Tutorial: How to put up a double bell wedge tent

Double bell wedge tents are a tricky shape to put up. You might be tempted to just charge forward and put it up. You might be successful. If so, good for you! If you’re coming here after having to start over several times because your tension wasn’t right then I have some tips for you.

I owned one of these tents for several years and worked out a systematic, easy way to put up my tent the first time so it was really taught and looks great. I thought others might be able to benefit from knowing this too. If you’d like to know how to take one down and store it in a neat, tidy package, I wrote another article about that here.

First of all, what is a double bell wedge tent? Double-bell tents are sometimes called French double-bells or double-bell-end wedges because of the rounded ends. These tents do not need external ropes to hold the structure unless you aren’t using a ridge pole. The canvas is all one piece. My tent does have a ridge pole and that keeps the tent walls very taught. It looks like this:

First you’ll need to gather some items:

  • 1 bell wedge tent
  • 1 ground tarp 15’x22’*
  • 2 upright poles
  • 1 ridge pole
  • stakes
  • heavy mallet

*The tarp I use is 30’x22’. When folded in half it makes a 15’ wide tarp. For reference throughout this document, 15’ is the width of the canvas/tarp and 22’ is the length.

Step 1: Lay out the ground tarp. This will help you determine the width of the tent canvas before you put it up. Note that the tarp is about 2-3 feet short along the width of this tent so you’ll want to leave space at both ends between you and any nearby objects. This tent does not use any external ropes so you don’t need to worry about leaving space for those.

The canvas can’t be pulled tight before you raise the poles. This is important. You can’t just lay the canvas out on the ground and get a true sense of how much space it will take up. The tarp is a key measuring tool.

Step 2: Unroll the canvas and orient the door in the proper direction. The tent will be inside out. This is meant to protect the outside of the tent from getting dirty/sun faded as you pack/unpack it or during storage. Make sure you flip the tent right side out.

Step 3: Assemble the ridge pole and upright poles. Place them under the canvas in approximately the right spots. Just leave them on the tarp under the canvas for now.

Step 4: Take 4 stakes and the mallet. Start with the two loops that are one loop away from the door (not immediately to either side of the door, one loop over from that) at the front of tent. See the four X’s on this diagram:

Step 5: Situate the canvas with the mud flap tucked inside/underneath right at the edge of the tarp. The mud flap can be on top of the tarp at this point. Drive the stakes all the way in making sure the canvas is taut between the stakes. If you don’t do this step your door will leak.

Step 6: Take the other 2 stakes you grabbed, go around to the back of the tent, and find the loops that line up with the loops you staked in the front.

Step 7: Again, situate the canvas with the mud flap tucked inside right at the edge of the tarp. The mud flap can be on top of the tarp at this point.

Step 8: Drive the stakes in making sure the canvas is taut between the stakes along the back. DO NOT PULL THE CANVAS TIGHT ACROSS THE WIDTH OF THE TENT. You will not be able to raise the poles if you do that and you will be sad.

Step 9: Now you need to grab a somewhat strong friend. They do not have to lift weights just someone reasonably strong. You won’t need their help for very long.

Step 10: Untie the door flap ties and crawl inside the collapsed tent with your friend. Find your way to the large round grommets with the holes in them which are where the upright poles fit in. Take the upright pole and stick it through the hole in the ridge beam and then through the hole in the grommet. Advise your friend to do the same at the other hole.

Step 11: Grab the upright pole somewhere in the middle and then, together and at the same time as your friend (so you don’t twist the ridge beam), lift the canvas up and plant the upright pole straight up and down onto the tarp. Adjust to make sure the upright poles are straight. Once you stake down the canvas you won’t be able to move them.

Step 12: The tent should stand on its own now; you can both exit the tent. Thank your friend. You can do the rest on your own if you need to.

Step 13: Grab the rest of the stakes and head to one of the bell ends. The tent will look like a deflated balloon.

Step 14: Find the loop that is coming straight off the end of the upright pole (#1 in the diagram below). This is the center of the bell. This is important, stay with me here or you will find yourself with either a very wonky bell end or pulling out stakes.

Step 15: Pull that loop out as far away from the center pole as you can and stake it down. You want this line nice and tight.

Step 16: Pick a direction to go from here (left or right) and find the loop in the center of the one you just did and the first stakes you did. DO NOT JUST DO THE NEXT LOOP OVER or you will be sorry I promise you. Pull that middle loop nice and tight and stake it down.

Step 17: Keep going, always choosing the middle loop until you’ve staked out the bell end. See the diagram for an illustration. I don’t remember exactly how many loops there are in each of the bells. The principle is the same. Tuck the tarp under the mud flap when you get to the corners, it’s a rectangle so you’ll end up with some extra tarp.

Step 18: Stake down along the front/back of the tent and remember to keep the mud flap tucked under and to keep everything nice and taut.

Step 19: When you get to the other bell end, follow the same process of doing the center first, etc.

Step 20: Stake down along the other long edge. It gets easier to keep everything tight as you go.

Step 21: Once it’s all staked down, go inside and bring the tarp inside and on top of the mud flap. Since the tarp is a rectangle it sticks out a bit and needs to be folded/rolled neatly to fit in the corners.

You can print these directions (with takedown instructions) here.

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