nomad shelter alaskan yurt in extreme winter conditions


The Alaskan Nomad Shelter yurt is inspired by the traditional Ger or yurt design of the central Asian steppe nomadic herding people. The design includes a circular lattice frame and rafters supported by compression into a central ring at the top. This design is ages old and very well proven. 

The central Asian people have used yurts for thousands of years as primary residences due to their wind resistance and excellent snow strength while providing a light, warm, circular interior.

Nomad Shelter founders Lee and Jess Tenhoff have flawlessly incorporated these enduring traditions, living and working through extreme Alaskan conditions in a yurt of their own design since 1987.

Distinctive Design

The Alaskan Nomad Shelter yurt has many features that you'll only find here. Aspects we include as standard are generally extra charges at other companies, if they are available at all. Beyond the overall quality of construction, the following distinctions make the Nomad Shelter the best value for extreme weather use and total comfort.

nomad shelter alaskan 40 foot yurt with tan cover under open sky


The cover is made of Duro-last roofing membrane 40 mil (28 oz) polyvinyl, with some colors also available in 50 mil. Nomad Shelter uses this fabric over the entire yurt for the standard cost because it will not mildew, degrade with UV or sustain a flame. This fabric is the only fabric that comes on the standard yurt.

The cover is designed with facings that cover the joins in areas that could be susceptible to drafts. There are facings covering the join of the top to the wall, facings over the door join and around the windows to stop the drafts coming up between the insulation and the cover.

The cover also has a sewn brow-over door that sheds the rain away from the threshold. These features are all standard in a Nomad Shelter yurt.

nomad shelter alaskan yurt construction with open lattice and rafters in the forest


The wall lattice on a Nomad Shelter yurt is made of 1″x2″ white spruce or Douglas fir riveted with 1/4 inch aluminum rivets. 40' and 50' yurts also have 2"x4" support columns integrated under the rafters for added strength, as well as taller walls for high wind environments.


The top of the wall is fastened with bolts for strength in bearing the weight of the rafters.


The Nomad Shelter lattice is structurally engineered with this added dimensional strength to support the rafters and provide 60 lbs per square foot snow loads and 100 mph wind resistance without vertical supporting posts.

nomad shelter alaskan yurt rafters with skylight and stovepipe


Nomad Shelter rafters have wooden connections to the central compression ring. The way the mortise and tenon joinery is designed to insert directly into the compression ring gives the connection far greater strength than the metal bracket designs of other companies.

There are no pin connections so there is no torsion or twist in the frame. The rafters do not need hole drilled wire lacing to prevent twist. There is one hole drilled in the rafter at the top for a gust lock cable.


Rafters are all hand-finished and oiled to bring out the natural grain of the wood. 30', 34', and 50' yurts use Douglas fir for the rafters, and we are happy to special order Douglas fir for use in any other size yurt.

nomad shelter alaskan yurt rings in the shop


Nomad Shelter Central compression rings are layers thicker and a foot wider on each size than others you will find.

12-16 foot yurts: 4' ring with 3 layers of glued and bolted Douglas fir 2x material.


18-20 foot yurts: 5' ring with 2 layers of 3 1/8" glue-laminated material.


24 foot yurts: 6' ring with 2 layers of 3 1/8" glue-lam.


30 foot yurts: 6' ring with 3 layers of 3 1/8" glue-lam.


34 foot yurts: 8' ring with 3 layers of 3 1/8" glue-lam.


40 foot yurts: 8' ring with 1 layer of 5" glue-lam and 2 layers of 3 1/8" glue-lam.


50 foot yurts: 10' ring with 1 layer of 5" glue-lam and 2 layers of 3 1/8" glue-lam.

These robustly engineered rings ensure the compression from the rafter connection translates into an incredibly strong roof, while also serving as a beautiful design feature.

nomad shelter alaskan yurt insulation in the shop


Nomad Shelter offers a 3 season liner that is similar to what is offered other places as a winter liner. It includes reflectix double foil backed bubble wrap. This is lined with a polyester mildew and fire resistant fabric.


In addition, Nomad Shelter offers a heavy winter liner that includes the light liner backed with 1″ of polyester batting on the top cover and on the wall, creating a durable liner that can be repeatedly moved without wear or breakage. We can also add extra layers to the outer cover for even greater insulation.

There are many people in Alaska living with the Nomad Shelter liner as insulation for their primary residences. The owners Lee and Jess Tenhoff also use the heavy liner to insulate their residence yurts in Homer, Alaska.

nomad shelter alaskan yurt plexiglass skylight in the shop


Nomad Shelter offers an octagonal cedar and Plexiglass skylight that is distinctive. The design includes a rugged safety bracket that supports a MetalBestos stove stack through the center. Yurts 20' and under use an 8" bracket for a 6" insulated stove pipe, and larger yurts have a 10" central bracket for an 8" pipe.


The stack is safest when it exits the peak of the shelter for optimum draft. The stack is supported in high winds by the cedar frame, providing the safest possible stack solution for extreme climates. The stack can be angled on the interior of the yurt to place the stove anywhere in the yurt that is desired.


The skylight can be capped if there is no stove stack needed. The Tam light thermopane double dome skylight can be ordered direct from Tam skylights.


Specification Sheets

We hope this information was helpful, and shows our care and commitment to constructing the best yurts available at the greatest value to you. If you have any further questions about Nomad Shelter yurt designs, we'd love to hear from you!

~ Nomad Shelter Handcrafted Alaskan Yurts ~

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3001 Little Fireweed Lane

Homer, Alaska 99603

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