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Please enable me to buy a fab canvas tent

(54 Posts)
ReshapeWhileDamp Wed 27-Apr-11 11:45:28

After years of drooling over beautiful Bell Tentery, we are finally poised on the cusp of actually paying out hard cash for something. I say 'we' but actually I've been alone in my drooling (and got rather soggy) because DH is of stern temperament and has no time for creative visualisation re. tents or, indeed, drooling.

We've just had a mutual <gulp> and booked tickets to a weekend folk festival that entails 4 nights of camping, and given how much our holiday cottage cost to rent, I think we might have to have more camping and less renting over the next few summers. We have a 3 yo DS and a 4 mo DS (by the time the festival rolls around he will definitely be crawling) and need somewhere nice and roomy (can clear decks back, ie. bedding, if needed, to provide playroom space). I don't go a ton on tents that have permanent 'bedroom' pods, and in fact I just prefer the open-planness of bell tents and similar.

We were planning to borrow a family tent from a friend, but the first friend is using hers on august bank holiday, and the second doesn't have one any more. I did have a very very kind offer from a MNer to lend her own tent (she lives close to the festival) but we've now decided we'd like our own, so now my issue is to convince DH that we need a lovely canvas number, not something all billowy and lime-green. grin

We also need something that goes up in a flash, because with a 3yo and a baby we don't really want to be fannying about for 45 minutes while they scream in the car/vanish over the horizon/strangle on stray buy ropes.

I am very much biased towards bell tents because of the significant amount of time I've already invested in browsing bell tenty websites (particularly belltent co) and I'm afraid I'm already leaping ahead and visualising cheap cotton rugs, homemade bunting, wooden boxes for tables bunting extraneous ambient lighting, and other such wankery. (NOT nekkid flames though. I may be twee but I'm not mad.) It's probably not too late to head me off at the pass though, and I could be convinced of an alternative route to camping nirvana.

We've looked at 2nd hand 'family' nylon monstrosities tents on ebay and DH has grudgingly agreed that we could spend between £200-300. I suspect this could be stretched to £400, and therefore we could afford a new bell tent but probably not the Touareg (unless DH falls in lurve). (And that's before buying mattresses etc. Ooh dear.)

Could canvas-tent people try to convince DH of reasons why we should get one? He is nervous about issues such as waterproofness, leaking groundsheets if not all-in-one, mould, ease of erection fnur fnur (I WISH he would stop calling them Bell End tents too) (and sniggering), speed of erection and packability. (How large does a 4 or 5 m bell tent run to when you pack it back into the car? We have a Mazda 6 which has a TARDIS boot but would like to take some clothes too.)

If canvas-refuseniks want to offer some counter arguments, I suppose that would be ok too. <sulk> grin

Slubberdegullion Wed 27-Apr-11 12:13:38

Well I am a canvas lover but not a bell end tenter so can help with some of your queries.

Putting aside all that gushy nonsence about cotton rugs and bunting <spits> canvas really is the best fabric to camp under, for these sensible reasons (no floaty crap)

Strong: bell tents and pyramides (what I have got) are designed for strength and stability. They won't blow over. Some I believe are marketed as a 4 season tents, so for mountains and snow storms and the like. I have seen photos of de waards knee deep in snow. They aren't called Stormteneten for nothing. They are the Conan the Barbarian of tents [pec clench].

Warm in the cold

Cool in the heat

Reduced/no condensation

Quiet (this is not to be underestimated in our syphillitic windy wet British weather)

Smell nice

They don't leak, so long as your don't leave things pressed up against the sides (the fabric will wick). North Wales has thrown all the weather is possibly can at us and we have never had a leak once.

They last if well looked after. Plastic tent's waterproofness degrade in UV light. canvas doesn't (well much much much much more slowly). There are folk on ukcs still camping in their canvas numbers 30 years on. If you are worried about the cost then factor in how many plastic tents you will need to replace in the lifetime of a canvas one.

Our guadeloupe takes 20 mins from out of the bag to last peg in to pitch. I can pitch it alone in 25-30mins.

Groundsheets won't let water through them (from ground upwards) as they have a v high HH. If you don't get a tent with a sig then you run the risk of flowing water/puddles coming in but if you pitch your tent wisely you can usually avoid this happening.

You HAVE to store a canvas tent bone dry or it will go mouldy. I re pitch ours if it is wet to dry it to prevent shrinkage.

We too have a Mazda 6 (estate) and even though our tent is small when pitched (3 x 4 m) it is a big old bugger to pack. They aren't small or light (the major downside). We can get tables, chairs and a few boxes in the boot but the tent takes up a lot of space. Thank God the pole bag is quite small.


do it do it....but have you looked at any pyramides yet?

ReshapeWhileDamp Wed 27-Apr-11 13:20:47

OK. I will not mention bunting again in your hearing. <chastened>

I would think the quietness of canvas would appeal to DH. Even if your tent isn't in danger, it always sounds alarming, that 100 decibel rustle and thump in the wind.

And I think the religiously-drying-out thing might scupper it with him. sad He is horribly practical and will want something that isn't too high maintenance.

Space in car will be a PITA, I suspect, but more because I'm rubbish at overpacking. Was thinking of taking a buggy to the festival for DS/s to flop out in. Hmm.

Haven't looked at pyramides yet, got horribly sidetracked on Tortuga Tents site while trawling through old threads! (too pricy for us)

Thanks, will cherrypick show DH your response and we will thrash it out. grin

Slubberdegullion Wed 27-Apr-11 13:54:32

Well on the drying out aspect of things, all tents need to be dry before you store them, even the plastic ones or they will go all mildewy and horrid.

I always repitch to dry out but some canvas people don't and just drape indoors over tables/bannistairs. i would be too scared to do that though.

You are already quite obviously rubbish at over packing as you have been thinking about wooden boxes for tables and the b word. What the chuff do you want with that woman? A wooden box table for what exactly? Ornaments and framed photos?

sheesh [epic eye roll]

I've some photos of our pyramide on my profile. I like them more than bells as there is a standyuppy bit at the front with a proper porch. Horses for courses though.

ReshapeWhileDamp Wed 27-Apr-11 15:39:47

(sorry, had to go out) So when you repitch to dry out, you basically leave it up and out until such time as you get sufficient sun to dry it out entirely? Just imagining a scenario whereby we come home after being rained on, and it continues to rain for the rest of summer. grin Where do you store yours? Loft or garage? We only have loft or shed.

Porch and lack thereof is bothering me a bit. I suppose it would be completely stupid to take a small crappy dome that I already have and use it as a store cupboard for muddly boots etc? Except then you'd have to leap from the crap muddy tent to the canvas one without touching the ground in between. Ok, scrub that.

The other thing that could push me away from bells is the little tangents of wasted space that you'd get between the mattress and curved walls, though I suppose it'd minimise the possibility of stuff getting shoved up against walls and Wicking.

I do like your tent on profile, but I'm still in love with the big round room thing you get with bells. I could pretend I was REALLY wanky AND rich and that it was a yurt

Wooden wine box to pack Stuff into in transit, turns into bedside table in tent! Obviously. grin

Bunting does of course have a H&S value at festivals if you wrap it round guyropes. Especially if you make it out of that reflective jacket material, I suppose. <virtuous>

ReshapeWhileDamp Wed 27-Apr-11 15:41:50

I don't mean tangents do I? I mean SEGMENTS.
<should have failed GCSE maths emoticon>

Slubberdegullion Wed 27-Apr-11 16:20:52

Yes, if the tent is wet when we take it down we repitch it in the garden when we get home. It dries very quickly even if the sun isn't shining, just a bit of a breeze will do it and then it's all hands on deck to take it down and inside to make sure the underside of the groundsheet is dry before it starts pissing with rain again.

We have only had to do this twice but i have to say it was this, combined with an anal obsession about mildew that gave reason for us buying two pop ups for weekend camping. I just cannot be doing with the repitching and folding for just one or two nights away.

We store the tent in the loft and thank God we do after a mice invasion last winter that destroyed a load of our camping stuff.

re the porch conundrum, there are several bell tenters here who have bought the 'matching' tarp <sucks teeth> which works as a porch/boot storage area/cooking area.

I too have a tarp that does not match but has many eyelets. i also have a utility tent to cook in/storage of crap as I won't cook in or near the main tent. It is ugly and sturdy.

I have no comment re bedside tables and the b stuff. It's like you are talking Dutch. H&S my arse. It's a fire HAZARD.

ReshapeWhileDamp Wed 27-Apr-11 18:15:35


Not sure this festival would allow us two structures anyway, but I did find this on ebay which looks handy.

DH is going to think I've run mad. hmm What with an outlay on a tent, new or used, plus bedding, and now I'm thinking about a kitchen...

Slubberdegullion Wed 27-Apr-11 18:21:37


welcome to the money twilight zone of camping

no no, don't start looking at utilities yet. tent n tarp or just tent n cagoule will be fine

What is this bedding you keep referring to? As you are obviously of the glamper persuasion I am having nightmarish visions of goose down mattresses with hemp coverings in bright colours and jaunty blankets made from or by Peruvian marmots.

Needanewname Wed 27-Apr-11 18:28:25

We went to Obelink last year (Oct) and bought a 5m bell tent with ZIG and inner tent. Put it up this weekend in the garden and slept in it for 2 night. OMFG it is wonderful.

Now I'll try not to gush too much as I'm guessing your DH won;t appreciate that at all!

OK, so here are all the great points:

- Went up in 18 mins, bet we could do it faster too
- Is huge inside (even with the inner - that took approx another 3 mins to put up btw)
- Waking up in the morning was wonderful - no condensation, smelt lovely and looked lovely too.
- No noisey flappy nylon
- Was able to sit in it in the heat of the day without passing out!
- Wasn't any colder in the night than any other tent we've had, in fact I expected it would be as there was a larger area to heat
- It didn;t let any water in in the thunder storm
- It didn;t take forever to dry
- If its wet after this weekend, we'll be able to put it up to dry a damn sight easier than our old tent
- It didn't take long to put down and easily went back into its back - though I did buy an extra bag for the groundsheet

Ok so here's the downside:
- ermmmmm
- weeeeelllllll
- hang on, I'm sure there must be one
- mmmmmmmmm
- oh yes it's heavy, but then again so was our old one

So as you can see, I LOVE IT!!!!!!!

Oh and there's nothing wrong with a bit of bunting!!!!!

Needanewname Wed 27-Apr-11 19:27:21

Would also add that my experience with Obelink was great (apart from the hellish drive there but that wasn;t their fault!)

BIL bought one from Soulpad - also a good experience, friend has recently bought one from belltentuk and lets just say she won;t buy anything from them ever again!

ReshapeWhileDamp Wed 27-Apr-11 19:47:01

Sorry. By 'bedding' I naturally meant acetic thermarestalikes. grin

I might take along a patchwork quilt or five but that is because I MAKE THEM dammit, they are just hanging about the place and therefore it wouldn't be at all wanky because they are just THERE. Ok?

Needanewname, thank you, that's all very useful, and please feel free to gush. I see a lot of gushing on this topic. Some of it highly Utilitarian gushing, but make no mistake, it is still gush. grin

I'm not sure we can add on a round trip to the Netherlands in order to buy a cheaper canvas tent (tho' god, it's tempting) and round here would be frowned on as a False Economy. (I trust you did something else while you were out there? Van Gogh museum? Buy lots of, um, tulip bulbs?)

PLEASE can you tell me why Bell Tent Co will never have your friend's custom again? Or hint, at least? They seemed quite nice people from the website, though rather oddly given to trying to convince you out of buying any of the more expensive or larger tents.

Slubberdegullion Wed 27-Apr-11 19:54:51

LOL at your ubiquitous patchwork quilts.

I'd drive to Holland too. Failure to plan is planning to fail and that sort of thing. But with tents.

Needanewname Wed 27-Apr-11 20:17:59

Erm no! We went on a friday after school drop off (lovely friend had them for the night) Had a hellish journey where the whole population of Belgium and Holland seemed to be in their cars and it was pissing it down. What should have been a 4 hour journey was actuallty a 7 1/2 hour one!

Found the hotel eventually, had the best meal ever then went to Obelink and came home. It was good fun though and felt very extravagent!

I will be able to gush more after this weekedn (I hope) but I really, really, really love it!!!!

Re bell tent. Well they took forever to deliver it and claimed it wasn't their fault (um yes it is, if your courier is unreliable use another), customer service was appalling, when it eventually turned up there is a small imperfection in teh groundsheet (admitedly this isn;t their fault, probably something that happend at the facotry) but again the customer service hasn't been good enough. I also know other people who have had to wait forever for products from them and ended refusing delivery as they had got elsewhere!

I know that if this was my company, I would bend over backwards to sort any problems out, they don't seem to care, despite what is said on the website

ReshapeWhileDamp Wed 27-Apr-11 21:45:32

hmmmm. <bears in mind>

Needanewname, I will look out for your renewed gush after the weekend.

(christ, that sounds absolutely pervy. I do apologise.)

Needanewname Wed 27-Apr-11 22:19:14


ReshapeWhileDamp Wed 27-Apr-11 22:57:41

I am now officially obsessed - the first Indiana Jones film is currently on BBC3 (ah, Indy, my first and bestest love) and I just woke the baby by shrieking to DH 'Look, Bell Tents! BELL TENTS!!' hmm

They have them in the excavation scene, y'see. We never had anything half as lovely when I were an archaeologist...

blueshoes Wed 27-Apr-11 23:28:35

You can buy the bell tents from [ Obelink]] online. The site is in Dutch but you can use google translate to find your way around.

We ordered from them and had no problems.

blueshoes Wed 27-Apr-11 23:29:10

Linky again: Obelink

ReshapeWhileDamp Wed 27-Apr-11 23:36:11

Blueshoes - when did you buy yours from them? I've been trawling through the archives on Camping this evening (in between lusting after Early 80's Harrison Ford) and while several people reported getting their bells from Obelink a couple of years back, Obelink stopped selling to the UK (UK-based companies sell them far more expensively). But if they've started selling to the UK again... (tries hard not to think of Emperors)

PrinceHumperdink Wed 27-Apr-11 23:40:17

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PrinceHumperdink Wed 27-Apr-11 23:41:04

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

IloveJudgeJudy Wed 27-Apr-11 23:45:39

I don't have a tent myself atm (folding camper), but used to camp with parents in a canvas frame tent in the 70s. They are lovely, don't take that long to put up so long as you are organised. The one my parents had was one with bedrooms in it, but they were at the back and the open area was the width of the tent at the front. Bedrooms are good, you can put all your junk in them and zip them up and voila, tent is tidy.

We camped through all manner of weather when I was young and tent did not leak (had to make sure nothing touching it, though), nor did it blow over. We camped in very hot weather in Europe which means you have very big thunderstorms in between.

You do have to dry any tent out, though. My parents used to do what slubber does (love the tent, slubber) and put it up in the garden. When we stayed just overnight somewhere, parents didn't put up the bedrooms, just the frame and the outer tent. We didn't have inners in the main area of the tent, like some do now, though.

The erection went like this - frame put together up to its "knees", canvas went over the top, people inside canvas, lifting frame to full height. Pegged all around canvas.

I'm not so keen myself on bell tents as the ones I've seen people camping in seem to me to be quite hard to keep tidy, but I can see the aesthetic appeal of them. I do love the DeWaard tents, but they're pretty expensive.

The other thing is, as slubber said, canvas and the frame to keep up canvas, is very heavy and takes up quite a bit of room.

Go and look at some different tents in the flesh. Then imagine all your stuff in them. I'm sure you'll enjoy yourself, whichever tent you finally decide to buy. (Even if your DH doesn't have fun camping, I'm pretty sure your DC will!)

blueshoes Thu 28-Apr-11 06:54:33

Reshape, we bought our Bell Tent from Obelink 2-3 years ago. It is a shame if they no longer sell to UK - I did not know that. Yes, Bell Tents are more expensive in UK. But with the Euro now being so high against the pound, it is possible that any price savings would be significantly whittled down.

Needanewname Thu 28-Apr-11 10:11:44

Obelink don't ship to the UK, even if you translate their dutch site I'm afraid. Where abouts in the UK are you Reshape, maybe you could visit a campsite where a mn is staying you can have a nosey!

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