Monday, 14 January 2013

Which bell tent for you?



There is a new version of this thread posted on the main page now - there are also a lot more comments and feed back, so click below to more recent updates and reviews :)



Looking to buy a bell tent?

Just a bit of advice/my opinions on bell tents....(only my personal opinions so you can take them all with a pinch of salt!)

Price

Prices vary from £200 (for a 3m.  Ebay bargains come up - I have purchased 2 x 4m tents for this price which were used as wedding tents for 1 day only), to around £400 for a  4m/5m

6m upwards can be anything from £600-£1000

SIG/ZIG (explained below!) are generally more expensive but worth paying for

What Size?

The standard sizes tend to be 3m, 4m & 5m

Although if you shop around you can now buy 6m (Canvas & Cast) and even a 7m (Boutique Camping).  Alternatively Bell Tent UK sell the Emporer (6m x 4m), which although not a bell shape, is the same material and general pitching method as a bell. There is also the lotus tent available from canvas and cast which has higher walls, but I must admit I think it's an ugly looking thing, and pitching looks a lot more like hard work on it

If you are in Europe (not UK) pop over/order from Obelink, you will get the same spec tents a lot cheaper (they wont deliver to the UK)

The Emporer




The ugly Lotus



Other suppliers include soulpad and karma canvas

There are obviously others out there, but I haven't had any dealings with these so dont really want to put up any recommendations

Soulpad, Karma & Bell Tent UK tents tend to be very similar - The spec on them is pretty much the same poles, canvas.  There are a few small tweaks such as slightly thicker pole (bell tent), fly screen in the doorway (soulpad) etc, so its worth looking at the different sites before you make your choice.

Price varies slightly between these but no great difference

Canvas and Cast are noticeably different.  Very nice heavier canvas and some nice touches with wooden pegs, string fittings, wooden poles - you can usually request something and have it adapted/supplied.  Only downfall with C & C is usually the delivery times quoted - I dont think they sit on a huge stock so everything is ordered in, which means we are reliant on the little chinese actually supplying on time

The 6m bell from Canvas & Cast - I love this tent and the quality is excellent


What colour??

And yes it's purple....

Canvas and Cast sell a few colours (sandstone, green & purple) and Boutique camping do standard 4m & 5m bells in various colours now (blue, coral, green, sandstone,lilac).  But the rest of the suppliers tend to stick with just the cream canvas

Then there is the rhubarb and custard striped one available from Glam Camping




Be aware if you go for a coloured option, the colour inside is a lot stronger than it appears from the outside!!!

This is purple and green canvas and cast outside...



and just a bit brighter inside!


3m Bell Tent

Advantages

  • Brilliant for 1 person (and 2 dogs..) 
  • Very stable in any weather.
  • Quick to pitch
  • Easy to heat
  • Ideal for quick weekend camps
Disadvantages

  • Stick 2 adults in there for any longer than 2/3 days and they will kill each other - space is limited
  • You are not going to be able to cook in this one due to lack of room, so will need an awning or kitchen tent in addition
  • No room for a woodburner


and inside...(the bed is a double sim, but a fairly tight fit)




4m Bell Tent

Advantages

  • Good amount of room for 2 adults 
  • Very stable in any weather.
  • Quick to pitch
  • Easy to heat
  • Inners widely available - extend your camping season through the colder weather
Disadvantages

  • If you are taking kids, go for the 5m option - it doesn't sound like much of a difference being 0.5m bigger all round the circumference, but it is the head room that gives the space
Inside the 4m without the inner


and using an inner



5m Bell Tent

Advantages

  • Very roomy - will accommodate 2 adults and 2 children
  • Seperate inners are available, also a quarter inner (bijou) can be purchased from soulpad 
  • Quick to pitch
Disadvantages

  • Once the weather gets colder they are very hard to heat - an inner is a must.  If you are looking at woodstoves I would go for a minimum of a 4kw output (forget your pipsqueaks)
  • Although roomy, the sloping walls dont lend themselves to cooking areas (especially if you have kids in there as well)
5m Mr Men Outside


Inside using the inner


Inside without the inner




SIG/ZIG/Separate ground sheets?

Not a foreign language, it just means:-

SIG - Sewn in groundsheet.

Advantages:

  • Quickest off all of them to pitch, as you 'lose' a row of loops so less pegging
  • Secure, so no bugs/rain gets in

Disadvantages:

  • Be careful how you fold it when muddy/wet as you dont want to stain the canvas
  • You cant roll the sides up in the hot weather
  • Nowhere to feed the ehu cable through other than the front entrance

ZIG - Zipped in groundsheet

Advantages:

  • Secure so no bugs/rain gets in
  • Unzips when mucky so you can hose and dry separately without messing up the canvas
  • Groundsheet can be packed separately to spread the weight into 2 bags
  • Sides can be raised in the summer
  • The ZIP usually is in 2/3 sections, so you can usually feed the ehu (electrics) cable through, between the start and end of a new zip 

Disadvantages:

  • None really! (I suppose the zip could break!)
  • Quite a lot of canvas to dry if it gets soaked when you are packing up
Separate Ground Sheet

Although probably the less attractive of the 3 options, these usually have a fairly good overlap as opposed to most modern tents - There is a pretty good seal all round

Advantages:

  • If it gets mucky you can hose and dry separately without messing up the canvas
  • Groundsheet can be packed separately to spread the weight into 2 bags
  • Sides can be raised in the summer
Disadvantages:

  • Rain/bugs can get in, as the join is at ground level
In summary

The bells are a quick pitch, graceful looking tent which is a lovely experience to camp in.  On a hot summers day (I think it falls around July 7th for about 6 hours, known as british summertime) the sides can be rolled up - perfect


Take into consideration the groundsheet type & size before buying.  All season camping can get cold and I would try and manage with a 4m if size/room isn't a major issue. Summer campers only? - go with a 5m (pitching time difference is neglible between the 2)

Cooking is better done outside under a awning or in a separate kitchen tent (not only safer but the tent doesnt stink of spaghetti bolognese for the next 6 months)

Be aware of the English weather - it rains. a lot.  The major downfall with the bells is they have no windows when this happens.  (Canvas & cast do tend to have a small circular one in the doors, but you aren't really inclined to sit up next to it peering out

Go with the smaller options if you are more of a weekend camper, drying a 5m canvas is a hassle for just a weekend away.  Althought I tend to have a tent over my dining table more often than a tablecloth

Other tents to take into consideration is the Bell Tents Touareg.  I adore this tent!! (and tbh probably use it a lot more than any of the bells)

Pitching is simple (same method as the bells) and being a SIG (a separate ground sheet version is also available but not a ZIG version) is very quick

The advantage being that you have windows - on both walls - also it works well for me as you have doors on both walls - ideal if you use a motorhome.  You can park right up and use the entrance on one end to the van, and the other is free to get in and out.

The space is a lot more usable than the bells, and I have had a kitchen area against one of the flat walls on a short camp



A last alternative if funds/space are low is the poly bell tent. Do your homework before buying as some have bad reviews.  If you want to know more, here is my review of the 4m poly I bought http://bellsandlabs.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/somewhere-in-byfield-poly-bells-and.html



Good luck on your bell buying

If I think of anything else I'll add it, but I'm sure you'll love it if you get one

Theres more info and pics on my tents on the sidebar and in the blog

However you can contact me and I'll try and answer any questions you have, but I'm no guru, just a bit nuts about tents!





BELL TENT SUPPLIERS

Canvas & Cast

http://canvasandcast.com/

Belltent.co.uk

http://www.belltent.co.uk/index.php

Soulpad

http://soulpad.co.uk/

Karma

http://www.karmacanvas.co.uk/

Boutique Camping

http://www.boutiquecamping.com/

Baker & Bell

http://www.bakerandbell.com/

Canvas and Camp (Overseas but sell to the UK)

http://www.canvascamp.com/en

Obelink (Overseas company, sell only bells to Europe, but accessories and other tents delivered to the UK)

http://www.obelink.co.uk/tents.html

BCT Tents

http://www.bctbelltent.co.uk/

Cotton Tent Company

http://thecottontentcompany.co.uk/category/belltents/

Green Outdoor

http://www.greenoutdoor.co.uk/

Glam Camping

Some nice accessories, but I would steer clear of the 'Strawberry and Cream Tent'.  It is sold as non waterproof (?!) and it does leak.  Originally they sold the Rhubarb and Custard tent (very similar) which is the one I have, and this is totally waterfast

http://www.theglamcampingcompany.com/

Poly Bell tent Supplier

Camping Outdoor Europe

(the same tents are also available on Amazon UK from this supplier)

http://www.camping-outdoor.eu/de/camping/

Boutique Camping now also do a poly version (link above)

 


 
















30 comments:

  1. really helpful, thank you so much!

    ReplyDelete
  2. A great overview Val, thanks! I thought I had decided on my next tent until I read it . . . .

    ReplyDelete
  3. Brilliant article, thanks a bunch for writing it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Val
    Im loving your painted bells and that 6m from C & C, your painting inspired us to get a pink panther painted on the genoa porch of our 4m C & C. Unfortunately my significant other is still holding out against painting the tent.
    I can see you have suggested the Pipsqueak stove wouldn't be suitable for a 5m bell, but do you think it might be ok in the smaller 4m? C & C have offered the full stove and flu kit for £300. Keva's price at KP is £447 and although we are comparing apples and pears it is a big differential. Any thoughts or words of cosmic wisdom?

    Gordon
    gordonjbn@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It might give off enough heat in the 4m (i think total output is 2kw?) in Spring/Autumn. But also bear in mind the size of the wood will have to be very small - which is a pain to chop up, but more importantly it means as there is such a small stove area the fire is only going to stay in for a couple of hours max - you will be forever topping it up to keep it going. They are pretty though! More of a novelty that a decent heat source, it all depends what time of year/which weather conditions you are planning to camp in

      Delete
  5. Thanks, plenty to think about then!

    Gordon

    ReplyDelete
  6. Talked to Mark at C & C and he agrees Pipsqueak probably not the one to go for if looking for a serious heatsource in potential wintery conditions (and lets face it that can be mid July these days). However their Hobbit stove is also available in rear flu configuration which would go with bell tent side wall flu kit and it looks rather good. Think that might be one to go for. He's quoted stove and flu for £450 and £20 delivery, seems as good a buy as any other.

    Gordon

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Any updates on the hobbit?! Does look a nice stove but the 60kg is a killer weight for me - Think 30kg would be my max I would consider

      Delete
  7. probably worth mentioning that there are differences in the materials betwenen suppliers.
    Belltentuk is a polymix,
    Soulpad and C&C use 100% cotton canvas and C&C is a heavier weight.
    Don't know about others but always worth checking first.
    Advantages and disadvantages to all, including the type of waterproofing used.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep I did mention C & C was heavier canvas -even their material varies from tent to tent though. The 'windjammer' tents seem different from the rest of their range. The 6m bell is a lot nicer material than the old 5m canvas they also supply, which can have a plastic coating type texture to it.
      I didn't realise there was a difference in belltent & soulpad as they both 'feel' the same. Not sure which is an advantage really although I have known a few soulpads with small leakage, so perhaps belltent have a better waterproofing finish?

      Delete
    2. Anonymous, your comment about Belltentuk being polymix surprised me as I have one and always assumed it was entirely cotton. I've just checked on their site and they claim their tents are '100% unbleached cotton canvas' so not sure where your information came from.

      Delete
  8. The Bell Tents from Bell Tent UK are 285gsm cotton canvas, not polymix like previously suggested. They're also water- and mold-proofed during manufacture. Not sure about Soulpads - they use 285gsm canvas too, but not sure where their manufacturer gets it from.....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks...!

      I think most manufacturers go with the 285gsm

      Canvas and cast are 350g canvas

      Delete
  9. Just to stick in a word of defense for the Lotus - we got one last year and it's really done us proud, and most people love it, although admittedly it has a marmite sort of effect on some people, we reckon its 95% love and 5% hate which is fine by us. Its really good for being able to stand up and move about in, doesnt feel cramped like camping in a bell tent. And about the putting it up, we just leave the poles in the wall so it folds up in a tube and its no harder or more time consuming to put up than a normal bell tent. Its great for socialising because no one has to crouch, and harry was really helpful with letting us pay in installments so overall we're fans. Interesting blog though, good to see someone elses thoughts on the matter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ahh must admit i've never seen one 'in the flesh'..! Would be interesting to have a look one round. Have also seen it referred to as a garlic bulb. Still not keen on the appearance but appreciate the higher walls are more useful. Wouldn't ever really say a bell tent was 'cramped' though..Will hopefully see one on a campsite soon, and may revise my opinion then!

      Delete
  10. We have the 4m C&C Bell, tan colour, since three years soon + Pipsqueak stove + tarp.
    Mainly happy with them, wild-camping in the mountain (1300m).
    Tan is a nice colour in the landscape (going towards light beige through the sun along exposure), matching the 4X3m Karsten tent, beige (sand) colour (from army) we have settled besides. Karsten quality is very different anyway. Tarp was not the same colour despite ordering tan was ok, and prooved to be sticky during the first time...
    - had to wait a lot...also some missing parts (C&C sent me later these parts: toggles...), that I sewed by myself;
    - strong canvas, with plastic sticked under the seams; the canvas was told to be fire retardent, may be it was why we got brown powder coming down inside the tent upon groundsheet after the first big rain (never got an answer why);
    - stove: the wood-logs must be short (very easy with the Fiskars L98 tool to cut), and you have to feed it about each twenty minutes (but easy to find everywhere in the woods these wood logs about 5 to 7cm diameter); nice to cook upon it (there is a movable heavy round plate at the top), the cast iron material keeps hot after the last dying ambers (we usually go to bed when fire goes to bed too!) A very good little stove, a lot of heat (despite needing feeding sooner than bigger stove), very well made flue kit fitting with kevlar panel.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure i would have the patience to feed the pipsqueak!

      Delete
  11. Excellent post that a LARP friend has just linked.
    Very helpful and the pics have helped make my decision on next tent.
    Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  12. hi im wondering if you have tried any from this site http://www.campingandcanvas.co.uk/canvas-bell-tents/5m-canvas-bell-tent.html it seems such a good price, we really want a 5m ZIG but non second hand available, this is cheaper than the big names mentioned above. Any feedback ?

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  13. what kind of paint does one use on a bell tent ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is a guide to painting them on the link at the top right of this page - under 'meet my tents'

      Delete
  14. hi folks, this is not an ad. just want to share a link i found this ZIG 5m cheapest online!

    http://www.bell-tents.co.uk/index.php?id_product=18&controller=product

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Price seems a bit good, but would be very reluctant to order without reviews or recommendations. Looks a bit fishy tbh!

      Delete
  15. what about the 7m bell tent can you put up some info on them like how big in comparison pros and cons and things

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't got a 7m, so a bit hard to do a proper review!
      There is the obvious pro of additional space if really necessary, but bear in mind the cons are: hard to heat, stability in wind wont be great, fewer suppliers to choose from, and the pack size and weight. I'm not sure if inners are widely available for them either

      Delete
    2. thanks and boutique camping sells both the tent and the inner if we needed it as for heat and stability for us would not be a problem storage heaters (we only camp were we can have electric) and for stability wouldn't storm peg work? as they kept the awning for our 22ft caravan down i 60mph winds and that was like a wind sock

      Delete
  16. Anyone know why Sabritex bell tents are a lot cheaper?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Its the first itme I have heard of them! They seem to be USA based? http://www.bell-tents.co.uk/stores It would be interesting to see if anyone has purchased from these or visited the stores?

      I'm not sure I'd order unless I could find some reviews or feedback

      Delete
  17. Boutiquecamping.co.uk Worst customer service ever! Inferior quality pole ends which led to the metal end ripping a hole in the top of our tent. Not impressed at all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How did they respond when you told them what happened?

      Delete

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