Bell tent winter camping

Winter is one of my favourite times to take the bell tent out. The campsites that stay open year round usually have a good deal on and are never busy, if there is a calm, sunny frosty weekend we are usually out camping whatever the temperature.

If your thinking about taking the tent away below are a few tips we have put together to make the camp more enjoyable.

Equipment:

I want go into too much detail about what equipment to take as this is all on lots of other websites but as a starting point:

Definitely a sleeping bag rather than duvets, sleeping bag liner,

Thermarest rather than roll mat/air bed as the smaller air pocket in a Thermarest heats up faster and provides more warmth than an airbed (although a foam mattress is best)

Coat, waterproof trousers, thermal layers, hat/2 pairs of gloves, one outdoor thick pair one indoor thin pair for cooking etc, thermal socks waterproof footwear.

Thermos flask, door mat (will become very muddy very quickly without) waterproof bags for muddy clothing, candle lanterns rather than electric lighting for extra warmth, gas stove/Trangia and a radio for the long nights.

The bell tent

The smaller the tent the quicker it will heat so we always take out a 4 metre bell tent over the winter. With a smaller profile they are also sturdier in strong winds. An inner tent will also divide the bell tent in half and will provide a great deal more heat so is recommended during the winter months is you have one.

(I go into more detail about tent sizes here)

You need to make sure you have three sets of good strong sturdy pegs of a decent length (we only supply stake pegs which are more than a match for water logged ground). Unless frosty the ground is likely to be much softer so you will definitely need to be pegging out your elastic loops separately (I would suggest that you should always peg out the elastic loops separate from the ground sheet pin pegs but it is even more important in the winter)

In really windy conditions you can double peg the guy ropes. To do this lengthen the guy rope about 30 cm longer than your usual pitch length, peg as normal at the end of the guy and then go up the guy rope about 30cm, loop another peg around the guy and peg down (this will leave you with 30cm of guy rope lying on the ground.

Pitch location

Whilst the bottom of a slope or valley will be out the wind it will also be the coldest place to pitch as cold air sinks, it will also be the wettest with the softest ground. It is not a good idea to pitch on top of a slope as this will be the windiest spot.

Flat edges on the sides of hills will be the warmest place to camp, also try to pitch your bell tent behind a hedge or some other wind protection (work out first where the prevailing winds are, or take a look at the weather forecast to get the wind direction) Also always pitch your tent door away from the prevailing winds. For longer camps and with areas with no natural wind protection a wind breaker will come in very handy.

For obvious reasons during windy conditions steer clear of large trees (whether they come own or not the creaking of a tree branch isn’t very conducive to a good nights sleep)

In areas where there is no natural protection from wind you might wish to take a wind breaker. Please

Cooking

We cook large portions of warming one pot meals such as stews and soups the week before hand, freeze half and then take them with us in a cool box for easy cooking in the tent. A good stash of high energy foods (chocolate!) is also a good idea.

Staying warm

Putting your clothes at the bottom of your sleeping bag will mean they will be warm to put on in the morning, this is especially important for socks, you can also put your insoles in your sleeping bag with you.

Whilst not very glamorous a pee bottle will save you having to get cold during the night.

Definitely take a hat for wearing inside the tent and possibly whilst sleeping and take two pairs of gloves (thick out door gloves) and thin ones for inside the tent.

And lastly, whilst fairly obvious the most important piece of kit for keeping warm on a cold winter night is a hot water bottle (or two) The sleeping bag will conserve the heat the heat of it and it will make a huge amount of difference. Keep the kettle full and the gas burner nearby in case you need a top up in the night!

Hope you enjoyed the reading and this inspires you to not confine your camping trips to the summer months as the winter can be a glorious time for camping. If you’re a regular winter camping and have any other tips to add, please send us an email.