Bell Tent Buying Guide: All the Reasons Why You NEED One

By: Derek Vitiello | Last Updated on December 22, 2023

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Discover the ins and outs of choosing the perfect bell tent in our comprehensive bell tent buying guide. Uncover comfort and adventure in every fold!
bell tent buying guide

Camping – it’s a different kind of escape, isn’t it? There’s something magical about swapping four walls for the vastness of the great outdoors. The symphony of wildlife, the campfire embers dancing into the night sky, and the humble tent – your home away from home. But not just any tent. Recently, a particular style has caught the eye of many a camper – the bell tent. So, what’s the buzz all about? Buckle in, folks, because we’re going on a deep dive into the world of bell tents in this bell tent buying guide.

We’ll uncover every nook and cranny of these stylish shelters – how they work, how to choose the right one for you, and answer those burning questions: Can they handle the wind? Are they comfortable? What are they made of? And most importantly, should you buy one?

By the end of this journey, you’ll have all the information you need to decide whether a bell tent is the best fit for your outdoor needs. Whether you’re a seasoned outdoor enthusiast or a first-time camper, there’s always something new to learn in this wonderful world of camping. So, without further ado, let’s set off on this journey of discovery together, and unlock the secrets of bell tents.

What is a Bell Tent?

A bell tent, simply put, is a circular, spacious, and versatile tent characterized by its distinctive cone shape resembling a bell. It offers ample headroom and superior weather protection, all wrapped up in an enchanting, vintage-inspired design.

Now, let’s delve a bit deeper into the characteristics of this popular outdoor accommodation. Originating from military designs dating back to the 19th century, bell tents have successfully brought a piece of history into modern camping. These tents have evolved from their utilitarian roots to embrace a more aesthetic appeal, without compromising on functionality.

Bell tents distinguish themselves from traditional camping tents with their roomy interiors and vertical walls, thanks to the canvas secured to the ground around the entire perimeter. This design not only provides space but also the luxury of standing upright – a feature many campers appreciate after long days of outdoor activities.

These tents aren’t all about size and shape, though. Modern bell tents come packed with features for comfort and convenience. Think mesh windows for airflow on balmy nights and a built-in hole for a stovepipe, a lifesaver when the mercury dips.

In essence, a bell tent is more than just a tent. It’s a blend of history, functionality, and comfort. It’s perfect for family camping trips, festival weekends, or any outdoor adventure where you crave a bit of extra room and a dash of nostalgic charm.

How Does a Bell Tent Work?

A bell tent’s functionality is rooted in its simplistic yet efficient design. There’s a single pole that stands tall in the middle of the tent, creating the main support structure and forming the tallest part of the tent. There’s also an A-frame style pole that props open the doorway, making it easy to get in and out of the tent with ease. Once your poles are installed, you can stake out the outer edges of the tent with heavy duty metal pegs. These tent stakes keep the tent upright, strong, and give it it’s iconic bell-shape.

But the true genius of a bell tent lies in its adaptability. The circular design and vertical walls maximize internal space, allowing for easy movement and various sleeping arrangements. Additionally, bell tents often come equipped with features like mesh windows for ventilation and a stovepipe hole. These thoughtful additions mean you can control the internal environment according to the weather, ensuring a cozy and comfortable stay no matter the conditions outside.

What Are Bell Tents Made Of?

Bell tents are typically constructed from durable, high-quality canvas – a time-tested material known for its robustness and weather-resistant properties. This canvas gives the bell tent its iconic rustic look, as well as providing a practical, sturdy shelter against the elements.

The choice of canvas as a primary material isn’t random. Canvas, especially when treated, offers excellent resistance to water, making it a solid choice for outdoor camping in various weather conditions. Additionally, canvas provides a natural form of insulation, helping to regulate temperature within the tent. It stays cooler in hot weather and retains heat in cold conditions, contributing to the overall comfort of your camping experience. But it’s not just about the canvas. Other essential elements like the central pole and A-frame are typically made from resilient materials like metal or wood, providing the necessary structural support for the tent.

Let’s explore the materials used in the different parts of a bell tent:

  1. Canvas: High-quality canvas is the most common material used for bell tents. It’s thick and durable, providing excellent protection against the elements. Plus, it’s treated to be waterproof and resistant to mold, so you stay dry and comfortable inside.
  2. Groundsheet: A sturdy groundsheet is an essential component of any bell tent. It’s usually made from heavy-duty PVC or polyethylene and acts as a barrier between you and the ground. This keeps you dry and ensures the tent stays clean.
  3. Poles: Bell tents rely on strong and flexible poles to maintain their structure. Traditionally, these poles were made from wood or bamboo. Nowadays, steel poles are used, offering the same strength but reducing the overall weight of the tent.
  4. Guy ropes and pegs: For stability in varying conditions, bell tents are equipped with guy ropes and pegs. These components are typically made from durable nylon or polyester which can withstand tension.
  5. Stakes: Stakes are essential for anchoring the bell tent to the ground. They are made from strong metal alloys, such as steel or aluminum, to ensure reliable support in any weather.

Certain bell tents may also feature additional accessories, like zip-in/zip-out mesh windows, vents for improved airflow, or stove jacks. Although materials may vary slightly, they remain focused on durability and performance.

Benefits of a Bell Tent

Bell tents are a must for outdoor lovers seeking something different and comfortable for camping. They boast some great perks that make ’em stand out from more classic camping options.

  • Roomy: Bell tents offer plenty of space. With tall ceilings and spacious floor area, they provide a spacious interior that can fit larger groups or families. This extra room brings comfort and flexibility to your camping adventures.
  • Sturdy: Bell tents boast remarkable sturdiness and weather-resistance. Made from strong materials, these tents can hold their own against heavy rain, wind, and even snow. This robustness gives you peace of mind while outdoors.
  • Adaptable: Bell tents are really versatile. You can customize them with features like stove jacks for heating and ventilation systems for better airflow. This customization makes them apt for many camping scenarios.
  • Timeless: When used as a glamping tent, the classic design is eye-catching and it’s easy to create a beautiful glamping retreat.
  • Longevity: Bell tents (and canvas tents in general) are known to be so high quality and durable that they are built to last a lifetime.

For a more throughout break down of the pros and cons of canvas tents, continue reading: Are Canvas Tents Better? Pros and Cons So YOU Can Decide. These pros and cons focus on canvas tents in general, but can provide some valuable insight since most bell tents are made of canvas.

Exciting Uses for Bell Tents

Bell tents aren’t just for camping. They have many fun uses! From outdoor events to unique accommodation, they provide versatility and charm. Here are some great ideas:

  1. Camping Tents: For long-term campers who want superior weather protection and quality, a canvas bell tent can be a great option.
  2. Glamping Retreats: Bell tents make luxurious glamping spots. The spacious interiors and cozy furnishings provide a great balance of comfort and nature.
  3. Outdoor Events: Weddings, festivals, and corporate events all look amazing with bell tents. Transform them into relaxing lounges or stylish pop-up shops.
  4. Wellness Retreats: Bell tents are perfect for yoga workshops and wellness retreats. Their natural surroundings and peaceful atmosphere help guests connect with nature.
  5. Eco-friendly Accommodation: Eco-lodges and sustainable resorts often use bell tents as an eco-friendly option. They are made from natural materials and are easy to set up.
  6. Pop-up Hotels: Bell tents are becoming popular for remote and special event pop-up hotels. Guests can experience unique locations like never before.
  7. Children’s Party Venues: Bell tents are ideal for kids’ parties. Their whimsical design and spacious interiors make it a magical space.
  8. Photo Shoots: Photographers use bell tents for stunning photo shoots. The soft lighting and rustic charm make the photos unforgettable.
  9. Workshops and Retreats: Bell tents offer great environments for creative pursuits like writing, painting, or meditation.
  10. Film Sets: Bell tents make beautiful additions to film sets, creating authentic visuals. They have been featured in many movies, adding nostalgia and romance.
  11. Personal Escape: Finally, bell tents can be your own private retreat. Set one up in your backyard or favorite camping spot and relax.

Buying a Bell Tent

Making the decision to buy a bell tent is the first step in a larger journey towards enhancing your camping experience. Bell tents, with their spacious interiors, easy setup, and undeniable charm, can offer a unique blend of luxury and simplicity in your outdoor adventures. But buying one isn’t as simple as picking the prettiest one. It involves understanding your needs, considering various factors, and making an informed choice.

In the following sections, we will guide you through the important considerations when choosing a bell tent, discuss the cost range you can expect, and help you determine whether a bell tent is indeed the right fit for you. With this information in hand, you’ll be well-prepared to make your decision and start a whole new chapter in your camping story.

How to Choose a Bell Tent

Selecting the right bell tent is a lot like choosing the perfect camping companion – it needs to fit your style, meet your needs, and be ready for the adventures you plan to undertake. Here are some key factors to consider when choosing a bell tent.

Size: The first thing you’ll want to consider is the size of the bell tent. Bell tents come in various diameters, usually ranging from 3 meters (ideal for 2-4 people) to a whopping 6 meters (suitable for 8-10 people). Think about your typical camping group size, what kind of sleeping arrangements you want, and remember to account for gear storage too. You’ll appreciate the extra room when you’re not tripping over backpacks in the middle of the night.

Material: As we’ve mentioned, most bell tents are made from canvas – but not all canvas is created equal. Look for high-quality, durable canvas that’s been treated for water and UV resistance. Some bell tents may use a blend of cotton and polyester (polycotton) which can offer a lower price tag, but they make not be as high quality.

Groundsheet: The groundsheet is another important factor. Some bell tents feature an integrated, sewn-in groundsheet which provides excellent protection from bugs and water seepage. Others have a separate groundsheet, allowing you to roll up the tent walls for extra ventilation in hot weather. You might also come across ‘zip-in/zip-out’ groundsheets, offering the best of both worlds.

Additional Features: Don’t forget about the extras. Ventilation is crucial, so look for tents with mesh windows and air vents. A stovepipe hole is a great feature if you plan on camping in colder weather. Also, consider ease of setup, the strength and durability of the poles and pegs, and whether the tent comes with a carry bag for easy transportation.

Brand Reputation: Lastly, consider the brand’s reputation. Look at reviews and check if the brand stands behind its products with a warranty. A good bell tent is an investment, so it’s worth making sure you’re buying from a company that values quality and customer satisfaction. Some of the best brands on the market are White Duck and Life in Tents.

Remember, the best bell tent for you will depend on your specific needs, preferences, and the type of camping you do. Take the time to weigh all these factors, and you’ll find a bell tent that’s a perfect match for your camping style.

How Much Is a Bell Tent?

The cost of a bell tent can vary considerably, primarily influenced by factors such as size, material quality, brand reputation, and additional features. As with most things in life, you often get what you pay for, so it’s important to balance your budget with your expectations and needs.

At the lower end of the spectrum, a basic, smaller-size bell tent can start around $500-$800. These models typically offer a solid entry point into the world of bell tents but may lack some of the higher-end features or materials of their pricier counterparts.

Mid-range bell tents, which often include additional features like stovepipe holes, better ventilation, a ‘zip-in/zip-out’ groundsheet, or more durable canvas, usually sit in the $800-$1000 range. These tents tend to offer a good balance of cost and quality, making them a popular choice for many campers.

Premium bell tents, usually in the larger sizes with the highest-quality materials and full suite of features, can cost anywhere from $1000 to $2000 or more. These top-tier tents are often the choice for serious campers, glampers, or those who frequently use their tent and demand the best in terms of durability and comfort.

Remember, a bell tent is an investment in your camping future. While it can be tempting to opt for the cheapest model, consider the longevity and functionality of the tent. A higher upfront cost might save you money (and hassle) in the long run if the tent is more durable and comfortable.

Also, keep an eye out for sales or discounts, particularly in the off-season. This can be a great way to snag a high-quality bell tent at a lower price. Consider your bell tent purchase not just as buying a product, but investing in the countless memorable experiences you’ll have using it.

Should I Buy a Bell Tent?

The decision to buy a bell tent is subjective, hinging on your camping style, requirements, and preferences. Here are a few points to consider when pondering over whether a bell tent is the right choice for you.

Style and Comfort: If you’re someone who values a unique aesthetic and a comfortable camping experience, a bell tent is hard to beat. With their classic design, ample space, and the ability to stand upright, bell tents truly offer a ‘home away from home’ feeling. Moreover, the inclusion of features like a stovepipe hole or mesh windows can make your stay inside a bell tent even more pleasant.

Versatility: Bell tents can be used for various outdoor activities, not just traditional camping or glamping. Think music festivals, backyard parties, or even as a glamorous guest room. Their versatility can make them a worthwhile investment.

Durability: Made from robust materials like canvas and featuring strong, wind-resistant designs, bell tents are built to withstand the elements. If you frequently camp in varying weather conditions, a bell tent could be a wise choice.

Four-Season Resilience: Bell tents perform extraordinarily well in all four seasons, so if you like camping year-round then a bell tent is one of the best options you could choose. They stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter, providing ample comfort and weather protection no matter what Mother Nature decides to throw at it.

Longevity: While the initial investment in a bell tent can be quite expensive, they are built to last a lifetime. With proper maintenance, it could be the last tent you ever purchase. This means you will ultimately save money in the long run, plus you’ll have a high quality tent that will stand strong on every camping trip.

On the flip side, bell tents can be bulkier and heavier than some other tent types, which might not be ideal if you camp for shorter periods or need to carry your tent long distances. They’re also generally more expensive than basic camping tents, so it’s worth considering whether you’ll use it often enough to justify the cost.

In conclusion, buying a bell tent could be an excellent decision if you value these features in your camping experience. Consider your specific needs, the kind of camping you typically do, and your budget, and weigh these against the benefits that a bell tent offers. If they align, a bell tent could be just the upgrade your camping adventures need.

Final Thoughts

The decision to invest in a bell tent can open up a world of comfortable and enjoyable camping experiences. As someone who’s spent countless nights under the stars, I can vouch for the exceptional charm and convenience these tents bring to any outdoor adventure.

Remember, a good bell tent is more than just a shelter; it’s a home in the wilderness, a place where memories are made, stories are shared, and adventures begin. I hope this guide has provided you with the information you need to choose the right bell tent for your camping needs. Here’s to many memorable adventures in your canvas haven.

FAQ’s

Are Bell Tents Good in Wind?

Yes, bell tents are generally perform quite well in windy conditions. Their conical shape and strong central pole design offer excellent wind resistance. The guy ropes, when properly pegged out, also help to maintain the tent’s stability even in strong winds. However, like any tent, it’s crucial to ensure it’s well-pitched and secured. Keep in mind that extreme weather conditions can challenge even the most robust tents, so always check the weather forecast and prepare accordingly.

Are Bell Tents Comfortable?

Absolutely! One of the main selling points of bell tents is their exceptional comfort. The high ceilings and spacious interiors provide ample space, allowing you to stand up fully inside and move around freely – a luxury not offered by many traditional camping tents. The roomy interior also makes it possible to have various sleeping arrangements, comfortably accommodating families or groups of friends. Plus, the canvas material used in bell tents helps regulate the internal temperature, staying cooler in the heat and retaining warmth when it’s cold. Features like a stovepipe hole for a wood-burning stove or mesh windows for ventilation further enhance the comfort level, making bell tents a homey and cozy option for camping.

Are Bell Tents Worth the Money?

Buying a high quality bell tent can be expensive, but it’s definitely worth the money. With proper care and maintenance, a bell tent can last upwards of 20+ years, meaning you can use it for basically limitless camping trips. Plus, the offer exceptional durability, weather resistance, and comfort, so all these features make them even more worth it.

Why Trust Know Nothing Nomads?

Since 2017, Know Nothing Nomads has cemented itself as the “approachable experts” in everything camping, hiking, climbing, and adventuring in the Great Outdoors.

With over 60 years of experience in the outdoors, we don’t just talk about outdoor gear or recommend a good hiking trail.

We USE the gear we talk about. We’ve hiked 1000’s of miles. We have camped 1000’s of nights in the wilderness. We have sent hundreds of boulders and projects.

We don’t just know a few things about the outdoors — WE EAT, SLEEP, AND BREATHE IT.

We are not journalists from a magazine telling someone else’s stories from behind a computer. We are the ACTUAL outdoorsmen that those people write about. 

We are not a “gear lab” that runs tests on gear in life-like conditions. We are the seasoned, “trial-by-fire” experts who have taken the gear into the wilderness and USED IT. Read about our gear testing process here

We started Know Nothing Nomads to share our passion and expertise with our readers to inspire, educate, and enable you to explore the outdoors in the way that we have. And you will be more equipped and capable than ever before with the knowledge you gain here guiding you along the way.

And the best part? We are real people that LOVE our readers and this community. If you need anything or have a question about any of the things we have to write about, just reach out. Normally, one of us can respond within 24 hours, sometimes within minutes. THAT is the approachable expert.

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While we always focus our attention on gear that stands out to us—sometimes we discover that things aren’t up to our standards. This is exactly why we will always talk about the downfalls and compromises that we find while we are testing anything (If we find any).

About The Author

Derek, Co-Founder at Know Nothing Nomads

My goal with my writing and Know Nothing Nomads as a whole is to share my passions of hiking, camping, and a love of the outdoors with our readers.

Making the difficult and uncertain feel more approachable to people that might not know enough to feel comfortable taking their first steps into the wilderness is a driving factor for me.

When I'm not writing you can find me on a trail, in a forest, or next to a river with hiking shoes on my feet and a fly rod somewhere close by.

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