Traditional yet Modern Pukka bells

Canvas bell tents were used big-time during the Crimean war (1850s) by the British military. During this time and until fairly recently, waterproofing a canvas tent was achieved by utilising and applying various mixes of linseed oil, wax and sometimes paraffin – making the already heavy canvas even heavier – and probably more than a little smelly!

More recently bell tent makers have invented the A-frame, which gives us the porch-like entrance providing increased headroom, whilst at the same time eliminating the problem of rain hitting and wetting the front half of the groundsheet when the entrance flaps are opened, as will happen in a tepee or early-style bell tent with no A-frame.

The other great invention of zips means it doesn’t take ages to get out of your tent (or back into it!!) in the middle of the night when you’re busting to empty your bladder! Zips are also a lot less draughty than the original Dutch lacing system.

Our Pukka canvas bell tents are built from a heavyweight 360gsm (10.5oz/yd2) 100% cotton canvas fabric. This canvas is a modern version of the old-fashioned, traditional and really very heavy canvas and has been treated (during the manufacture of the fabric) with modern proofers which provide resistance to water, UV and mould. The bathtub SIG or ZIG style heavyweight pvc groundsheets also mean modern bell tents are considerably more weather-and-bug proof than the earlier bell tents.

We now enjoy mesh covered air vents in the side walls (otherwise called windows) and also at the tent apex, plus Pukka bell tents (as well as a few others) have secondary mesh doors (with zips of course). Pukka’s mesh is midge-proof and all zips used are top quality YKK. If you’re not camping in a heavily midge-infested area, you can unzip your Pukka mesh windows open – this hugely increases the airflow on particularly hot days. And in a ‘nod’ to the original, we do use wooden sliders and thick guy ropes. It just feels so much better!

With the more recent arrival of the popular in-tent stoves (Pukka stoves are multifuel) and integrated flue exits, as well as the roll-up side walls together with toggles, ties and optional inner tents – Well! Bell tents have truly made it into the 21st century – Sorted!!

So, Pukka bell tents are one of the best examples of ‘traditional-meeting-modern’ – with bell owners appreciating the benefits of chilling under canvas comfortably and getting back in touch with the outdoors.

See our range of  Traditional yet Modern canvas bell tents here.

Getting away from frenetic modern life with all the stresses it brings has just got better.

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.


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!


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.