A Man from a Tipi

A Man from a Tipi

Page Type Page Type: Article


I could not believe it initially, but it is true, there are people who live in tipi year round. I knew about life in yurts, but tipis? There are no windows there. The funny conical shape makes the distribution of furniture awkward, and it is not so well insulated. Rodents get in, and who likes to sleep with mice? And as the owner told me: "Everything that lives outside, eventually comes in". Yet, I was lucky to meet such a person who enjoys the simplicity of tipi life, and its economical availability. Tipi is cheap. A price for a small tipi is several hundred dollars, and even a large tipi package with liner comes under 2000$. Obviously, much cheaper than any small house. And no utility bills!

I am going in...I am going in!
More inside the tipiCozy inside

I moved to Colorado in August of 2010, and met a tipi man, former American rock climber and alpinist Michael Covington. We met in a storage facility – yes, the downside of tipi is not much storage place. He stores his valuables and extra stuff in a storage unit, and since his tipi is among trees, it is at high risk for a forest fire. Michael told me that he always lived like that – close and at peace with the Mother Nature. He has no electricity (other than one solar panel, which feeds the electric fence around his tipi and a guest tent – to keep bears away). There is no official bathroom facility unless you count a natural tree seat with a plastic bag catching the waste. And a nearby stream provides water supply. The tipi is in a beautiful and remote place, so one has to ski or snowshoe to get up there in the winter, and when the snow settles then snow mobile works quite well up the steep hill. The worst time to get up there is after the snowmelt, when the rough and steep dirt road gets very muddy. Summer is excellent and 4WD vehicle can access it easily.

Remote locationRemote location
Guest tentGuest Tent and electric fence to keep bears away

A tipi is a conical tent traditionally made of animal skins, and associated with Native Americans. The tipi is durable, provides warmth and comfort in winter, is dry during heavy rains, and is cool in the heat of summer. Tipi can be disassembled and packed away easily. Modern tipis are made of canvas. There are many companies in USA, which offer tipis of different sizes and prices. Our tipi man has a real wood-burning stove inside, and real furniture, giving it a very warm home like feeling. The biggest disadvantage is the sloped wall making the furniture arrangement difficult, and the absence of windows. So, it is pretty dark inside. But, he loves to wake up hearing birds singing outside, hearing wind blowing into the thick walls of his canvas, or listen to the fire inside the stove.
The word “tipi” comes into English from the Lakota language, it means, “they dwell” and in practice “house”. Many modern tipi dwellers decorate their tipi in a Native American tradition.

Inside the tipiHigh bed to prevent mice climbing in
Wall decorNative American Decor
Detail of the doorDoor detail
The cone roofConical roof
Tipi EntryEntry facing east
Sitting areaSitting area
tipiNice surrounding
Natural OuthouseNatural Outhouse
Morning stretchingMorning yoga?not just stretching
Boys packing upBoys packing up
Dexter Creek Nearby Creek

Michael Covington
Born in March 1947, lived initially in California beneath Tahquitz. Tahquitz is the place, which gave him the first idea of climbing a rock. He saw people rock climbing there in 50s - it was considered as an eccentric and crazy sport in that time. There were not many rock climbers then. Michael befriended Apache kids near Tahquitz, who lived on a nearby ranch taking care of injured animals, and became really close to Native American culture thanks to this encounter. His parents got divorced when he was 9, and he chose to move with his father to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. He started ski racing, and became a very good ski jumper making an alternative on US ski team. His passion for the mountains brought him back to rock climbing. Ski racing was too organized, too much bureaucracy. Michael explored initially the local Colorado rock, and befriended Layton Kor. Then eventually found his way to Yosemite. All big climbers during the 60s ended up there, and this is where he met with Royal Robins, Steve Roper, Alan Steck, Kim Schmitz, and many other climbers. He had a period of being a rock star – in early 70s he befriended Arty Garfunkel and Paul Simon, and performed at concerts. His dream was to make enough money for climbing. He loved music, but his passion for the mountains was much stronger. Music started to take too much time, and he did not like the pop star atmosphere.

Michael CovingtonMichael in his 20s
White ApacheMichael in his 60s = White Apache

Some notable accomplishments: He held a speed climb record on The Nose of El Capitan for 7 years (1968-1974), and was portrayed in a film “The Edge” where together with Yvon Chouinard he climbed the first direct ascent of Diamond Couloir on Mount Kenya, 1975.
1976 he met with Dough Scott, and climbed with him in Colorado, and then went onto two expeditions on North Face of Nuptse with him. 1977 was on expedition to
Dhaulagiri with Reinhold Messner, Peter Habeler, and Otto Wiederman. Michael retired from competitive rock climbing/alpinism carrier in his 30s, and continued working as a mountain guide. He owned a company Fantasy Ridge and took his clients on challenging routes. He successfully guided Cassin Ridge, West Rib and South Buttress on Denali. In 1980s he employed 22 guides, and organized trips all over the world: South America, Africa, Himalayas and Karakorum, and of course Rocky mountains N.P. and Ouray ice climbing courses. But there is a lot more he did not tell me, and hopefully will one day write down in his book.
Information obtained from many conversions with Michael, but he does not like to talk about himself. He prefers a quiet life in the mountains.

Fun in the natureWine and fun around tipi
Simple relaxed lifeRelaxing in hammock

Back to the tipi – I was truly impressed with the simplicity and economical availability of this type of living. One can make life in tipi more comfortable. Some people have even running water and bathrooms inside these structures (although it is more common in yurts). The tipi, the guesthouse and the surrounding land seem like a dream vacation spot. But, would we be able to live like this year round? Would we be able enjoy the quiet life without Internet and TV. What are our priorities?

External Links

Earthworks tipis
Interview Michael Covington with Dave Krupa in Talkeetna


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-20 of 20

jasano2 - Apr 4, 2011 9:53 pm - Voted 10/10


for sharing this different way of life. All the respect to Micheal for living out his days his way!

Liba Kopeckova

Liba Kopeckova - Apr 4, 2011 10:21 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Thanks..

Thanks. I admire him for that, I don't think I would be able to do it.

Liba Kopeckova

Liba Kopeckova - Apr 5, 2011 8:09 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Tipi

Thanks. I can imagine it living like that for a while, but I don't think I would be able to do it forever. Good experience for your friend....


silversummit - Apr 6, 2011 7:38 pm - Voted 10/10

Going to show my age and Michael's too!

This article so reminds me of the '60s! I remember seeing tipis around Colorado back then and a couple even here in Maryland but this is one is beautiful!

Liba Kopeckova

Liba Kopeckova - Apr 6, 2011 8:06 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Going to show my age and Michael's too!

Thanks. I think in some ways he is still stuck in that era:)

Brian C

Brian C - Apr 11, 2011 9:07 am - Voted 10/10

Very cool

I used to spend parts of summers with my folks camping in a Tipi but I never would have imagined living in one. "Everything that lives outside eventually comes in"? Yikes! I admire his dedication to nature and natural living. Thanks for sharing.

Liba Kopeckova

Liba Kopeckova - Apr 11, 2011 7:55 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Very cool

Thanks Brian. Yes, I don't like to share my bed with mice either :)


lcarreau - Apr 11, 2011 9:22 pm - Voted 10/10

Bless this tipi ..

"May the Warm Winds of Heaven
Blow softly upon your house.
May the Great Spirit
Bless all who enter there.
May your Mocassins
Make happy tracks
in many snows,
And may the Rainbow
Always touch your shoulder ..."

Liba Kopeckova

Liba Kopeckova - Apr 11, 2011 10:39 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Bless this tipi ..

Another lovely poem - I think I should make a list of all Larry's poem's published on SP!
Thank you.


dadndave - Apr 25, 2011 4:59 am - Voted 10/10


There's something pretty inspiring about reading this. Great article about an interesting character leading a fascinating lifestyle. I think I envy him.

By the way, you mentioned Michael Covington's friendship with Layton Kor - one of my teen-year heroes. It prompted me to google Layton Kor and I was shocked to discover that he is very ill with kidney disease. See http://laytonkorclimbing.com/

Liba Kopeckova

Liba Kopeckova - Apr 25, 2011 8:59 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Magic!

Yes, I know. Local climbers went onto raising some money for him.
Thanks for visiting.


visentin - Apr 25, 2011 4:08 pm - Voted 10/10

Amazing !

I really must visit this remote corner of Czech Republic :)

Liba Kopeckova

Liba Kopeckova - Apr 25, 2011 7:40 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Amazing !

Erico, just hop on your bike.


visentin - Apr 26, 2011 3:03 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Amazing !

Podyjí here I come ! (well, if not too much rain forecasted like it does now...)

Sierra Ledge Rat

Sierra Ledge Rat - Apr 27, 2011 6:59 am - Hasn't voted


I used to live in a tipi during the summer. But I can't imagine what it must be like in the cold and snow.

Liba Kopeckova

Liba Kopeckova - Apr 27, 2011 8:41 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Yikes!

Michael C. claims that it is warm and nice, but I feel like you - so happy to be inside a house. Thanks for visiting.


RayMondo - Apr 28, 2011 5:03 pm - Voted 10/10


Great that this form of living continues, albeit with some mod cons. There's a lot to be said for a civilisation that lasted for thousands of years, and continues. Many Sami people live a similar, though less equiped life.

Liba Kopeckova

Liba Kopeckova - Apr 28, 2011 7:28 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Great

Agreed, a very interesting way to live... but not practical for people with jobs - it takes too long to get out... but do we need to have jobs? I am one of those super responsible humans, and always felt a responsibility towards community. I feel obligated to work although there are moments I hate it.
Thanks for visiting.


highpeakskier - May 15, 2011 11:49 pm - Hasn't voted


Looks like a lifestyle I could enjoy.
Thanks for sharing.

Randy Covington

Liba Kopeckova

Liba Kopeckova - May 16, 2011 12:07 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Interesting

Thank you for visiting. Interesting that you share the same last name...:)

Viewing: 1-20 of 20

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