Mongolian and Other Yurts

Mongolian husband, wife and child outside their family yurt

Sain baina uu!

Whether you’re new to the world of yurts or your family has been building them for millenniums, you’re probably aware that there is not ONE single type of yurt. Yurts have been invented 3000 years ago in central Asia and have evolved a great deal since. The two types of yurts that are still most common in central Asia are the Turkic and Mongolian Yurts. Elsewhere in the world, modern yurts are more and more common. No matter how you compare them, they all share the same core value of roundness that brings people together!

Mongolian man celebrating Tsaagan sar, mongolian lunar new year

There are very important differences between these yurts and that defines their use in North America. First off, Turkic yurts, because of how much larger they are than other yurts cannot maintain sufficient heat in winter, therefore they aren’t a 4 season yurt. Mongolian yurts, still used today by about 1/2 the population of Mongolia, developed in some of the harshest conditions of the world, are livable all year around. Modern yurts also adapted traditional concepts to allow them to be used even in winter. So when you look at 4 season yurts, it boils down to Mongolian yurts and modern yurts. Modern yurts come in all shapes and sizes. Mongolian yurts also come in many sizes, however, the proportions were tried and tested for thousands of years and are still honored throughout Mongolia to this day. Notably, the doors are lower than what the North American standards have us used to, not because Mongolians are short! But because it gives a more aerodynamic shape to the structure for high winds and because it is more efficient to heat in the winter. It’s a principle modern yurts often disregard, preferring higher doors but sacrificing resistance to the wind and increasing the need for heating.

Another main factor is the materials that are used. Most Mongolian yurts are still made with natural and breathable products, avoiding to use plastic to cover and insulate the yurt. It’s not always the case for many modern yurts where plastic covers are used for the outside cover, the main concern with this type of practice is the condensation that can quickly become an issue for the yurt durability and the comfort feel. At Groovy Yurts, we too have modified the yurt a little bit! Because of the wet climates we often face, we’ve added a layer of house wrap (Tyvek) between the canvas and the felt insulation. This hinders the breathability of the yurt a little bit but it is the best compromise that we have found to keep the water out and allow the humidity to breathe out. As one of the oldest dwellings in the world, the yurt never ceases to amaze in its capacity to adapt to different needs!