I feel like my favourite local websites have really been upping their winter getaway posts (like this, this, this, this, this, and this ). Have you noticed it too? Because if you did, you’d probably have read about winter yurt camping and might have even considered doing it! Sites like Narcity and BlogTo have mentioned how great it is to take glamping into the colder months. We couldn’t agree with them more!
Winter yurt camping can be a fun way to start a winter adventure, have a mini romantic getaway, or be a fun way to live life unplugged for a couple of days. Yurts might just be the comfortable, easy, and relaxing experience that you’re looking for. Make it your best experience ever, and read up on things you need to know before booking your first winter yurt.
Angelo and I booked our first winter yurt camping experience this year and we had an incredible time. For the first time in ages, we spent a couple of nights completely unplugged from the rest of society. It. Was. Amazing. But, it wasn’t entirely without hiccups! I thought it would be smooth sailing with our combined experiences of summer camping and my one-time week-long dog-sledding experience. Turned out, we started our winter yurt camping experience with a lot of unanswered questions and learned quite a few lessons during our stay.
For example, we learned that when the host told us to stoke our wood stove often, they meant it. On our first night, we went to bed thinking we’d only need to re-stoke the stove every three to four hours. We set an alarm to wake ourselves up at the three-hour mark. Ahh, the optimism of first-timer wood stove users. Three hours later, lo and behold, our fire was out. To make matters worse, most of our embers had cooled completely too! Neither of us wanted to get out of bed and try to restart the stove in the darkness (the host set it up for us when we arrived, so we had to start it all from scratch at this point). We ended up huddled under the sheets waiting for enough morning light to restart it!
Here are some things you need to know before you book your winter yurt camp:
What is a Yurt?
Let’s start off with the basics. A yurt is a portable, large and circular tent traditionally used by nomadic groups as their primary form of shelter. Nowadays, modern yurts also act as spaces that provide temporary housing, guest lodging, meditating, and vacationing. A yurt has more room than a traditional tent. It generally comes with basic amenities to set you up for a more comfortable stay. Most yurts come with mattresses, a desk, and some chairs. As a vacation or camping accommodation, yurts are aimed to help campers reduce the amount of bulky gear you need to bring for your stay.
For us, a yurt was like an oversized tent. They are similar to what a rustic cabin might offer, but… with slightly less comfortable amenities. We had everything we needed inside the yurt, with the exception of running water. So it definitely wasn’t a drab stay. Even without running water, we had a private insulated outhouse less than 20 meters away. There was even a chamber pot inside the yurt for us to use when the winter cold was too hard to step outside! Winter yurt camping is definitely a step up from my last winter camping experience of sleeping under three sleeping bags.
Make sure the yurt is available in the winter months (November – April).
When we were researching a yurt nearby Toronto, we actually found out that not every yurt location is available year-round. If you’d like to find out which yurt is the best place to rent in Ontario and which ones are available in the winter, here is a list of the 30 best yurt rentals in Ontario.
Check the description, or call to make sure that the location you’re interested in offers bookings in the winter months.
Majority of yurts are heated with a wood stove.
Most yurts available in the winter months use wood stoves for heat. Very few may offer electrical heating. This means that in order to stay warm, you must stoke a fire every couple of hours or less. This might not be for everyone. Remember our earlier story about how the fire went out because we thought restoking every three to four hours was sufficient?
We took our first night as a lesson, and on our second night, Angelo woke up dutifully every 1.5 hours to check on our fire, re-stoking as needed. If you’re on stoking duty, expect short, periodic sleep.
If your winter yurt camping experience will be the first time that you’re handling a wood stove, here are some things that you’ll want to learn before or during your stay:
- What size wood and how much could fit in the stove at once
- How much air to let into the stove to ensure optimal heating and burning rate of the wood – especially when it comes to ensuring the yurt stays warm overnight, or if you’re going out for the day
- How to clean the ashes in the wood stove to prevent it from smothering your embers
Even if the yurt provides electrical heating, err on the safe side – pack your warmest gear – especially for nights that may drop below -10 degrees Celsius. Most electrical heaters are small and function like space heaters. Even running a small electric space heater 24/7 would still be insufficient to warm the entire tent on the coldest days.
Research what shower and washroom situation you have and pack accordingly.
Ah… addressing the needs when nature calls. Through my research for winter yurt camping locations, I’ve come across a variety of washroom and shower options. It ranges from nothing at all, to full indoor running water options.
In general, provincial park yurts can expect the following options:
- An outhouse with no shower accommodation
- A comfort station located nearby with options of a non-flushable toilet, a compostable toilet, an outdoor shower, or an entire station with running water and cold-water showers
In contrast, hosts offering their yurts for campers can have a more diverse range of washroom options:
- nothing at all – you’re free to do your business in the wild
- outdoor washrooms (outhouse or compostable toilet) with internal wash basins for sponge batching (with optional chamber pot)
- outdoor washroom and shower (often using rain water)
- nearby/shared indoor washroom facilities (e.g. linked to host’s home, or an adjacent indoor accommodation)
- indoor compostable toilet within the yurt
- indoor washroom and shower within the yurt
Regardless of the type of situation you pick, bring your own hand sanitizer and toilet paper in case your place runs out.
If you’re staying for more than a couple of nights or really need to shower, check with the hosts or the provincial park for shower options and if they provide towels. They might also let you know about any restrictions to the type of soap you should use. Many yurt owners support ecologically-friendly practices and prefer or restrict soap usage to biodegradable soap types. Respecting the host’s request is important to ensure that everyone can have a chance to experience a pleasant yurt camping experience in the future.
One additional thought is to remember to pack your shower sandals or flip-flops (plantar wart alert!!) if you’re going to shower. These things almost never come to mind during winter excursions, but for your feet’ sake, please pack them.
Know how much to pack by reading your yurt’s description box and looking at pictures.
Spend some time reading the description boxes of your yurt accommodation and look at people’s pictures to figure out what ‘furnished’ really means.
If you’re booking through a provincial park in Ontario, a furnished yurt according to their description boxes means:
- Futon mattresses or bunk beds
- A wooden table
- 2 foldable chairs
- An outdoor BBQ for preparing food
Provincial park yurts strongly encourage you to bring sleeping bags as extra linens are not provided. Personally, I’d bring a couple of sleeping bags just in case one isn’t enough.
Other yurts, like the ones offered by Glamping Hub or
In the yurt that we stayed at, it had:
- A queen bed
- High quality furnishing
- Salt & Pepper
- Tea & Coffee
- Cleaning Supplies
- Chamber Pot
- Wash Basin
- Warm slippers – if you don’t have a pair of indoor shoes, bring some – the floors get really cold!
- Extra bedding, linens, and towels
- Guidebook of local trails, shrubberies, and birds
- Fresh eggs from the farm
- Board games, reading material, and a reading nook
Some host yurts even offer electricity too! There were a couple in Ontario that offered WiFi, electrical outlets, mini-fridges and running hot water. You really need to read the descriptions and look at the pictures to know what to expect. Be sure to read the user reviews as well to see if you can glean any additional information.
Make your meals before your trip and pack it.
If most winter yurts offer a wood stove, you might be wondering why I have this tip. While you can heat food on the top of a wood stove, it will take you a long time. We set a kettle on top of our wood stove for an hour before we had water that was hot enough for tea (it wasn’t even boiling!)
Most yurts offer an outdoor BBQ nearby for your cooking needs, but these are often in unsheltered locations. That means you’ll likely be exposed to the elements while starting your BBQ and waiting for your food to cook. If you’re planning on doing a winter yurt camping trip when it will be lower than -10 degrees Celsius, chances are you probably don’t want to be standing outside for more than a few minutes.
While we didn’t use our BBQ during our yurt stay, our host told us that on especially cold and windy days, its a challenge to start the BBQ. Hence why we recommend pre-cooking your meals and packing them in with you.
Alternatively, map out restaurants nearby if you want to avoid cooking altogether.
Bring flashlights and sources of light if you’re staying up at night.
Winter yurt camping offers a unique opportunity to stargaze because of the long nights. Unfortunately, because of the early nights, it also means less light to see what you’re doing too. Most yurts do not have any light beyond the lights emitted from your wood stove. While it does emit romantic lighting, you won’t get enough light to fill the yurt. During our stay, our hosts provided us with two additional battery-powered lanterns. Even with the lanterns, we only had about an additional 1-meter perimeter of visibility inside the tent.
Furthermore, depending on your washroom location, bringing a handheld light will be great for when you need to go outdoors when nature calls.
Not ready to unplug from the world? There are a limited number of yurt locations that offer electrical outlets or WiFi options.
The appeal of winter yurt camping or other glamping options is that it gives your group a chance to reconnect with the physical world. But, in the case that you really can’t unplug, or really need to charge something, then your next winter yurt location might be severely limited.
Alternatively, you can bring your own gear to supplement your experience, like packing a car charger, solar electrical outlets, or getting an additional data roaming plan.
That’s it – hopefully, these tips stemming from some of the lessons that we learned, will help make your first winter yurt camping experience more pleasant! If you’ve got any additional tips you’d like to share, let us know in the comments below, or feel free to send us an email!
More Low light example with only wood stove lighting Checking on our breakfast bagel toasting state Maria relaxing on the queen bed trying the 2-player Codenames offered by the Yurt’s Hosts Angelo put his bagel too close to the fire for too long – burnt to a crisp! Maria enjoying a hot water bottle pack as the yurt’s wood stove re-warms the yurt up again.
We’d love to year what your first winter yurt camping experience was like! Let us know in the comments below