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Sunday, 3 March 2013

Somewhere in Byfield, poly bells and canvas awnings

Just returned from a weekend at Crossing Farm (Byfield) where I met with some of the others (snowy, gumball, annie and her newly acquired man (just when we had given up hope) and mans's dog, Stanley)

Forecast was good, no rain, hurricanes or snow - about as good as we could expect for the first day of March

Saturday Evening

So loaded up Tills with her nice new MOT and mismatched paint job (need to get her sprayed properly still) and trundled the 25 mile voyage to just outside Banbury

Got there for about 1pm so proceeded to pitch the new van awning.  Bit clueless, but pretty much a frame tent with an elasticated bum bag

Not having much idea what was included in the bags, I had brought along 3 groundsheets, plus carpets in every size (didnt know the dimensions either)

300 tent pegs later...all pitched

Must admit I liked the covered access to the van

Couple of hours pootling about and it was all pitched. No sign of the others yet so decided to pitch the poly tea bag as well (the shit brown coloured 4m poly bell I have just 'acquired' (blown credit card on) from Germany))  Found it on Amazon but if you google the german sellers website and order direct the postage works out cheaper (see link at the bottom of the page).  Idea being it's lightweight for any last minute camping where i cant drive/park at the pitch, and gives me a 'hire' tent for people if they want to borrow it (will still probably cry though when i lend it) - Review and more about it at the bottom of the page what...

So all tents pitched, beds made, ehu hooked up nicely with enough fan heaters to blow the national grid and I was ready for the night

The others all rolled along from 3pm onwards and were soon pitched and settled.  Fish and chip order taken and we dined in style (which reminds me I think I owe Annie £2 extra for the fish and chips).  As its a chinese chippy, was quite pleased they had widened their menu to include mushy peas, a huge failing last time we visited.  Obviously something is lost in translation (there is a reason for it being called chinese whispers) as the 'mushy peas' were two tone ball bearings sitting in water.  Chewing a aniseed ball would be mushier

Homer enjoying a spot of French Skipping

Early next morning (about 10:30pm) the eldest daughter (shall be known as devil child 2 from hereon or DC2) came along with the little un (rocket banger) for a day of wine and fine dining. Well actually a lot of quorn, tofu and salad offerings as she has now realised that pregnancy not only brings a bundle of chubby joy, it also brings a bundle of chubby flab that she now needs to lose before returning to work in May

So insipid sausages and healthy eating everything cooked first, then I layed the lard up and threw in my breakfast of cream cakes, a kilo of sugar and sausages with extra fat in them (my diet isn't going quite as well)

We then decided to take a walk around the reservoir as it was just down the road. Well actually it was down a hill down the road.  The hill rather nastilly changed to uphill for the return journey.  This was ok though, as it meant we burnt off all that tofu (lard) and tbh didnt really notice the gradient, as avoiding the oncoming cars pretty much kept us occupied anyway

Homers feet getting muddier and muddier :(

Rocket banger was squashed into a baby sling as it wasnt brilliant pushchair territory.  Unfortunately I think the sling was made for a small being about 1/2 stone lighter, so she wasn't too chuffed about being squeezed into a corset at 4 months old.  Weaning starts next week, so might be worth starting her on some tofu too


Although the moon chair was a big hit

Back to the campsite and never one to actually appreciate the tranquility and peacefulness of camping, I decided to load everything out of the awning and into Poly tea bag for the night.  Then take down the awning - which is a lovely awning and everything but must admit I dont enjoy sleeping in it half as much as the bells :(

Gumball also had a play with his new toy which was donated to him from the 'no homes for canvas society'.  As longs as he remains standing all the time, should be a useful little tent

Gumballs 'compact' new home (this picture is taken to scale)

Lazy arse didn't even peg it down (Annies new Cabanon Calais in the background)

Gumballs proper 'new' tent. He has succumbed to the bell tent witches society - complete with 'free porch'.  Of course they aren't actually free but anyone who buys one, it is compulsory to say it is included or we will all get found out

Made dinner in 2 shifts again, garlic and chilli grill steaks for the daughter (identical to the sausage she had for breakfast but would make even a french man shudder, they stunk).  Was getting late and as it wasn't such a good idea on this trip keeping rocket banger out for the night, they set off home to bricks and mortar

Another evening round the campfire where gumball once again demonstrated the M kettle - brilliant device.  Spend 30 mins chopping a log into match sticks. Spend 30 mins trying to light match sticks (incidentally damp wood isnt great for fires) .  Give up, lob in a fire lighter, and voila! A pint of water bubbles out the hole in the top and over your hands.  Saving approx 1/2 pint of water for your cup of tea.  Love the 'back to basics survival kit', highly entertaining.  Stanley the dog took to 'singing' to Homer most of the night, he wasn't overly impressed when it woke him up.  He wasn't sure whether to eat him, or give him the number of a doggy pychiatrist he could recommend

His fingers are so trained and agile in the speed of chopping matchsticks now, you can barely capture them on film

Snowy goes for shabby chic bag lady look

Annie in the first throws of passion would try and sneak off for an early night about 6:30pm.  We wouldn't release her from the social gathering until 9pm earliest (Mr Annie had actually bribed us and pleaded not to let her drag him back to the tent any earlier).  Although it was said at the end of the weekend that Mr Annie was freezing on the Friday night, whereas Annie was roasting.  I think perhaps Annie puts more effort into the night time activities...

Gosh I am so tired....(although it would take Annie about 2 hours to unpeel her layers)

Drank Cathys home made sloe gin (yum), and a few beers so I didnt think about Mr Teabag waiting for me to perish in the frost in the night, cooked fajitas over the fire and a perfect night camping

Much happier once I was installed in the poly bell. No rain forecast so I was pretty safe, also no wind, so no rustling or anything. Fan heater had done its job, and armed with the dual control electric faux sheepskin electric blanket, had a good warm nights sleep (see us hardened campers who pitch all through the winter aren't that stupid) .

Up bright and early this morning (about 10am), leisurely packed up in the dry and pleasant morning and mooched off about 1pm

Snowy had to outdo us all, and taking the current petrol prices into account, arranged for a private lift's the tow truck driver I feel sorry for, wonder how many funny looks he got dragging his flower power trailer home...

Some pics of the Poly Bell if anyone has a whim to test drive a teabag as well

Few nice bits:-

  • 2 windows (ok poly ones, so you have to look through crackled plastic)
  • The A frame poles are a better design than any of the more 'up market' bells I have - Simple difference being the option to adjust into 1 of 3 holes on the poles.  Extending poles, simple idea but no one else has done it
  • Mosquito nets in the doorway (only strange bit is that these zip on all sides, however the main tent door flaps only zip down the middle - the bottom is open (no adverse effects or chill noticed from this though, as they hang lower anyway)
  • it weighs 9.5kg
  • it takes 10 minutes to pitch
  • it doesn't weigh a ton damp
  • it dries quickly anyway
  • pack size is 65x20x20cm
  • SIG (sewn in groundsheet)
  • 3 days to deliver - quicker than most UK outlets

Frost outside (temperature dropped to -5 in the night) but the tent was snug as a bug - Thankfully no trace of condensation in the morning either

Bit disarming really, as have spent the last 3 years preaching canvas is brilliant and poly is shite, and have nothing bad to say about the teabag (yet)

Ventilation was good, poles seemed strong enough, and reinforced roof for the centre pole

Extending A frame arms

Warm at -5, not bad for a poly

All kitted out (yes yes i have washed the muddy rug now)

I have no idea how this tent is going to perform in any downpour, so have a couple of options:-
  • Pitch it (badly) in the garden and set the hose on it (although this will usually mean a dog shit mark will appear on the groundsheet, as Homer and Barley have a knack of hiding their dumps so I cant find them, despite thinking the area is clear)
  • Pitch it another weekend when rain is forecast and drown in it
  • Pitch it another weekend and sit and gloat in another tent, whilst watching it drown
Advertised at 5000HH it sounds perfect. I'm not sure the reality will be as good, being a natural cynic

They also sell 5m and 6m versions, but the price increases quite a bit (6m has an inner)

I'll update when i know what the water resistance is like (if any).  Only dubious as they previously sold another poly bell which got slated on water resistance (advertised as 3000HH, called the Grand Canyon Indiana)

German website if you want the cheaper rate (but use google translate!)

Total cost is: 156.93 euro (bank transfer gives another 5% discount) or 164.43 euro with paypal

Converts to approx £135 (£141 with paypal) - inclusive of the delivery charge

All people in this blog do not in anyway resemble anyone living/dead.  They are all entirely fictional...(disclaimer just in case...sorry gumbllx..annie..cathy)

15th March - Tested in the rain and happy to report no leaks!!! woo hooo! (other than where I left the rain cap off and it dripped down the pole)


  1. Very (very) tempted to buy the teabag tent. Canvas is tough to dry (not having much outdoor space) so ...

    1. Still an unknown on the waterproofing. Might be a fairweather tent, but a bit of fabsil and seam sealer will heal most of them in worst case scenario. Did notice amazon is down to less than 10 left already, but dont want to say go for it in case there are any problems!! Be ok if we ever get any sunny weekends (ha ha) for a quick pitch. was fine in the cold though, and v impressed there was no condensation dripping on my head this morning

    2. stick google translate on if you want to order direct from them rather than amazon!

  2. Luckily I have a German speaking friend - will get him to help out. I do love the idea of it being a bell, even if it's a plastic bag in origin. And the weight, the ease dry-out wise. Pro's and con's. Thanks Val :)

  3. It looks brilliant Val. If any bedding was touching the sides did it let any water (even dew - I know there was no rain). Baby is gorgeous, I would like to know if you can buy adult versions of her fluffy coat with the little ears....

    1. no water/condensation at all - thought i might get some at head of bed,but nothing. Moon chair was pushed against wall but nothing there either. Small amount of condensation at the very top of the windows when i peeled back the poly to 'open' them, but to be expected as it would be trapped.

    2. Im not sure bunny ear pockets and hoods are available in larger sizes

  4. Funny that, I have a poly tent from Germany & that has the same doors, with the net doors zipping all the way round, but the outer poly doors only zipping together in the middle.
    Probably a measure to stop idiots gassing themselves in the night. I like it though. I take it it's a single skin?
    (Oh yes, Hi Val, hope you are well, I am still alive, just can't afford to go camping).

    1. Yep only a single skin. Will be fine if it gets through the rain test... Might do a weekend meet at Uffington (berks/oxon border) if you can get over to that one? By the white horse. Ask your mum for more pocket money :)

  5. Bit clueless, but pretty much a frame tent with an elasticated bum bag

  6. Thanks a lot for this blog and the time you took to explain everything about bell tent!
    I just bought this poly bell tent for the 4 of us thanks to your detailed post !

  7. Have been considering a bell tent for sometime now due to ease of setup.canvas is far to heavy to transport on a motorcycle.the poly version looks ideal. great report and has convinced me to buy from the german site. the site has an english option now .
    thanks for your time and effort.


  8. Firstly, amazing blog and reviews.
    Secondly, I'm looking at getting one of these tents to go to the British Grand Prix in July. I am a seasoned camper but this would be my first time in a bell tent. I typically camp between May and August and since reading your blog think a bell tent would be a good choice for this event.
    If you would be so kind I have a few questions:
    1) This tent has a 5 star rating with 23 reviews on Amazon, which makes it one of the best rated tents on the site. It is however 1/4 of the price of Canvas bell tents. What sacrifices does this poly tent make to be so affordable?
    2) your tents are always beautifully lit, what lighting do you use and can it be used without electric hookup?
    3) can this tent accommodate an inner?
    4) in your opinion would this make a good choice for the type of camping I would be using it for?
    Thank you very much in advance for your help!

  9. I have the polycotton version of this tent, ordered from the same site and it has the same adjustable door poles and mesh. I'm fairly impressed with it although it is a heavy brute (obviously not as heavy as a canvas one) and dealing with the retailer was a breeze, delivery in no time. Impressed!

  10. Thanks for the brilliant blog.
    I'm going to order the teabag to replace my beloved pop-up tent which got irreparably ripped.
    See all you 'baggers about in summer!

  11. Has anyone bought the poly ones from boutique camping. I'm tempted but would like to know if they are any good


CRAFTY POST - My revolting conservatory-camping-store-room, really needed a makeover....

Finished!  So I get asked, where do I store all my camping kit? The answer is