Yurt Camping in NH
This is easy camping. No wet sleeping bags, bugs and other annoyances
Yurts are the civilized way to start camping.
photo by Grant Klene
A yurt is turn-key camping. Forget pitching the tent. It’s already standing.
Just show up with the essential gear and spend those cool nights sleeping in the outdoors. You can stand up, move around, even sit on a futon couch — or sleep on it.
And if the weather’s bad, you’re not cramped in a small tent. You’re styling in the waterproof circular structure.
The yurt has roots with the Mongolians of Central Asia. Given their nomadic lifestyle, the yurts kept the family together with everything they needed under the roof.
Today’s modern yurts are made with wooden lattice frames. You’ll find yurts on wooden platforms like decks. They come with vinyl windows and some have skylights. Inside, you can find everything from bunk beds to desks. Some can get downright fancy with a mini-espresso maker, wood stove, fondue pots and plastic wine glasses, depending on the destination.
Yurts aren’t just three-season fun. Across the country, many ski resorts use them as a lodge, while backcountry skiers in the high country use them as shelters. Hike or mountain bike to some. Drive right up to most.
Andrew Zboray oversees the yurts in Milan Hill State Park. There are four yurts there where visitors can either drive or walk to them.
“Since we sited each yurt in a varied setting, you can take your pick,” he says. “For example Yurt 1 is accessible and you park directly across the road from the yurt that is tucked into the forest edge; while to get to Yurt 4, you need to carry or wagon your gear more than 50 yards from the parking area. Yurts 2 and 3 are a bit of a walk from the campground road, but all of the yurts have a very private setting.”
Wherever you go, be sure to make reservations — yurts are popular, hard-core or not.
In Mongolia, the yurt is called a ger.
If you’re staying in a yurt, you might as well spice things up.
The 24-piece GSI Outdoors Destination Kitchen Set ($49.95) unlocks the civilized camper inside you with everything from utensils to condiment vessels.
Keep those hands happy in the dark by lighting the way with the Black Diamond Gizmo Headlamp ($19.95) that stays on your noggin.
Though camping newcomers can find decent introductory sleeping bags for around $60 to $75, you might as well dive right in and stay warm with something better like the three-season Kelty Cosmic Down mummy bag ($159.95).
Expert Advice From Andrew Zboray
Andrew Zboray knows about yurts and state parks. He’s the assistant regional supervisor for New Hampshire State Parks North Woods Region, including the yurts at Milan Hill State Park. He was a ranger at Monadnock State Park for 15 years, eight of those years as the park manager.
What’s the appeal of camping in a yurt instead of a cabin or a tent?
Convenience is one of the biggest factors. Many campers have to travel a few hours after work on a Friday night, so it’s nice to have the “tent” already set up so you’re not fumbling around in the dark or rain trying to remember “which pole through what sleeve.” It’s also a lot cooler than just renting a cabin, which to me is too much like camping in a smaller version of your house.
Typically, what’s inside?
All of our yurts have a complete furniture set that includes a futon sofa that opens up into a full-sized bed, a bunk bed that has two twin mattresses, an arm chair that folds flat to accommodate a child (or a dog) and a coffee table. Our seasonal park manager has added a few key features such as a lantern hanger, coat hooks and a broom to tidy up. You’ll also want to find the guest book so you can read stories and check out pictures from previous campers as well as add your own stories.
Each yurt is built on a wood-decked platform and, depending on which one, have small decks at the entries. We provide a picnic table and campfire ring right out the doorstep at each site.
So, is it safe to use a stove in a yurt or light a candle?
It’s not a good idea and best left for your outside activities since we prohibit any open flames inside the yurts. We suggest the use of battery powered lanterns and headlamps while inside; that way you won’t use up your matches before trying to start the campfire.
If I’m going family camping for a weekend, what should I bring?
Even though the yurts are furnished, you still need to bring your own bedding such as a pillow, sleeping bag or sheets and blankets. I really like those new LED battery lanterns that many retailers are now offering since the batteries will actually last through an entire trip, and you will need one to find your way around inside the yurt. Some people like to cook meals on an open campfire, but I prefer using my camp stove for more convenience.
How does a yurt hold up in rain or snow?
They hold up surprisingly well in the snow. The first winter I snowshoed in with a roof rake expecting to clear a heavy snowpack, but was happy to find that every yurt had managed to shed most of the snow. They are a great dry space in the rain, especially since they are up off the ground, so a lot better than waking up in a tent with a soaked floor. To be honest, I actually prefer it to rain when I’m staying in one.
And if it gets hot in summer, can I open a window or something?
Each yurt has windows you can open by simply unzipping a flap and folding down a clear plastic layer, but one of the best features is the rigid plastic dome in the center of the roof that can be opened from the inside. We are considering installing screen doors in the future to give an even more open feel if you wished. One of the unique benefits of camping in the northern forest on a hot summer night is that the breeze often carries the scent of balsam fir and other evergreens through the air.