Search This Blog

Thursday, 20 April 2017

REVIEW: 'Camping under the Stars' 5m Bell Tent

12 months ago, Tommy approached me and asked if I would like to review one of his bell tents. No problem..

However, due to a bit of a manic year the opportunity never came around to just whisk it off somewhere.  Several camps using the Lotus, Tipi, camper and awning, but with grandaughters popping out every five minutes, and a hectic year, it got later and later, and still no review.

I'm sure Tommy thought I had ate the tent, or donated it to Calais.

So first camp of the year, I finally got round to testing it.  Tommy who had lost the will to message anymore, actually did contact me the day before by pure coincidence. 'YES!!! I am finally taking it camping, honest!!!'
Tommy advised that a small upgrade to the guy rope sliders had been made, and he would send some of the new ones through. No worries, if they arrived late, it wasn't the end of the world.

And so, feeling brave I took an overloaded Tillie (the campervan) to Somerset, complete with enough camping gear to keep a small gypsy population going for a few years.

Arrived to the sun out, and a nice large pitch.  Groundsheet down, and humping the canvas onto it, I tweaked and shuffled, turned and primped, until the door faced an exact 287 degrees to the campfire.

I laid out the bags (one for the canvas and one for the poles), pegs, and poles.

All looked good - sturdy 32mm centre pole, and standard A frame with a plastic raincap....which flew across the campsite, and I had to find another in my spares box

Very impressive galvanised pegs supplied for the guy ropes..

which got me thinking...

where are the bloody guy ropes...?!!!

Flitting between considering a 4 hour drive home, robbing a washing line, or adopting foetal position...I looked closer at the canvas I had laid out.  The guy ropes were already attached.....JOY!  

Its the first tent I haven't had to tie the bloody things on at the start.

The guy ropes were hiding

The zipped on ground sheet was a standard 540gr/m2 in a sand colour.  Canvas is 285g.  The canvas is slightly darker, and more of a sand colour than some of the bells I have tested.  It also seemed a bit denser on the grain, with what I presume is a light coating or finish on it, to assist waterproofing.  No big difference, and may just be because some of the older tents have been bashed about in the elements now.

Despite Tarqs best efforts, I finished pitching the tent pretty smoothly.

All was up and ready for the final tweaks to get the walls neat and firm.

What you swearing at, Mum?
Now this was the moment, I thought 'I should have waited for the wooden sliders Tommy was sending'.....

The ropes on the guys are thicker than are usually supplied, but the original guys had fairly small plastic runners.  And they were an absolute b*&Stard to tighten up!  After red raw fingers, I started to adjust the guys by moving the whole bloody peg away from the tent.  Some slid after a bit of resistance, but some were a nightmare.  I'm sure they would have eased off after a couple of uses, as the rope would have worn in, but I was throwing my rattle out of the pram by now (in honesty I probably wasted about 5 minutes, but I'm not the most patient)

So here is the nice thick rope and nasty little black plastic runners...

And here are the lovely wooden sliders that greeted me when I got home, after they obviously arrived 5 minutes after I had left the house....

There are enough wire pegs to peg down the groundsheet, and galvanised ones to do the guy ropes.  However, as with 99% of bell tent suppliers, none are supplied if your preference is to peg the elastics seperately from the groundsheet.  Just a niggle of mine, as I always peg this way, to ensure the zip is protected from the elements, and the tent has a nice firm shape to the walls

The corners of the A Frame have the 'pockets' and clips as standard. An electric lead can be threaded through these when using hook up.
I am presuming the small eyelet is to take a peg,  to lock the front lip in place if  folded down when the wall is up (Not something I've ever seen/noticed before)

The main doorway, has an internal mesh door that can be zipped up independently.  This is a fairly standard feature now, and one I would always look out for.  Earlier bells didn't have this, but it gives you a 'window' in colder weather, without actually zipping everything up, and also restrains the dog (who thankfully hasn't realised he could actually get his 6 stone bulk through it pretty easily if he tried)

Chilling, with just the mesh door closed

So the only job left was to glamp and pimp it, with a few cushions throws, and a bloody great sofa.  We had our chill out area for the next 5 nights

Weather conditions were pretty good - it was pretty windy whilst pitching, and the tent had no issues with being pulled around a bit.  There was a small shower, but in honesty, it probably wasn't enough to totally test the waterproofing and seams.  I can't envisage any problems, as its a decent solid tent, and has obviously had the canvas treated.

Overall I couldn't fault it (as the little plastic runner demons have been demoted to the bin, and his nice chunky wooden cousins have taken their place)

I will put the wooden sliders on, and do a half arsed pitch on the back garden, next time torrential rain is forecast....If I do have any issues or leakage, I will update the review

At £475, and with free delivery, it is a competitive price option against the bigger named soulpad, and bell tent uk, which offer the same spec tent for a higher price

Link to the website is:

The full spec and description is on the website:-

5M Tent Dimensions

Door Height – 1.6m
Centre height – 3m
Side Walls – 0.6m
Floor Diameter – 5 metre
Weight – 31kg approx
Bag size 1mx40cmx40cm approx

Customer Service

Some of the larger bell tent sellers seemed to have lost their personal touch a bit with regards to communications and service.  I have never seen a negative word about Tommy, or his tents from anyone who has purchased them, and hopefully he will remain as proactive and helpful in the future

PS: The only bit I would disagree on is:

'Even though the tent comes to you already proofed with mould and water resistance, we recommend that you treat your tent after the first years camping season to keep the canvas in optimum condition. Like anything in life, the more you look after it, the longer it should last.'

I wouldn't ever reproof unless the tent shows signs of leakage. Once you start applying fabsil, you are putting a layer of silicon on the tent, and it has to be done regularly.  Some of my bells are in their 6th/7th year and still have no leakage

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Tillie gets a makeover

I have had Tillie for four years now, and have put off changing the interior, as it was all very nice and desirable being the original specification.

After my last trip out, when the fridge door fell off, and Tarq fell through the middle of the bed into a heap on the floor, I decided to bite the bullet and change her.

The original cooker barely worked, the fridge was a plastic shelf only, I never used the sink (I do wash tho, honest) and the bed being three quarter size, accommodated the fat labrador fine, but left me no room whatsoever.

The buddy seat was always empty (I have no buddies)

And so with gritted teeth, I dived in and started to remove the entire inside.  After 3 minutes 20 seconds I hit a problem.  The second bolt wouldn't come out.  Wanting to go female and turn into howling foetal position, and squealing 'why are my blokes all shit at man stuff'.  I put my testicles back on, and drilled the bloody thing out

Eventually Tillie was bare and exposed.  Everything appeared to be fairly solid under her clothing.  Apart from 2 rather large holes where the seat belts were fixed. Or not fixed as was the case.

Ventilation wasn't an issue

A trip to the welder and a request to fix the two holes and a small check of the front bumper (as advised by Mr MOT).
It was quite amusing to see the comments on facebook the next day, from the welder.

Oblivious to the fact I may actually read his facebook page, it appears perhaps the small hole in the bumper wasnt so small....

And so I had my blank canvas....and no idea what next.

Having never had a working fridge, and not really keen on sticking portaloos in it to make it a portable toilet, I went with my basic requirements:

I needed a full width bed, a decent kitchen, and that was about it.  Sleep and food, and I'm happy.

And so the planning began...bits of paper thrown everywhere, scribbles, doodles, my own brand of shorthand, that is so quick and efficient, but even I cant understand it.  Google was my friend, along with facebook groups 'camper conversion', ' self build vans' , 'I'm not right in the head, taking this on', and 'how the fk do i mend my bodge job', I also got round to creating my own pinterest board, Tillies conversion.

Luxurious covers off
I started with the first power tool I know how to handle...the sewing machine...

So the old green covers came off (I was a bit heart broken about this, and still had regrets about what I was doing, until i looked at them, battered and sun bleached, and realised they weren't actually made from fabric that was hand dyed, stamped and woven from a gossomer flies testicles)

New covers finished
And so after a bit of a tussle the newly made chenille patchwork covers and curtains were in pride of place.  Feeling rather proud, I stuck them on facebook.

Not so proud when some Aussie commented 'It looks like a clown has exploded' :(

If ever you are short of a trestle, get a labrador
So flying along, using my usual method of measurements, I started on fitting the shelves along the sides and making the slat bed...

....'so that's 30cm, by 2ft, by 1m, by 18 inch, plus just over the length of my hand, then'...

Before...Help me, Teddy

And the bed frame is made!
Next job was repair the panels, and re-carpet everywhere, lay the vinyl flooring

Girly stuff, added

Onto the cupboard that I actually ordered after careful measuring, ended up 2cm too long, and I couldn't get to the rear door handle.  Resulting in me cutting the whole thing down and screwing it back together again.  Using a few bodged carpentry skills, a ton of wax in varying
shades (from a vile yellow orange, to a more stripped back basic finish), my pallet cupboard was taking shape

Perfect, apart from the extra 2cm

Marking it down for sawing 

Arghhhh, its orange now

From the basic core.....

Starting to take shape finally! Trimmed, waxed, cooker inserted, and random tiles added

Electrics were next.  Not having a whole shed load of confidence, and not wanting to get fried, I took a whole album of gorgeous pre-wired rcd unit pictures.  When dementia kicks in, I will look at these wistfully, and think 'what the hell are these for?'

Sockets & Lights fitted

Testing, testing

12v was the next task, after 3 years I finally have a radio, usb ports, all mod cons (apart from power steering and brakes)

A bit more carpentry (a circular saw is very similar to a sewing machine, after a few weeks) and the top quality wood (offcuts of shite pallet) were transformed into a bed end

A few removable hinges, and it was finished

On the home run now, so finally time to do the girly stuff, adding curtains & cushions

Home sweet home
Finally, a full size bed.
Adding a map for the travels...and to replace the peeling vinyl

Where to, next?

A few last additions - Making an extension for the table

And an awning

.......Don't Forget meeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!




A couple of last minute additions of wire cages for the lamps (bumpy roads were knocking the bulbs about a bit)

And a last minute storage holder, so I don't sleep on top of my phone...

And still not think there's nothing else and then...ooh perhaps a cover for the cooker, to protect it

That must be it...definitely finished...nothing else...oooooh, how about a fly screen curtain...

So some coffee sacks, random picture cut out of fabric, and a few hours applique!

Don't look too closely at the owl....

From the interior, looking out

Mum, this is so boring....

Summer 2017

Still adding bits as usual, and decided the roof looked a bit grim.. So using the leftover spray adhesive from the carpet liner, I cut and glued some fabric.  Bit more insulation for her

And it never ends....obsessed with making random rubbish, i am now putting stuff up, then changing it 5 minutes later....I think I need another project..

We started with crochet bunting...

Then moved onto polar bears.....

And now are currently rocking an elephants head...

What can I do next....?

REVIEW: Star Bell Tent from Boutique Camping

So here we have something a bit different from the standard 5m bell tents....the Star Bell Tent from Boutique Camping Finally the...