Bell tents have become more and more popular thanks to glamping and festivals offering them up for unique camping experiences. If you are new to camping you might be looking at what the differences are between bell tents and normal tents and which is better suited to you.
Bell tents are larger tent structures which are better suited to businesses looking to hire them out to couples, parties and festivals for glamping. Normal tents are designed for the owner to use in any space they require and move from place to place. They are more practical than bell tents.
In this article, we are going to go through the differences between bell tents and normal tents, what they are used for and who they are best suited to.
What Is A Bell Tent?
A bell tent is a multipurpose shelter with a single pole in its centre and is covered with cotton canvas. The type of the tent is usually made to be stable by connecting guy ropes around the top of the tent walls and attaching them to pegs on the ground.
Bell tents have a circular shape at the top and a cone shape for most of its body and are large by design with a diameter of about 10ft or larger.
People use bell tents when travelling for leisure – like during camping for many days at a time – and as shelter (during events). Since they are built to be large, their interior is spacious, giving room for a number of people to be able to sleep in at the same time.
It seems to have the same appearance as a yurt from a distance, but they are not the same. It is easy to set them up, but there are some downsides to using them. They are significantly larger than normal tents, making them more expensive to buy and more difficult to carry around.
When shopping for a bell tent, is it easier to get information about the tent’s size rather than how many people can fit into one tent at a time.
Some manufacturers might say a 5M wide bell tent can accommodate six sleeping people, but in reality, it will only do so if all six of them are okay with being packed like sardines in one tent. To know how many people would fit into a bell tent you want to buy, you have to consider the amount of space each person would ideally need, the average size of each person’s luggage and how much camp furniture would be used in the tent.
The fact that you might not take a lot of personal camping gear with you on your trip does not mean that you would not need to account for the space your bags, chairs, sleeping bags, kitchen utensils, clothes and so on would take.
Imagine fitting all the furniture and gear you would need throughout your camping trip in a 5M bell tent and expecting it to accommodate six people still while they sleep. It would not take a genius to know it would not work or if it does, it would not be the most convenient thing to do.
An ideal setup for a 5m bell tent is having four adults use it, and that is only a good number if you are comfortable with placing mattresses or sleeping bags on the floor. If you want to use proper camp beds, consider using a giant bell tent, or fewer than four people use one tent.
Inside bell tents, the walls slope downwards, so when setting a kitchen unit up or arranging camp beds, you have to fit them so that they would not be directly touching the walls. This would take up more space when compared to when you can let your property rest against the tent walls.
Some bell tents have higher sides and taller doorways than others, meaning you can get more usable space out of them. Door height is an essential factor when choosing a bell tent to buy because one with sufficient door height would save you from constantly bending over backwards when you go in or walk out of your tent.
What Bell Tents are Made of?
Bell tents are usually made entirely of cotton canvas and are highly breathable. If properly maintained, they can last a long time, meaning once you get a bell tent, it could be years before you buy another.
However, that premium material comes at a cost. Cotton canvas tents are expensive, not waterproof on the first usage and are reliant on constant maintenance. Other less common materials used in the production of bell tents are polycotton, polyester, and oxford canvas.
What Is A Normal Tent?
A normal tent is also a shelter made of fabric or some other material and is often designed to be free-standing with some support from guy ropes or pegs attached to the ground. They are typically used for recreational camping and are light enough to be carried by backpackers and hikers. However, there are some larger ones that are carried in cars or RVs.
Since they are of different sizes, the time to set them up varies between five minutes and half an hour. It takes around the same time to completely disassemble the tent too. Normal tents are made to be resilient against elements of nature like strong winds and heavy rainfall and be spacious enough to facilitate a comfortable living experience.
They are generally inexpensive, offer adequate ventilation and often come in a tunnel or dome shape. Normal tents are mostly categorized by the number of people that can fit in them at once. Manufacturers try to make normal tents as light as possible by making sure their interiors are not too thick so campers would have an easy time carrying them.
If you need more room than usual in a normal tent, it will help to buy one that was designed for one person more than your group. For example, if you are a 3-man group and prefer having more room, buy a tent meant for four people instead. Alternatively, you can buy tents that are a few inches longer than the average size. Tents like this have the word “plus” in their name.
Different normal tents are made to handle different seasons. The common type of tents people buy is three and 4-season tents. However, most hikers and campers go with three-season tents because they believe it is not on every trip they would be exposed to extreme weather conditions.
Three-season tentsare designed to be lightweight enough to be easily transported while being able to handle the weather conditions that come with summer, fall and spring. These tents are resistant to heavy rainfall and light snow but might not offer the best protection against severe thunderstorms, heavy snow and violent winds.
Four-season tents are excellent for summer use but are also well-suited to spring, fall and winter conditions. If you would be taking trips to places where you encounter snow, this kind of normal tent would be appropriate. Normal tent’s walls are upright, giving its occupants more headroom. A small number of poles – or none at all – is used to manufacture this type of tent to keep the weight low.
The emphasis on keeping weight low is because tent designers know it is a crucial factor campers consider when in the market for a new tent. The less a tent weighs, the less its size, the smaller the number of special features it would have, and the less durable it would be.
It is up to the camper to make tradeoffs between all the tent’s features and its size and find a balance when they are ready to buy a new tent.
What is the Difference Between a Bell Tent and Normal Tent?
The main noticeable difference between a bell and normal tents is their shape. Bell tents tend to have a triangular shape while normal tents come in different forms but are mostly dome or tunnel-shaped. Most bell tents can be set up but just one person.
They first have to stake the groundsheet, place the centre pole and raise the A-frame door. After, they will stake the guy lines to ensure the bell tents stay secure to the ground.
For a normal tent, there is no centre pole for you to set up the tent around. There is also no pole for the door frame as there is in a bell tent. Instead, normal tent doors are usually closed using a giant zipper.
Bell tents are generally bigger than normal tents, but both tents come in different sizes. It is possible to find 7M that can accommodate around eight to ten adults while normal tents are suitable for a small number of people.
Bell tents are available between 3M and 7M sizes. In many types of bell tents, you can stand upright and walk around while the average tent does not provide that level of convenience.
People using normal tents have to crouch while inside them, and usually use them primarily as a shelter to sleep in or avoid rain or snow. They do most of their activities outside because there is not enough space.
Bell tents recreate the feeling of being in your own room. If you plan to spend a week at a campground, you can set up the interior of a bell tent to look like an outdoor hotel room, but normal tents give the feeling of someone on-the-go. They come in different sizes as well, and the size per person ideally should be 80 inches in length (90 inches for taller people) and a width of 25 inches.
Furthermore, bell tents cannot be carried on one’s back from place to place (as the case would be when hiking). They are much heavier than normal tents and offer better protection from the elements of nature.
The conical shape of bell tents allows them to withstand strong winds with ease. The aerodynamics from the roof of a bell tent to the bottom makes it more stable than normal tents (this does not mean normal tents are not safe to stay in).
The steep shape of bell tent walls allows water to run off it quickly. This feature generally gives it an advantage over normal tents but normal tents that a dome-shaped are not far behind in this regard. However, normal tents that are tunnel-shaped might have a little more trouble getting rid of water that falls on their roof.
Also, since bell tents have an A-shaped door that stands vertically, rain that falls perpendicular to the ground would not fall directly into the tent even when the door is open.
Normal tents usually have a somewhat diagonal view of the sky and leaving the door open during rainfall would be a way to tell the rain that it is welcome into your tent. The effect would be similar to making a straight cut down your umbrella and taking it for a walk on a rainy day.
When snow is involved, it is a different story because it can accumulate on top of a bell tent and make it collapse if not taken care of quickly enough. Campers would need a telescoping brush – the kind used to remove snow from cars – to get rid of heavy and sticky snow that accumulates on bell tents. The process of removing snow is more difficult on bell tents when compared to normal tents because it is taller and the roof is less easily accessible.
A dome-shaped normal tent – which is a pretty common shape for this kind of tent – would let snow slide off it more easily. The roof is also more easily accessible because most tents – when set up – are shorter than the average adult.
Bell tents provide more ventilation than normal tents and are more convenient during the summer. The floor can be unzipped, and the side walls can be rolled down to allow air flow in. Most of the air that you can get in a normal tent comes from the doorway when it is open.
Bell tents have vents at the top and sometimes have windows on the side walls. Normal tents usually do not have these features.
Which Tent Is Right for You?
This is not the average tent, so it is not for the average camper. It is more suitable for people camping in large numbers, something like a family or a group of friends that want to stay under the same roof most of the time.
It is costlier than normal tents so it is only natural that it should be bought only when there is an excellent reason to use it. They provide space, and it is good if there are many things the occupants would be storing. Bell tents give people – like a couple – the opportunity to glamp.
Apart from the camping aspect, bell tents to offer glamping to folks that want it at company retreats, weddings, festivals, or similar situations. If you would frequently move your camping setup from place to place, you might not need to use a bell tent because it is more suitable for people who want to set up at a location for about a week.
These are perfect for those who are looking to set up a Glamping business which offers more luxurious camping style and a more comfortable place to sleep. They are also harder to erect and so are more suited to longer stays and to be used as a more permanent structure.
As the name implies, normal tents are more conventional tents and are widely used by recreational campers, backpackers, and hikers. They are more suitable for short-term use a time.
They are made to be lightweight so they can be carried relatively easily from place to place. Not many people stay in one normal tent at a time. You would find only one or two people in this kind of tent at a time. It is almost impossible to fit a regular mattress in a normal tent. Sleeping bags are more suitable here.
Normal tents are used mainly for recreational camping, staying on a beach, any other informal outdoor activity. Families or groups of friends who want to camp together usually own their tents so they can live comfortably outdoors.
There is not enough space to keep the number of items that can be kept in a bell tent. Normal tents are used by people that would spend most of their camping time outdoors and want to have their resting space to themselves.