The Bell  Tent is making a resurgence in Australia. Is this resurgence based on the re-discovery of its brilliance ,on a yearning for the good-old-days…when life was wonderful in all respects, or a dissatisfaction with light weight dome and tunnel tents?

The tent many of us know as a Bell Tent is referred to in America as the Sibley Tent.Henry Hopkins Sibley patented his tent design in 1858.The Sibley (Bell) Tent is thought to be a variation of the Native American tipi. Unlike a tipi, it has walls, a raised entrance and guy ropes, without  the extendable tripod or smoke hole. (Wikipedia)

Bell Tent Design

A Bell tent is remarkably simple. A single central pole, covered in canvas. The tent is reinforced with tension by guy ropes connected around the top of the walls and being held down by pegs around the circumference to the ground. It has a circular floor plan . (Wikipedia)Bell Tent set up on grass

Putting up a Bell Tent

A Bell tent like many tents can be really easy when you have 4 people who know how to work together. One holding the central pole, while other pull /adjust and peg out the walls.

The canvas is single layer, there is no additional fly to be manoeuvred and secured. This is similar to the “Auto-tent” and much simpler than  the A-frame/Fly tent combination. Dome and tunnel  tents with their flexible frames and  lightweight fabrics which can quite easily be erected by one person remain the easier option.

Weather friendly

Canvas is a durable, breathable and versatile material. Modern canvas is waterproof  and suitable in all seasons.  Mildew and tears are much less likely in a well maintained canvas tent than in the lightweight nylon  tents

Foot print

The smaller the tent, and the shorter /fewer the guy ropes then the smaller the tent footprint. On those occasions where campsite area is limited, the Bell tent is not the leader of the pack.

Interior Space.

The Bell tent is remarkably spacious. Interior layout of sleeping and gear will maximize the space. The long central pole provides ample head clearance when its occupants are standing and moving  about.  Special care must be taken not to dislodge the central pole.

Moving away from the central pole area, drastically reduces head room. Interference with the canvas roof and walls can be a real problem. The high walls of an Auto tent can be a real advantage.

Naturally, in good weather, for short stay camping, spaciousness is less critical. However, in poorer weather, for extended periods, especially for campers unhappy to be bending and crouching the  are less desirable.

Storing it

The Bell tent is fabulously compact – not like a hike tent  – of course, but  with no framing and only a single pole it is pretty good. Too bulky to back pack – but more than suitable for a trailer or roomy car

My 5 thoughts about Bell Tents?bell tents

  • I love the romantic look of a Bell Tent
  • Great for kids, once they get the hang of putting them up
  • Remarkably stable in all weather.
  • Bit too much bending for my bad back and knees
  • Canvas breathes

Your thoughts?