Building a folding rigid insulation hexayurt

August 8, 2010

You can see all the build photos on Flickr.

In years past I have camped in a tent under a large shade structure with the rest of my camp mates which is all fine and well but this year I wanted to try something different and a little more comfortable. The yurt will still fit under the shade structure it’ll just keep me that much cooler.

A hexayurt has many advantages over a traditional nylon tent. The main one being insulation, as that is what it is made out of. Not only will it slow down the transfer of heat it will also cut down on some of the noise, mostly treble. The other advantage is dust prevention. As this is sealed with wide bi-filament tape at every seam and taped down to a tarp dust has a hard time getting in.

Above you can see a rendering of what my yurt looks like. I used 8 panels of 1″ thick Thermax, sometimes called R Max, rigid foam board insulation. I then bought 2 rolls of 3M 8959 6″ wide filament tape from (link) to tape up all the panels edges as well as connect them to each other. Below you can see a model that someone had built. I built the same model which made the actual build a lot easier.

As you can see, this is a folding hexayurt. This makes assembly out in the desert very simple and less time consuming. Doing more work ahead of time makes this simple setup possible. Grab a friend and in 3 or 4 hours and you can have one of these built and ready for transport. Oh, and I found that cutting the foam with a circular saw made the cuts more precise and go a lot faster. Below you can see a photo of it completed and unfolding. It really goes up quite quickly.

The only other things you have to worry about are anchoring it to the ground and ventilation. To anchor it to the ground I ran two long strips of tape across the broad side of the structure, giving 4 anchor points on each side. Then I ran a rope down the ridgeline. This should be sufficient enough anchoring. Once out on the playa and anchored to the ground I will tape the yurt to the tarp to seal out the dust.

Regarding the ventilation I have a couple of ideas but unfortunately I am unable to give them a good test given the San Francisco climate. My current plan is to use two $25 attic fans that are solar powered. I’ll report more information once I return from the desert

For more information check out And finally, the best part of this design is the entire yurt folds down to be a little over a foot thick and only 4′ x 8′ so it can be transported on top of a car.

Categories: Burning Man


  1. peter royal says:

    you should mount a fan in the room so you can have it vent at night!

  2. Dude – You built a yurt? That’s bad ass. Good to meet you on the flight to PDX. I like the blog!

  3. Milt says:

    Can you go into more detail about how to tape the panels together so that they will fold? Thanks.

  4. John says:

    Milt, its hard to explain but I’ll do my best to give you a little insight. The first thing I would do, is build the model you see in the YouTube video. Without it, there would be no way I would have figured out how to tape it properly. The reason I did this was because it enabled me to see how far the folds needed to flip. When panels would be folding our more than 180 degrees, I would have to leave more joint space in between the panels. For less, they could be closer.

    I hope this helps.

  5. Milt says:

    John, what do you think about using 1 1/2″ thick panels. Would that keep it a little cooler for a little longer? Enough to make it worthwhile? Also, would it make the folding joints significantly more complicated.
    Also, did you find it roomy enough for two?
    And finally, how did the ventilation work? Did you use the solar fans? What about at night?

  6. Milt says:

    I was thinking that I’d rather put the door in one of the 4′x4′ ends. Do you see any problem with that?

  7. John says:


    Here are the answers to your questions in order:

    I used the 1″ thick panels. I do think that anything bigger may make the folding part hard, but not impossible.

    I did find it roomy enough for two. We had a queen size aero bed and a bunch of storage shelves. Worked great.

    For ventilation, bail on the vents. If I do it again, I’ll do what I saw other veterans do: cut two holes on opposite sides of the wall or roof, and tape in two HEPA Air Conditioner/Heater filters. The airflow through it is more than enough to keep the yurt cool and suck out the hot air.

    I see no reason why couldnt put the door on the end.

  8. Milt says:

    Regarding the anchoring, you mentioned running 2 strips across the broad side. I see two strips of tape on the roof section in your photo. Are those the strips that you’re talking about? Do they go from the roof/wall junction, across the top to the junction on the other side? Wouldn’t that give you only 2 anchor points on each side? You mention 4 points on each side. Did you use PVC tubing at the end of the strips for attaching rope?

    How was the ridgeline rope attached? And where did it go after it reached the tips of the triangular roof pieces?

    And finally, what did you use for anchors? Rebar or something else?

  9. John says:


    Those are the two strips I am talking about. Those do in fact go down to PVC pipes I slid inside of the tape.

    Yes, there are two strips that go across the roof and down the sides. There they attach to PVC pipes, two for each strip making a total of 4.

    Then I have ridge line rope embedded in the tape.

    Yes, I use rebar for anchor points.

    Hope all this helps. Have a good burn!

  10. Milt says:

    Yes, John, this has been very helpful. Thank you very much. I have my panels. Just trying to get all the fine details. So it sounds like you ran the tape all the way down the sides and then put in the PVC near ground level. Why not just stop at the roof/wall line and then run a rope down to the ground?
    As for the rope across the ridge line, how did you lead that down to the ground without it cutting into the panels?

  11. John says:

    The PVC pipes were in fact where the roof meets the walls.

    The ridge line rope follows the seam down to the ground. Dont worry too much about it now. It’ll make sense when you’re there.

  12. Milt says:

    Hi John,

    You mentioned in your blog that you purchased 2 rolls of tape. Was that enough or did you need to get more? According to my calculations 2 rolls (60 yds each) will just barely allow you to edge all the panels and then hinge them together. You’ll need another roll to tape them together on the playa and to tape the tarp to the walls.
    Did you need to buy another roll, or did I do something wrong in my calculations?

  13. John says:

    You are correct. I’d recommend buying another roll. My housemate and I ended up splitting another it.

  14. Milt says:

    Did you just tape the tarp on one side (inside or outside?) or did you tape both sides?

  15. John says:

    I just taped the inside. EIther side works is my guess.

  16. Milt says:

    Hi John,

    It’s me again. Got my tape, but haven’t started building yet. I was just wondering if you beveled any of the edges or just left them at 90 degrees.

  17. John says:


    Nope. I didnt need to. I just left more spacing on the folds that needed more swinging room.

  18. says:

    Indeed a very nice post. I also came form Auto Glass Removal, window replacement, Door Side Vent industry. I am your regular post reader and I love to enjoy reading fresh post on this subject. Thanks.

  19. Mike says:

    Where can you buy rigid insulation like Thermax in northern California? My search left me empty handed.

    • Mike,

      I cant remember where I bought it unfortunately. I do remember having a hard time finding it as well. I ended up finding some at a building supply store in the Mission in SF but cant remember or find the name. Call around and you should be able to source some.

      Best of luck!

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  21. Friday says:

    Try searching Home Depot/Lowes type stores for “Thermal Sheathing” or “Insulation Sheathing” it can usually be found in the building materials portion of Home Depot in varying thicknesses.

    Around now, most places are sold out – call around before you trek out for it!

  22. chakralea says:

    Hi, the guy you referenced for the video and design of the foldable yurt is Coreyfro. He has a number of other videos posted on his youtube page that are helpful – including a video on how to tie it down to itself and how it withstands in the wind. Cheers.

  23. Mark SIres says:


  24. brittany says:

    hey John,

    all of the local home depot’s and lowes no longer carry R-Max sheets that are 1 inch they only have 1/2 inch ones now do you think that the hex can still be built with that?


    • Hmm. I would be skeptical of its rigidity. I know you can find R-Max around but this time of year, especially in the Bay Area, there is a shortage of it. Often times you can find smaller independent hardware/lumber companies that carry it. Hope this helps!

  25. max mclean says:

    Hi John! The yurt looks great! I’m planning on building one for burning man this year. the only question I had was how much does it weigh? Can you lift it on top of a car by yourself? I plan on driving a small car (if i get a vehicle pass) that will be loaded down with a pvc dome ( already and am starting to worry about how much my car can handle. Thanks for your input!

  26. Erin says:

    Does it have to be 1″ thick, we are having a hard time finding 1″ how would it be affected if we went thinner or 2″?

  27. Milt says:

    Hi John,
    This will be my third burn with the hexayurt that I built several years ago following your expert advice. I’m doing a lot of retaping this year (all the hinges) due to UV degradation. Are you still using your hexayurt? Do you have any updated advice? Have you used alumunum tape to protect the bidi tape? How about a rope halo? Have you tried one? I’m just at the point where I have to decide whether to try a halo or use another 20 feet of tape for the tie downs.
    Thanks again for all your assistance.

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