountain Yurts. You can find a full list of all the companies selling yurts lower in this article. Yurts on the steppes
Modern yurts In the 35 years since Pacific Yurts offered its first model, yurt design has been pushed far beyond felted wool mats and sapling roof struts. The modern yurt can be decked out with high-efficiency curved glass windows, space-age insulation, and clear translucent vinyl skylights. Marine-quality sail cloth and polyester has replaced the felted wool of traditional designs. Modern yurts can be built to withstand heavy snow fall or optimized to handle hot tropical climates.
With the right mix of features and add ons, it's entirely possible to build a yurt in any climate that is as comfortable and protective as a traditional stick-built home.
A diagram of a yurt Photo: Pacific Yurts
How to sleep in a yurt A kid and her yurt Kids love yurts. (Photo: Phil Whitehouse/Flickr)
Short of buying your own yurt, the easiest way to experience the magic of sleeping in one is to visit one of the many yurt rental or camp sites around the world. You should do some Internet searching to see what's available in your area or destination, but here are some good options to get you started: Frost Mountain Yurts, Maine Orca Island Cabins, Alaska Chic Eco Yurt Home + Edible Gardens, Hawaii Green Alpaca Yurts, New Hampshire Ocoee Yurts, Tennessee High Prairie Yurt, Washington Grizzly Ridge Yurt, Utah
Click over to YurtLodging.com, Yurts.com or OddIns.com, to see lengthier lists of yurt rentals.
How to buy a yurt If you are ready to make the next step and actually buy your own yurt, you are in luck. There are a lot of great companies out there selling them. Here is a list of the top manufacturers for you to research your purchase. You want to find a quality product with the right mix of features at the right price. Happy hunting! Pacific Yurts Colorado Yurt Company Rainier Yurts Spirit Mountain Yurts Mongolian Yurts Camping Yurts Nomad Shelter White Mountain Yurts Shelter Designs Two Girls Farm & Yurts
Did you say Jenjis Kahn??
Yurt too funny!
OH! YURTS, not yutes: aka sheepherder's wagon, but now Hippygreenyuppie “I Care!” statement that bears little relation to a traditional Mongolian yurt.
Our Basic Yurt Kit, constructed with multiple wall panels. Standard walls are 4 feet wide, 8 feet tall and sided with 1x6 T&G cedar siding. The windows and door are pre-installed in the walls.
COMPLETE KIT PRICES
Prices are current as of 4/01/2013
20 Yurt 328 sq. ft. 16 Walls - 5 windows - 1 Door
2x4 walls 2x6 walls
2x6 Rafters $14,015 N/A
2x8 Rafters $14,650 $15,027
2x10 Rafters N/A $15,285
25 Yurt 510 sq. ft. 20 Walls - 7 windows - 1 Door
2x8 Rafters $17,966
2x10 Rafters $18,546
2x12 Rafters $19,178
30 Yurt 737 sq. ft. 24 Walls - 9 windows - 1 Door
2x8 Rafters $21,625
2x10 Rafters $22,200
2x12 Rafters $22,944
35 Yurt 930 sq. ft. 27 Walls - 11 windows - 1 Door
2x8 Rafters $24,620
2x10 Rafters $25,628
2x12 Rafters $26,495
41’ Yurt has minimum availability in 2013 1300 sq. ft. 32 Walls - 12 windows - 2 Doors
2x10 Rafters $35,265
2x12 Rafters $37,107
The “floor manual” comes with the kit; you supply the foundation & floor, plus all the wiring, plumbing, insulation, etc: these “kits” are just the walls & roof shell.
I’ve stayed in a Yurt a few times.
They are really cool some are spartan others can be luxurious.
I remember FREEZING my butt off one Febuary night in a yurt when my buddy left the skylight open and the fuse for our electic heater blew out.
I still feel those chills........
Can I get one with a/c and running water? :)
Yurts, the original mobile home.
It’s not gonna keep the bears out.
Liberals make everything more expensive.
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