Tips On Tepees
Here’s A  Compact, Easily Constructed For Outdoor Living!
— By Stephen Barde

Bow And Arrow Magazine March -April 1968

 The American Indian been reported to be a poor archer but an excellent stalker.  When one considers how they lived, there comes the realizaton that what we call survival methods taught by and for huntrs and th military, were actual living conditions of the Indians. They lived in all types terrain, through all seasons and survived for many years before they took theframe- sided home of today.


 The Indian tepee may be making a comeback in the camping and outdoor field. A friend of mine has camped out in all types of weather. He went through types of tents, the umbrella, side-wall, side-frame and all. He researched the Indian tepee and finally came across a book he that gave him the figures and pattern he needed. The Indian Tipi, Its History, Construction and Use, 1957 did tn, published in ladys Laubby Reginald and Gladys Laubin, published in 1957, did the trick. From patterns in the book and some of his own modifications, he built an Indian tepee from Douglas fir poles and lightweight boat canvas. He spent three months on a part-time catch-as-catch-can basis. The first problem was the poles. They were twenty feet long and there are fifteen of them plus two twenty-foot smoke poles. How to carry fifteen poles of that length and still be able to turn in a city block? He pondered this for a time and came up with a simple solution. He cut the twenty-foot poles in two, sleeved the upper end of the pole with the air-craft aluminum and in this manner he can carry all the required poles on top of his camper in a rack.


He used sixty yards of waterproof lightweight boat canvas in making the skin on the tepee. He laid out the design, then cut and sewed on his wifes machine he needed seams. It isn’t round when the skin opened onto the ground, but half round. This makes up into a compact package that will measure three-by-two-by-one foot and will slide under the seat of a pickup. An additional forty yards of the same material was used to make the dewclothe or inside liner. The needed materials, disgarding labor, cost in the neibrohood of $150.

Setting up the tepee is really simple, when you know how. I watched my friend put his up. He starts unloading the sections of poles from the top camper. He slides the base section into the tapered upper secton as e removes them from the rack. Next, he takes the three base poles and places them in a triangle on the ground. He marks each base of the triangle, moves the poles together and ties them together about four feet from the top with a piece of rawhide which has about thrity feet of manilla rope tied to it. After the poles are properly lashed together they are spread out and the third pole is used to pull the other two up to form a storng tripod base.


The next step is to place eleven of the remaining poles in a clockwise manner around and in the inter-locking top of the crossed base poles. There is a gap left at the back of the tepee for the raising or lifting  pole which goes up last. With the poles all in place  with the exception of the lifting pole, he takes the length of the manilla line and walks around the skeleton frame and wraps them all together  at the top with the line. He makes the line secure to one of the poles after several wraps with the rolling wrench.


The skin of the tepee now is taken from the pickup and placed on the ground. The bundle is unwrapped and the canvas straightened out along the lifting pole. The canvas is secured to the top of the pole and placed at the back of the frame. The skin is unwrapped around the sides When it comes to the front, it is secured temporarily by the thong ties.


The next step is the position each pole and to drive stakes in the ground, securing the bottom of the skin with peg loops on the bottom. The skin may be loosened or tightened by adjusting the poles in or out. After the skin is in porper tension, the front is secured by holding pins which are placed through eyelets provided. This gives the outward appearance of being complete.


 The slender smoke poles are placed in the pockets on the bottom of the smoke flaps. These poles will control the amount of air let through the interior of the tepee and also control the smoke from the fire. They may be opened for more draft in the warm air or closed down in cold weather. The outside is completed when the door is hun on the door peg on the front of the tepee.


The inside liner of dewcloth now is spread on the inside of the tepee and a line tied around each of the poles. The dewcloth is secured to this line and forms a draft area that moves air between the outside skin and this inside dewcloth. It makes the tepee cooler in hot weather, provides a draft for the open pit fir inside the tepeeand helps to carry off smoke. The tepee is complete now except for such refinements as adding the mats and sleeping bags.


The tepee measure sixteen feet in diameter and will hold four people snugly with plenty of room for sleeping, cookingm and extra gear. The draft through the tepee makes an excellent way to dry clothes if caught in the rain. The interior warms rapidly as soon as the open fire is started. We were shirt sleeve warm in the four degree weather in Colorado. You probably could get close to sixteen people in the tepee, but they would have to go outside to change their minds; it would be a bit snug.

 Some advantages of the tepee method of camping have been brought oout through six years of expericance. A wife will find it nice to be able to set up her Coleman stove inside the tepee on a cold day, cook in warmth and serve food while it’s hot. The cheer of open fire makes camping more a pleasure. The tripod base construction makes the tepee almost indestructable and it has withstood many high winds with no problem/ There is room to play cards or to stretch out and snooze if you like. The interior cools almost immediately as weather and contrary to most tents in hot weather was cooler  than it was in the nearby shade.


 The builder copied patterns from the Cheyenne tribe and painted them on the outside of the teppe, using the same tribal style for his construction and smoke flaps. Most plains Indians used the same construction  but varied the number and placement of the poles. The smoke flaps on the smoke poles varied from tribe to tribe and could be used by those versed in Indian lore to tell one tribe from another. One concession to modernism is to trench around the tepe in case it rains, good practice for any tent dweller.

 People always stop to look at the novel living quarters when camp is set up. Many are versed in the tepee and can tell it is Cheyenne style; others ask weird questions. The builders camped in the tepee in Arizona, Colorado, Utah and California and found it to be the most enjoyable shelter they have ever used. It is portable with the short sectional poles, lightweight with the boat canvas and very sturdy.

 One of the more interestng episodes of their travel was while camped for hunting on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation central Arizona. They had a steady procession of Apaches coming to look at the tepee. One remarked that times do change. Here was a white man, hunting with bow and arrow and camping in a tepee while the Indian lived in a fram house and hunted with a .30-30 rifle.

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