How to build a Tipi

Video directions for building a backyard tipi on a deck.

About Tipis or TeePees

The Plains Indians of North America frequently used tipis instead of tents for camping. The tipi is a circular area made with poles and animal hides. Today's tipis are generally made with a canvas cloth.

Small tipis are portable and can be moved from place to place which suited the plains Indians who often followed the buffalo herds as they migrated across the country. When disassembled, the poles made great sleds of a sort to carry the accouterments of the tipi.

Tipis are fairly easy to assemble, easy to heat and make great shelter. The poles are very sturdy when placed in a tripod arrangement. The cloth surrounds the tipi and keeps out the cold and wind. The opening in the top allows smoke from the cooking fires to exit. A cap can be placed over the top to keep out rain.

Tipis are roomy on the inside. The surrounding cloth is great for painting symbols and decorations on. People even put tipis on their decks, as seen in the video.

A Basic Tepee / Tipi / WigWam / Teepee

Tipi Assembly Instructions

For a 30 foot diameter tipi:

  1. Select 12 poles of about 2-3 inches in diameter and 18 feet long.
  2. The three strongest poles should be lased together three feet from the tops and arranged like a tripod around a 30 foot diameter. It may be helpful to draw the 30 foot circle where you want the tipi to go and place the poles on the circle equidistant apart.
  3. Forming a cone shape, add the other poles by laying the bottom end on the circle line and the top end into the triangular base at the top of the three base poles.
  4. The wall of the tipi is added last and is attached to the last pole, facing outwards. This pole is placed at the back of the tipi and wrapped around toward the front door.
  5. The wall is made from eight ounce canvas (pre-painted if desired) and cut in a large half circle - 30 feet wide and 15 feet long on the center angle. Extra flaps are added for the smoke flap. A pattern is available from either of the two books listed on the side.
  6. The finished wall is wrapped around the 12 poles and laced together at the front. The wall is hemmed with a rope and staked to the ground all around leaving a small gap near the ground for air circulation.
  7. An entry hole can be pre-cut and hemmed, or the entry hole can be made at this point and hemmed. A flexible tube may be inserted in the hem to hold the door open.
  8. A lining for the floor may be added which is attached to the inside of the wall. A round rug or mat may also be used for flooring.
  9. The smoke flaps are held open with ropes or ties. Alternatively, the smoke flaps can have pockets for additional poles used to open and close the flaps.
  10. A circular cap may be created and placed on top of the center poles on the outside to keep out rain.

Buying a Ready Made Tipi

Building a high fashion tipi can be a real chore. Fortunately, if your heart is set on having a backyard tipi or having one for a home away from home, then you are in luck. Several companies will pre-make or even build a custom made teepee for you.

Small tipis and backyard tipi kits can be found on eBay or Amazon. For bigger and more professional style tipis, there are companies that sell ready made or custom made teepees.

An online list of Tipis Tepees Teepees makers is available at apachetents.com.

Try before you buy

Some of the following tipi hotels have great websites! Unfortunately, the links change frequently, so you will have to look them up individually in Google or other search engine. But you will find tipi motels and camprgrounds all over the country, so it is worth it to try them out.

  • Texas’s Teepee Motel - Wharton, Texas (RV pads too!)
  • Geronimo Creek Retreat - Seguin, Texas (These are luxury tipis in a fantastic location!)
  • Dunton Hot Springs Resort - Dunton, Colorado (near Telluride)-(expensive spa resort
  • Tipi Village Retreat - Eugene, Oregon
  • WigWam Motel - San Bernardino, California
  • There are teepees in Yellowstone National Park too - West Yellowstone, Montana
  • Sioux Tipi on the Waterfall - Woodstock, New York

How to Find a Great Camping and Hiking Spot to set up your portable tipi

Searching for sites near Austin, Texas returned 32 choices for camping within a 50 mile radius. This will make some excellent overnight fun for a casual or luxury camper.


For more great content, interesting Texas recipes, and stories, please click on the links below:

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