What Are Bell Tents Made Of? (Solved)

Knowing what a tent is made of is incredibly important as it can help you determine the kind of camping you can do with it and how to care for it.

So if you’re considering a bell tent, you’re likely wondering what it is made of.

In our article, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about what a bell tent is made of so that you know if this tent type is right for you.

Here’s The Answer To What A Bell Tent Is:

Although a bell tent looks like a yurt from a distance, it is very different. A bell tent is a multipurpose shelter with a single pole at its center. Usually, bell tents are circular at the top with a cone-shaped body and covered in a cotton canvas, but some use other materials.

What Materials are Used for the Outer and Inner Tent?

Many bell tents have an interior and exterior made from 100 percent cotton canvas.

Yet this canvas is either lightweight, middleweight or a heady duty canvas:


A lightweight cotton canvas bell tent weighs between 7.05 ounces and 9.17 ounces per square foot.

Since they are lightweight, they are easily portable and easy to carry and set up. They also dry relatively quickly even if heavy rain has occurred. In addition to this, a lightweight cotton canvas bell tent is usually more affordable to buy.

However, lightweight cotton bell tents are generally easier to rip and tear, making them less durable and more light.


A middleweight cotton canvas bell tent weighs between 10.05 ounces and 11.28 ounces per square foot.

This bell tent is best for those who want a heavier-duty tent instead of a lightweight tent but not as heavy as a heavy-duty bell tent. Middleweight canvas bell tents have quick drying times and are easily portable like lightweight bell tents, but they are more durable.


A cotton canvas bell tent weighs between 14.10 ounces and 28.21 ounces.

These bell tents are the most durable and are excellent at keeping out the light when camping. They won’t rip or tear easily and are incredibly water-resistant.

However, the heavy-duty bell tents are heavy, making them difficult to transport, and they are not as portable as other tent types. That’s why they are considered ideal for long-term camping trips.

Additionally, a few bell tents are made from poly-cotton or polyester.

Most cotton canvas bell tents will not have an outer layer as a rainfly, but many camping companies manufacture nylon rain flys that go over a cotton canvas bell tent.

Are Bell Tents Made with Water-Resistant Materials?

Canvas bell tents are widely considered the most popular bell tent material because cotton is long-lasting, breathable, and hard-wearing.

Polycotton and polyester bell tents are usually the cheaper alternative and are made to be water-resistant.

Yet just because a bell tent is made from cotton canvas doesn’t mean that they are not water-resistant. The cotton itself and how the tent is made make this type of bell tent water-resistant.

When rain hits the cotton canvas, the cotton creates a water-resistant barrier between the outside elements and those inside the bell tent. However, this can only occur after a bell tent has been appropriately weathered.

The process of weathering a cotton canvas bell tent is incredibly important if you don’t want to have water leaking inside your tent the first time it rains. The process of making your cotton canvas bell tent water-tight is relatively simple.

The first step to weathering your bell tent is hosing it down with water while ensuring that you have your hose set on a light sprinkle. Additionally, while hosing your tent, you need to make sure to wet all areas of the canvas.

When wet, the cotton will swell and nestle into each other and create a water-resistant barrier, and this process will be able to easily occur again for all future camping sessions after you have done it the first time.

After the entire canvas has been wet, you need only wait for it to dry, as once it has dried, it will be completely weathered.

Many like to purchase an additional flysheet to go over their bell tent as an added precaution. As we mentioned previously, these sheets are often made of nylon and are treated with a coating to be water-resistant up to a certain level.

Are Any of the Materials Used Toxic?

The 100 percent cotton bell tents are environmentally friendly and are nontoxic and biodegradable.

However, if the poles of a bell tent are made from galvanized steel, the poles themselves can be considered toxic. This is because the galvanizing process creates a coating on the poles that prohibits rust, and this coating contains zinc which can be toxic.

However, this does not mean that the poles are harmful to you.

The zinc in the coating is only harmful when consumed. Since you won’t be using your bell tent poles for cooking with, it likely isn’t toxic.

What Material is Used for the Poles?

Bell tents usually come with either galvanized steel poles or wooden poles.

As we mentioned previously, the galvanized steel poles are durable and won’t rust, but they have the downside of being considered somewhat toxic.

In contrast, the wooden poles are 100 percent nontoxic and biodegradable.

What Material is Used for the Ground Sheet?

When you buy a bell tent, you need to make sure you have a groundsheet.

There are light-duty and heavy-duty groundsheets available, and the one you choose depends on the type of camping you do and how much you’re willing to spend.

Light duty groundsheets are often more fragile and are easier to rip, which means they are not suited to all terrains. That’s why it’s usually best to choose a bell tent that comes with a heavy-duty groundsheet or to purchase a heavy-duty one.

Yet what is most bell tent groundsheets made out of? In general, a bell tent groundsheet is made out of PVC material, but there are a few available that are synthetic nylon mixtures. The nylon mix groundsheet is usually a better option because it is more weather resistant and can accommodate camping on different terrains.

Interestingly, most modern bell tents will come with a detachable groundsheet that can be zipped in. This type of groundsheet can be easily rolled up to provide ventilation when needed, and they are easier to peg down when you need to pitch your tent.

In addition to the zipped-in groundsheets, there are also sewn-in groundsheets. This type of groundsheet cannot be rolled up for ventilation, but they are the easiest because they are already in place when pitching a bell tent.

Moreover, a pegged groundsheet is harder to use because the bell tent can only be pitched after the groundsheet has been pegged. This groundsheet is not popular because it is easy for rain or mud to make its way into the tent if it isn’t accurately pegged, which often happens because of how tricky it is to peg.

Do Bell Tents Generally Last Long?

How long a tent lasts will depend on several factors, including who manufactured it, the materials it is made of, how often it is used, and the conditions it is used in.

You’re likely wondering how long a bell tent lasts compared to other tents. Well, we have found the answer for you.

Have a look below to learn more about how long a bell tent will last compared to a nylon tent, a military tent, and a dome tent:

  • A bell tent: If you use your bell tent for casual camping that equates to roughly three to four weeks a year and maintain it, you can expect it to last 12 years or more.
  • A military tent: You can expect a canvas military tent to last between 15 to 30 years if maintained properly.
  • A nylon tent: A nylon tent lasts between 10 to 12 years if it is rarely used and used in primarily fair weather and maintained. If used often and in harsh conditions, a nylon tent will only last four to five years.
  • A dome tent: A spherical galvanized steel framed dome tent can last for 10 to 15 years, and if a dome tent is steel-framed, it can last longer than 20 years if maintained.


The Set-Up Procedure Of A bell Tent

A Guide To Cotton And Canvas Bell Tents

How Long Tents last before Needing To Be Replaced

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