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A bell for any weather

Due to the gorgeous British Weather now seeming to bring less sun (none) and more torrential rain and gale force winds, I thought I would put together a few things to consider when you are heading off to your campsite swamp for your holiday

Heavy Rain & Wind

Look for a sheltered pitch on the outside of the campsite or behind a solid structure.  You can always move the car in front of the tent, to block some wind (plus you can tie guy ropes to the car as well)
Coastal sites are notoriously windy and vulnerable - Eweleaze & Shortlake Farm in Osmington, Dorset, whilst being pretty locations, are usually the grim reaper to a few bells each year

Make sure if you use a footprint, that it is cut slightly smaller than the groundsheet of your tent (about 6 inch).  If any tarp shows, water will get in, and pool between the tarp and groundsheet.

There are the obvious things to do, such as pitch the bum of the tent to the wind  - not one I generally follow tbh, as the wind moves all over the place, the bell is fairly rounded, and I don't want to face a barb wire fence.

Wind and rain are going to cause a few problems, but mainly with your pegs.  The pegs supplied with most bells are fairly poor (Canvas & Cast are usually of better quality, marquee type, or years ago, wooden ones)


Invest in some decent pegs - Once conditions get muddy and windy, the standard ones will pull straight out of the ground.

I favour rock pegs for most tasks, as I tend to camp in quite scenic country camps, which bring a good deal of rocks and hard ground.  Try and source rock pegs that have a vertical hole in them, as opposed to a horizontal tab at the top - otherwise the tab breaks off when you pull the peg out of the ground.

The beauty of rock pegs is that they also fit into the small round groundsheet tabs, as well as for use on the guys

Blue Diamond are readily available, and have the vertical eyes for the extractor tool

If weather conditions are going to be windy, I always use Delta Pegs.  If you don't have enough for every guy (about 16), alternate your guy rope pegging points with these, they will do a lot to prevent wind damage.  The shape of these ensures they give as much wind resistance as possible (on another note, their ground anchor dog tether is excellent)

Delta Pegs

Canvas and Cast come with a marquee type peg as standard.  These are also a good peg to use, and can be purchased individually from camping accessory stores

Marquee Pegs

Other options are the old fashioned type wooden pegs.  I don't actually use these as I find them far too knackering to knock into the ground, but they are still quite popular

Another idea to increase stability is to double peg each guy rope.  Leave the original peg at the end of the line, then go round each guy rope and insert another peg over the rope, about 12 inch back towards the tent (so basically there is 12 inch of guy rope lying on the ground)

A lot of the bells aren't supplied with enough pegs to peg the groundsheet tabs, separately from the elastics/canvas tabs on the bottom of the skirt - invest in more pegs!   When you peg the outer skirt pegs, pull the peg as far as possible away from the tent, this will then prevent the zip or any leakage around the bottom of the skirt.

So many people use just one peg for both the tabs on the groundsheet, and the elastics - don't!

Peg the elastics separate!

Another option on a 'PIG' (peg in groundsheet) is to add a few eyelets, so that you can put a few groundsheet pegs through the skirt

Guy Ropes & Sliders

I have mentioned these before under the glamping it up thread, as it was one of the first ideas I had when I bought the bell tent in 2009.  It was done at the time probably more for aesthetic reasons, but they are a lot stronger and will hold the tent in place much better than the black plastic sliders and thin rope guys generally supplied (Karma & 'Camping & Canvas' are actually supplying these wooden sliders and rope guys as standard now).


Firstly I sourced the rope which came from Timko.  The polyhemp seemed a good option, as proper hemp would take longer to dry, and pure poly rope stretches. 

 The 6mm polyhemp was a perfect size for the sliders (it was a bit of a guess...), and at 28p a metre is a bargain...

You need about 2-3m per guyline, add an extra 1m for each of the front guys.

Look at getting about 50m for a 5m bell - its more annoying falling short and paying another lot of postage - any spare always comes in handy


wooden sliders

Next was sourcing the wooden sliders - there are a few scout patrol tent suppliers, but I found these very amenable.

Check how many you need but 20 sliders should give you a couple of spare on a 5m bell - approx 15 guy lines. 

I ordered the 100mm with 8mm hole sliders.
They also sell wooden dollys, pegs etc. Just makes it all look a lot chunkier and authentic.

You can't order online but Julie is pretty helpful by email:

Make your own heavy duty guys

These are also excellent quality if you don't want to make your own rope and sliders:

One of the worst things that can happen, and will effect the structure of the tent is if a guy actually rips off.  This then makes the structure unstable, the centre pole will become abrasive, and it may actually pierce the tent cap.  So either get outside in that vile weather and sew it back on, or invest in some clingons (these are clips that slide onto the canvas and give you a temporary hole to thread guy ropes etc through), and make a temporary new guy line in as near as possible, the same position as the old one.

clingons - not weird star trek creatures, just tarp grabbers

On the same note, while wooden poles are a nice feature, and some people have replaced the supplied metal ones, be aware, they will be more abrasive - make sure the end is covered with some padding

The Poles

One of the weakest parts of your bell tent in poor conditions is the centre pole.  Over time the section joins become rounded, and this weakens it.  Whilst it is fine on most conditions, once it starts getting some abuse it will fold on these joints

It is always worth investing in a spare pole!  It may seem slightly OTT, but if your pole breaks, your holiday is over.  Luckily after a lot of torrential rain and a heavy wet tent, I did have a spare when this happened....

Despite Mr Strongs efforts, it came tumbling down

If the wind picks up the best option is to double up your pole.  Simply place a second pole alongside the original and cable tie them together. (obviously remove any swinging candle tea lights in heavy winds as well, the noise alone will drive you nuts)

If you haven't got a spare, use anything!  As long as the spare section is enough to cover the three joins in the centre pole it will strengthen it enough to hold it.  So grab the wind break pole, a spare awning pole, or even a broom handle, and tie it to the existing one

The other area that is vulnerable is the front a-frame.  This tends to take the full force of the wind. Whilst the a-frame breaking, isn't generally the problem, it can shift from position and come out of the eyelet - this then results in a rip in the canvas above the door

For this reason, double guy the a-frame at the front, with one rope running diagonally from either side of the door (just follow the roof panel stitching for the angle) - it will give you a more accessible entrance anyway, so its worth doing as the 'norm'

It also worth making up a few eyenuts and bolts. Simply get an eyenut and preferably a wingbolt to match the size, then screw this until it grips the spike at the top of the tent a-frame, this will help to prevent the canvas lifting (bolt idea is courtesy of Mark on the Bell Tent FB group!)

Eyenuts are available in various sizes. here:-


Alternatively a small solid canvas awning will greatly reduce the wind on the front of the tent.

Whilst a large 4m malu tarp isnt going to be of any help, and will actually grab the wind like a sail, a decent solid small awning is invaluable

This one was expensive, but the quality is excellent - guys, pegs and poles are very sturdy.  The old adage is correct, in that 'you get what you pay for':

The Die Jurte awning in use


If the rain keeps pouring, bear in mind you need to pull everything away from the walls of the bell tent - anything touching the side walls, i.e. Bed, cupboards, table corners, will result in the rain leaking in by producing a wicking effect

I actually found using the inner tent was an excellent way round this problem - it doesn't touch the sides, but it meant I could actually push everything up to the sides of the inner tent, without worrying about it touching the outer walls

Lightening (requested by Andria..)

Lightening appears to be a big no no with camping!  There is an interesting post here about it:
Research shows that a lightning strike that hits the ground can be fatal out to 10 metres. Some people have been injured 15 to 30 metres away from where a lightning strike has hit the ground.

Avoid setting up your tent under an isolated tree or the tallest tree, close to a metal fence, or on a hilltop. 

This looks like a nice spot for a tent.  However due to the higher ground and the isolated tree next to the tent, this would not be a safe location in a thunderstorm.

When you hear thunder, lightning is within striking distance. Find a safe location immediately, either in a building with plumbing and wiring or an all-metal automobile (not convertible top).  Your tent is not safe. 

Remain in this location until at least 30 minutes after the last thunder rumble

In summary...

If the weather really lets rip, take as many steps as you can to prevent damage (you are usually going to be ok up until 50mph gusts), but if in doubt, don't take any risks to either the tent or yourself....take the bloody tent down!!

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