Bell tents and… rabbit stew

I get quite a bit of traffic on this blog as a result of searches for ‘bell tent’ or, heaven forefend, ‘bell tents for glamping’.

Bell tent at nightI think I’ve already been clear on my thoughts on ‘glamping’ so I won’t exercise the grump lobes of may brain again here. Instead, I offer a bit more practical feedback on living with a bell tent and a word of warning following our last outing.

So, this 4m canvas shelter continues to be all I’d hoped. It stands up very well to bad weather – and we had plenty of that last week – and provides a comfortable living environment in a range of conditions: from blazing sunshine to stair-rod rain.

Bell tentWe continue to use the inner tent as the other half likes the segregation of sleeping and living areas. This strategy is fine for two, as it offers plenty of room in both sections. However, it would not really work if you wanted to accommodate more: look at the larger models, or leave the inner at home. Single skin canvas is perfectly acceptable and comfortable in the summer, dealing with condensation far more effectively than modern synthetic alternatives.

Although the tent was happily dealing with conditions during a recent trip to Pembrokeshire, gale force winds did force us to move to a slightly more sheltered spot.

Here another advantage of the design presented itself. For such a large tent, it was very easy to move. We simply unhitched the perimeter guys, removed the apex and centre pole and moved the canvas, ground sheet and inner all attached (with the air beds and sleeping gear left in the inner).

It’s heavy, of course, but as a couple were able to drag the canvas some 50 yards across the grass to a more sheltered enclave. The tent was pegged down again, the poles inserted and the whole structure tightened. In all, a pretty painless exercise.

Naturally, shifting a mountain geodesic is easier, but this is a large tent.

Quite a few taller campers have asked me about the headroom in the bell tent. The tent stands 3.5m, but much of this height is not useable given the sloping walls. The A-frame over the entrance helps somewhat, giving the front living space bit more useable height. I guess it can feel a little claustrophobic at times fro me (and others over six feet), but it is very liveable. I’d happily spend a fortnight in it.

The profile does require you to organise your living space a bit differently. For those used to modern family tents with steep walls and plenty of headroom, you may need to change your furniture for lower alternatives allowing you to place these to the sides sides of the interior while chairs are best located nearer the middle. Here, we have a taller table which we use for eating when the weather’s bad etc.

Any other thoughts or tips? We’ve added a couple of small karabiners to the front guy ropes which serves as ‘quick clips’ for the doors so we don’t have to roll then up all the time. Planned modifications include attaching another guy rope to the front door apex, which should allow me to get out of the tent without sawing an ear off on the single guy rope (I am a bit clumsy).

We are also considering making our own mesh door for the front. This will be a triangle of bug netting which we will attach to the front door via Velcro tabs. We’ve found the tent to be not too bug friendly given its colour, but this will serve as an extra layer of protection when north of the border. I’ll post on here if we add this feature.

So, finally, the word of warning. The half moon vents on the perimeter way of the tent are an excellent feature and allow fresh air to enter the tent and ‘chimney’ to the roof vents at the main apex.

However, having vents so low to the ground can make them vulnerable to wildlife and that’s exactly what happened during our recent trip. Leaving the vent open near our food stash (I know!) a rabbit destroyed the mesh panel and chewed through the canvas underneath.


To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I saw the culprit running off into the undergrowth upon our return and it made me think of that segment in Born Survivor when Bear Grylls demonstrates the throwing stick technique and dispatches one of our fluffy-tailed friends.

The word of warning therefore is to keep these vents closed if you have inquisitive wild neighbours.

I’m in the process of getting a quote for a repair from Lotus Domes UK. This may take a while…

9 thoughts on “Bell tents and… rabbit stew

  1. Working at the camp site at Glenmore we see a few bell tents each summer and 90% of the time it’s Dutch visitors who use them.

    As for animal damage, last summer was a bumper year for field voles and these wee critters were getting into everyone’s tents and awnings – chewing through ground sheets and raiding food or nesting!

  2. Canvas tents do seem to be more popular with our Continental friends. There are advantages and disadvantages. Drying the Bell Tent takes and age. If the weather’s good, I drape it over my car… if it’s bad it’s either in the garage or hanging up at the top of the stairs.

  3. Happy to read they stand up to the weather, but a little worried of the wildlife chewing. I plan to live in one permanently Im hoping that having a stove, cats, dogs and food in containers will keep the local wildlife away. It is very windy where I will be living but I have a permanent place to stay so im hoping to plant in some hedges and put in some fences or windbreaks to keep me travelling around in the tent UFO style

    1. It was our own fault leaving the food on show. If you keep things in sealed containers, you should be OK. Considering the size, the bell tent is very weatherproof. It’s a home for home!

  4. Its now a couple of years since the posts here: this and others on the subject of bell tents will prove very useful to any like me, new to it (I hate that G word too!) as a serious base tent. Can we look forward to more experiences using this tent and photo’s ? I hope so………

      1. I ( and many others, I’m sure?) will look forward to it. Hoping to get out a bit in our Blacks of Greenock Solace this year with the canoe.

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