Bell Tents for sale in the UK.
Bell tents are now really popular with campers in the UK, whereas a few years ago a lot of people would have had no idea as to what a bell tent was – now they absolutely do!
There are several major players in the bell tent selling market, and contrary to what a lot of people think, the bell tents are not always all the same. Most sellers do use a lightweight 285gsm canvas, which is realistically the lightest that could be used to make a canvas tent that is fit for use. Of these you may find some superficial differences such as types of guy rope sliders and rope colour and thickness – but most will follow a fairly ‘standard’ spec.
Of the more ‘standard’ lightweight tents on offer, some arrive with short, lightweight pegs that realistically would need to be replaced/upgraded as soon as possible. A lot of the others use ‘rebar’ type, ribbed pegs, which is a fairly universal Chinese stock item. These ribbed pegs are quite good and have some decent ground-holding capabilities. Some sellers also separately sell ‘hand-cleft’ wooden tent pegs, which, because the wood will swell in wet ground also do hold surprisingly well – after all these are what we all used to use before the advent of steel.
Of the 285gsm canvas weight tents, most do not have flue-exits pre-fitted (for fitting wood burning stoves). One brand does supply integral roof exit flues in some bell tents, and another will fit a flue exit for an additional charge on top of the basic cost of the tent. In my opinion most of the 285gsm bell tents not only use a similar basic spec, but they also use standard zips which are not necessarily double-tagged – for example the main doors are, for obvious reasons, a very heavily-used part of the tent and it would make it easier to provide double-tagged zips here – but not everyone does.
Generally the next weight of canvas to be used in bell tents that are currently for sale in the UK is around 350gsm-360gsm. This weight of canvas makes the bell tents much more robust, and because of the added canvas thickness you’ll find that they provide better insulation from the wind as well as from noise. Though do check that these brands of bell tent are ‘breathable’ and that the canvas is not the heavier weight as a result of it having been PU coated or something similar. PU coating means the canvas will not breathe, and you will still experience condensation in the tent.
These heavier weight of bell tents are usually more individual, with a higher build quality and with more unique detailing. One such brand has distinctive plastic windows in the main door panels with Dutch lacing on the doors. Another more unique brand has much wider storm flaps over all zips on the tent including over the window zips (which others don’t), and it also has mesh in the windows that can be unzipped, which is kind of cool – literally so in hot weather! The zips are also top quality as well as being double-tagged on the doors. Both of these bell tent brands are also supplied with a ready-made flue-exit as standard – fitted through one of the bell tent’s side walls.
Another thing to look for are secondary mesh doors – a nice ‘extra’ to have because even if you’re not in midge-infested Scotland, you may well wish to keep as many flies out of your tent as possible (I certainly do!).
Some sellers only concentrate on selling ‘ZIG’ style of bell tents, which means ‘zipped-in-groundsheet’. This style of bell tent is probably the most popular in the UK. Not only does it allow you to unzip and roll up your tent side walls on a hot day (we do have some sometimes!), but it allows you to separate the canvas from the groundsheet for transport, for cleaning, and for drying purposes. Additionally, this has a ‘bathtub’ style of groundsheet meaning better defence against water ingress.
The other two styles are ‘SIG’ (stitched-in-groundsheet) and ‘PIG’ (pegged-in-groundsheet). The SIG is where the groundsheet is permanently stitched to the canvas (also ‘bathtub’ style) – great for places like Australia where poisonous spiders and snakes are prevalent, but not so good when you need to replace the groundsheet because it’s too damaged to be patched/repaired.
The ‘PIG’ is usually much cheaper than the other two, and usually comes with a very lightweight polyethylene groundsheet (like the cheap tarps found in DIY stores). But watch out with these, because you may be disappointed with the ‘fit’ of the groundsheet to the body of the tent – basically meaning that you might end up with very noticeable and baggy gaps between the two, meaning grass can/will grow through when pitched for a while, and of course you’ll have a lot of ‘buggy’ visitors, whether you want them or not! This style of bell tent also means that you’ll probably have to end up poking your A-frame feet into the gap between the mudguard and groundsheet onto the ground outside, which also makes for a less satisfactory ‘fit’. Being a ‘less sealed’ style of bell tent a ‘PIG’ also obviously provides significantly less defence when you’re pitched in a boggy, rain-soaked field.
In a nutshell, before you buy any of the bell tents for sale in the UK (or elsewhere) make sure that you get as much info about the spec as possible.