Set Up Your Tent

How to set up / take down your Dusky Deer Bell Tent

If you have not done so already you can also take a look at our video section where we will talk you through setting up your bell tent.

If you have just bought a Dusky Deer Bell Tent, Thank You! We hope you love it and are pleased with the quality of materials and craftsmanship.

Bell tents are exceptionally easy to set up and with practice should take less time than a modern polyester tent of the same size. On your first go you will probably looking at around 20 -25 minutes but with practice you should be able to get it down to 15 or even 10 minutes. (A traditional tipi tent takes around 3 hours!)

Although our bell tents are treated with an anti fungi, as with all tents if stored wet mould will start to develop, so the most import thing to remember is:

Always ensure your bell tent is 100% dry before storage.

If possible, and you have the space it is also advisable to store your bell tent out of its bag as this allows air to circulate around the canvas.

I will go into further details of how to best look after your tent at the bottom but for now:

 Setting up you tent:

  1. Lay the tent out with the door facing in the desired direction (ideally away from forecasted winds)

If you are pitching for a long time, traditionally in the UK you would face East as:

You are facing to greet the rising sun and you are facing away from the prevailing winds (for camp cooking and fires outside the tent)




2) Pulling the ground sheet tight, using the 19 cm (non serrated) pegs provided, peg down the ground sheet.


Once you have pegged all the way round, check that there are no loose sections and adjust accordingly if this is the case.


If this is the first time using the tent. The guy lines will need to be tied to the tent. The guy lines in the big bunch are for the whole of the bell tent except the front above the door. The guy line by itself is slightly longer than the rest and needs to be tied above the door.


Take the centre pole inside the bell tent. Locate the centre of the canvas (the extra thick cone in the middle) and push the centre pole up vertically to raise the whole canvas. Make sure that you have the loop at the top as you will want this to hang your lighting etc.





6) Inside the tent assemble the A frame (Hint: If you completely assemble the A frame outside the tent you will find it a struggle to get through the door it is best to only partially assemble outside) Push the spike at the top of the A frame through the metal hole at the top of the door. Then push the feet of the A frame into the holding pockets either side of the door located on the ground sheet. Tie the feet in place and tie loops at the top of the A frame. We suggest a bow (shoelace knot) for easy removal. You will have a plastic rain cap that sits on top of the spike. Put this on at the very end.


7) Before you start attaching the guy lines, zip the door shut. Starting with the guy line just above the A frame spike on the door, peg it using the large serrated pegs. Do the front three guy lines and then the back two. Go round the whole tent attaching and pegging all the guy lines, it is best to do opposite guy lines one after the other to get the best tension. Make sure there is not too much tension on  the guy lines when you first peg them as you can go round and tighten them up later.

For guy line length, very short guy lines make a steep skirt angle and, very long guy lines make a very shallow skirt angle or can even cause the skirt to sit horizontally or slightly raised (not good) You want make sure that the ‘canvas skirt’ that sticks out over the wall points down hill, this way water that runs off the body of the tent will also run off the skirt. It is therefore best to aim for a mid length guy line, roughly with a metre sized pegging loop.

As well as getting the length of the guy line correct, it is also important to get the angle of the guy line correct. You will notice that seams run down from the crown of the bell tent all the way down to the skirt where your guy lines are attached to the canvas. When pegging you need to follow the angle of the lines of the seams that run down the tent.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

8) Peg the elastic loops. The elastic loops should be pegged separately using the 3rd set of serrated pegs provided. Pull the elastic loop out away from the ground sheet so that you get a clear overlap and peg down.  It is not a good idea to save time by hooking the elastic loop under the same peg you have used to peg down the groundsheet. This causes two problems

1) In soft and/or windy conditions it makes the ground sheet pegs more likely to work themselves loose.

2) It does not provide an effective overlap which can cause leaking through the zip.

Loop hooked under ground sheet
Loop pegged separately

8)      Adjust the guy lines to get the desired tension around the whole tent. Again you should start by increasing the tension in the front two and then the back three and then adjust opposite guy lines. Your aim is to have the whole tent looking symmetrical. The door should be zipped up at this point. Check to see that the door can easily be zipped and un zipped. If the door is hard to zip up, you can either release some of the tension in the guys either side of the door.

9) Place the plastic cap on top of the A frame spike.



Sagging walls/skirt

You may find that you either get sagging bell tent walls or a skirt that sags in certain areas.

1) Check that the ground sheet is pegged tightly all the way round

2)As previously stated guy lines should be kept mid length across the whole tent and this is a good rule to stick to overall. However, in problem areas gradually increasing the length of the guy lines will change the angle of the tension and pull both the wall and the skirt outwards.

These above two methods with also solve the following problem:

Leaking through groundsheet zip

 What protects water from entering into the zip is the canvas overflap/stormflap that you peg down using the third set of pegs

(all zipped ground sheet bell tents protect the zip using a stormflap as this is a tried and tested method)

You need to make sure when you peg down the tent using the third set of pegs you completely cover the zip with the canvas overflap to prevent any water coming into contact with the zip, this way no water can leak through it.

You also need to make sure that  the zip does not lay flat but instead is vertical (as in the photo above) you can achieve this by making sure the ground sheet is pegged very tight all the way round , and again increasing the guy line lengths in the problem areas.


bell tent zip4

The photo above is what you are aiming for. The zip is facing outwards, and there is a good 8-10 cm of groundsheet below the zip. This way in water logged ground, unless the water level is so extreme that it reaches the zip (8 – 10 cm deep – if this happens you may wish to re consider your camping plans!) it wont go through it.

Sloping ground

It is always best to set up on flat ground, if however you have no choice you may find that the walls sag on the more vertical gradient. Again extending the length of the guy lines on the more vertical side will help with this by changing the angle of the tension on the wall.

Guy lines going loose

Large loop (correct)
Large loop (correct)

Make sure that when you first unravel your guy lines, you pull out the closest loop to the knot, this is what forms the pegging loop (see photo – the large loop) If you were to pull the other one out to form the pegging loop (the very small loop shown in the picture) then the guy line will not tension properly.


 Packing away your bell tent:

As stated earlier you need to ensure your tent is 100% dry before storing to prevent mould. Even on a hot day you tent can still come down damp due to morning dew and condensation, if the tent does come down at all damp it should be dried out at home before storage.

When folding, ground sheet should touch ground sheet, canvas should touch canvas.

The golden rule of folding all canvas tents is that canvas should not be dragged across the ground, canvas should be pulled over the top of itself when folding.

Packing away your tent:

1) Remove all the poles from the tent. It is best to remove the door frame pole first as if you remove the centre pole you put a lot of stress on the A frame. Although the A frame is very heavy duty to ensure the life span of the tent it is best avoided.

2) Un peg the ground sheet and guys. If you plan on using your tent shortly it is advisable to leave the groundsheet zipped to the canvas. This will make you next set up a lot quicker. If storing your bell tent, providing you have the room, it is advisable to store the ground sheet and canvas separately to allow more air circulation around the canvas (if this is not possible it is not essential providing both are bone dry.)

3)In order to keep you canvas away from mud and dirt you don’t want to allow it to touch the ground. Fold the ground sheet over the canvas to create a half moon shape. In good weather allow this to section of the ground sheet to air dry or to speed things up towel dry and then allow to air dry. You may also need to wipe off the mud and worms (from experience you really do not want to roll up the ground sheet with a worm still hiding as its unpleasant to the worm and also to your nose on the next outing)

Flip the tent over to dry the other half moon section.

4) Fold the sides of the ground sheet into the centre (you should be now left with canvas that is the width of the peg bag) Place the poles and pegs in the peg bag and starting from one end roll up the ground sheet with the poles inside.

You should always ensure that the poles are kept inside the PVC pole bag when you are storing it together with the bell tent, it is not a good idea to store the poles out of the bag touching the canvas as you risk staining the canvas.

5) Lift your rolled canvas onto one end and then slip your canvas storage bag over the tent.


Important Information


Brand new canvas tents will usually leak a bit the first time in rains – Do not worry! This is perfectly normal. Cotton tents need to go through a weathering process to become watertight, it is the same for all bell tents and all canvas tents. When the canvas gets wet the cotton fibres in the weave will expand and knit tightly together closing up any tiny holes in the weave making it water tight.

You can read more detail about the weathering process here


If you plan on setting up your tent for a long period, say for a summer long camp trip or in the garden you should think wisely where you are setting it up. Setting it up under a large tree, bottom of a slope or beside a hedge will eventually mean that it will get mouldy (just like a caravan, car, tree house shed would) For long time set ups choose a well ventilated area away from vegetation where air can circulate. It is also advisable to periodically take down and move your bell tent.

Mud should be brushed off your tent at regular intervals, and your tent should not be packed away muddy as this is a great place for mould to grow, droppings and other debris should also be wiped off the tent when in use and during storage.