Image: the Lotus Belle tent from www.lotusbelle.co.uk
My husband found me sat hunched on the sofa angrily googling tents. It turns out there are so many tents, far more than I have patience to sort through. I had forgotten just how ugly so many tents are. I’m sure they are practical but I just couldn’t summon any enthusiasm for all the green and bulgy constructions. They made me think of enormous toads, squatted down with their mouths wide open. Not really what I wanted to be sleeping in.
So my husband heroically volunteered to do some research and make a shortlist. Luckily this kind of research is what he does best, and with a cup of tea by his side he can be quite happy trawling through hundreds of reviews for hours.
Im now going to let him take over the keyboard to tell you all about it.
When we started looking around for a new tent, it quickly became apparent that the first decision was whether to go for canvas tent or stick with synthetic (nylon/polyester) tents. Most of our camping experiences so far have been in a simple pop-up tent made of polyester. For us, about the only advantage of this type of tent was the joy of taking it out of its bag, throwing a flat circular thing in the air and watching a tent land on the ground. Apart from that time at Maker Heights in South-East Cornwall when it was quite windy and it blew away before landing. The other lasting memories of this tent all involve waking up early in the morning after a rather too enjoyable night, condensation dripping on our face and being stone cold but far from sober.
So the choice was easy, we were going to look for a quality canvas tent. Next up was the design of tent. We wanted something big enough for a young family, and comfortable/practical to stay in. Seeing that 25 year lifespans are commonly quoted for canvas tents and we rather like our weekends away, we decided that budget was of secondary concern. Lastly, we’re taking the car to camp sites so weight/pack size was not too much of a worry for us either.
On the face of it, bell tents would seem to be the go-to option: lots of quality options available for relatively reasonable prices and a large user base to provide lots of advice. Once you dig into bell tents a bit, lots of options seem to be available: sown-in/zipped-in/pegged-in groundsheets, thickness of the canvas, mesh or PVC windows, inner tent or not, roll-up walls, vent placement, the list goes on and on. But for us the main downside was the lack of standing room around the edges. That meant that your tent “footprint” could be huge, but you could only stand up in a tiny bit in the middle, and your usable space for sitting etc was quite small. A bit like an attic room where the sloping ceiling means you have nowhere to put any furniture.
Another option which certainly seemed worthwhile considering was the Albatros tent by De Waard from the Netherlands. They’re very pricey but from having read loads of reviews, they’re practically hurricane-proof (useful here in Cornwall) and it seems almost every person who stays in one seems to vow never to want anything else again. Aside from build quality and gleaming reviews, being Dutch meant there was a certain patriotic appeal to this option. In the end though, I decided that as with bell tents, the lack of standing space would start to bother me.
Ridge tents also popped up on our screens at some points. What can we say, we have to consider all options right?!?
Finally, in my searches I stumbled upon Lotus Belle tents. They certainly look very different and it’s a look I rather like. As with De Waard tents, they come with very positive reviews and a rather hefty price tag. But on the plus side, you get 5 ft of head room even at the edges. To get the equivalent of ‘standing’ space, we’d need to get a tent that is 1.5 times the diameter, and we simply don’t have the space in the car for that kind of tent. So after a lot of uhhing and ahhing, and 2 years of doubting whether this was the right thing to spend our savings on, we ordered ourselves a 4 meter Lotus Belle Hybrid Deluxe tent, basically the Lotus Belle with all bells and whistles attached. Now for the long wait till delivery…