/ Bell tents

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Epic Ebdon on 17 Jul 2017
The wife and I are considering getting a bell tent for car camping when we know we're going to be in the same place for more than a couple of days. However, having never stayed in one, we have a few questions before we make the investment, and I suspect some helpful person on here will be able to answer

1) How big? We're looking for something comfortable for two adults, but which wouldn't be two small to have a small child or two along as well. Is a 4m diameter one going to be too small for this?

2) Are there any features that we should be looking out for or avoiding? We were going to go for one with a zipped-in groundsheet, so that we can roll the sides up in good weather, but other than this, they seem to be fairly similar with regards to what features they have. I think we'd buy an inner to divide up the sleeping area from the rest. Has anyone had any experience with these kind of tents and are there any features that you would definitely want to have? Whilst I'd love to have a wood burning stove in there, realistically, I don't think it's going to happen any time soon, so I was going to leave that idea for now. It appears that most of them can be adapted retrospectively anyway, should this become too much of a... burning desire.

3) Do you have one? If so, which brand, and are you happy with it? We've been looking at soul pad, nordisk and life under canvas. At the moment, we're tending towards the one from life-under-canvas, but for no other reason than that it's the least expensive for a zipped in groundsheet and inner. Any other recommendations would, however, be gratefully received.

Many thanks in advance!
mountain.martin - on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to Epic Ebdon:

We have a 5m one and it's huge. Plenty big enough for a family of 5. So a 4m one should be fine for 2/3 of you. We rent them out and they seem very popular, but for my own use it's not what I'd have.
More wasted space because of circular shape
Takes longer to erect than other modern tents.
Because of lack of supporting frame, requires more pegs to keep it up and in shape.
Epic Ebdon on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to mountain.martin:

Cool - looking at floorplans, it did occur to me that there will be a decent amount of space lost because they're circular, but the missus thinks they are pretty, which is the main thing I think what appeals to me most is the stability of them in high winds, which is a problem we have at the moment with our current big, but more modern tent. I have some slight concerns about the size/weight of bell tents, but as it's for car-camping, that's not so much of an issue.

Out of interest, do you know what brand the ones are that you rent out? What do you think of the build quality?

mountain.martin - on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to Epic Ebdon:

Yes, they do look pretty, especially if you ethnic them up with some rugs/blankets, fake prayer flags, and some fairy lights draped round the door. If this gets some people camping who wouldn't other wise then that's good.

Ours are from

They have stood up to pretty strong winds on a exposed coastal site in pembrokeshire, but we have got quite good solid ground for getting pegs into. If the ground was too rocky or too loose so you couldn't get secure pegs in this could be a problem in strong winds.

mountain.martin - on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to Epic Ebdon:

Ours have been up continuosly for 2 months, and we have had a slight problem where the door frame pole came unseated in strong winds and the spike poked a hole in the canvas, but this is quite easily patched and hasn't caused a big problem. Otherwise they seem pretty good.
They do take a bit of effort to erect so I wouldn't be keen to use one for one night or a weekend after a long drive, but if you are on site for a few nights or a week this is less of an issue.
Bjartur i Sumarhus on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to Epic Ebdon:

I just bought a 5m ultimate pro from Bell Tent . co. uk and have had it up for the last two weeks. It is large (we have 5 of us in it including a travel cot plus a large dog) . It is really easy to put up and inside the open plan space is great. We also bought the coir matting. Do not bother with this if you plan to take it car camping! The two half domes of coir matting are much larger than the packed tent and you would need a transit van to take it all with you (doesn't worry us as we are only using the tent in our own paddock)

I cannot speak for any other brand, except I think they are all shipped over from China and are probably made in the same factory.
TheDrunkenBakers - on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to Epic Ebdon:
Ive got a Bell Tent Ultimate Pro 5M, or whatever they call it.


Huge, very easy and quick to erect as it's only 1 pole (I do this myself without assistance), very stable, you can open various parts to make it nice and airy. Ive used mine for one night and for week's at a time. It is one of the best tent purchases, despite its comparatively high price tag. Very family/dog friendly.


Packs away large and is very heavy. To keep it looking its best you have to bone dry it before you pack it away. Ive been lucky with weather and have packed it away in the sunlight or have loads of towels with you.
Post edited at 12:47
Siward on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to Epic Ebdon:

Look at fabric weight , gram so per square metre. It does vary between brands. Not necessarily that heaviest is best but just be sure what you're getting.
Epic Ebdon on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to Epic Ebdon:

Excellent - thanks all for your contributions. It sounds like they're pretty much as I would have expected; they look good and are sturdy and long-lasting, with the biggest disadvantage being the packing size/drying. I like the idea of getting a tent which should last for a good while though, so I think we're convinced.

I'm don't whether they all come from the same factory in China, but it does seem that they only really differ in the details - even fabric weights seem to be pretty much uniform across the makers we've looked at. It seems to be mostly things like whether or not they have mosquito nets on the doors, whether there are strengthening patches on the groundsheet where the poles sit.

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