We’ve rounded up some of our favourite tips and tricks for the ubiquitous bell tent.
Mould or mildew?
Nothing beats a professional wash and reproof, but even then you might end up with stubborn mould around seams. Treat any spots with Astonish Mould and Mildew Blaster. The great news is that it is just £1 from a number of places including Wilko, The Factory Shop, ASDA and Amazon. We tested it on a very mouldy 4×2.6m awning. It took two bottles (£2) but brought it back to gleaming canvas.
Protect the top cap
For tents kept up for long periods of time, or for tents exposed to windy conditions, consider protecting the top cap to stop the king pole bursting through it and incurring an expensive repair bill. Buy a metal bowl with a 7-8cm diameter base from a kitchen shop or Amazon and place it up inside the top of the tent where the king pole stopper rests. This increases the surface area of where the pressure is applied and prevents wear on the rubber of the stopper – it is when this rubber perishes that the pole can push though the canvas.
There is an additional benefit to this hack too. Punch holes around the rim of the bowl and use metal hooks to provide a handy hanging function – great for lights, decoration and hanging storage.
Looking for a cheap way of staining wood? Consider soluble ferrous sulphate (often used to kill moss and improve lawns). You buy it in power form from garden centres, eBay or Amazon for about £5 per kg – also known as iron sulphate.
Mix with hot water (2.5kg of powder to 15–20L of water) and either spray or sponge it on to any timber that you want to artificially age. Coverage is 8-10 m2/L for planed timber and 4-5 m2/L for rough sawn timber.
The solution will work on any wood and will turn it an attractive and lasting brown-grey to silver-grey colour by reacting with the tannins when left in the sun. It is also believed to enhance protection from rot and mildew. It doesn’t contain any VOCs, is super cheap and you will find various DIY recipes online for further increasing its protection abilities by adding baking soda and other natural substances.
The local dry cleaners are unlikely to want to take your 20kg bell tent canvas in to replace a zip… The great news is it is really simple to do yourself. There are plenty of kits on Amazon and lots of step-by-step tutorials online too. It might be worth investing in the hardware and swotting up before the season starts – see here www.wikihow.com/Fix-a-Tent-Zipper
If you have to get an emergency repair done to the fabric of the zip (where it meets the canvas) Google ‘sewing awl’ and ‘wax thread’ to stock up, or make friends with your local scouts group. They will be nearby, helpful and grateful for any donations to the charities they support. For a DIY guide, see here: www.instructables.com/How-to-Fix-Separated-Nylon-Zipper-Teeth
Reducer poles are perfect to minimise pitching footprint but also to stop guests tripping over guy ropes. You can buy purpose made poles but broom handles work just as well, especially if you cut a notch into the top of them.
This hack works on any size of bell tent so long as the poles are the same height as the tent wall.
If you are pitching on sandy soil or have recently landscaped and are working with loose, uncompacted ground, you will need to replace your group pegs with screws. They work by literally screwing into the ground and anchoring in with more grip.
A favourite brand is ‘Orange Screw’. They are super lightweight and come with a clear cylinder that fits though the top of the screw to make it easier to turn. This cylinder also acts as protection for guy ropes that pass over the edge of a deck and may rub and fray. Just thread them through to create a protective channel.
Fed up of tightening guy ropes?
All tent owners know that guy ropes need to be checked regularly. If you have numerous tents or are exposed to regular gusts of wind, you might want to consider a metal frame bell tent. Have a look at the ‘Nomadic’ model from BCT Outdoors, available in 4, 5 and 6m diameters. It may take a little longer to assemble but once it’s up it’s up!