Portable Yurts From Go-Yurt

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The roof of a yurt.

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We used to scoff at yurts as being a bit crunchy granola for TreeHugger, but have become quite fond of them after seeing how light a footprint they have, and how comfortable they can be. While the Mongolians developed the yurt as a form of mobile housing, most we have seen are have been permanently installed.

Howie Oakes spent years developing a truly portable yurt, and his own words explain it better than I could:

"I have been interested in nomadic homes for a long time, and became fascinated with the yurt after weathering a number of Burning Man dust storms in a small yurt that a friend built. I started looking into what was available, and saw that the typical western yurt had moved well beyond its roots as a truly nomadic home. I think that these yurts do indeed make excellent low impact housing, but I wanted a yurt that my family could easily transport and setup wherever we went."


"I have been focused for many years on designing a truly portable yurt. Much of my effort has gone into creating features that reduce the variability of the original design. An example of this would be the good bit of "fiddling" necessary on a standard yurt to make sure the walls are set to the proper height, insuring your diameter is exact. Failing to do this can cause problems with the roof poles being too long or short. This sort of effort can add hours to setup time."


A typical Western yurt will only be setup a handful of times (most only once, according to an employee of a large yurt company I spoke with). Developing a structure that can handle being setup and taken down repeatedly needs specific attention to areas such as material interfaces and abrasion reduction.

As my designs progressed, I began to think about the impact of the materials I was using on our environment. I felt that if I was going to take materials and energy from the earth to build something, it had to be the absolute best thing I could create. This meant building a shelter that was extremely durable, well designed, and made from the best (and lowest impact) materials I could find.

I was disappointed in the widespread use of PVC as an outer covering. I decided early on that my shelters would be 100% PVC-free. This actually turned out to be much more of a challenge than I anticipated. Using a natural 100% cotton marine canvas addressed the vinyl in my cover but as I looked closer, I found out that PVC was a component in other materials I wanted to use. I had to seek out PVC-free alternatives for things such as insect netting and source a special nylon coated tension cable, as this is typically vinyl clad."

He also uses only FSC certified wood. 45 minutes to an hour is a bit longer than it takes to throw up a tent, but this looks a lot more comfortable, and we certainly admire the effort made to get the last bit of vinyl out of it. Starting at $ 2,900 for the DIY version or $ 21.96 per square foot; $3,900 for the completely finished one. ::Go-Yurts

See also: Living in a Yurt