Bell Tent Buying Guide


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Important things to consider before buying any tent

Three-season tents are structured to handle strong winds (but not snow loads), and the walls are made from mesh, which strikes a good balance between ventilation and protection. Four-season tents feature tough fabrics, sturdy pole structures.

If you’re backpacking into a camping destination on your own, you typically want a tent that weighs less than 5 pounds; whereas if you’re backpacking with a group and are dividing the weight, you can go up to 8 pounds. If you’re car camping, don’t sweat the poundage – go for extra room and comfort.

The vast majority of good backpacking tents use steel or aluminum poles, which are strong, and easy to setup. Fiberglass poles are found on inexpensive, light-duty tents; they're cheaper, heavier, and less durable. Carbon Fiber poles are found on ultra-high-end tents; they're super-light and super-strong, but not as durable as aluminum or steel.

Tents come in several configurations; each has its pros and cons. Famous design types include Bell Tents, Wall Tents, Cabin Tents or Swag Tents.

Sleeping capacity generally denotes the number of campers that can sleep snugly in a tent, with little room for gear. Get a tent with additional capacity if you intend to store gear inside or if you have a dog. When looking at floor space, check the dimensions, not just the square footage. Tall campers need a longer layout; stout hikers need more elbow room.

Bell Tent

Bell tents are a classic and historical design of a tent that is characterized by its simple single pole support structure over which the canvas walls are pulled taut and secured with guy ropes. They are similar to tipis but have walls that can be lifted up and down during use.

"Sibley Tent was the earlier version of bell tent which was introduced and patented by Brigadier General from Louisiana, named Hopkins Sibley during the American Civil War in 1858. The design was inspired from the Native American - Indian Tipi with basic features like telescopic tripod, side walls, doorway, and ropes. The bell tent is a circular canvas tent with a single 2-3-metre supporting pole in the center. Its bell-like shape is created with tension from guy ropes around its circumference. They are aesthetically-pleasing, sleek looking and have a simple design of bell tent with ease of set-up and pack-down. The modern bell tents still use the same basic shape, but vary widely in terms of features and quality. They are usually made from treated cotton or poly-cotton fabric which are water and fire repellent and offer a luxurious camping experience. "

"Bell Tents were used earlier by the soldiers, scouts and guides; they have gained popularity over the last few decades and are commonly used in the glamping and camping industry nowadays. They used to provide shelter in the early days, but now they are used by families and friends for holidays, weddings, parties, private events and getaways. Their unique features, flexible options, and comfortable design are the reasons why people prefer them during vacations. Many glamping sites include bell tents as a weekend package for temporary accommodation. If tent weight is not an issue (such as when you’re car camping) then canvas bell tents offer many more benefits. If you’re hiking, you’re probably not likely to be looking at a bell style of tent anyway, as it’s really too big to be considered practical for hikes. Bell tents have been made popular as the tent of choice at music festivals, for glamping accommodation, or as a comfortable, sturdy tent when camping out in the wilderness. Bell tents are increasingly favored by families and couples alike as a comfortable structure to base outdoors adventures from. Bell tents are not restricted to the camping industry only, many people prefer to pitch them in their gardens to make extra room for guests outside or as a little chill out space for friends. Bell tents are a great solution for children's parties, too, and become especially exciting when ornamented with buntings, fairy lights, and other dazzling decorations! "

Bell Tent Size

There are a few sizes for bell tents and they tend to work in floor space diameters. (Height might be a consideration for you but in general they are all roughly the same height.

10 feet or 3 meter bell tents are a perfect fit for Single Campers, Couples and Small Families as 2-3 people can easily sleep inside them. They are ideal for short-period holidays as they are easy to manage and take less time to put up.

If you are planning longer trips, more space for luggage is required, which makes 13 feet or 4 meter bell tent the perfect choice as they are ideal for couples. This tent can accommodate up to 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 children, it has enough room to fit in a bed and additional luggage. Easy to carry, pack away quickly and can be erected by a single person in few minutes.

For bigger families and larger groups, huge living space to install camp furniture and more luggage, a bit more headspace to sit or sleep around, choose a bigger tent. Normally, a 16 feet or 5M Bell tent can accommodate table and chairs, bed set, and a camp kitchen inside your tent with enough space to move about. Also great for families with kids as it gives ample space to sit and enjoy inside the tent. If you like camping throughout the season, you might want to add inner partitions to create separate compartments for living area and sleeping spaces.

These tents are for larger families as it can sleep up to 6-8 adults comfortably. Also a great choice for glamping site owners, event planners, festival camping with large groups, outdoor parties and weddings

These tents are usually great for parties, small wedding brunch/lunch, get together and festivals as they can accommodate around 20 people.

Bell Tent Fabric Material

"Bell Tents are a take on the traditional Sibley Tent design from the early part of the 19th Century. The modern bell tent took inspiration and we have designed it to suit today’s camping/glamping needs. They have undergone many modern updates which allow them to offer luxurious qualities. Newly-evolved bell tents are now made with water proof, mold-proof or fire repellent finish. It would be really hard for the campers who have used canvas fabric to switch to any other material. A good rule of thumb is to always go for thicker or heavier canvas as they are long lasting and durable enough to withstand severer weather conditions in a better way. Although it is easier to carry light weight canvas tents, the heavier weight canvas are sturdier and more robust. Bell tent manufacturers and users have been exploring a number of alternatives and have come up with different kinds of options to choose from i.e. Cotton Canvas, Polyester Cotton (a cotton fabric with polyester weaved into it) Canvas, Oxford Canvas and Polyester or Nylon. However, 100 % Cotton fabric is preferable due to its breath-ability and durability. Authentic bell tents are made from 100% cotton canvas ranging from 285 GSM to 420 GSM / 8 oz. to 12 oz.

"Cotton canvas tents are made from pure material that gives an organic and natural feel to them and makes them highly breathable that helps moderate temperature more effectively. Canvas insulates against cold air in winter, stays cooler in summer, and protects you from harmful UV rays. However, they require extra care to last long as they can’t be put away wet due to the risk of mold or milder damaging or rotting the tent. Canvas tents also don’t make that annoying flapping sound in the wind. Note: Due to the nature of canvas, bell tents are rarely fully waterproof as they require weathering-in on first use, the fabric knits itself together tightly when exposed to water for the first time. This is completely normal and the fibers need to be exposed to water to contract and form a waterproof barrier. To avoid this you can set-up your tent and hose it down to let it dry – this is called ‘seasoning’ your tent.

They are a blend of natural cotton and man-made polyester, a cotton fabric with polyester weaved into it. They have the look and feel of a cotton tent but require less care as compared to the cotton canvas, they are also more resistant to mold and mildew. If you want a colorful tent, you should opt for this kind of fabric as it holds the color better and dries more quickly.

A new type of canvas used by many manufacturers nowadays, this fabric is fully waterproof from the very first use offering high levels of waterproofing and strong color that won’t fade. The tents made from this fabric are much less prone to mold and mildew. The main problem is that they lose the natural breath-ability that only a cotton canvas tent can offer.

Most modern tent companies prefer polyester material. They are lighter, cheaper, easy to store, transport and setup, quick to dry and do not require much care and attention as other materials do. Also, canvas tents are much more expensive than most nylon and other synthetic material tents. Synthetic fabrics don’t ‘breathe’, i.e. let air pass in and out of the tent. This causes condensation to form in the inside of the tent, which can lead to moisture damage and mold. Compared with canvas, synthetic tents provide little insulation, so they will not keep you warm in the cold. They also don’t stay cool in warmer weather. After continued exposure to the sun, synthetics will eventually fade and deteriorate, as they are often manufactured in a toxic environment which is dangerous to both, the workers and the environment.

Canvas tents can be better suited for long camping trips because of their heavy duty, durable materials. Simply put, they are going to last longer than nylon or other synthetic materials. People that live at campsites during the summer should look at investing in canvas tents. Canvas tents generally perform better in winter conditions. Heavy duty canvas fabric will block out the cold and wind better than nylon.

• Canvas style tents- particularly cabin style canvas tents – provide a great design that has more room on the inside – and a lot more headroom for people that don’t like to walk around hunched over.
• Canvas tents are better in the winter, but they are also very functional during the summer – meaning you can have a 4 season tent for all your camping needs.
• Durability – if you buy the right canvas tent, you can go years before you need to replace it. Small holes and ripped seams in a canvas tent are also easier to patch up than holes and damaged seams in synthetic material tents.

• Weight – Canvas tents can weigh over 100 pounds, they are a lot heavier that synthetic tents, and that can also make them much more difficult to store, transport, and setup.
• Price – canvas tents are much more expensive than most nylon and other synthetic material tents. However, you won’t have to replace these tents for a long time if you properly take care of them. They really are made for more serious campers.

Make sure your must be adequately waterproof to cope with rain. And if the camping trips are for extended period of time, there will be cooking involved. Make sure to look for tents that have Fire Retardant option available along with a stove jack. Canvas can’t technically be called ‘waterproof’, as it is a weave and therefore has tiny holes in-between the fabric fibers. However, most modern canvas is treated with a waterproofing agent and should not leak, however the first few times a canvas tent is exposed to rain there may be a small amount of water soaking through the canvas and seams. This is completely normal and the fibers need to be exposed to water to contract and form a waterproof barrier. To avoid this you can set-up your tent in a garden, hose it down and let it dry several times – this is called ‘seasoning’ and will shrink the canvas and tightening it around the stitch holes along the seam making your tent rain proof.

Traditional bell tents come in natural/sandstone or beige color. However, if you want a brighter option, there are patterned or colorful options available in the market. The only issue is the color fadedness which may begin to occur overtime.

Bell Tent Groundsheet

Groundsheets come in different thickness/weight, starting from 480 GSM to 640 GSM. They are made from rip stop poly vinyl/PVC. The bell tent features three different styles of ground sheet options i.e. zipped in through zipper system or hooked-in with the help of hook and eye buckle system, sewn-in ground sheets or it comes separately. Each option has its own advantages.

Zipped-in ground sheets comes with a flexible option as sides can be rolled-up to get the air flowing during summer days and it protects you against insects and dirt, whereas, sewn-in ground sheets are best for extreme weather conditions as they are more durable. Our preferred option is zip-in as this way you can close out the outside world and let it in when you want. It’s a semi-permanent ground sheet giving you the best of both worlds.

The upper part of a bell tent is not securely attached to the groundsheet, this means that if it rained or the ground got muddy, it could make its way into the tent and get messy. Also, bugs could get in hence they are not very secure.

The groundsheet is stitched with the tent, very easy to setup and keep water and insects at bay. At White Duck Outdoors, we offer two different kinds of Bell Tents: Regatta Bell Tents (with a sewn in PE ground sheet) with an entrance that has a door pole. Another option is Avalon Bell Tent which has more advanced features as it has an A-frame for the entrance, zipper-in groundsheet and 4 extra windows to attach Sleeping Pods that could accommodate 4 extra people.

Bell Tent Stove

For those of us wanting to heat up the tent and potentially do some cooking on a stove, you’ll need an outlet for the pipe to extract the smoke and excess heat. These are not standard and for most tents require additional work to be done on the canvas. Always look for tents that have a pre-installed stove jack option available preferably not cut so there is an option to go for 5" or 6" pipe.

At above 250°C it will be start melting along with excessive burning smoke around 300 to 350 °C.

It is normal for the first time. Stove jack is made from silicone coated, Heat Resistant Fabric, the type of fabric in which the fibers do not loosen and do not tear. However, if loosen fibers comes out after cutting hole then it will be burn a bit and be sticky. When they start burning @ 300 to 350 °C the property of Flammability start melting with smoke so therefore it’s a burning smell of coated material (Stove Jacket Fabric).

Yes, it is completely normal. After complete burning of stove fabric, coating material leave its residue which might be stick or spread in powder form.

Yes, one should take more precaution regarding temperature, on 600 °C it will completely burn off stove material. Fabric will deteriorate easily after complete burn off. Furthermore, for your indication when the excess smoke start it’s an indication that the material (Stove fabric) is burning. When smoke is finished, it means all resistance material (FR coating) in fabric has been completely burn off & fabric will be no more in its original state (it won’t be fire resistant). 250°C is max to persist particular fabric.

A wood burning stove can only be used in a cotton canvas bell tent with a properly installed ‘flashing’ kit or vent. This creates an opening for the chimney to go through and allows smoke to be vented. Your bell tent will still need to be well ventilated when a wood burning stove is in use, even with the flashing kit and chimney in place. Wood burning stoves are made from cast iron and are, as you might expect, heavy, so do consider their weight and size before buying. Check that your canvas has been specially treated to make it fire retardant. If it hasn’t, you can buy it and treat the fabric yourself but remember that this may impact the natural breath-ability of the cotton canvas. Make sure you use a carbon monoxide alarm, take a small fire extinguisher and we also recommend a fire blanket, poker and heatproof gloves. Thoroughly read the stove manufacturers advice and safety instructions before you use a wood burning stove. Use an appropriate heat-proof base for your wood burning stove to sit on, we also recommend placing a thick rug under that so you don’t risk damaging your groundsheet. Remember that not all campsites allow fires, so check in advance to ensure you won’t be breaking campsite rules by using one. Oxford canvas and polyester bell tents are NOT suitable for use with wood burning stoves.

Bell Tent Pole

All bell tents have a Center-pole. This is one long pole that is positioned right in the middle of the tent to hold it up and give its peaked shape. This is what makes it so easy to put up. Bell tents come with a standard center pole, there are two options available for the entrance i.e. either go for a door pole or get the A-Frame around the door. The advantage of having an A-frame is, it provides a raised entrance area. While checking out the poles, look for the diameter of the center pole. We recommend to have 32mm-38 mm diameter and 1.2-1.6 mm thickness for maximum durability. Our Regatta Bell tents include a door pole with 0.984” (25 mm) diameter and 0.047″ (1.2 mm) thickness and center pole of 1.496” (38 mm) diameter and 0.047″ (1.2 mm) thickness. Whereas, Our Avalon bell tents have a center pole of 1.496” (38 mm) diameter and 0.062″ (1.6 mm) thickness and A-frame of 0.984” (25 mm) diameter and 0.047″ (1.2 mm) thickness

Bell Tent Zippers

Heavy duty good quality zips are of utmost importance. Cheap and low quality tents feature bad zips which can come out during your first trip. Always look for top rated military grade waterproof zippers not only on doors but also on windows to ensure maximum durability and functionality.

When it comes to camping, the quality of tent zippers cannot be compromised. Imagine tucking in for the night after a very rainy day of camping, only to find that the tent zipper refuses to zip close and its teeth has come loose. Without a repair kit and replacement zipper on hand, the campers will soon be in for a very wet, cold, and windy night. It’s important to look for high quality and top grade zippers while choosing your tent. There are some which are simply not stable and can break because of pressure as they start to become rusty and tarnish due to the exposure of light. There are mainly two types of zippers, • Coil Zippers • Tooth zip, which is also known as the Vislon or “chunky” zip. Always keep the tent and its zippers free from grit and dirt. After using the tent, shake it out to remove the dust and dirt, and wipe the zippers with a piece of cloth. Don’t force zippers if they refuse to budge. If fabric somehow gets caught in the teeth, gently work it out instead of pulling on it. The slider or coil can be easily damaged if the zipper is pulled too hard. Use zipper lubes so the tent can be zipped up smoothly and without snags. However, do take note that applying lube or any other grease-based product on the zipper makes it more prone to dirt and dust. Wipe and clean the zippers fairly regularly if lubrication is used. Here are some tools to fix some of the problems: Here are some quick tips that will not surely prevent your zipper from early damage. • Never force your zipper: which means don’t over stuff your tent as this will put weight on zipper especially when closing the tent. Never force your zipper that is stuck, instead do it gently, hold the zipper’s track using your one hand and back the slider up. Free the stuck textile by sliding the zipper from one side to the other. • Regularly clean your zippers: Without proper maintenance your tent zipper will less likely live longer especially when it continuously accumulates dirt and grit between its zippers. Regularly clean your zipper as it takes a very less time to clean it and remove all impurities that accumulate into the teeth which may impede the free movement of your zipper. Sea salt can be one of the destructive elements to your tent zippers, so make sure that you do the cleaning after your tent gets near to the sea. Use cool and fresh water when rinsing your tent zippers. • Lubricate the zipper: This tip is one of most effective ways of prolonging the lifespan of your tent zipper. Zippers also deserve to have healthy teeth and body, so go an extra mile in taking care of it by applying a dry grease on zipper tracks and post ends. While applying lubricant is generally helpful, it is also important to take the type of lubricant into account if you decide to use one. Manufacturers have come up with several products which they design specifically for outdoor gears, and these items are what typically works best for your tent zippers. Some campers, hikers, and backpackers do not recommend the use of wax as this lubricant may cause dirt to get stuck in the zipper while scented wax has the tendency to attract bugs and other insects. Greasing your tent zippers up is a great way to protect your gears. Greasing up the tent zippers is one effective way to keep them running. Before applying any lubricant, make sure you have cleaned the zipper because you want to avoid catching any dirt in your tent zipper. You may have also come across various zipper lubricant products. You may use pastels or powdered graphite. Others use beeswax which they can soften using a hairdryer or a heat gun to make it quick-to-apply whereas some people prefer using Teflon-Silicone Lubricant which allows easy handling of the tent zipper.

Bell Tent Standard Features

For in-tent air circulation and breathability, mesh is important. Ventilation of a tent is extremely important and probably one of the major things to consider when choosing a tent. Mesh panels are often used in the doors and windows of tents. This allows cross-ventilation to help manage condensation. The tent should be equipped with large no-see-um mesh covered vents and windows to provide protection against insects and flies. You can take advantage of the breeze with a breathtaking view without getting bitten by annoying critters.

Before buying a tent, it's important to look for the quality of poles, kind of zippers and pegs, pocket organizers and electrical cable outlet. Seek out a tent that has strong center and entrance poles and heavy-duty pegs. Zippers are the single biggest point of failure in any tent. Extra-thick guy ropes with metal sliders are also helpful, as these take on a lot of tension and are a potential point of failure out in the field. Additional features like pocket organizers are handy to store your belongings.

There is a huge variance in the quality of stitching on a canvas tent. Look for double stitching and reinforced stitching in key areas of stress. Many brands cut corners and even the thread they use is substandard.

Some modern bell tents have the ability to zip off the floors. This is really handy for cleaning the tent and also gives you the ability to roll up the walls and get the air flowing on warmer days. Look for tents that use high quality zips (YKK) as any potential issues with zips can be expensive to fix.

All tents should be made from flame-retardant fabric. Alarmingly, many aren’t. Even if you don’t have a campfire, accidents do happen. Make sure your bell tent is made with fabric that passes US fire regulations, so that if a fire occurs, you don’t find out the hard way that it’s been made with flammable materials. If you are planning on a hot tent set-up using a portable wood fire stove then please consider pairing it with a Regatta or Avalon Bell Tent- our tents have been treated correctly for fire retardancy and compatible with this kind of setup

Look for tents that have extras such as pockets, entry points for electrical plugs, and extra-large bags for ease of packing away.

Just like a house, buying your tent is a big decision whether you are a first timer who is just starting to explore camping or a seasoned camper. You will want to buy it with all the knowledge and preferences you need, as pre-care, after-care and practicalities are important to understand. Extra care is required when it’s pitched or packed away to ensure the tent’s longevity. The tent is not designed to get through one festival season or getaway, it’s an investment for your camping adventures which are built to last and are worth every cent.

Bell Tent Setup

It requires just one person, 20 minutes and an assembly instructions to go on with your first pitch! Setting up your tent is as simple as unrolling it, pegging in the groundsheet (floor), and inserting the center and entrance poles. Later, peg in the guy ropes – the ropes attached to the outside walls of the tent – and tension them. This creates the super-strong structure and distinctive shape of a bell tent.

What is your trip about? They are mainly made from thick cotton canvas which is why they are not light weight. They need to be lifted in and out of your mode of transport and carried to your pitch which requires minimum 2 to 3 people.

Bell Tent Maintenance

In order to ensure your tent’s longevity, extra care is required when it’s pitched or packed away. Wipe down all metal surfaces with fresh water after use. To remove marks, use a soft brush or sponge with fresh water and mild detergent only and rinse with fresh clean water. Allow to dry thoroughly and never pack away damp, dirty, or wet. After beach use or wet conditions treat all zips and metal components with silicon spray.

Follow the simple steps below:
Step 1 — Remove Dust from Your Tent You can easily clean dust from your canvas camping tents, if your canvas camping tent has accumulated lots of dust, dirt, and debris. Starting with unfolding your tent and aggressively shaking it to remove as much dust as possible and then lay the unfurled tent on a clean surface. Attach the stick brush with your vacuum cleaner and proceed to thoroughly vacuum the tent, paying special attention to any exceptionally dust-laden areas, corners, and storage pockets, as there are very high chances for Bugs to be there. In case you don’t have vacuum cleaner or forgot to take it you can use a Dust buster, or a broom and dustpan in its place.
Step 2 — Remove Mold and Mildew from Your Tent Once you are done with cleaning dust from the tent, separate the canvas tent canopy from the floor of the tent. You will wash the floor separately. You can leave the guy-lines on if they are dirty, just remember they must also be retreated in the end to prevent UV damage. If there are mold or mildew deposits on your canvas tent, you can effectively clean it with an easy-to-make homemade cleaning solution. (Read our blog on how to clean mold or mildew from a tent). To make this solution, combine ¼ cup of white wine vinegar and 1 cup of water. Combine the elements inside an empty spray bottle and jiggle thoroughly. Spray your cleaning solution onto any mold or mildew-infested areas and allow it to sit for few minutes. Then you can wipe away any mold and mildew deposits with a sponge, paper towel, scrub brush, or washcloth. Continue to repeat this process until your canvas tent has been completely purged of mold and mildew. Once you are done with removing all the traces of growth from the floor of tent, take a second empty spray bottle and fill it with warm water, which is healthy for cleaning the tent, and use it to rinse off your cleaning solution. Immediately use dry cloth or paper towel to dry the freshly cleaned area.
Step 3 — Remove Stains from Your Tent You need to give your canvas camping tent a full wash, if it is exceptionally filthy and covered in stains. To perform this, fill a very large container with about 1 foot (30cm) of warm water. Add various cups of Ox clean and use your best judgment on how much to use vs. how dirty the tent is and reference the suggestions on the box. Stir thoroughly until the solution is dissolved completely. Warm water dissolves the solution better than cold water. Place the tent canvas (not the floor) in the container and fill it with water until the tent is submerged. Stir and agitate thoroughly so the solution is well mixed and the canvas is soaking evenly. Allow the tent to marinate for 4–10 hours, stirring occasionally. It’s ok to leave it soaking overnight if you need to. Place you tent on to clean surface to allow it to get dry and then clean it like a kitchen floor. Sweep it, mop it and rinse it. Repeat the process of soaking several times to make sure it’s completely clean then spread the canvas out on top of your clean tent floor and pitch it. You can also pitch the floor on top of your car, then place the canvas on top of that to assist with run off. Don’t put the canvas directly on your car because Ox clean can strip clear coat. Always allow your tent to dry completely after a camping trip and any cleaning. If you let the water stay for too long, the moisture could cause more mold and mildew to form. The best way to dry every area of your canvas tent is to set it up and allow it to air dry.
With a little TLC and a few basic ingredients, your clean tent will allow you years of camping enjoyment.

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We hope you find this resource useful in guiding you through how to buy a quality bell tent. You can always call or email us with more questions, on

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