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GerTee - Portable tent home made of recycled materials

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Gertees are round houses made of sticks and poles tied together with zipties and covered with cloth or other materials. Each one is as unique as the owner who builds it.

All ger/yurts can be tailor made to fit any kind of budget. Many builders world-wide offer varieties of the yurt at prices ranging from 2 to 25K. My variations, based on the original Mongolian Ger design, expand the concept to include more people who don't have the 2K.

American made, high end yurts are so well constructed and modern they are getting HUD approval. In English towns residents are overturning municipal codes prohibiting odd looking tent homes. Yurts are a growing option for camping in National Parks and Wilderness areas. They also have an emerging fan base in the sustainable development-green community.

These may be perfect for creative people who want to try something new or they may be an optional shelter for homeless disaster victims in areas full of scrap lumber and salvageable materials. People from all backgrounds and income brackets can build these very comfortable little round home for themselves, and even the lowest end ones are very cute and sturdy.

The first recycled GerTee prototype I built in 2004 merged a ger (yurt) with the American Plains Indian Teepee smoke liner. I also thought the roofring could be replaced with a teepee top design. A few months ago I learned that the Mongolian phrase for being "at home" is gertee.

My GerTees are a very simplified way to erect a cozy, warm, sturdy home in a few hours or a few days. It requires no drilling or any special tools besides maybe a handsaw, screwdriver, scissors, staplegun and a hammer and nails. If you have power tools it goes a bit faster.. and a table saw is a huge help if you need to cut your wall slats out of bigger pieces of wood, but there are other ways around all these challenges.

The idea behind this ger model is that in an emergency it can be made almost entirely out of scraps and later modified with nicer additions, all depending on the needs and finances of the owner.



 
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Can i use chicken wire for the walls and a tarp for the roof? Because i want to make a tent-thing , but im short on money and supplies, and i want to make my tent-thing portable and easy to assemble/disassemble. Also, i want it to be cheap, sturdy-ish, and
6 ft in diameter, 3 ft. tall (this is going to be my tent, remember), and about 19 ft. in circumference. Please get back to me! :)
triumphman2 years ago
I wonder how it will take a heavy snow load? Have you weathered any snowstorms in it yet? You certainly filled it up with "stuff" ! Just like home, yes?
tonyscott2 years ago
JUST GREAT!
pheenix422 years ago
I'm seriously thinking of building one of these for the backyard when it gets too hot to sleep in the house! =D
This totally puts a smile on my face :-) I have been collecting recycled "stuff" to make a yurt for a million years. Your adventure makes me think I can totally do this! I also live in Eagle River, Alaska, and am pretty darn impressed that you have been wintering in your yurt. What do you use to insulate your walls good enough?

Thanks for the smile!
Nomadsanity3 years ago
You might consider a simple solution to the ties slipping around while the wall sections are being moved. Just put one staple into the slat around the ziptie or string and it will keep the fastener right where it is supposed to be despite movement in the wall.
I have a few random questions! First, I love the fact that you shared so much info on building a gertee with scavenged materials. Being poor is hard but often so rewarding. I have a degree in outdoor recreation and spend lots of time working as a sea kayaking guide living out of my kayak and camping on beaches. I love being engrossed with the natural world and its rhythms and really would love a tipi, but they are expensive and difficult to build and transport. My first thought when I saw your awesome home is where you use the bathroom. When I take groups out we are only in a place for a night or two and don't worry much about waste disposal, we just dig cat holes or go in the ocean. I have never had to figure out how to dispose of waste when staying long term in one location. Do you have an outhouse? Or did I miss your mention of that somewhere? What about bathing? Sponge baths would get rather old after a while I would assume.
Oh, and what do you do about critters? Do you have problems with mice or raccoons stealing yummy and shiny things? Don't grizzly bears come visit when you're cooking up some nice steak? The raccoons out at the outer banks of NC are brazen little things and steal all sorts of stuff from shiny things to food to life jackets!
AlaskanTentLady (author)  WayfinderAli4 years ago
hi Wayfinder, sorry it took so long to respond. My internet access is often disrupted, part of the hardships of being poor.:)

We have an outhouse with a 6' wide 10' deep hole beneath it. I also have a new compost toilet. Before that we used honey buckets with lids, lined with trash bags, easily carried and lifted out and into the outhouse hole.

I make showers using Sunshower bags. I've tried several ways and all of them worked. The best place for the shower/bath in the winter is next to the woodstove, can fill them easily with hot water from the stove and stay warm when wet. Alaska also has public showers at many places because so many places are "dry", which means the people haul their water in jugs or tanks. Some of my Swedish and Russian neighbors have built saunas and banas.

This last fall I was gone for 3 weeks and shrews moved in. They had to be trapped and killed. So far we haven't had any bears trying to get in... but several of our neighbors who live in wooden houses have. We're putting one of the new PVC models on Tim's trapline next month and I'd like to set up a motion sensor camera to record a bear trying to get inside. An average size bear around here could probably lean on the roof and cave it in. Like all rural Alaskans, we keep big guns handy for such an event. The reality is grizzlies break into log cabins all the time so there may not be anything strong enough to keep them out besides rebar walls and roof poles. We'll see.
I would like to express my great admiration for your ingenuity and survival skill living. I can't imagine what Alaska is like, but I'm in Southern California and turning into professional junk raider, thrift store addict, survivalist because of the economy and unemployed 14 months. If the current state of the economy keeps going south this lifestyle will become more common as more are forced to become homeless. For me the tent is so simple and just viewing your instructable it is fused in my memory such that I could do this when/if the situation arises weather desired or not. It's a lot better than a lean-to. Best wishes and good luck.
You can also compost your own waste...try googling humanure. There's a book all about it!
Wayfinder; For cleaning up carry wipes. For a privy, line a can (as large as you are willing to carry and line with a plastic bag. Put kitty litter in the can and after doing your business, tie it shut and carry it out. OR, dig a latrine and cover your waste with ashes from your campfire. Dig the hole deep and bury when you leave. Another option is to carry lime and cover waste with lime, but again in a privy hole and bury when you leave. If you are staying in an area for some, ove your privy from time to time. ALWAYS keep your waste covered (kitty litter, ashes, lime or dirt if nothing else to avoid disease carrying insects. P.S. keep the privy down wind! Also keep all food residues AWAY from your camp. Broiling steak is not near the attraction of raw meat or even potato chips. Animls don't cook their food, don't find the cooking meat smell attractive and don't like fire. Trouble is more apt to come before cooking when the meat is raw and after eating when you get careless with bones and other foods. If I knew predators were in the area, I would put my left overs in the same plastic bags as my human waste and cover them with the same medium, seal and haul out with me. If camping long term. Bury it. Deep!
patrickshay5 years ago
I have access to a large stand of bamboo. Do you think that would work? I love this Instructable!
AlaskanTentLady (author)  patrickshay5 years ago
I know it will. Read down, tallfuzzyone just built one of bamboo! I cut hundreds of bamboo trees out of my yard in Seattle years ago and threw them all in the dump. What a waste, huh? It may be harder getting the walls tied at first cause they might roll around a bit, but I'll bet you can use the bigger ones for roof poles and the skinny ones for the walls. I'm off on a whole new thing now putting lovely fabrics up on the interior roof. Changes the whole feel of it. So many varriations and possibilities. Have fun!
That's so strange! I grew up in Seattle (Redmond, really) and one of things I always hated was every few years trying to get rid of the bamboo my father had planted in the yard in the early 70's. Man! you just couldn't control that stuff. Wish I knew then about all the wonderful things you can do w/this wonderful plant!
AlaskanTentLady (author)  patrickshay3 years ago
No kidding! in 1999 I cleared a ton of bamboo out of my N.E. 65th Street yard over in Roosevelt, and we took it ALL to the dump. :( It takes over wherever it's planted and there are a lot of varieties too. I'm guessing it's one of the strongest poles we can use... and someday maybe someone will build an entire house using bigger bamboo for water pipes and foundations.
well I should have read all my replies before i wrote this!
I'm currently in the process of building a small yurt out of bamboo. It'll probably be 10-12 ft diameter. I'm making the tarp out of fused grocery bags. Thank you for posting this and sharing your knowledge. If people want to see photos of my work in progress: http://strangerock.wordpress.com/2011/07/03/a-yurt-in-progress/
AlaskanTentLady (author)  shammontree3 years ago
what an inspiring story! we're finding the 12 foot Traveler to be a very nice, workable space, much better than we imagined. Your idea with the bags is so, SO good, and sharing things like recycled paint is really helpful too. Great job! TY!!!!
hi am new to this ger building and one question I got after reading this post. according to what you said it looks to me that the wall pieces of wood are smaller (thinner ?) than the roof ones..?.
so heres the thing, i love gertees, so three days ago i started building one out of bamboo. it's completely finished in record speed from growing in the ground to a structure. the only problem is, where do i find free material for roofing? if anyone knows of free fabric please let me know. i usually dumpster dive my materials, so i was thinking silt/erosion fencing. ~tallfuzzyone
Another option is what I'm doing on my bamboo yurt, fused grocery bags. You can make a whole tarp out of it. It takes a lot of bags though.
Another source of free materials for the roofing can be old billboards. They do n't use paper anymore they use really heavy duty poly. After Hurricane Katerina Here in Mississippi there was a lot of it that had blown down. It was hard to get poly tarps for awhile so I used so of it. It was SO much better than a poly tarp and all the ads on it made it really colorful. I sure if you see anyone changing a billboard they will give you the old one the just pulled off.
Here are some pics of the bamboo yurt I 'm making so far. Just have cut the boo and put up the wall.
yurt 006.jpgyurt 002.jpgyurt 004.jpgyurt 007.jpgyurt 006.jpg
Hey tallfuzzyone- I want to build one of these out of bamboo myself. I have a huge stand of the stuff in my yard (some out it is almost 30ft tall). Do have any hints or advice about doing it w/bamboo. It would be totally -way- killer -cool if you had any photos of it you could post somewhere. Thanks dude. -Rick
AlaskanTentLady (author)  tallfuzzyone5 years ago
One guy wrote and told me he used a bike wheel for his roofring. Construction sites use a lot of plastic sheeting and throw away/burn materials regularly. I bet the bamboo is beautiful, have you taken pictures of it?
A few months ago I helped a friend building a Yurt (=Ger??) and it was fun. He bought in France as they were cheaper there then in Portugal. It's so simple to build that in 1 day an 8m diameter tent can be finished in 2 days with 4 people.
We built it on a wooden platform so the bottom moist can't reach your floor. We also installed a little plexi glass in the ceiling for day light which is very welcome.
What I didn't like is the low doors. You always have to bend when getting in or out.
Although I liked the project I can't imagine living in a tent like this. It gives me a claustrophobia feeling. No windows, no daylight everything in 1 room, strange smell of the natural materials you use. I think I'm a Sissy.
Anyway thank you for the great Instructable and hope you enjoy life.

Michel
Portugal
AlaskanTentLady (author)  silver912targa6 years ago
We get a lot of hits from France at the ACL gerteepictures page, most come from a minimalist site there. I'm going to add some new pictures of our latest 20 foot gertee, which used 7 foot wall slats and the door is 6 and 1/2 foot high and 3 feet wide. We made it tall for guests, to us it feels enormous! It also has a 4 foot roofring with a plexiglass skylight and it changes the interior into an amazingly lovlier space. The only one room thing is hard when there's more than one adult, next time I will be building 2 attached, or even three, like a pod. Nomad Shelters in Homer, AK did it in Nome and it worked nicely for them (a family of 4?). The strange smells don't bother me usually, what's hard now is to feel comfortable inside a normal square room with solid walls and roof.. I find it hard to breathe. And I've learned to love hearing the wind and rain and birds flying over my head. It's sure not all about peace and quiet either. thank you for sharing your experience, and I'm sorry it took me so long to respond here, it's been a crazy summer for us, cold and wet and a challenge. Years ago I researched the possibily of buying a cork farm in rural Portugal. I loved the idea of your steady 60 above climate and the undeveloped aspects of the hill country. It looks like an absolutely beautiful place to live! The only person I've known from there was a dorm mate at UMass, Amherst, and she was an absolutely lovely gal who studied hard and had a fantastic accent.
Portuguese are very peculiar people. They've been so suppressed for many decades that they act very strange now. Somehow they know they're very behind because of their history but don't like to admit it and act just the opposite. They work and study very hard, that's true but unfortunately they forget to live like people in France and Italy know so well. Dolce far niente or savoir vivre doesn't seem to exist here. Very pitty as it is such a beautiful country with friendly people with lots of potential. Anyway, during summer I've build a 6mx7m lodge tent on a 7mx8m wooden platform and lived there for 2 months and must say it was quite an experience. As you said it's much more noisy in a tent then in a building, because you can here every single noise even from miles away. I had to wear ear plugs because I couldn't fall asleep!! And during the nights it was much colder and humid. I've build myself a solar shower (black piping in the sun and a thermo tap) witch worked like the champ. Everyday I looked forward to shower all naked in the woods with hot water. Amazing how long you can shower with just 30 meters of this black pipes. Abraços. Michel
front1.JPGrigth side.JPG
Beautiful platform tent! Reminds me of my Girl Scout camp - but yours is more of a house! I love it!
AlaskanTentLady (author)  silver912targa5 years ago
I never told you how fabulous this camp is! It's perfect in every way.
pheenix424 years ago
Goodness...why in the name of common sense didn't FEMA research the use of structures like this instead of fixating on ideas like mobile homes and trailers??  You folks have proven conclusively that one can live quite comfortably in something like this!

Great job!  I'd like to build something like this myself! =)
This!!! I just visited the Wampanoag Homesite at Plimoth Plantation and was considerably impressed at the comfort of the native dwellings - of course, the ger is much more mobile - but our generation has decided that there are so many things we "can't live without" -- many of us would be much better off if we stripped back to the basics and re-learned the joy of simple living. A lesson I need to be reminded of more often.
inov8r5 years ago
Using twine instead of zipt ties sounds like a great recommendation. A good source of twine can usually be anyone who has horses and needs to purchase their hay. Bailing twine is incredibly strong and great for all sorts of fastening.
jottoh6 years ago
Its refreshing to see folks really using and reusing their yurt, its components and improving/experimenting. Building with whatever materials you can find is also a breath of fresh air. Its on the other end of the scale from the turnkey, $16K ready made yurts that most think of. I love it! Keep up the good work.
AlaskanTentLady (author)  jottoh5 years ago
Yeah it's been a lot of fun cause it looks different every time! I have to say though that if I had the money I'd love to have a new 24 footer from Nomad Shelters in Homer. They make special Alaskan insulated gers and they perfected their design in Nome. Of course they knew how to get a grant and make the high end ones; it took somebody like me to figure out how to make the low end. :) Thanks for your encouragement. I will!
abadfart6 years ago
nice i might build one of thees for camping with my friend. also I'll need a oil drum stove for heat and cooking.
AlaskanTentLady (author)  abadfart5 years ago
send me pics when you make yours, please! and any stove will work, even a small propane stove/heater will keep a small gertee warm enough. have fun!
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AlaskanTentLady (author)  solitary man5 years ago
Funny that your comment should come in now, just as I'm seriously thinking we should turn Camp Redington into an Alaskan "school of hard knocks." The movie "Into the Wild" has created a whole new awakening among Americans longing for their basic, human right to live free. Admirers of Chris McCandless for his ill-fated expedition could be our starting base, but it would also be perfect to start a school. Then other schools can send one person to train here and then they go home and teach everybody else. I'm not much for traveling anymore, as I still live in a gertee and I need to stay with it, it's still another test model and it requires a watchful eye. One of the things that really amazed me was to realize how valuable this knowledge was to ALL people, everywhere on the planet, since forever. It's an incredible level of deception when a powerful entity can convince millions of grown adults to live as their wards. Housing is the key to freedom in my book. Thank you for your input, and God bless you too!
Krommos6 years ago
I seem to have a difficult time following verbal instructions for construction designs. Then again, I was blond as a child. I'm not sure if gender matters.... Anyway, the concept and the ideas you reported here are what fired my cerebral furnace. And some of the pictures are very helpful. Overall, this is an excellent instructable - and in agreement with what an earlier fellow said, you ARE one cool lady. More power to you, and to your writing.
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