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Fire – “The rapid oxidation of a material – releasing heat, light and various products of combustion”.

Historically, we relied upon fire as a source of heat and light, we used it when hunting, and we even colonised some quite inhospitable parts of the globe thanks to our relationship with it. Its significance was reflected in its adoption for ritualistic use too, and this continues throughout religions worldwide. In a nutshell, we owe our existence on this planet to fire in its various forms.

For many of us, our constant and vital relationship with this all-important element has changed. Diminished. We no longer have to gather wood for the fire, or somehow create a spark in order to eat or stay warm. The modern urban house uses oil, gas, or solid fuel – programmed for convenience and available at the flick of a switch. Fast heat – packaged and delivered for the busy modern lifestyle. Those of us with active outdoor interests still experience some of this elemental relationship of course, seated around a campfire; eyes drawn to the flickering flame – a point of connection with our distant past – but the use of fire within the tent has never been an option for the majority of us, and a quick look round any camp site confirms this. Most tent dimensions or designs simply haven’t allowed this, and this elemental connection is lessened. To explain what the addition of a fire means to the camping experience, a Tentipi customer review puts this across most succinctly.

In an earlier post, we introduced the Tentipi brand and its Sami heritage. We mentioned design principles of the Nordic tipi, unchanged over thousands of years and still in use by the Sami today – principles used by Tentipi although brought completely up-to-date through the use of modern manufacturing techniques and materials. The basic, stable cone shape allowing for a centrally located fire, and careful venting allowing a warm air column from the fire to draw smoke and fumes through a top opening. Here, we have some historical film footage – part of a Ray Mears TV series on Sweden – showing construction of the Lavvu, and a typical Sami family scene around the central fire. Later in this clip he talks with the wife of a Sami reindeer herder, allowing us something of a glimpse of how the fire changes completely the “normal” camping experience.  This is what fire can achieve.  Welcome to the Nordic tipi!

Ray Mears in Sweden. Life in the Lavvu.


Fire is central to the Tentipi experience. What we are able to achieve through the introduction of a fire or stove is to create a certain sense of comfort – you’ll notice this every time the stove is lit, but especially under damp and cold conditions. The tent really does become a home. Wet clothes can easily be dried, food and hot drinks can be prepared, and your living space becomes transformed. At extremely low temperatures this also becomes a serious safety consideration as the build up of sweat within clothing layers reduces insulation.

Designing for the use of fire

Design decisions and the features we have incorporated allow for safe use of heat sources within our Nordic tipis when combined with following all our safety instructions. In essence this means that we have introduced features which maximise and adjust ventilation and air flow – allowing smoke and fumes to escape; and specific features also preventing tent fabric from coming in contact with the heat sources. We recommend certain products in order to achieve this.

1) Tent dimensions and shape.

One key factor allowing the use of fire in our Nordic tipis is space. Or rather, the combination of space and shape created by our designs. Even the smallest of our Adventure tent range is large enough to stand up in which gives us a distinct advantage in terms of fire safety when compared to the smaller backpacking or mountain tent designs. Clothing and personal effects are located away from the heat source. This, the optimum ratio of height to diameter also creates a natural chimney effect to remove fumes and smoke on a rising warm air column. This tall conical design means we can use a drying rail too, attached up high.

2) Ventilator cap.

Our Zirkon and Safir tipi models have a fully adjustable ventilator cap which allows ventilation with each of our three recommended heat source options.

Ventilator cap in use. Models Zirkon and Safir.


When using the Hekla firebox or Heatpal 5100, internal control cords allow this cap to be opened facing away from the wind for ventilation. Smoke and fumes rise on the air column and are drawn away. A simplified 2 cord adjustment is on our Onyx.

3) Floor options.

When using an inner tent, the Comfort and Pro options allow use of a stove or fire, with a zip panel on the floor rolling back to expose the ground.

If a separate tent floor is used, with no inner tent, both options – Comfort and Pro – have the zip-floor panel function.

Tentipi Floor Options

4) Air Intake Panels.

All our adventure tents will allow some air flow at ground level as we don’t use stitched-in groundsheets. In addition our model Zirkon has one floor level air intake panel, whilst Safir has three. These are zip-closed panels located at floor level and provide a key means of regulating air-flow to the fire or stove. Use these in combination with door venting to control air flow. Whilst their main function is to provide oxygen to feed the fire or stove, these combined with the generous tent dimensions and rising air column serve to minimise generation and build up of dangerous carbon monoxide – a potential hazard associated with the use of stoves, and a very real threat in small, unventilated tents.

Mosquito netted air-intake floor panel.



You have three main categories of heat source to consider with your Nordic tipi. First is the stove and chimney combination, with the insulated chimney exiting via the top of the tent. Second is the open fire, and third is the small portable heater without any fixed chimney device. We recommend the use of Eldfell, Hekla fire box, and Heatpal 5100 for each of these categories, respectively.

Eldfell Stoves

Hekla Fire Box

Heatpal 5100


Fire in any enclosed space can be hazardous. Although all our Adventure tent range are designed to be used with an open fire or stove, make sure you understand and follow the instructions and fire safety advice supplied with your tent, and treat fire with the utmost respect.

Here’s a quick reminder of what to look out for – further advice can be found here

Just in Case

Be careful! This stuff we call “fire” has killed and maimed and has no conscience.


Prepare the ground beneath the stove/fire to avoid vegetation catching fire. If you’re using one of our groundsheets, zip open the central flap, and remove dry vegetation beneath.  Be aware that roots or other organic matter can lead to the spread of fire away from the original site.  Only make your fire on mineral ground, or on a stone foundation.

Have water and a fire blanket or extinguisher to hand. Make sure you’re carrying a sharp knife. Carrying a knife will equip you with an instant escape route by cutting a hole in the canvas as a drastic last resort.  Make sure you all have a rehearsed emergency escape drill.

Stove Use

The Eldfell stove is very efficient and has a high heat output. In our size “5” tents, you’ll not need to fill up the stove completely with fuel, otherwise you will overheat. The Eldfell, even when 1/3 full with fuel has enough heat output to effectively heat a size 15 tent at temperatures below zero degrees C.

The stove chimney is insulated. In use, the chimney becomes very hot and will burn any fabric you place in contact with it. For this reason we recommend that you don’t try and adjust the ventilator cap when using a stove. Moving fabric may become damaged. Keep your own clothing, sleeping bags and other fabrics well away from the stove too.

Never leave an open fire or stove unattended.

Eldfell Stove Video

Use of an Open Fire – The Hekla

The Hekla 7 and Hekla 30 are fire boxes designed to contain the open fire and minimise smoke. The heat output of the Hekla 30 is designed more for the larger Adventure tent sizes. Raising the Hekla fire box from the ground improves combustion and maximises the firebox design features.

Use dry, seasoned wood to minimise sparks and smoke. Beech and other hardwoods are preferred. These have less resins and less tendency to stain the top fabric panels. Chemically treated woods (tar, creosote, etc.) should be avoided.

Finely chopped wood, though burning quicker, gives less smoke and more light.

Heatpal 5100

This is a 1.5 kW stove/heater, burning methylated spirits and with a 5 hour capacity on one tank, it’s a useful alternative to an open fire.  Ventilator Cap instructions are identical to the open fire option.

General Comments on Ventilation

Don’t forget that you’ll lose some of the natural air flow during snow fall, when a reduction in air flow will occur through snow build-up around the tent base. Compensate by digging snow away from the air intakes or opening the door panel.

Adjust the ventilator cap on the leeward. This draws air out of the tent. Balance this with the air intakes and open door panel to feed the fire and assist air flow.

In conclusion, we’ve discussed and introduced how we design around fire – product, hints and tips. We’ve talked about designs and features of course, but what is especially important to convey here is that which is missing from your usual camping trip, and which is central to the Tentipi experience. Our designs to accommodate fire within our Nordic tipis do provide a homely “feel” and focal point for your evenings for sure, but equally importantly, as you gaze into that central focal point, you’ll become aware of something more – that reconnection with one of the most important elements of all – fire.

Eldfell stove in use. Aoki Lake. Photo courtesy Pharus, Japan.


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Tentipi in the snow. Aoki Lake. Photo courtesy of Pharus, Japan.


This is what we do. This is Tentipi.


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