How to Build Your Own Teepee

How to Build Your Own TeepeeIndian teepees are an American classic for outdoor living. Although their construction might seem complicated, in reality they require only a few simple materials and procedures to be built. Once you get the hang of it, you will wonder why it ever seemed so difficult.


Difficulty: Moderate

How to:

Things You’ll Need:
  • Semi-circular section of canvas (or nylon fabric as a substitute)
  • Rope
  • Sewing kit (if possible)
  • Hunting knife
  • Camping hatchet
  • 6 or more poles, 12 feet long or longer
  • Wood dowels
  • Tent stakes
Step 1
Prepare the teepee cover. If you are making one from scratch, you need to cut a semi-circle from a 20-foot-long, 10-foot-wide rectangle of canvas to make a 10-foot diameter teepee. Measure and cut half a dozen or more matching holes along the flat sides of the semi-circle of canvas. These will be fastened together at the end with wooden dowels. The holes should be equidistant for an even appearance, but the specific arrangement depends on how many dowels you use and how big your door is. About 9 or 10 inches apart should be fine most of time, and the holes should be sized to fit your dowels.
Step 2
Gather four poles to serve as the structural supports for the teepee. Three of these will be the tripod poles (north, south and door), and the fourth will become a lift pole. The poles need to be at least 2 feet longer than the diameter of the teepee and between 2 and 3 inches thick to bear the weight of the teepee. As a 10-foot diameter is the smallest practical teepee, the poles will need to be at least 12 feet long. You will also need at least two extra poles of similar length, but they can be thinner. If you are collecting your materials from the forest, whittle all the bark off the poles with a hatchet or hunting knife if you intend to keep them long-term.
Step 3
Lay the three tripod poles alongside each other, and bind them together with rope. Leave several feet of rope hanging off the end after this tie-off. This tie should be about at the same point along their length as the diameter of the teepee. For example, if you have a 10-foot-diameter teepee and 12-plus-foot poles, tie them together at the 10-foot point. This forms the tripod.
Step 4
Stand up the tripod and spread the legs, using the resistance provided by the rope for stability. For a big teepee, this will require a second pair of hands to do properly.
Step 5
Set two or more extra poles against the tripod, choosing positions between a pair of legs. Most of these poles will help support the canvas walls. You should leave a large, open space on one side of the teepee, with the designated door pole from Step 2 on one side of it to serve as an opening for the door.
Step 6
Take hold of the dangling tie-off rope from Step 3 and walk around the perimeter of the teepee a few times to bind all the poles together.
Step 7
Lift the cover into place, using the lift pole from Step 2. Cutting a notch into the top of the lift pole to serve as an anchor for tying down the cover may prove helpful, should there not be a knot of some kind already present in the pole. Tie the cover to the top of the pole and lay it into place, standing alongside one of the other poles.
Step 8
Wrap the rope from Step 6 around another two or three times, binding the stack of poles together further, and then tie it off by binding together the lift pole and the pole it was laid alongside.
Step 9
Spread the teepee cover along the frame. Bind the ends together, using the holes from Step 1 and a set of wooden dowels.
Step 10
Sew on rope loops to your cover, if you have made it from scratch. Because these should be attached near the tripod poles of the teepee, the easiest way to determine where to sew them on, as well as how long to make them, is after the teepee cover is on the frame. That eliminates all guesswork.
Step 11
Drive the tent stakes through each of the rope loops to draw the cover fabric tighter around the frame, using either the hammer end of a camping hatchet or a hammer. Unlike with a tent, these stakes should be driven not out extending away from the teepee, but straight down and alongside the poles.

Article Written By Edwin Thomas

Edwin Thomas has been writing since 1997. His work has appeared in various online publications, including The Black Table, Proboxing-Fans and others. A travel blogger, editor and writer, Thomas has traveled from Argentina to Vietnam in pursuit of stories. He holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from American University.

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