Some advice on how best to pack away your bell tent for the winter.
Concerned about the how to store a bell tent after camping? If you follow these simple rules and we hope the process will be a lot easier. At The Secret Campsites and our three campsites in Sussex, we erect and take down bell tents all the time. So hopefully our experience has taught us how to avoid some of the pitfalls when storing a bell tent after your camping trip or at the end of the season.
Congratulations you are now the proud owner of a Bell Tent – or you’re considering getting one! You’ll now be the envy of the campsite and from the moment you arrive and start setting up, people will be furtively watching you.
How to put the bell tent up?
Fellow campers may be secretly hoping you’ll struggle to put up your bell tent, perhaps feeling slightly uneasy about their expensive Nylon tent that took them hours and a structural engineering degree. Erecting your bell tent, should see you quickly moving around laying out the base and tent. Start by erecting the centre pole – then four diagonally opposite guy roles to tension the pole and hold it in place. Then place your A frame door way in place – with a supporting guy rope in front. Next move to pegging down the ground sheet/base. Now all you have to do is secure the remaining guy ropes and the jobs almost done. We’ve had awnings made for all our tents to provide a covered out door area. You can buy these from suppliers and it provides a handy area to place boots, chairs and other equipment under cover.
First time of use – why does my bell tent leak?
Part of the fascination for many people who have never experienced a bell tent is the fabric. Rain is no longer much of an issue while you’re camping as modern tents are waterproof and offer great refuge from the elements compared to those tents of yesteryear. But although during the first use of your bell tent you may find that there are small gaps between the cotton fibres, these will swell after their first exposure to moisture and act as a natural barrier to the elements. The problems generally only begin when you need to get the bell tent packed down and home.
Packing the bell tent up
To start you will need to get the bell tent back in its bag. It’s not as difficult as the comedy shrink bags that most tents come in but in true camping fashion, you may have neglected to pay attention to how it was folded when you took it out in the first place. To help we found this time lapse video which breaks down the process well.
If your ground sheet is separate it won’t pose too big an issue as you can pack it separately however if it’s not, you’ll need to bring extra towels to wipe any moisture or condensation from the bottom of the tent (along with any mud or rogue insects).
We also like to roll the guy ropes up and tie them in neat little bundles – although this is not necessary – it does make the bell tent packing a little neater and tidier.
Bone dry – the most important point when you store a bell tent?
Bell tents really have to be bone dry without a single drop of moisture when you put them away, otherwise they can become mouldy. Black spots will begin to appear which are virtually impossible to remove and can develop into holes over time, letting water in. The chances of this happening are, unfortunately, a lot more likely compared to a standard nylon tent. Always store a bell tent in totally dry environment – damp sheds or rooms with moisture may result in an unpleasant surprise when you go camping next.
We now only buy a higher grade of commercial bell tents from BCT Outdoors. These tents offer much greater protection against mould and mildew and has made cleaning and storage much easier.
If you have no choice but to pack it away whilst wet you are going to need to find a place to lay it out when you get home so that it can dry thoroughly. If you are blessed with a garage, large garden or another large space like a workshop where you can hang it up, you’re in luck. However if you don’t have room (and it’s not absolutely sodden or dripping wet with water) lots of campers now consider a self storage units. That way you’ll be able to stretch it out and allow it to dry!
Re-seal your bell tent
Every few years – depending on the number of nights you have used the bell tent, it’s quality, the weather and conditions the bell tent has been exposed to – you may want to consider re-sealing the bell tent canvas. Fabsil are one of the main suppliers – although their products do get expensive if bought in their little spray packs or from a retail outlet. We buy a five litre container of Coltex from Cole & Wilson – which costs about £27. You then dilute down as per instructions, erect your bell tent and spray on using a cheap pressure spray paint unit, which you typically can buy from Wicks or similar for about £15-20. You should get about four or five re-seals from the one batch of Coltex for your bell tent – perhaps get a few friends with bell tents and have a bell tent re-sealing party in the local park together. Pick a nice day and expect the tent to take 6-8 hours to dry in good weather. Either this or spray your bell tent one fine morning when camping and it should be dry and re-sealed by evening time.
A storage unit may serve you as camping tends to become all about the gear. As you embark on life as a camper you will tend to buy camping furniture, camping mod-cons and gadgets until you may find yourself with no space left at home. You’ll likely end up with a roof box or add a hitch to your car so that you can tow a trailer.
We have used and recommend Safestore. You can find out more about Safestore and self storage by visiting their website.