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What is a Canvas Bell Tent?

If you have no idea what makes a canvas bell tent different from the tent currently camping out in your garage this guide is for you! We explore the history of the bell tent before breaking down precisely what makes Bay Sports Luxury Tents unique.

Luxury canvas tents

Luxury canvas tents provide a camping experience like no other

History of the modern luxury canvas tent

Let’s briefly delve into the history so you can see what sets this tent style apart from your average camping gear. The canvas bell tent that we recognise today was initially patented in 1856 by American military officer Henry Hopkins Sibley. Sibley’s ‘new and improved Conical Tent’ was 18ft in diameter and stood an impressive 12ft high. The tent was designed to ‘comfortably hold 20 men with arms and equipment’ during a period of unrest that would ultimately lead to the American Civil War. 

Sibley’s design was lighter and more portable than the traditional tents used by the American military.

The design was simple, featuring a centre mast supporting a large canvas. The canvas was then secured at the base with pegs; this configuration used tension to create taut walls. Sibley’s design was lighter and more portable than the traditional tents used by the American military.

Sibley Tent Design

The original design for the Sibley Tent

The Sibley Tent would provide battlefield accommodation across the western world for a generation. From the American Civil War to the ANZAC battlefields of Gallipoli in World War One, this hardy tent was designed to endure some of the world’s harshest conditions. 

civil war style tent

Civil war era soldiers gather outside their canvas tent

Sibley intended to create a tent to provide ‘warmth in cold weather’ and to be ‘more perfectly ventilated’ for hotter days. Our modern canvas bell tents have built on this legacy to provide high quality, modern tents designed to last. Using breathable, waterproof canvas and lightweight, sturdy infrastructure, we believe we have evolved the design to create the perfect luxury camping experience.  

What are the tents made from?

We construct our tents from 300g canvas with a 3000mm polyurethane coating. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’ve heard these numbers bandied around before, and they sound impressive, but what do they mean? Let’s break it down.

300g Canvas

The modern canvas we know and love is constructed using cotton as it’s raw material. The benefit of cotton over man-made fabrics is that it insulates really, really well. This insulation means that you will stay nice and warm on a cold day AND cool and breezy on a hot day. Cotton’s insulating properties also apply to sound. You will find a canvas tent much quieter in windy conditions than a tent made from man-made fibres. 

canvas tent entrance

Embrace comfort and quiet with the insulating properties of a canvas tent

Cotton is also more resistant to UV and can be much more durable over time, though it does require a little more care and maintenance. Check out our guide on Caring for your Canvas Bell Tent for more info on this. 

A canvas tent’s ability to breath and absorb water means that you will not have issues with condensation

Finally, cotton absorbs water; this is part of what makes a canvas tent waterproof. You may think this is only useful for rainy conditions but it has another benefit as well. One that solves a grievance of many a seasoned camper: condensation. A canvas tent’s ability to breath and absorb water means that you will not have issues with condensation that you would have in a tent designed to repel water entirely. Luxury indeed!

3000mm PU (Polyurethane) Coating

And now for the science part. 3000mm refers to a water column height in millimetres. This number means that our tents will withstand 3000mm column of water for one minute before a single drop of water breaches the fabric. The industry standard is that 1500mm is considered waterproof, so our tents will keep you dry from above. The 5000mm PU coating on all our groundsheets will keep your feet dry too!

What are the advantages?

So we have covered some of the benefits of the materials but what else makes these tents unique?

The key feature of a Bay Sports canvas tent is space. These tents have been designed for a luxury experience so they have the extra room to house everything you need to construct your ideal home away from home. There is room for a bed. Not just camp beds, but real, full beds in all our tents. 

comfy interior for canvas bell tent

Design a home away from home with more floor space than a traditional camping tent

There is also room to walk around and stand tall with even the smallest of our bell tents coming in at two metres high. With all this space, you can fit whatever luxuries you desire. A reading nook? A clothes rail? An indoor dining area for a drizzly eve? The options are endless! 

Speaking of indoor dining, all our canvas tents can be fitted with a wood-burning stove. The flu can exit horizontally (as seen above) or vertically through a dedicated section in the tent so you can keep toasty and dry all year long.

The simple colours of Bay Sports Canvas Tents provide a neutral backdrop that will accommodate any colour palette.

The endless design possibilities are another benefit of a canvas tent. These tents are beautiful all on their own, with the raw canvas blending into any natural landscape. The simple colours of Bay Sports Canvas Tents provide a neutral backdrop that will accommodate any colour palette.

interior design glamping

A neutral canvas works with any colour palette 

Let your inner designer run wild! And don’t worry about ruining your aesthetic with clunky, camping lanterns. Our LED tent pole light will fit snuggly around the centre mast of any tent in our range to provide seamless, ambient lighting.

tent pole light

Create ambient lighting with our LED tent pole light

What styles are available?

Traditional Bell Tent

Our Traditional Canvas Bell Tent is available to buy in three, four, five and six-metre options with an impressive seven-metre tent available by special request.

canvas bell tent

Recommended sleeping capacities:

  • 3M - 2 Adults
  • 4M - 2-4 Adults
  • 5M - 4-6 Adults
  • 6M - 6-8 Adults
  • 7M - 8-10 Adults

With such a range of sizes, these tents are ideal for personal use or for hire companies looking to offer glamping experiences for weddings, corporate retreats and festivals.

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6M Emperor Bell Tent

If you’re looking to kick the luxury up a notch, the six-metre Emperor Bell Tent is your go-to.

emperor canvas tent

With two centre masts supporting the canvas, there is even more standing space than our Traditional Bell Tent Range. With the capacity to sleep up to six adults, you can house the whole family under one roof. Alternatively, create a true home away from home for two people by designating separate living and sleeping areas.

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Luxury Tipi Tent

Differing from the Bell Tent range in shape, a Tipi Tent is cone-shaped.

tipi tent

The style was traditionally made of animal skins upon wooden poles. Our version uses the same 300g canvas treated with 3000mm PU coating as our Bell Tent range. The cone-shape provides a higher standing space than the Bell Tents of the same diameter, so this is an excellent option for anyone looking for extra height.

Recommended sleeping capacities:

  • 4M - 2 Adults
  • 5M - 2-4 Adults

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Transparent Roof Lotus Tent

If camping is all about sleeping under the stars for you, then our Transparent Roof Lotus Tent is ideal.

transparent roof lotus tent

This Tent has 360 degrees of transparent panels located around the roof canopy to give you the best view of the sky, day or night, and includes a simple attachable sunshade curtain. With a five-metre diameter, the Lotus Tent can sleep up to six adults.

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Whichever style you choose, camping will never be the same!

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