Flooring options for your bell tent.

Once you are the proud owner of your own lovely bell tent you will understand that it is ‘your’ space, to build up and furnish as you wish and in whichever style that suits you. Flooring is an important aspect of your bell tent, whether you prefer the minimalist/spartan approach for that quick camp-and-getaway-fast thing, or whether you want to glamp it up a bit and create a full ‘home away from home’.

As with everything to do with camping weight is always an issue, depending on your choice of camping style, transport etc. Here we’re offering a brief list of a few possibilities that will enhance camping life in your canvas bell tent.

Coir mats

Coir is a natural product that is also naturally fire retardant. It provides good ground insulation between you and your groundsheet. However it can be a bit rough on the knees/feet, so it’s a good idea to throw some lightweight (softer) floor coverings on top.

Coir matting comes in different sizes. The best known are the circular half-moon mats which will cover the whole bell tent floor if you buy two. These are both extremely unwieldy and heavy – but are good for static installations on camping sites etc. Literally each half moon mat when rolled will be half the width of a bell tent – so a rolled 5 metre mat will be a bulky 2.5 metres.

Other sizes of mat are available, such as small door mats. You can also find rectangular natural coir mats measuring a much more sensible 2m x1.5m. These can be folded down flat to 1m x 1.5m and will lay flat in the boot of a car or trailer. They also only weigh 5.5kg each, so all in all they are much easier to handle. You can get three in a 5m bell tent and two in a 4 metre bell tent. Obviously they won’t fill the whole space right up to the edges but a few lighter mats thrown around on top, not to mention a few boxes, bags etc soon takes care of that.

Roll up beach mats

These lightweight mats I love! You can use them directly on top of your groundsheet or on top of another floor covering such as coir. They’re lightweight, easily rollable and a doddle to pack up and transport.

Tiles

There are various types of tiles out there that can be used either inside or outside of your bell tent. For internal use you can find jigsaw-type click-together mats. There are some originally made for use in stables – they are rubber and provide good insulation. Make sure you get the lightweight ones as some are ridiculously heavy! There are also tiles around intended for garden shed use etc.

For outside your tent, either under your entrance awning or simply at the entrance, you can use horse gateway grass mats. These are intended for field/paddock entrances where horses usually ‘poach’ the ground (i.e. turn the ground into a muddy boot-sucking-off soup). These are not too cheap but good. The tiles have holes in which let water through and are designed as ‘anti-fatigue grass mats’ which means they will not kill the grass. They come supplied with ties and fixing pegs.

Rag rugs and sheepskins

One of my favourites – rag rugs and ‘Persian/Indian’ type ethnic rugs. These are lovely to look at when placed around the tent because they create a cosy bohemian type of feel. Chuck a few sheepskins on top and you’re there!

Make-your-own

Finally, a lot of people make a template of their bell tent floor and create their own basic floor covering. If you can’t do this yourself then it is possible to find professionals who’ll make it for you according to your specific requirements and measurements.

Hopefully this will help you a bit! Happy camping in your bell tent!

Click to see videos of our 4m & 5m bell interiors here.

Would a 4 metre bell tent be right for you?

People frequently ask whether they should be looking at buying a 4 metre bell tent or the larger 5 metre bell tent. In fact some people have turned up to view our display tents already ‘convinced’ that they require a 5 metre – only to ultimately decide that a 4 metre bell tent is the best option for them. That is a decision that only they (and you) can make… but we can hopefully help a little with the following sample Qs and As … (maybe!).

Q  How much floor space is there in a 4 metre bell tent?
The floor space of a 4 metre bell is around 12.5 square metres and although when pitched alongside a 5 metre the 4 metre bell may appear a lot smaller, it is actually deceptively spacious inside.

Q  How many of you would be camping in the tent?
If you are likely to be camping alone most or all of the time, then a 4 metre would be perfect for you.
If you are a couple, or two singles, or two people with a small child a 4 metre is a good size tent for you. Remember you have 2.5m headroom in the centre of the tent and the 60cm side walls make a big difference to headroom.
If you are a couple with two kids a 4 metre may still be appropriate as you can fit one double and two single mattresses in a 4 metre bell (double mattress behind the pole with the two singles on either side).

Q  How much space do you need?
With both of the above two scenarios you would still have space in your 4 metre bell for ‘stuff’. With a double mattress behind the pole you have more than half of the tent free. With a double and two singles you still have space above/below the two singles, as well as in the front/centre portion of the tent.

Q  Do you want/need a lot of ‘living’ space?
With just one double mattress behind the centre pole a lot of couples find the remaining space in a 4 metre bell is perfectly adequate for their needs giving them enough space to be comfortable and cosy, especially if they’re outside during the day.
With a double and two single mattresses the living space in a 4 metre bell tent will be less than in a larger 5 metre (which is more like a living room than a tent) – but the space is still ‘doable’. Plus if you stack the two single mattresses during the day you’ll free up a lot of useable floor space.
If you are only going to use the tent for ‘sleeping space’ then the 4 metre bell tent would of course be perfect!

Q  Do you camp all year round?
If you camp (out of season) in colder weather as well as during the late spring/summer months, a 4 metre will be easier to keep warm than a 5 metre since it’s smaller with less headroom.
A 4 metre is quicker and easier to dry than a 5 metre since there is less canvas to deal with.
If you camp frequently, for example, every other weekend or more, then you may prefer a 4 metre since it will be quicker and easier to deal with than the heavier 5m option.
If your camping trips involve moving around from site to site then you may prefer to be dealing with the smaller 4 metre bell tent.

Q  Can you stand up in a 4 metre bell tent?
Yes you can! In fact the interior of a 4m bell is surprisingly spacious.
See our video of a Pukka 4m bell tent interior here (there’s also a 5m video):
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChM_-TKH4ufBWbr9WHYgOXw

Why you should camp in a bell tent

Bell tents are one of the most stable tent designs around. The immensely stable design is based on the North American tepee (or tipi) and the similar Scandinavian shelter called a lavvu (which was developed to withstand violent arctic winds common to Scandinavia).

The basic circular shape works extremely well because it allows the wind to ‘roll around’ the tent, meeting with minimal wind resistance. The circular bell tent profile means that the wind energy disperses ‘around’ the tent rather than building up ‘against’ a single side or area of the tent – unlike a lot of modern tents.

Most bell tents these days have moved on from the originals in that they have A-frames at the entrance – which means that they have a raised entrance area (providing you with important added headroom) with vertical door flaps at the front. This in turn makes the entrance much more waterproof when the doors are opened in wet weather – because the absence of an A-frame (as with a tepee) means when the doors are open the rain has direct passage straight down to your groundsheet – in effect soaking your ‘internal floor space’!

Even though bell tents now mostly have A-frames at the entrance, for reasons stated above, they are still a very, very stable design (though I’d like to point out that we at Pukka do not currently sell multi-door versions of our bell tents as we are not sure how much this actually affects overall stability in windy conditions). Plus at Pukka we don’t offer a hugely confusing range of bell tents – we just sell the best and the most popular. We always have great ‘bundle’ deals available too.

It is also true that the smaller the tent, the more stable it will be – simply because of the reduced surface area. So a 4 metre bell will be more stable than a 5 metre bell, a 5 metre bell will be more stable than a 6 metre bell – and so on. Having said that, the 4 and 5 metre bell tents are both extremely solid tents. Where at all possible it is also better to pitch your bell tent with the entrance facing away from the direction of any prevailing wind – though as we all know wind direction can change.

Apart from stability, other pluses include the generous headroom, the great feeling of space and of course the incomparable feeling of being ‘under canvas’!

So if you’d like a great camping tent… try a bell tent!

 

Heating, cooking, stoves and tents.

Heating, cooking, stoves and tents.

 

Well, I’ve already said in a few other articles that in-tent heating can be effective using either a fan heater (EHU) or a basic wood burning or multi-fuel stove. The important thing is to never have an open flame (including the use of gas canisters/bottles) inside your tent, even if the tent is sold to you as ‘fire retardant’ (not fire proof) or ‘fire proof’ (I wouldn’t risk it).

 

So let’s say you want to camp in cooler weather (winter, early spring or Autumn) – installing a stove of course together with a safety flue kit in your tent, can be a huge Plus when it comes to overall enjoyment of your camping trip. Let’s admit it, we’d all prefer to enter and settle down into a cosy space, feeling warm and snug, as opposed to a cold, empty one.

 

A stove can simply be a straightforward wood burner (I’d recommend 3kw to 4kw output for a 4m or a 5m bell tent), with a basic firebox only, or it could be larger (for something like a 6m bell tent or emperor bell) and quite literally the equivalent of a mini-Range in your tent with one or two decent-sized ovens arranged side by side, and then with one or more hot plates on top. These stoves can output a lot of heat into a tent. Serious comfort!

 

Plus the mini-Range type of stove means that you can cook dishes inside the closed oven itself (as opposed to on top in a pan), such as casseroles etc without too much of the food smells permeating your tent interior or the tent fabric itself. Cooking smells in a canvas tent can take a long time to disappear because the fabric becomes totally impregnated. When using small cooking stoves/ranges like this (if you do intend to cook in your tent) it is advisable to situate them towards the middle of the tent – this means that steam and/or spatters of cooking sauces or fat etc will be not be too close to your canvas. Fat and canvas do not mix.

 

For those of you who do really want to cook their bacon and eggs in a frying pan on top of their little Range cooker or more basic wood burner, then please do make sure that all window vents and doors are open, in order to allow maximum throughput of air – this will help to minimise those lingering smells.

 

If you decide to opt for one of these ‘mini-Range’ type of ovens, in order to have hot water all you’d need to do is literally place a kettle (hob type with steel-metal base) onto one of the hotplates. It really does just create a wonderful feeling of quaint old-fashioned-homeliness-in-the-outback sort of thing!

 

If you’re like me and prefer to keep all cooking outside of my tent, either use a kitchen tent or a kitchen/cooking ‘area’ away from the tent. This I feel is not only safer, but also easier and less stressful. This means that it may only be necessary to use a stove inside your tent for ambient heat but more importantly, for a constant supply of hot water. If you have a smaller more basic wood stove you can usually get water heaters that bolt on to the side of the stove fire box. These are similar to small tea urns and have taps fitted. They are then filled with cold water which gets heated up to boiling point by the sheer heat of the stove. Literally water on-tap!

 

Various outdoor cooking stoves exist, and all have their own quirks. Some are suitable for cooking inside your tent and others only suited to being used in the open. You just need to get used to using whichever one it is you have, whether it be a Frontier stove, a cob oven, a ‘mini-Range’, a barbecue or a fire pit type of arrangement. Just make sure that you always play safe and use mesh covers on barbecues and fire pits to prevent hot ashes from floating towards your tent. Ensure that if you do want to use a stove for heating the inside of your tent that it camping is properly made and that it’s a properly sealed unit with safety flue kit.

 

Similarly always make sure you have spark arresters fitted to stove chimneys, and keep open fires (even with covers) a safe distance from any tent.

 

Enjoy camping!

 

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