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Yurt Vs. Tent (4 Key Differences)

Way before I got into the world of yurts and lived in one for a summer, I camped in a bell tent for a weekend and was convinced it was a yurt. I honestly did not know the difference. So, now that I’m researching different topics on yurts, I decided it was time to answer the question. Here’s what I found.

Yurts offer a spacious, insulated, and semi-permanent living space, making them ideal for harsh climates. Tents are lightweight, portable, and more affordable, catering to short-term trips. Bell tents offer a blend of both, with more room and comfort than regular tents but less insulation and permanence than yurts.

Yurt Vs. Bell Tent

When it comes to off-grid living, both yurts and tents offer unique advantages, but they also have some distinct differences. The first main difference is the structure and materials used.

1. Structure and Material

Yurts are semi-permanent, round structures typically made with a wooden structure and frame. They have a central support column, radial rafters, and a circular opening at the top for ventilation.

The frame is typically covered with weather-resistant materials like felt or canvas, making them suitable for various climates.

What are yurts? Yurts have been around for centuries, originating in Central Asia. They’re round, sturdy structures with wooden frames, often covered in felt or canvas. While traditional yurts can be a bit bulky, portable yurts have gained popularity in recent years. These modern adaptations maintain the structure’s signature round shape and provide a unique and roomy living space, perfect for off-grid living.

On the other hand, tents are usually made from lightweight materials like polyester, nylon, or canvas. They come in various shapes and sizes, with the most common being dome tents, tunnel tents, and A-frame tents.

Tents are designed to be portable, easy to set up, and break down, making them suitable for short-term camping trips.

There are also bell tents and wall tents that people often confuse for being yurts. In reality, these types of tents are way more portable compared to yurts. Not to mention, yurts are made of wood while these types of tents include metal materials.

I like to think of bell tents and wall tents as a cross between yurts and regular camping tents.

2. Insulation and Climate Adaptability

Yurts are known for their excellent insulation properties. The thick felt or canvas coverings provide a natural barrier against the elements, keeping the interior warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather. Yurts are also designed to withstand strong winds.

Tents, however, generally offer less insulation than yurts. While some tents have better insulation than others, such as canvas tents or those with a double-wall design, they generally won’t match the insulation properties of a yurt.

This makes tents more suitable for mild climates and fair-weather camping.

3. Space and Livability

Yurts provide a spacious and comfortable living area with ample headroom, making them suitable for long-term living.

The circular design allows for efficient use of space and can accommodate multiple people, furniture, and even a small stove for heating and cooking.

Recommended: Do Yurts Have Electricity? (4 Ways To Get It)

Tents offer varying degrees of space and livability depending on their design. While some larger tents, like bell tents or wall tents, can provide a comfortable living area, most traditional camping tents are designed for sleeping and offer limited space for daily activities.

4. Cost and Maintenance

Yurts tend to be more expensive than tents due to their more robust construction and materials. However, the cost can be a worthwhile investment if you’re looking for a long-term, semi-permanent living solution.

Maintenance for a yurt usually involves periodic checks of the frame, cover, and ropes to ensure they remain in good condition.

Tents are generally more affordable and require less maintenance. However, they may need to be replaced more frequently, especially if exposed to harsh weather conditions. Regular tent maintenance includes checking the seams, zippers, and poles for signs of wear and tear.

What is a Bell Tent?

Bell tent

Bell tents are a type of canvas tent known for their iconic conical shape. They have a single central pole supporting the structure, and the canvas walls slope outward, creating a spacious, airy interior. They’re often used for glamping or as a stylish alternative to standard camping tents.

Bell tents, along with wall tents are not as durable as yurts. I once camped out in a bell tent that eventually flooded.

What is a Wall Tent?

wall tent

Wall tents, also known as outfitter tents or safari tents, are rectangular, heavy-duty canvas tents. They feature four vertical walls, providing ample headroom and a spacious living area.

Wall tents are popular among hunters and long-term campers due to their durability and capacity to accommodate a stove for heating and cooking. Wall tents are the easiest to set up and take down.

YurtBell TentWall Tent
Permanent structurePortablePortable
Round shapeConical shapeRectangular shape
Wooden frameSingle center poleMetal frame
Felt or canvas coverCanvas coverCanvas cover
Spacious interiorAiry interiorSpacious interior
Traditional designStylish designUtilitarian design

Can You Camp In A Yurt?

Although traditional yurts are not as portable as yurt tents, you can still use them for camping in certain situations. Here’s what you should know about camping in a regular yurt:

  1. Semi-permanent camping: If you’re planning an extended camping trip or looking to establish a semi-permanent campsite, a traditional yurt might be the perfect solution. They offer more stability and insulation than most tents, making them suitable for long-term stays.
  2. Location constraints: Keep in mind that traditional yurts are bulkier and more challenging to transport than portable yurt tents. You’ll need to select a suitable location for your yurt with easy access, and setting it up will take more time and effort compared to a portable yurt tent.

Yurt tents offer a unique and cozy living space that’s more robust and weather-resistant than most tents. Plus, yurt tents are roomy enough to accommodate multiple people, making them an excellent choice for family camping trips or group adventures.

What Is The Lifespan of A Yurt (Are They Permanent Structures)?

Modern yurts have an average lifespan of 15-20 years but varies on materials, manufacturer, and maintenance.

While the interior structure of a yurt is durable and can last for several decades or even longer, the exterior elements such as fabric, windows, and doors are more likely what is needed to be replaced.

Yurts can be moved, but not all are easy to relocate. On average, yurts can take between a few hours to a couple of days to move.

The ease of moving depends on size, materials, foundation, and utility connections such as electricity and water. Yurts with a permanent foundation might not be movable.

How is A Yurt Different From A Tipi (Teepee)


While yurts and tipis (or teepees) may appear somewhat similar at first glance, they have several key differences rooted in their origins, structure, materials, and functionality. Let’s take a closer look at what sets these two unique structures apart:

Cultural Significance

Yurts have their roots in Central Asia, where they have been used by nomadic peoples, such as the Mongols and the Kyrgyz, for centuries. These structures have a deep cultural significance and are still widely used in the region today for both traditional and modern living arrangements.

Tipis, on the other hand, are native to the Great Plains region of North America. They were primarily used by Indigenous peoples, such as the Sioux and the Cheyenne, as portable homes that could be easily dismantled and transported to new locations following the migration of buffalo herds.

Structure and Materials

Yurts are characterized by their circular shape and feature a wooden or metal frame that includes a central support column, radial rafters, and a circular opening at the top for ventilation. The frame is covered with weather-resistant materials like felt or canvas, creating a well-insulated and sturdy living space.

Tipis have a conical shape and are supported by a framework of wooden poles that converge at the top. The structure is covered with a weather-resistant material, traditionally made from animal skins but now often replaced with canvas. The design of a tipi includes a smoke hole at the top, allowing for an open fire within the living space.

Insulation and Climate Adaptability

Yurts excel in insulation and adaptability to various climates, thanks to their thick felt or canvas coverings. They provide a natural barrier against the elements, keeping the interior warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather. Additionally, their sturdy construction allows yurts to withstand strong winds.

Tipis, while still providing reasonable insulation, may not match the insulation properties of yurts. The conical shape of a tipi, however, is designed to shed wind and snow effectively, making them suitable for the harsh weather conditions often found on the Great Plains.

Portability and Assembly

Traditional yurts are relatively heavy and not as easily portable as tipis. However, modern portable yurt tents have become more popular, offering greater ease of transportation and assembly.

Tipis are known for their portability, as the wooden poles and cover can be quickly dismantled and packed up, making them ideal for a nomadic lifestyle. The assembly of a tipi is generally faster and more straightforward than setting up a traditional yurt.