Living in my Bell Tent
I have just spent the last 5 months living on a campsite in my 4m canvas bell tent and it was amazing!
Albeit over the summer months but I am pretty sure that I would now be capable of doing this full time, there are many things that I have learnt along the way and this is my guide to making it as comfortable as possible
Where I was based was completely off grid so I had to be creative when thinking about power sources I was also on a tight budget so sometimes a bit of creative thinking was needed of course it does help that I am a capable sewer and have a passion for up-cycling.
If you are planning on living in your tent for a few months or even permanently then the key things to consider before you start are :
- The Tent - Sleeping, Furnishing
- Location - Access, Water & Power
- Cooking Facilities
- Toilet & Washing Facilities
- Lighting & Heating
I will discuss each of these based on my own experiences and exploring the possible options available this week I will talk about ……
This is going to be your home so invest wisely!
You want a quality tent that will stand the test of time personally I chose a canvas bell tent and I chose this option for numerous reasons
The design - the shape and construction of a bell tent has been tried and tested for many years and was a favourite of the pioneers due to it strength and simplicity. The tent structure around a central pole makes it very sturdy particularly in high winds and adverse weather.
The canvas is also equally hardwearing although does require maintenance to keep mould at bay, however it is strong & easy to repair.
I chose a heavyweight fireproof canvas & would advise choosing the heaviest weight you can afford. Its also worth checking the quality of the guy ropes you want a decent medium thickness guy rope that is strong, waterproof and the slides are easy to adjust plus stay in place and are not loose when taut. Of course checking your guys and retightening should be part of your daily routine but I have seen many tents flooding the market with flimsy thin guy ropes which I know will not stand the test of time, if you choose a tent with thin guys then I would definitely consider replacing them yourself.
I purchased my tent from www.belltentboutique.co.uk
However there are lots of other options Polyester tents are lightweight, less likely to mould and much cheaper however if you are considering a log burner then your only real option is canvas.
Canvas tents come in many different designs, shapes and sizes so researching all of the options is vital to find something that will suit your own individual needs, here’s a few search terms that may help your research try Canvas Tents, Emperor Bell Tents, Walled Tents, Scout & Army Tents, Living in a Tent
So you have chosen your tent and now it’s time to furnish it.
Your first priority should be flooring especially if you are going to be living in it for a while decent flooring insulates the tent and helps provide a firm surface, I would suggest lining the floor with cardboard or laminate flooring underlay or cheap carpet underlay first then putting a carpet on top, personally I wanted a half moon coir matting at the front and the half moon rag rug for the back however I could only afford both so I opted for 1 the rag rug style as it is thick, hardwearing and dosen’t show stains.
As a money saving tip I would look at regular house carpets and cut into 2 half moons yourself, a lightweight cord carpet is cheap and hardwearing plus you can always dress it u with some colourful rugs to match your decor. If you enjoy making things a great option for rugs is to create your own traditional rag rug, they are really easy to make if not a bit time consuming but what better way to while away the winter hours!
Rag rugs are the ultimate in up-cycling created using old clothes and fabric scraps they create a thick hardwearing rug not just perfect for bell tents!
Fabrics like fleece, brushed cotton, jersey and even denim are ideal, The base of the rug was traditionally made from an old hessian sack as the natural weave is perfect for threading the strips of fabric through but I have previously adapted other modern day upholstery fabrics with a similar weave structure.
Furnishing the tent……it soon became apparent that I needed seating that had a back rest I mean the floor mattresses and cushions were great but I realised very quickly that sitting unsupported was playing havoc with my back and neck!
Of course the internet is a great place to find freebies and bargains, Facebook marketplace is my daily go to for good deals and my saved list is ridiculously long, I don’t buy everything as I don’t have the room to store it which is perhaps a good thing otherwise I would live in steptoes yard
My first absolute bargain was a freebie double futon in a village just around the corner, the mattress was a bit grubby (not repulsively so) I knew I had plenty of throws and blankets to make it look fab and it meant I had a proper sofa to sit on yay of course something like this would also double up as a bed, alternatively you could make a bed platform from old pallets (again you can often pick these up for free) or have floor mattresses personally I think if you are going to be living in your tent long term it is advisable to have your bed raised up off the floor to aid insulation, if you are camping over winter then some insulation packed into the underside of the pallets will ensure your bed stays toasty & doesn’t feel damp!
The same goes for furnishings look for things that can be up cycled and dual purpose, storage is always a key factor where will you put your clothes etc
Old suitcases look great and make great clothes storage they can be piled on top of one another and the top surface used for lanterns and trinkets, baskets and wooden boxes, old ottomans, blanket boxes & trunks could be repainted, sanded down, covered in wallpaper or wrapping paper and varnished.
The central pole is also a valuable asset for storage, you can buy hooks that fit around the pole for hanging stuff on or I also found an old coat stand to stand next to the pole giving me loads of hanging space & its perfect for drying coats etc without taking up loads of floor space, you can also buy vertical hanging storage pockets online as another option.
Of course your interior will reflect your own personality and you will have great fun choosing those decorative finishing touches, dual purpose items that are not only decorative but practical are great, such as fairy lights & lanterns, soft furnishings like large floor cushions and blankets and throws give a nice cosy feel and can enhance your overall colour scheme and style. A basket or vintage wooden box for keeping your logs tidy, Small wooden stools or lap trays make great tables, Bed side cabinets are also a good size and if they have drawers for extra storage even better !
Terracotta plant pots are a great cheap idea for storing cooking utensils and bbq tools or firelighters and kindling as they are heatproof
A bit of a hippy I love the bohemian look so lots of silk scarves and rag rugs in bright clashing colours add to my look, using fabrics and textiles to compliment your furnishing and make it feel soft and sumptuous really bring things together.
Of course bunting flags are a bit of a given in the bell tent world but it doesn’t have to be the traditional triangle flags what about using squares like Tibetan prayer flags or strips of coloured fabrics tied onto a long string, fabrics too don’t have to be bought brand new off the roll I am always in the charity shops searching for fabrics that catch my eye, reuse old clothing or bedding is another great way to get a large amount of fabric cheap!
I have had my bell tent for over 6 years and have already spent a lot of time camping prior to my extended summer this year and as a creative designer and creator it had been my inspiration for creating a range of decorative products specifically for bell tents and of course my prototypes all furnish my own tent.
I have a funky fabric pole cover with appliqué mushrooms and stars with matching storage pocket that attaches to the loops around the tent and provides the perfect spot to store all those things you don’t want to loose keys, phone, purse etc
Next time I will be looking at
- Location - Access, Water & Power