Sunday, 19 July 2015

REVIEW: Lotus Belle




Following on from a comment on this blog, that I found the Lotus Belle Tents, 'a bit ugly', it started some correspondence with Hari from Lotus Belles.

http://lotusbelle.co.uk/



After a few emails back and forth, Hari offered to lend a Lotus Belle so I could try it 'in the flesh'.  So a quick dash to Bristol, I had visions of meeting Hari, with the exotic name, and an image of a Somalian Eastern exotic women sitting in zen gardens and meditating.

I rolled up to Hari's (which I later found out was short for Harriet), amidst total chaos, as 10 lotus belles had just been returned and dumped on her, after being hired out at Glastonbury. An hour of locating all the bits (and the dog, the phone charger, the phone, the handbag..) and we almost had a full set....

So a quick detour home via Hari's warehouse and I had a 5m Lotus Belle.  I think.  So the tape measure came out, and in my neuroticness, I measured every part, rather than pitch up with a jumble of maybe matches.  It was all fine, see I knew Hari knew what she was doing really... (Hari is lovely, I want to adopt her)

As this was a rental tent, the poles were already threaded into the wall panels, and the guys were already tied.  The wall section was stored in a separate banana bag, so it didn't have to be threaded together each time you used it.  In the other bag I had the groundsheet, 3m wooden pole, 30 marquee type heavy duty pegs, the cream canvas roof.  Plus an octopus. And a toadstool head.


Banana Bag for the wall
I had 10 days at Nantcol Waterfalls booked, so I packed the trailer, along with the lotus belle, a dragon, a tree, and some christmas goblins, and set off.

Arrived at the campsite with some pretty strong winds, so was fairly dubious having never pitched the lotus before. Thankfully, it's pretty sturdy even during pitching, so it holds itself in shape as you go along.  It's also remarkably easier than it appears, to both put up and take down.  An absolute must for me is that it can be done by a solo person as well.



Spacing the pegs
Firstly pegging out the groundsheet.  Once done, you them measure out the placement of the pegs for the roof and wall.  After watching a video, I put the furthest peg about 1m out - this wasn't enough, and I had to redo the outer ones (the video was based on a 4m pitch) as I went along.

















Once pegged, you simply go round each section of the wall and clip the 10 poles to the groundsheet - the guys then hold each section as you go along.






At this stage the tent is remarkably sturdy, and held up well despite the winds.  Next you locate the 'Lotus Belle' Logo on the roof  'tenatacles', guy out the first two by the door, then just move around the tent and guy the rest of his 'legs'.  There is a velcro strip that then joins the roof panels to the top of the wall.  A layer of mesh either side of the velcro gives the tent flexibility in the wind



Ready to add the centre pole

Once the roof is sitting happily, it was a good time to go in and lay the carpet down (the carpet was mine, but hopefully Hari will get something on the market in the future).  Final part is to just slide in the 3m pole, placing it in the centre on the wooden cup.  This part is actually a lot easier than a standard bell, as you don't have the huge canvas resistance pushing it up.


Carpet laid


Centre pole in

Total pitching was about 45-60 mins as this was the first time I had ever attempted it - It also involved me moving the pegs out as I had misjudged them, and re-tying quite a few of the guy ropes.  I'm pretty confident I could cut this down to 30 minutes solo, in future.

With solo camping the hardest bit is lugging the bags around - but everything can be split down, even the wall (but i would prefer to keep this intact with the poles).  Total weight on the 5m is around 66kg, the 4m is about 55kg


Pitched!


The only remaining job was to 'pimp' up the inside.  So armed with my dragon, a tree, and a few flowers, I got to work creating my temporary home for 10 days.


Ready to move in




By day 3 there was heavy rain forecast, so it seemed an ideal time to try out the 'octopus'.  This was a poly hat that sits on top of the canvas roof.  Exactly the same shape, you simply drop the centre pole, throw his suckery legs over the top and peg it on the existing pegs.  The bonus of the poly top is that there is no leakage at all, and it also keeps the canvas dry - invaluable on a wet take down.  The green octopus also gives a nice pattern to the ceiling

Pack size of the poly hat is small.  Shown here alongside Sid the Squid
The Octopus

The Pattern is diffused through the canvas roof

The tent had no issues at all with waterfastness (the upright walls prevent any leakage through the sides).  And although the groundsheet is a PIG (peg in) it is bath tub shaped at the bottom, so there is a 2 inch curve upwards, so no water puddled in.  Hari did mention that the tents had been professionally cleaned, but wasn't 100% happy about whether the waterproofing had been affected, so it made sense to try the poly cover (obviously a new tent will have no issues, regardless of whether you use an additional poly cover).

Day 7, the octopus was set free, and the red toadstool roof had a play


The red hat gives off more of a warm orange tint






It is a crowd stopper - After having bell tents for over 5 years now, I no longer have queues of people waiting for a guided tour, as they are on every campsite you visit.  So it was quite nice to have something a bit more unique, that had the visitors peering around the doors again.

It seems to have converted a lot of 'on the fence' people, who initially weren't sure about the tent (including me).  It also impressed the campsite owner, who is contemplating getting a couple to set up permanently onsite.

In summary



Overall there isn't much I can say about any faults.  The weather threw everything at us, torrential rain, 40mph gusts, and blazing sun - the belle flicked it all off as nonentities.  It was rock solid, with no billowing of the canvas in winds, and secure and watertight throughout.

I was planning to say the groundsheet is a PIG so would put some people off, but now there is a velcro version....and mesh doors would be useful.....but there is this option...so just to find something picky, and not give it 11/10 I will say its heavy....(but no more so than my 6m canvas and cast bell....)

Also there is now a porch available for the entrance, which would enhance the space even more

Obviously the costs are a lot higher than a standard bell, but the quality and extras do justify it.  It is a one off purchase, and will last for years.  My Canvas and Cast 6m bell cost just short of £1k - this is from the same manufacturer, so quality is excellent, on both fittings and canvas.  It is very much you get what you pay for.

So, having had the trial, will I purchase a Lotus Belle?.....I think I need to have some serious talks with Hari.... :)

Features:-


Thick guy ropes and wooden sliders
















Marquee heavy duty pegs

Thick breathable canvas (the suppliers are the same manufacturers as Canvas and Cast tents)

There are two large windows which puts the tent ahead of a standard bell.  These windows also have the option of the clear plastic, or unzip to allow the breeze to go through
























Half moon window, with access to a pre-fitted flue hole.  Nicely positioned, and suitable for a side wall entry wood stove





Lotus Belle Specification/Blurb



The larger Lotus Belle tent. This 5 metre version is 56% larger than the 4 metre version and can be used in a wide range of scenarios.
Original model tents are perfect for the UK climate, with 2 easy-clean, fully openable PVC windows, they offer the perfect balance of being able to look outside and keep dry on wet summer days, and open up to create a through draft when it gets a little warmer.
  • 360gsm Cream canvas
  • 5 metre diameter at the base
  • 5.5 metres diameter at waist height
  • 3.2 metre centre pole
  • 8m pitching area
  • 5'8" high at the edge of the tent, meaning the whole floor space is usable standing height for most people.
  • 2 x fully openable clear PVC windows
  • 540gsm Bath-tub groundsheet keeps out all water
  • If you require mesh over the door and windows take a look at the 5 metre Outback version.


Deluxe version: 

There is now one available with a velcro groundsheet, and an additional rear door (handy to access a kitchen tent) and mesh doors & windows

Lotus Belle Pitching Video:-







13 comments:

  1. Looking at the tent on its own I would have to agree with you and say it's ugly, but the green 'octopus' on top changes the whole thing entirely - I think it's cute. Not sure about the red roof, though I think it would grow on me in time.

    The inside looks fabulous, as do all your tent set-ups - I'm sure you must have an artic to transport all your stuff! lol

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    1. There were mixed opinions on red or green, everyone had their own favourite, although obviously it didnt have to have any of the poly roofs on.
      Berlingo and Brenderup 1205s trailer with high sides was mode of transport... :)

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    2. I thought this tent was adorable as soon as I laid eyes on it! After doing much research, although pricey, I will be purchasing the 5m hybrid deluxe version to live in full time in a couple of years when I retire. Cant wait! :-D

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  2. it definitely looked better in the flesh... much less 'oniony' :-)

    i loved the octopus topper best..

    trying really hard not to be tempted .. i do not need a new tent...i do not need a new....i do not need ....i do not.... i do.... i do... i do... i do :-)

    kit..

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  3. I like the fact that the walls had the poles pre-threaded, obviously with a new one you'd only have to do that once. I am in the green octopus camp (lol) but I wonder if they'll sell 'hats' separately so you could have a certain amount of customization. I forsee a 'print your own photo' type hat or at least a range of funky designs. The green leaf is very restful and quite classy. From what I can see they give the flexibility of a yurt without that extreme packsize and the fact that it's PIG means you can feed the EHU cable in discreetly anywhere (rather than my SIG Bell, where it has to go through the front door - that's not something I intend to live with for much longer...just at the moment deciding between zips or velcro any advice welcome).
    As ever you have it beautifully dressed inside and I particularly like your macrame candle jars. Did you make them yourself? I imagine you did.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Vic - yes the macrame candle jars were hand made, they take minutes honest! I made a 4th one at the campsite, as i had odd numbers. (if i get chance I'll post some instructions on the blog)

      Agree about the ehu, it slots in anywhere - although by choice i would have the velcro groundsheet.

      Originally I thought the velcro was a strange idea at the top, and thought a zip would be better. However in retrospect I prefer the velcro - i was able to thread all my bunting/backdrop/jars etc through it!

      I think a plain cream with some nice patterns would also work well for an additional 'hat'

      If you are making mods, i would try and source some fairly heavyweight industrial velcro - it works really well

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    3. I was set on a zip in ground sheet, but was told by the gal at Lotus Belle that the velcro version makes the tent far easier to put up and take down. My only reservation was does the velcro go completely around the perimeter of the ground sheet, as I dont want bugs getting in (especially scorpions as I live in Arizona). I was told that the velcro flaps do indeed go completely around the perimeter of the Ground sheet, except for about 1/4 inch on either side of each pole which she said most folks retrofit with a cover of some sort, which would be quite easy to do with a bit of sticky velcro and a small bit of waterproof fabric. Also, zippers wear out... THEN what do you do? They don't appear to sell replacement Ground sheets so I'm going with the velcro. Hope this helps. I know this is an older post but perhaps others could benefit from this bit of advice. :-)

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  4. So I just sent away all my student loan refund money to Lotus Belle to purchase the 16' Outback, a porch, AND the new Lotus Bud (I plan to set the bud up behind the 16' tent as a separate room out the back door).

    I love the covers but I can't find someone that makes them for sale.... so... I'm going to make my own! I have a sewing machine... it can't be that hard, right??

    The ones you used, do you know what material was used for them?

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    Replies
    1. It's like a thick nylon - contact Hari at Lotus Belle UK, I'm sure she can help! Just contact them, stocks are probably out, but back next spring.
      It will probably cost as much to source fabric and make them, as it would to purchase one (I think they retail for about £150)

      Congratulations on your new palace!

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