How to Set Up and Take Down Bell Tents

bell tent set up take down avalon canvas

With this guide, you’ll be able to unpack, pack, and store your White Duck Outdoors cotton canvas bell tent quickly and with ease.

You might be surprised, but despite their impressive durability and spacious interiors, our canvas bell tents aren’t difficult or time-consuming to put up and takedown. Once you’re experienced with setting up and taking down bell tents, the entire process probably won’t take longer than 15 minutes! Your first time setting up your tent, however, will probably take a little extra effort, so be patient and give yourself some leeway as you learn the ropes. 
In this post, we’ll dive into the preparation for setting up your bell tent, then cover how to set up, take down, and store your bell tent. 

Preparing to Set Up Your Bell Tent

Before you begin the setup process, it’s important to first make sure you’ve chosen a viable site for your tent. Look for a flat, dry surface, free of rocks, sticks, and other debris. Grass or fallen leaves can make for a softer sleeping surface but ensure there aren’t hidden obstructions underneath, like rocks. If there are just a few sticks or rocks on the ground, that’s okay, but be sure to clear them away before laying out your tent.  You also want to be a fair distance away from streams or other water sources, which may rise and flood your campsite in case of rain. Nothing’s worse than waking up in a puddle! Try to remain on a higher plane of elevation from any water sources if at all possible, as well. You should also look for gullies and other drainages coming from uphill, which could run water down into your site. In addition, aim to pitch your tent away from overhanging trees and other foliage, as sap and bird droppings can fall onto your tent and dirty the canvas outer. No matter which size or model of our cotton canvas bell tents you’ve purchased, all the tools you need to set up your tent are included. So let’s get started!

How to Set Up Your Bell Tent

1. Lay Out the Tent

Once you’ve found a viable flat, dry, and clear site, the first step is to lay your tent out on the ground. While some tents require the use of a “footprint,” or waterproof floor to keep out moisture, both our Regatta and Avalon cotton canvas bell tents feature a built-in waterproof PE floor, eliminating the need for a footprint. In the case of the Avalon, you can zip this flooring out for easier cleaning and storage.  As a result, all you need to do is remove the tent from the storage bag and spread it out, with the floor to the ground. Ensure you’re positioning the door in the direction you prefer (and that it’s zipped closed) and lay all the other tent components out on the ground next to the tent where you can easily access them.

canvas bell tent set up components

2. Stake the Tent Down

Using the tent pins (the smaller of the two sets of stakes provided), stake down the edges of the bell tent using the included hammer, driving them into the elastic cords attached to the cotton loops around the rim of the tent. Angle the stakes inwards, at a 45-degree angle towards the center of the tent.  The best way to ensure adequate tension as you stake the tent out is to stake the tent down in a star pattern. Once you stake one side, cross to the other side of the tent and insert a stake on that side, then cross and insert again on the opposite side, repeating this pattern until you’ve inserted all the stakes. When finished, the tent should be secure, but not taut.

bell tent stakes mallet

3. Set Up the Center Pole and Raise the Roof

Now it’s time to raise the roof! Assemble the center pole, checking that the rubber stoppers are inside both the top and bottom ends. Now, unzip the tent door and insert the center pole, walking the pole gradually into the tent body, letting it hold the tent open for you as you move inside.  Be sure you have the side with the D-ring positioned as the top of the pole (this D-ring is useful for hanging lanterns, string lights, or other decor in your tent). Slide the tip of the pole along the inside wall, pushing it towards the circular center piece at the apex of the tent body. Once the top of the center pole is in position on the centerpiece, move the bottom of the pole perpendicular to the ground, at the center of the groundsheet.  Note: If you’re using an Avalon tent, you’ll have an A-frame pole for your door. If you have a Regatta model, then you’ll have a door pole, which is smaller, features a painted spike on top, and lacks the D-ring that is near the top of the center pole. Be sure to use the center pole, not the door pole for this step. 

Screen Shot 2021 11 12 at 1.17.54 PM

4. Set Up the Door Entrance Pole 

One of the ways to distinguish the Avalon and the Regatta  is that the Avalon features an A-frame door, while the Regatta has a door pole in the middle of the doorway to prop up the vestibule. If you’re setting up a Regatta tent, you’ll also need to set up this door entrance pole.  You’ll recognize this pole because it has a painted spike on the top, and is smaller than the center pole. Assemble the door pole and run the spike through the grommet on the top of the tent door. Once the pole is in place, screw on the rain cap from the top side. In the case of the Avalon, you’d assemble the A-frame pole and follow similar steps. Position the spike at the top of the pole through the grommet at the top of the entrance of the tent, and ensure that both ends of the A-frame pole sit snuggly inside the sleeves on the floor on either side of the entrance.
Screen Shot 2021 11 12 at 1.20.20 PM
(This would be the straight door pole in the case of the Regatta)

5. Attach the Guylines and Insert All Remaining Stakes

Most of the time, your guy ropes will come attached to the cotton loops at the top of the tent walls.  Hammer all the remaining stakes (the Jpegs) around the edge of the tent. Ensure Jpegs are at least three feet away from the tent. Avoid pushing the pegs all the way into the ground until you’ve adjusted the guy lines (below), and remember to hammer them in diagonally, at a 45-degree angle towards the center of the tent. Another way to ensure that the shape of your bell tent turns out the way you want is to stake the guy rope in line with the seam that extends from the center point on the roof of the tent down to the tent wall. This is a reliable way to maintain a consistent distance between each rope.

Screen Shot 2021 11 12 at 1.21.42 PM

6. Adjust the Guylines

Adjusting the guylines is the critical part of any canvas bell tent setup. The trick is to start with the tension adjusters on the entrance guy ropes first, then go to the right and left sides and tighten the tension adjusters on those guylines. Once these first three guylines are secure at the front, repeat the process at the back.  Ensure the tent door is closed while you’re doing your adjusting, to avoid making the door too tight to close when you’re finished. If the door still seems too tight, move the guyline ropes on either side further towards the middle to relieve tension. At all times, aim for a 45-degree angle between the guylines and the ground. Note: Be sure to adjust the guylines to remove all creases in the canvas, as these can turn into runnels during heavy rain. 

adjust tension on guy ropes

How to Take Down and Store Your Bell Tent

Before storing your tent, the most important thing is that the tent body and all included components are dry. Packing away a wet tent will contribute to mold and mildew growth on the material, reducing the lifespan of the tent. Of course, sometimes rainstorms hit, and drying your tent completely simply isn’t possible. If drying your tent before packing it up isn’t possible, be sure to unpack it and hang it out to dry within 72 hours after you return home.

1. Clean the Tent

After the tent is dry and you’ve removed all your gear, thoroughly sweep out the inside of the tent. Clear out all trash, leaves, sticks, and as much dirt or debris as possible. Any dirt left in the tent will be pressed into the canvas when the tent is rolled up, which is no good! Also, make sure all windows and doors are zipped up before you begin breaking the tent down.

2. Packing the Tent

Now remove all the stakes (Jpegs and pins), as well as the center pole and entrance pole, to collapse the tent body.  Once all poles and pegs and stowed, fold the tent lengthwise down the middle (fold it in half), with the groundsheet on the outside.  Now, fold the bottom up from both sides, and roll the tent into a tight bundle, using the ties to secure the tent as a compact roll (the rolled tent should be approximately the size of the tent bag). Next, lift one end, slip the bag over the tent, and put the poles, pegs, and other parts inside the bag too. 

tent bag storage

3. Storing the Tent

Storing your tent only once it is dry is the most important part of storage. As mentioned above, be sure to let your tent air out and get completely dry before you pack it away for an extended period.  In addition, store your tent in a cool, dry place with good ventilation, which will stop mold or mildew from building up on the canvas, and ideally keep it out of direct sunlight.  With proper care and storage, your canvas bell tent will last for countless seasons to come. Note: The natural waterproofing of cotton canvas means it expands slightly the first time it is exposed to water. This means your tent may leak slightly the first time it’s exposed to the elements. The cotton fibers will then swell and close up, achieving their maximum waterproofing. Any leakage will be minor, but to avoid this, you can hose your tent down at home with water and let it dry out before taking it on its first camping trip. This might seem like a long process, but once you’ve practiced a couple of times, it’ll become like second nature. Soon you’ll be able to whip out your bell tent and have it set up in just a few minutes. So, now that you know how to prepare, set up, take down, and store your White Duck Outdoors canvas bell tent, it’s time to head out into the great outdoors and go camping!

Shop All Bell Tents