Your bell tent is one of the most valuable pieces of gear you’ll ever own. It keeps you safe from the elements and provides a comfortable space to enjoy the outdoors on your terms. With proper packing, storage, and care, your bell tent will easily last you a lifetime.
It doesn’t take much effort to make sure your investment stays with you for generations to come. We’ve got your complete guide to packing and storing your bell tent, as well as general care guidelines.
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What Is a Bell Tent?
Put simply, a bell tent is a round cotton canvas shelter with a central apex. The center of the tent is supported by a single reinforced pole, with walls secured to the ground via guylines. The bell tent features a simple, practical design that’s been perfected over thousands of years.
Modern bell tents are an adaptation of the teepees and yurts utilized by indigenous and nomadic peoples worldwide. Bell tents are durable and versatile, making them great tents for glamping, hunting, military excursions, parties, and recreational camping. Whatever your adventure entails, you can’t go wrong with a sturdy bell tent.
Once you’ve learned how to set up and take down your bell tent, you’ll need to master the art of repacking it and safely storing it. Follow these steps to make sure your bell tent is safe and secure, awaiting your next outdoor adventure.
How to Pack Your Cotton Canvas Bell Tent
Your bell tent should come with its own carrying bag. But before you slip it back into the carrier, make sure the tent is clean and dry. Once you’ve removed all your gear from the tent, give it a thorough sweep and double-check to make sure the windows and doors are zipped up.
If there’s any moisture on (or in) the tent, wipe it down with a dry cloth. It’s important never to pack or store your bell tent while it’s wet. Once the tent is clean and dry, you’re ready to pack it away. Follow these steps to ensure your tent is securely packed and ready to go.
- Remove all the stakes holding your tent secure to the ground. It can be helpful to loosen the guylines before you remove the stakes from the ground. Wipe the stakes clean and set them aside for now.
- Remove all of the poles holding up the tent (such as the center and entrance poles). Once you remove the poles, the body of the bell tent will collapse onto the ground. Dismantle the poles, so they’re small enough to fit into the carrier bag. Avoid stepping on the canvas. Set the poles aside for now.
- Fold the collapsed tent lengthwise, down the middle (in other words, fold it in half). You should have a tent in the shape of a taco, with the groundsheet facing up. Wipe the bottom of the tent to remove moisture and debris.
- Fold the tent lengthwise down the middle again. With each fold, continue to wipe the bottom of the tent until it’s free of moisture or debris. It can be helpful to set the carrier bag next to your folded tent to make sure the width of the tent fits into the length of the bag.
- Now, fold the tent widthwise down the middle (so that the length of your folded tent is half of what it was). By now, your tent should have a roughly rectangular shape. You can tuck the edges in toward the center to make it even more compact.
- Starting from the folded edge, roll the tent up as tightly as possible. It can be helpful to place your knee on the tent with each rolling motion to ensure you get a packed-down roll. Secure the roll with ties, clasps, or rope. Try to avoid tying any knots, as they’ll be difficult to untie when you’re ready to set up your tent again.
- Hold the rolled-up tent vertically and slip the carrier bag over the top. Gently slide the bag over the tent until it’s entirely inside of the bag. If the tent doesn’t fit into the bag, you may have to pull it out re-roll it into a tighter bundle.
- Put the stakes, guylines, and poles into the bag alongside the tent. Secure the bag and be on your merry way.
How to Store Your Cotton Canvas Bell Tent
Improper storage is the number one culprit behind tent damage. Caring for your canvas tent is necessary for a long, glorious tent life. By taking a few proactive steps, you can protect your tent from fungi, holes, and other structural damage. It needs a cool, dry storage place that’s off the ground and away from the sun. Follow these storage tips to make sure your canvas bell tent stays with you for a lifetime.
- Dry it off. The most important thing to remember is that you should never store your tent while it’s wet. Storing the tent before it’s completely dry can lead to mold or mildew, which can cause permanent damage and trigger allergic reactions. If you’re unable to get all the moisture out of your tent while packing it, you need to unpack it and dry it out within 24 hours. You can set it up in your backyard or lay it out in the garage to dry. If it’s really wet, point a fan toward the tent to speed up the drying process.
- Store in a cool, dry place. Make sure the tent is stored off the floor, in a well-ventilated area away from sunlight or extreme temperatures. Storing your canvas tent in a cool, dark, dry place prevents mold, mildew, and sun damage. You can keep it in a plastic storage bin to deter critters from chewing holes into the canvas. And if moisture is an issue, toss a few moisture-absorbing silica gel packets into the bin.
- Store at room temperature. Storing your bell tent in extreme temperatures can damage the structure of the canvas. Store it in a place with minimal temperature fluctuations, like a closet or attached garage. Whenever possible, avoid storing your tent in an outdoor shed or unattached garage, where it might be subject to seasonal temperature shifts. It will be happiest between 68 and 76 degrees fahrenheit.
- Show a little TLC. It’s a good idea to clean your bell tent every six to twelve months to make sure it’s in tip-top shape for many years to come. Pay special attention to the zippers and joints. You can usually get away with hosing it down to remove dirt and debris. To fight stains or mildew, you’ll need to give it a deeper cleaning.
How to Clean Your Cotton Canvas Bell Tent
Knowing how to clean your bell tent is critical to ensuring a long, healthy life. A few preventive steps are all you need to avoid difficult cleaning jobs. Follow these steps to keep your tent looking brand new for every adventure.
- Remove debris. Before you do anything else, brush off any dirt or debris with a dry cloth or hand brush. If your tent has accumulated a lot of dust, you can lay it out and use a hand vacuum to remove the dust.
- Remove mold or mildew. If your tent is stored while it’s still wet, it can collect mold or mildew. You can remove the fungi from your tent with a simple DIY vinegar solution. Mix a quarter-cup of white wine vinegar with a cup of warm water. Apply the solution to the soiled area with a spray bottle and let it sit for a few minutes. Wipe away the mold or mildew with a sponge, cloth, or brush. Make sure it’s completely dry before you put it back into storage.
- Remove stains. Your tent will probably collect stains at some point since it’s in constant contact with organic materials that can seep into the cotton canvas. You can fight tough stains with a mixture of OxiClean and warm water.
To clean the whole tent, fill a large container with the cleaning solution and submerge your tent for 4-10 hours. To spot clean stains, apply the cleaning solution directly to stains with a sponge, cloth, or soft brush. Using a circular motion, work the cleaning solution into the canvas until the stain fades away. Make sure the tent is completely dry before putting it back into storage.
Now that you know how to pack, store, and care for your bell tent, you can enjoy its splendors for as long as you want. If you show your bell tent the TLC it needs, it will give back to you in spades.