What makes a structure a yurt is that it is portable, round, has an accordion lattice wall, a tension band, radial rafters leading up to a central compression ring, and is covered in felt or fabric. The shape and insulation of the yurt, plus a wood burning stove inside, make camping inside very warm. Once described as an "architectural wonder", the traditional nomadic home of Mongolia, typically referred to as a Ger, has been widely used for thousands of years.
Even though the term “glamping” is used for camping in a yurt, there is still a lot of effort and planning involved. Most yurts require anywhere from a 1-8-mile hike, snowshoe, or ski in, also requiring you to have backcountry knowledge. Knowing what to look for in terrain traps, snowpack, and another avalanche safety is key to getting to the yurt safely. Many people also do not realize that to drink fresh water you need to melt, boil, or carry in all your water. This challenge can be overcome by carrying a water filter or learning how to purify water other ways (manually by temperature, or with tablets). Just like backpacking, you need to carry in all of your food to however many nights you plan to sleep there. The lightest option is, of course, dehydrated food, but most yurts have a decent camp stove set (propane is typically provided) plus utensils and plates. My partner and I try to cook real food as much as possible while camping, so even though our packs weigh more, eating hot real food in a yurt doesn’t get any better. Add some wine or beer to that and you’ve got yourself a fine meal! Plan simple and easy meals, and prep everything at home before heading out (peel and cut up vegetables, portion out meat, etc. in ziplock bags).
Many people ask, “what do you do at the yurt?” Anything you want! In the past, we’ve played card games, downloaded movies on an iPad, read books, or gone out for a day hike or ski tour. It’s also a great way to take some downtime, with a nap or whatever relaxes you. A lot of your time will also be taken up by prepping firewood and kindling, keeping the yurt warm, and shoveling snow off the deck (if there is one). The goal is to always leave the yurt in better condition that you found it, so cleaning up is a daily activity. Going with friends really makes a trip to a yurt special, as you get to experience it with others.
As for gear, I mostly bring things that I do for backpacking with the exception of a few items. I bring a sleeping pad and bag, UL pillow, water filter, trash bags, a sponge and biodegradable soap, toilet paper, lighter, and other standard items. Items that I bring that I don’t normally use include really thick socks or slippers to wear inside the yurt. The floors tend to get cold, so having either down booties or Crocs to wear inside will help you feel more comfortable. Once a yurt is warm, it retains heat really well, so I also dress in my normal hiking layers, for any temperature inside the yurt. At night, if no one is on fire duty, it can get really cold and I’ll end up wearing a down puffy coat. Most yurts provide a first aid kit, however, don’t rely on those to have items you will actually use (someone previously staying in the yurt may have used all the band-aids or ointment, leaving you to fend for yourself) in stock.
There is a lot of planning and effort that goes into “glamping” in a yurt. However, the hard work is so well worth it. It’s one of my favorite ways to relax and be away from social media, spend time with friends, and feel like I’m in the middle of nowhere. I love cooking group meals that everyone can help take part in, and it creates really fun memories to look back on for years. Whether you choose a yurt that only requires 1 mile or 8 miles to hike in, the experience will be a fun one!
Alicia Baker is owner of “Girl on a Hike”, a blog that follows Alicia and her hiking companion, Charlie, a Golden Lab, on their outdoor adventures. She has lived in Utah for since 2013 and loves exploring everything from the High Uintas to the San Rafael Swell and desert. Each year, she and Charlie hike and backpack an average of 700 miles. “Girl on a Hike” has been awarded as one of the Top 100 Outdoor & Hiking Blogs from 2016 through 2018. She is also the author of "Salt Lake City's Best 52 Hikes", available only on Amazon.