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Teepee Camping — Think I've Found My Spiritual Home From Home...

Just back from a weekend racing mountain bikes and camping in a nordic Tentipi teepee complete with firebox and prayer flags. Just lovely.

by Jon Doran 

I spent last weekend racing mountain bikes for 24 hours at the Original Source Mountain Mayhem event down near Malvern and it was fantastic — great people, awesome sunny weather and a tough but fun course.

There were four of us in the team, plus a mystery fifth member recruited for the event; a seven-person Tentipi Onyx teepee. Tentipi is a Swedish company that specialises in classic Nordic teepees or 'kata' as used by nomadic Lapps. The originals use animal hides spread over wooden poles.

They do make big, big ones with wooden poles, but the Onyx 7 we had uses a single multi-part, aluminium central pole for reduced weight and simplicity. And you know what, it's absolutely lovely in a way that simply makes you grin.

The tent fabric is thick, reassuringly heavy, proofed, poly-cotton canvas-esque stuff. Not light, but really breathable and a lovely colour. And it feels bombproof with amazing build quality, super heavy duty zips and neat features.

It pitches in minutes — you simply use a marked cord to place eight pegs in a circle, clip the tent fabric to them, then stuff the pole up the centre and tension things up. And bingo, one big nordic teepee reporting for duty.

Ours came with an optional, clip-in floor, which we didn't use, because it was dry and lovely. Inside it's light and airy, like really airy. At points where conventional tents felt like portable saunas, the Tentipi was still bearable inside, which has to be a good thing. It's not quite as big inside as you might imagine, the 'eaves' effect means that useable floor space is concentrated in the centre, but for sleeping, most of the interior is viable.

Where it really came into its own was in the wee small hours of the morning. A neat, adjustable chimney vent at the apex of the tent means you can actually run an open fire inside the teepee.

Tentipi supplied a mini-firebox, a sort of metal, fold-out box that you mount on a couple of logs or rocks and simply build a fire in. Normally 3am is the lowpoint of 24-hour bike race events with dew and chill soaking into your bones, but we simply clustered around the fire and toasted ourselves happily.

Really cool, though you need to be careful with what you burn to minimise smoke. Small bore wood and smokeless fuel worked for us. A big log chucked out more smoke than we needed.

Just lovely. And what really blew me and my team mates away was the 'feel-good factor' of a teepee. There's something really nice and primitive and basic about the shape and the simplicity and the coolness — in both senses — of sleeping in a teepee.

The rapid pitching and stability — there are optional guys for breezy days — are a massive bonus and the firebox is the ultimate in cold weather morale boosting. And you can cook on it too.

The downsides? Well, it's not cheap — the Onyx 7 we have on loan retails for £585 with the floor costing another £200 or so and the firebox some £50, so you're looking at a biggish investment.

Then again, it is lovely and kids fall head over heels for it. And it looks great with prayer flags blowing in the breeze. And like we said, the build quality is impressive, a real Rolls Royce of a tent. Or maybe a top-end Saab. There are loads of different sizes and options too with some lightweight versions for those who carry their own.

Really just a lovely thing.