So once we realised that our dream high spec camper van was way out of our budget, we decided that Glamping in a decent tent would be the next best thing for simple, low cost family holidays where we could just go on a whim and escape our busy lives for a few days. We wanted to be able to say “Right that’s enough, we need family time let’s get in the car and go!” Cue hours of online research on which tent to buy….
Having been to Glasto a couple of years ago and being swept up in their whimsical charm, we had a soft spot for the traditional bell tent style, but we weren’t 100% sure on how suitable it would be so set about researching via the big camping companies as well as messaging Instagraming real-life campers for advice. It turned out that traditional came out tops overall, but here is the list of pros and cons we put together, as non-biased bell tent owners…
Bell Tent Pros:
- Durability: lasts for many years compared to a synthetic material tent that can deteriorate after only a few years if used regularly
- Comfort in all weathers: The canvas keeps the inside cool in hot weather and warm in cool weather- again, something that synthetic tents cannot do
- VERY easy to put up: I mean, SO easy! One person can single-handidly put up one of these bad boys. You simply lay it out flat in a circle, peg in the ground sheet and put up the centre pole in the middle. Then the simple entrance frame goes in, and voila! Seriously impressed with this and we even did it without instructions the first time, as we somehow managed to leave them behind and had no phone signal to YouTube it….
- Spacious: and that’s also an understatement…. we went for the 5m x 5m version thinking if we’re going to do it we might as well go for it, but 4m x 4m would have been fine! The centre pole is 3.5m so James (at 6’2″) was able to walk around without ducking his head, no problem!
- Versatile in 3 ways: This is where a bell tent really comes into its own…
- Wood burning stove (My most favourite feature) You can install one of these to give off the most heart warming heat that brings everyone together huddled up on the coldest of days. It’s also enough heat to boil a kettle or slow cook a stew… completely idillic and worth every penny we would say! I’ll talk more about safety in my next post as this was a big question for me, having a 1 year old running around! I’ll also talk about what you need if you want to install a stove in your existing bell tent in a seperate post. It was a god send for making up our little ones bottle and warming up the tent for changing at bedtime. Not to mention the hot coffee first thing in the morning…Simple pleasures!!
- You can buy an inner tent to quarter (or halve, if you haven’t got a stove) the space and make a bedroom. Which is great for keeping the bedroom separate from the rest of the space/bugs out if they’re out in force
- You can roll up the sides on some bell tents, which I’m told in the summer, is heaven. It means you can have shade with the breeze flowing through the tent. Not sure how much we’ll use this feature in the UK, but we’ll live in hope!!
Bell Tent Cons: (and there aren’t many!)
- Heavy in weight: You don’t want to be carrying this tent for miles, but then if you are the glamping kind, you’re probably not going to want to anyway! (Especially if you have young kids!) HOWEVER, as mentioned in the pro’s, it is surprisingly compact and you can buy a trolley to pop it on for easy wheeling
- Storage: Putting this away is actually fine in terms of its size, it’s easily folded and popped into its bag. It’s more making sure it’s fully dry and clean which isn’t always easy on a damp morning, even if you’re lucky enough to not have had any rain! It has to be fully dry otherwise dreaded mould can take over. Having a stove does really help with this though if it has been a particularly soggy trip and you need to speed up the drying process!
- Cost: This isn’t something you want to buy as a ‘use once and leave it to gather dust in the garage’ piece of kit. You can expect to spend between £800-£1500 on the essentials depending on if you are buying a stove, airbeds, roof box for the car etc. etc. Accessories can easily add up! So if it’s a once a year weekend away tent you’re looking for, this probably isn’t worth buying, and you can visit sites that have bell tents pre-erected for you at a decent price, if you still want the experience. However if you plan to make this a quarterly family getaway, then buy buy buy- you won’t be disappointed!
A few retailers to consider:
- SoulPad (We purchased from here, they gave great advice and quick delivery- also have a showroom in Norfolk)
- Bell Tent UK (These guys are in SW19 London and will put the tents up for you to see, on request)
- Boutique Camping
- Karma Canvas
- Bell Tent Boutique
I’ll go into more detail on the equipment mentioned above as well as what to look for in a bell tent (zips, toggles, sizes, all matter!) on seperate posts, so please do feel free to ask any questions below so I can try to cover them- or at least ask our fellow glampers that have helped us to put together our glamping packing list!
Happy Glamping All!