Yurt Life: An Off-Grid Experience | Trekking Days
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Yurt Life: An Off-Grid Experience

by | Trekking Savvy

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Yurts, also known as ger or gers, are circular tents traditionally used by nomadic people of Central Asia. They have become increasingly popular in recent years as a unique and sustainable alternative to traditional homes. Yurts are portable, easy to set up and take down, and made from natural materials like wood and felt. They are also versatile, can be set up in many different locations and climates, and can be used for a variety of purposes, from permanent homes to vacation homes to event spaces.

The off-grid lifestyle, which means living independently from the utility grid, has also gained popularity in recent years. Living off-grid can be a way to become more self-sufficient, reduce environmental impact, and save money on utilities. Yurts, with their natural materials and portable design, can be a great option for off-grid living.

In this post, we will explore the benefits of yurt living off-grid, including the design and construction of yurts, power and heating options, and how to maintain a yurt off-grid. We will also discuss the benefits of living off-grid and provide examples of off-grid yurt communities. If you are considering alternative housing options or are interested in living off-grid, read on to learn more about the unique experience of yurt life off-grid.

How to build a yurt

Materials

Yurts are traditionally made from a combination of natural materials, including a wooden frame, felt insulation, and a canvas or synthetic cover. The materials used in yurt construction can vary depending on the intended use and location of the yurt.

The wooden frame, also known as the lattice or compression ring, is the backbone of the yurt. It is typically made from a combination of hardwoods, such as ash or oak, and softwoods, such as pine or cedar. The hardwoods are used for the compression ring and roof ring, as they are strong and durable, while the softwoods are used for the wall poles, as they are lighter and more flexible. The frame is designed to be strong and stable while also allowing for easy assembly and disassembly.

The felt insulation, also known as the shingles or roof cover, is made from sheep’s wool and is used to insulate the yurt from the elements. The wool is compressed and shaped into long strips that are layered on top of the wooden frame, creating a thick insulation layer. The wool is naturally breathable and moisture-resistant, making it an ideal insulation material.

The canvas or synthetic cover, also known as the wall cover or felt liner, is used to create the outer walls of the yurt. The cover is stretched over the frame and secured in place, creating a waterproof and windproof barrier. Canvas is a traditional and durable material, however, synthetic materials like vinyl and polyester are also used as they are more water resistant, UV resistant, and have a longer lifespan.

The building process

Planning and preparation

Before building a yurt, it’s important to consider the location and intended use of the yurt. This will help determine the size and materials needed for the yurt. Additionally, consider local building codes and regulations that may apply to yurts.

The location of the yurt will determine the type of materials needed for the yurt. For example, if the yurt will be located in a colder climate, thicker insulation will be needed to keep the interior warm. If the yurt will be located in a windy area, a stronger frame will be needed to withstand strong winds.

The intended use of the yurt will also determine the size and materials needed for the yurt. For example, if the yurt will be used as a permanent residence, it will likely need to be larger and have more amenities than a yurt used for camping or as a guest house.

It is important to check with local building codes and regulations before building a yurt. Some areas may have specific regulations or requirements for alternative housing structures like yurts. Knowing the codes and regulations in advance will ensure that the yurt is built to meet local standards and avoid any issues with permits or inspections.

Building a yurt can be less expensive than building a traditional home, but it is important to factor in the cost of materials, labor, and any other expenses that may be incurred during the construction process. Make a detailed budget plan and try to stick to it.

Plan the layout of the yurt, including where the door and windows will be placed, where the furniture will be placed, and how the space will be used. This will help you determine the size of the yurt and the number of walls and openings that will be needed.

Building the frame

The frame of the yurt is built around a central compression ring that holds the entire structure together. The frame is made up of a series of wooden poles that are connected to the compression ring, creating the circular shape of the yurt.

  • The compression ring: The compression ring is the structural foundation of the yurt. It is typically made from hardwood such as ash or oak and is designed to withstand the weight and pressure of the yurt’s roof and walls. It is usually the first piece of the frame to be constructed.
  • The roof ring: The roof ring is placed on top of the compression ring and is designed to support the yurt’s roof. It is typically made from the same hardwood as the compression ring and is connected to it with wooden pegs or bolts.
  • The wall poles: The wall poles are connected to the compression ring and roof ring, and are used to create the circular shape of the yurt. They are typically made from softwood such as pine or cedar and are designed to be lightweight and flexible.
  • Connecting the frame: The frame is then connected together using wooden pegs or bolts, with the wall poles being connected to the compression ring and roof ring. The wall poles are arranged in a circular pattern and then bent to form a dome shape.
  • Securing the frame: The frame is secured to the ground using wooden stakes or metal anchors. This step is important to ensure the yurt is stable and secure, especially in windy conditions.

Adding the cover and insulation

Once the frame is built, the cover and insulation are added. The cover is typically made from canvas or synthetic material and is stretched over the frame and secured in place. The insulation, which is made from sheep’s wool, is then added to the roof of the yurt to provide insulation from the elements.

  • The cover: The cover, also known as the wall cover or felt liner, is stretched over the frame and secured in place using wooden pegs or ties. It is typically made from canvas or synthetic materials like vinyl or polyester. The cover provides a waterproof and windproof barrier, protecting the yurt’s interior from the elements.
  • Insulation: The insulation, also known as the shingles or roof cover, is made from sheep’s wool and is used to insulate the yurt from the elements. The wool is compressed and shaped into long strips that are layered on top of the wooden frame, creating a thick insulation layer. The wool is naturally breathable and moisture-resistant, making it an ideal insulation material.
  • Ventilation: Insulation is not just important for keeping the yurt warm but also for keeping it well-ventilated. Proper ventilation is needed to prevent condensation, mold, and mildew from forming.
  • Covering the roof: The roof is covered with insulation, typically using a layering system, with the top layer being the most visible. The insulation is then held in place using wooden pegs or ties.

Finishing touches

Once the cover and insulation are in place, the yurt is almost complete. The final step is to add the door and windows, which can be made from a variety of materials such as wood or canvas.

  • Door: The door is usually placed on one of the walls of the yurt and can be made from a variety of materials including wood or canvas. The door can be hinged or sliding, depending on your preference. The door should be properly insulated and weather-stripped to keep drafts out.
  • Windows: Windows can be added to the yurt to allow natural light and fresh air into the space. They can be made from a variety of materials including wood or canvas and can be placed in a number of locations depending on your needs. You will want to ensure that the windows are properly insulated and weather-stripped to keep drafts out.
  • Decorations: Once the yurt is complete, you may want to add finishing touches such as curtains, rugs, or other decorative items to personalize the space. After all, you probably don’t want your yurt to be ugly.
  • Maintenance: Regular maintenance is needed to keep the yurt in good condition. This can include checking for leaks, repainting or replacing the cover, and checking and replacing insulation as necessary.

The cost of building a yurt compared to traditional homes

  • Yurts are typically made from natural materials such as wood and felt, which are generally less expensive than the materials used in traditional home construction. Additionally, yurts can be made with a smaller amount of materials than traditional homes which can save costs.
  • Labor: Building a yurt typically requires less labor than building a traditional home. This is because yurts are designed to be easy to assemble and disassemble, which can save on labor costs. Additionally, yurts can be built relatively quickly compared to traditional homes.
  • Portable: One of the biggest advantages of yurts is that they are portable. They can be easily disassembled and reassembled, which can save on costs associated with moving or remodeling a traditional home. This can be especially useful for those who want to change locations frequently.
  • Maintenance: Yururt maintenance costs are also typically lower than traditional homes. Yurts are made from natural materials which are more durable and require less maintenance. Additionally, the lack of a foundation and smaller surface area means less maintenance and upkeep.
  • Insurance: Insurance costs for yurts can also be lower than traditional homes. Yurts are typically considered temporary structures, so they may not require the same level of insurance coverage as a traditional home.

By now, you are probably ready to at least try building a yurt. If, for any reason, you have decided yurts aren’t for you, I have another construction project idea: build an igloo.

Yurt Living Off-Grid

Power and heating options for yurts

Power and heating options for yurts can vary depending on the location and intended use of the yurt. Living off-grid in a yurt means that traditional power and heating sources like electricity and natural gas are not available, so alternative options must be used.

  • Solar power: Solar power is a popular option for powering yurts. Solar panels can be installed on the roof of the yurt to convert sunlight into electricity, which can be used to power lights, appliances, and other electrical devices.
  • Generator: A generator can be used as a backup power source or as a main source of power. It can be powered by gasoline, propane, or diesel and can be used to power lights, appliances, and other electrical devices.
  • Propane: Propane is a popular option for heating yurts. A propane-powered heater can be used to heat the yurt, and propane can also be used to power appliances such as a stove or refrigerator.
  • Wood-burning stove: A wood-burning stove can be used to heat the yurt and provide hot water. It can also be used for cooking and can provide a cozy ambiance.
  • Insulation: Insulation is also an important aspect of keeping the yurt warm. Proper insulation will help to keep the yurt warm during colder months.

Water supply and sanitation options

Water supply and sanitation options for yurts can vary depending on the location and intended use of the yurt. Living off-grid in a yurt means that traditional water supply and sanitation options like city water and sewer are not available, so alternative options must be used.

  • Water collection: Water can be collected from a nearby source such as a stream, river, or well and stored in a tank or cistern for use. Water can also be collected from rainwater through the use of a rainwater catchment system.
  • Greywater systems: Greywater systems are used to recycle and reuse greywater (wastewater from sinks, showers, and washing machines) for irrigation and other non-potable uses.
  • Composting toilets: Composting toilets are an eco-friendly option for sanitation in yurts. They use natural processes to break down waste and do not require a connection to a septic or sewer system.
  • Chemical toilets: Chemical toilets are portable toilets that use chemicals to break down waste. They are a good option for yurts that are used for camping or as a guest house, but may not be suitable for full-time living.
  • Portable shower: Portable showers can be used for bathing and can be set up outside the yurt. They can be powered by solar, propane, or electricity.

How to maintain and live in a yurt off-grid

Living off-grid in a yurt requires careful planning, preparation, and maintenance to ensure that the yurt is comfortable and functional.

  • Maintenance: Regular maintenance is important to keep the yurt in good condition. This can include checking for leaks, repainting or replacing the cover, and checking and replacing insulation as needed. It’s also important to keep an eye on the condition of the frame and make sure that it is secure and stable.
  • Power and heating: Living off-grid requires the use of alternative power and heating sources such as solar power, generators, propane, and wood-burning stoves. It’s important to make sure that these systems are working properly and have enough fuel or power.
  • Water supply and sanitation: Water supply and sanitation options for yurts can vary depending on the location and intended use of the yurt. Traditional water supply and sanitation options like city water and sewer are not available, so alternative options must be used.
  • Storage: You will have to take care of your storage space and consumption. It’s important to have enough food and supplies to last for several days in case of an emergency.

Examples of off-grid yurt communities

Some off-grid yurt communities are built around a shared vision of living sustainably, while others are built around a specific activity or lifestyle.

  • Eco-villages: Eco-villages are intentional communities that focus on sustainable living. They often include a mix of housing options, including yurts, and are designed to minimize their impact on the environment. Examples include the Dancing Rabbit Eco-village in Missouri, USA, and the Crystal Waters eco-village in Queensland, Australia.
  • Retreat centers: Yurts are also used as accommodation options in retreat centers for yoga, meditation, and other activities that promote mindfulness and well-being. Examples include the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies in New York, USA, and the Shambhala Mountain Center in Colorado, USA.
  • Glamping: Glamping is a form of camping that combines the convenience of traditional camping with the luxury of a hotel. Yurts are often used as accommodation in glamping resorts, providing an off-grid experience while still having access to amenities such as bathrooms and kitchens.
  • Wilderness Outfitters: Some wilderness outfitters use yurts as a base camp for backpacking and other outdoor activities. These yurts are often set up in remote wilderness areas and provide a comfortable base camp for visitors.

Examples of traditional yurt communities

Traditional yurt communities refer to those that have been used for centuries by nomadic peoples in Central Asia, such as the Mongols, Kazakhs, and Kyrgyz. These communities are characterized by the use of yurts as their primary form of housing and their nomadic way of life.

  • The Mongols: The Mongols have used yurts as their primary form of housing for centuries. They are known for their nomadic lifestyle, and their yurts are designed to be easily assembled and disassembled, making them perfect for travel.

A Mongol yurt

  • The Kazakhs: The Kazakhs are another nomadic people who have used yurts as their primary form of housing for centuries. They are known for their large, circular yurts that can be up to 30 feet in diameter.

A Kazakh yurt

  • The Kyrgyz: The Kyrgyz have also used yurts as their primary form of housing for centuries. Their yurts are typically smaller than those of the Kazakhs, and they are known for their intricate patterns and decorations.

Kyrgyz yurts

Bottom line: The benefits of yurt living off-grid

Yurts are made from natural materials and are generally less expensive to build than traditional homes. They are portable and can be easily disassembled and reassembled, which can save on costs associated with moving or remodeling a traditional home. Living off-grid in a yurt requires careful planning, preparation, and maintenance to ensure that the yurt is comfortable and functional.

In other words, yurt living off-grid is like camping but with a roof over your head and a cozy bed to sleep in. If you feel like it’s time to try a yurt, at least for a few weeks, this article has hopefully been of help. I now challenge you to start building a yurt. 

 

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