Canvas bell tents are more popular than ever, but is a bell tent right for you? I share my personal experience of using both bell tents and a variety of modern tents, and have highlighted the pros and cons of camping with a canvas bell tent, to guide you through the decision making process.
Having used modern tents for most of my camping life, my switch to a bell tent came just a year ago. Since then, I have camped exclusively in the bell tent, generally preferring it for the many short weekend camping trips. Whilst I love my bell tent, I do still prefer my larger, modern Coleman Fremont tent when I go on longer camping trips.
Buying a bell tent can be a difficult decision as it is almost impossible to inspect an erected bell tent in a camping shop or at a tent show. My own flower pattern, Boutique Camping Bell tent has drawn lots of admirers (and quite a few vocal haters), many of whom have asked questions and wanted a look inside.
If you have any bell tent related questions, do feel free to ask me below in the comments section or over on Twitter.
Are Bell Tents The Hipsters Of The Camping World?
Bell tents certainly stand out, and whether you choose a bright solid colour or a funky patterned bell tent, they certainly do have a touch of hipster cool to them, practically speaking though, I love how fast my own bell tent is to put up. Whilst inflatable Airbeam type tents may beat a bell tent in terms of set up time, a similarly sized Airbeam tent was well out of my price range at the time.
What’s Good About Bell Tents?
- Very fast to put up and take down
- Can be erected by just one person
- They come in lots of different designs, ideal for people who like to stand out
- Canvas tents help to moderate temperature more effectively (no waking up on a summer morning feeling like an ill fated lobster)
- Interior space is more flexible than many modern tents as inner tents can be purchased and positioned to suit your needs
- With many styles of bell tent, the sides can be rolled up, ideal for hot summers days
- There is a large amount of floor space, making bell tents ideal for sleeping lots of people
- Most are compatible for use with wood burning stoves (you’ll need a proper chimney opening making for this however)
What’s Not So Good About Bell Tents
- Due to their immense height, they do catch the wind
- Unless you keep the front doors open, you won’t make the most of the scenery due to them having no windows, so they aren’t great for people watching or admiring the view from inside
- No seperate kitchen, living or sleeping areas, unless you invest in additional inner tents
- Useable space is actually less than you’d think due to the sloping sides limiting where you can put, for example, a kitchen unit or a table
- 5m or larger bell tents can be difficult (heavy) to put up alone
- Traditional cream/beige colour bell tents show up dirt and grass stains and can quickly look grubby
- Most bell tent entrances are too low to walk in and out of without bending, which can be a pain for those with mobility issues
Final Bell Tent Buying Considerations
- Unlike most modern tents, some bell tents come with separate ground sheets, we prefer the kind with zipped or sewn in ground sheets
- Due to the nature of canvas, bell tents are rarely fully waterproof on their first use. To be fully waterproof, the fabric needs to be wet first, and once it dries the fabric knits together, making it fully waterproof
- Some bell tents don’t have zipped or fully closable front doors and instead are tied shut – great if you want a bell tent for re enactment or LARP, not so great in terms of practicality, particularly in wind and rain
- Depending on the modern style tent you have and the weight of poles, you may find bell tents are bigger and heavier to carry, so bear this in mind if you need to carry your tent any distance and this is especially true if the tent is wet during take down. Wet bell tents weigh roughly the same as a planet
- Many bell tents do not have fly sheets covering the air vents or doors, my advice is to choose a bell tent that does
- If you have a 5m bell tent or over, some campsites will charge you extra for an oversize or even a double pitch
Made Up Your Mind & Want To Buy A Bell Tent?
Check these out, i’ve heavily featured Boutique Camping tents as I can personally attest to their quality, as I bought one last year that I used all season.