Bell Tent Buying Guide

Author: The Stylish Camping Company   Date Posted:25 March 2016 

Before you make the decision to invest in a bell tent, it's worth doing your homework to make sure a bell tent is the right tent for you. This guide gives you all the information you need to help you make an informed decision!

History and design

  • Bell tents have been around for a long time, ever since Henry Hopkins Sibley patented the first bell tent in 1858!  The design was originally based on the North American Indian tipi, with the bell tent featuring side walls, a higher doorway and guy ropes.  Bell tents have been used by scouts, guides, soldiers and more over the last century because of their durability, ease to pitch and elegant design.

  • Bell tents are generally 2.5-3 metres high at the central point.  This gives plenty of head room to move about in the tent comfortably. They ordinarily feature four half moon windows in the side walls. These are unzippable, and include mesh screens. The side walls can easily be rolled up if you have a zipped-in groundsheet, allowing air to flow through the tent, and giving the visual impression the tent is 'floating'.

Materials

  • Bell tents are made from cotton canvas, with some also available in a lighter polycotton mix.  Canvas grades are measured by weight, in grams per square metre.  Many standard bell tents are made from 285gsm canvas, however the more durable and longer lasting bell tents are made with a slightly thicker canvas, which withstands harsher weather conditions much better.  We recommend a minimum of 320gsm canvas in Australia. 

  • The lighter the canvas weight, the lighter the tent is to carry.  However the heavier the canvas weight, the more durable the tent will be.

  • Groundsheets are made from ripstop PVC, and also come in various thicknesses/weights.  Groundsheet weights generally start at 480gsm and go up to 640gsm.  We recommend a minimum of 540gsm for your groundsheet.  Obviously the heavier and thicker the groundsheet, the more it will withstand tougher conditions.

  • Groundsheets also vary in how they are attached to the bell tent.  There are generally three kinds... sewn-in groundsheet (SIG), zipped-in groundsheet (ZIG), and pegged-in groundsheet (PIG). 
    Whilst the sewn-in groundsheet will be more watertight in the event of flooding, it is generally harder to clean because the tent and groundsheet are all one piece. 
    A zipped-in groundsheet allows you to roll up the side walls to let air flow through on warm days.  It also allows you to pack and clean the groundsheet separately to the tent.  The tent can also be used as a shelter without the groundsheet attached. 
    The most recent bell tent models also feature an inner mesh wall that is zipped in to the groundsheet.  This brilliant feature means that when the outer side walls are rolled up, the inner mesh wall stops unwanted critters coming in!  When camping in Australia, you definitely want inner mesh walls!

  • Many bell tents are now made with pre-proofed canvas for waterproofing, mouldproofing and fire retardant, however it goes without saying that common sense prevails when caring for your bell tent, both when it's pitched and when it's packed away.  This will ensure its longevity.

Weather

  • The Australian climate can be unforgiving, no matter what the season.  The beauty of canvas is that it is more effective in moderating the temperature inside the tent. If you are planning to camp regularly throughout the year, we recommend choosing a slightly thicker canvas, which will ultimately last you longer, will handle the harsh weather conditions better (sun, rain, wind etc), and will keep you cooler on hot days and warmer on cold nights.  If however you are planning to use a bell tent for seasonal recreational camping, then a lighter canvas will suit you fine. 

Usage

  • Part of the appeal of bell tents is their versatility.  They provide a great space for camping, because of the head room available, the short time they take to pitch and the durability of the canvas. 



 

  • Because of their aesthetics, bell tents are often used for many purposes other than camping.  You can set your bell tent up in the back garden as a temporary room for guests, or as a personal relaxation space.  They look fantastic scattered with cushions, and with the side walls rolled up for a chill out space, or an all day beach shelter.  Bell tents are also a great solution for children's parties too, adorned with bunting, fairy lights and other gorgeous decorations!  A bell tent really is a blank canvas to create a space that you can stamp your own personality on!  You may even choose to decorate the exterior of your bell tent with weather-proof paints and turn it into a work of art! 

  • The rise in popuarity of bell tents is also seeing a growing industry in bell tent hire for private events, weddings, and music festivals, as well as glamping weekend packages.  There are endless possibilities with a bell tent!

Size of tent

  • Most bell tents come in 3 standard sizes: 4 metre, 5 metre, or 6 metre.

  • A 4 metre bell tent is the perfect size for 2-3 people. 

  • A 5 metre bell tent is a great family option, or for those who just prefer a bit more space to spread out!  4 people can comfortably sleep in a 5 metre bell tent.

  • A 6 metre bell tent can sleep 8 adults, and even more kids!

  • Guy ropes extend out by 1 metre, so when pitching the tent remember that a 4 metre bell tent requires 6 sqm of space, a 5 metre bell tent will need 7sqm and a 6 metre bell tent will need 8sqm. Bear in mind that some campsites may charge you extra if you require more space. 

Pitching

  • Pitching a bell tent is easy and takes 1 person only 10-15 minutes!  It may take a little longer on your first pitch, but once you know how, it's easy peasy!

Weight and transport

  • Because they are made from thick cotton canvas, bell tents are not the lightest of tents.  If you have any physical lifting limitations, we would not recommend you purchasing a bell tent, unless you have someone else that can carry it for you.  They need to be lifted in and out of your mode of transport and carried to your pitch.  These are important considerations.  They are not hiking tents!  The entire weight of a bell tent and pegs starts from 25kgs+ and goes up to almost 50kgs for a 6 metre tent.

General care

  • Canvas becomes more watertight once it has got wet for the first time, as this helps 'seal' the canvas.  Do not panic when your bell tent gets it's first lashing of rain, this is a blessing!  You may even want to pitch it in the garden and spray it with the hose before its first outing (remember to zip everything up first)!

  • If you have to pack your bell tent down whilst it's still wet, make sure you unpack it as soon as possible when you get home and put it out to dry either in the sun, or in a room with a dehumidifier, to remove all moisture from the canvas and groundsheet. 

  • We recommend having the bell tent professionally cleaned once every 2 years to retain its optimal use.

  • Treat your bell tent as an additional member of the family, with love and care, and it will pay you back tenfold in the enjoyment and pride it will bring you.

Cost

  • Bell tents are an investment in camping adventures that you will cherish for years to come.  They are not a throw away festival tent by any stretch!  Bell tents are built to last, and once you become hooked on camping in one you will realise that they are worth every cent spent.

Styling

  • Glamp up your bell tent with stylish accessories that help you create a home away from home! 

  • Rugs scattered across the groundsheet, and placed outside the front door, help to bring your bell tent to life and are convenient to shake off when people forget to take their shoes off!  There are lots of reasonably priced options when purchasing rugs.

  • String up some bunting and fairy lights along the front of the tent, and around the inner walls, or from the centre pole, to bring decorative fun and vintage style to your tent.

 

Check out our range of premium quality bell tents available for shipping Australia-wide!


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