In this brief article, we will highlight some basic points to consider while choosing your bell tent:
1. Size and Weight
There are a variety of bell tent sizes available ranging from the dinky 3m and including 4m, 5m, 6m and even now 7m bells. You can accommodate 2 double mattresses in a 4m and easily three doubles in a 5m. The 5m is really more like a ‘living room’ as opposed to the 4m being more of a ‘sleeping space’ (though a 4m is great for a couple). Also you should remember that the larger the tent gets, the more difficult it is to keep warm in the colder months.
Some very lightweight bells are available and these generally tend to use man-made fabrics rather than breathable cotton canvas. Most bell tents are made using 285gsm canvas but there are some bell tents around that are made using heavier cotton canvas of around 360gsm. A heavier weight of canvas definitely feels a lot more ‘substantial’ and provides more insulation!
There are basically three types of groundsheet: ‘PIG’, ’SIG’, and ‘ZIG’.
A PIG is usually a lightweight groundsheet made from PE which literally is pegged down first (Pegged In Groundsheet). The canvas fly then is usually tucked under the groundsheet meaning that there is ample opportunity for bugs to get in! Quality of ‘fit’ on these can also vary from brand to brand.
A SIG is a heavier weight of groundsheet (usually PVC) that is permanently stitched to the canvas (Stitched In Groundsheet). Some have secondary mesh doors and some don’t. This makes them a lot more bug-proof than the PIGS.
A ZIG is also a heavier weight (PVC) groundsheet which is attached to the canvas by two or more zips (Zipped In Groundsheet). Secondary mesh doors are common and ZIGS have a lay-flat threshold which helps to prevent
tripping. The zips mean that the canvas can be separated from the groundsheet when necessary.
Generally bell tents have a single centre pole. Most bell tents also have an A-frame at the entrance but some do not. The A-frame provides more headroom at the entrance and helps keep rain off the groundsheet (no A-frame means when the door panels are open rain falls directly into your tent). Some 3 metre bell tents are available with a tripod type of main pole - but be warned these can be more difficult to erect! Most bell tents are a doddle to erect - We prefer the ZIG version as it suits our UK weather more!
It is usual for canvas bell tents to be pre-treated during manufacture for resistance to UV, water and mould/mildew. Be aware that this resistance to water and mould etc will gradually be reduced over time and it may be necessary to re-proof your bell tent - usually when the water stops ‘beading’ on the canvas. We recommend Storm canvas products for cleaning/reproofing. Storm proofer contains no silicone and is eco-friendly.
Whilst some bells are advertised as ‘Fireproof’ no tent is fire proof. Any tent will catch fire at some point. We do not use fire retardant chemicals on our tents as they leach out into the atmosphere and they have been discovered in human breast milk and on hands after handling the canvas.
It’s generally important to look at overall specs when looking at all of the bell tent brands around. And ask questions if you are unsure of anything as there are plenty more snippets of information than we’ve listed here!
Pukka Tents provide heavyweight 360gsm cotton canvas, secondary mesh doors and windows which also have zippable mesh, quality YKK zips, thick 6mm guy ropes with chunky wooden sliders and pro-quality pegs - oh yes and an integral ready-made flue exit!