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):

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!