Matt Johnson

Bell Tent or Tipi: Which is Better?

Author: Matt JohnsonPhotos/Graphics: Mike HawthornePublished: Dec 7, 2022Updated: Dec 24, 2023

Most people that dream about glamping often (like us!) often have visions of bell tents and tipis in their head. But if you’re wanting to create your own glampsite, which tent style do you want? Bell tent or tipi?

FeatureBell TentTipi
DesignDome-shaped canopy, oval shape from above, sloping walls.Conical shape, more wind-resistant, sturdier against rain runoff.
MaterialWaterproof cotton canvas walls, weatherproof PVC groundsheet.Thick canvas walls, excellent insulation, and protection from elements.
VentilationRoof venting, windows with mesh coverings.Smoke hole at the top for air circulation, keeping inside temperature regulated.
SetupEasy to set up, requires center pole and guy lines.More challenging to set up, heavier due to thick walls, unique features like smoke hole.
SuitabilityIdeal for casual glamping, various sizes available for different group sizes.Offers an authentic and luxurious experience, good for larger groups.

Sure, there are other options such as yurts, but for this we’re going to keep it focused on these two iconic tents.

Bell tents and tipis make a memorable glamping experience.

Whether you’re looking to create a backyard experience at your house or you’re looking to start a glamping business, both of these structures provide a unique option for guests.

Bell tents are perfect for more casual glamping experiences and offer a traditional, luxury camping experience. They come in various sizes, with some large enough to accommodate several people (up to 10). Bell tents are made from canvas material that is waterproof yet breathable, allowing fresh air to circulate

What are bell tents?

If you’re into glamping, then there’s a good chance you’ve seen bell tents before.

Bell tents originated in central Asia as a portable, lightweight and durable shelter for nomadic people. Today, they have been adapted as a popular camping choice for glampers who want to experience the outdoors without sacrificing creature comforts.

Bell tents are easy to set up and come in a variety of sizes, making them perfect for couples, families or large groups.

Bell Tent with Door Open and Interior Showing

Bell tent features.

While you can purchase bell tent kits with various features, there are a few standard features that all bell tents have.

Bell tent design traditionally includes a dome-shaped canopy, allowing for plenty of interior space and headroom. They also feature waterproof cotton canvas walls, a weatherproof PVC groundsheet, and metal or wooden poles with guy lines to hold up the structure.

The roof of a bell tent also features venting to help keep the inside cool and windows with mesh coverings to provide ventilation and insect protection.

Of course, if you want to go all-out, you can add additional features such as a wood stove, a stable platform floor, additional weather resistance, or even separate rooms (if big enough).

Maximize Space with Smart Organization: Bell tents offer a unique circular layout, which can be maximized with strategic organization. Use foldable furniture that can be easily rearranged or stored away when not in use. Consider using hanging organizers or shelves that attach to the tent poles for storing essentials without taking up floor space. This approach keeps your bell tent spacious and comfortable, ensuring everything has its place.

Pros and cons of a bell tent.

There are several advantages bell tents offer over other tents.

  • Portability. They’re not permanent structures and can be moved from site to site relatively easily compared to yurts or other shelters.
  • Easy to set up. It usually takes no more than an hour to set up a bell tent whereas a yurt can take days.
  • Durability. Bell tents are constructed with durable canvas and top-quality frame poles, which can withstand rain and windy conditions.
  • Variety of sizes. Whether you’re a couple or a family, there’s a bell tent size to suit your needs.

Despite the pros that bell tents deliver, there are also a couple of disadvantages.

  • Lack of insulation. It can get quite cold in the evening or during cold spells.
  • Thin canvas walls. Bell tents can be noisy when the wind picks up, and the canvas walls and canopy, while durable, are still pretty thin.
  • Guy ropes are required. These pesky guy lines can get in the way when you’re trying to walk around the tent.

What is a tipi?

A tipi, sometimes called a tipi tent or teepee, is a unique tent with a conical shape made from animal hide or canvas.

Tipis were initially used by Native Americans on the great plains for shelter, but today they are used as unique glamping tents that offer an authentic and luxurious experience.

When most people think of tipis, they have a vision of how the Native Americans lived. While this was undoubtedly the case, modern tipis have a few luxuries that make camping even more enjoyable.

Typical Tipi Structure of Poles

Features of a tipi.

Tipis come in various sizes and styles to fit your needs, with some models featuring an integrated floor or additional features like windows, doors, and vents. Of course, these are more of a recent development.

One of the most unique features of a teepee is the smoke hole at the top of the roof. This allows for ventilation and helps to keep the inside temperature regulated, making it more comfortable than other tents.

The walls are typically made of thick canvas, offering excellent insulation and protection from the elements.

Create a Cozy, Themed Interior: Embrace the unique charm of a tipi by decorating the interior with a theme that complements its natural, rustic feel. Use soft lighting like LED lanterns or string lights for a warm ambiance. Add comfortable cushions, throws, and tapestries for a cozy touch. This approach not only enhances the aesthetic appeal of your tipi but also makes it a more inviting and comfortable space to relax and unwind.

Pros and cons of a tipi.

Tipis have several advantages over other traditional tents when it comes to glamping.

  • Wind and weather resistant. They’re constructed with a conical shape that makes them highly wind resistant, perfect for camping in exposed areas.
  • Good ventilation. The smoke hole at the top of the tent allows for air to circulate, keeping you cool in summer and warm in winter.
  • Aesthetic appeal. Tipis often have a unique look that makes them stand out from other tents, adding to your overall glamping experience.
Tipi tent holding up to the elements

Unfortunately, there are also some disadvantages associated with tipi tent camping.

  • Heavy walls. While this provides excellent insulation, it makes the overall weight of the tent heavier and can be challenging to move.
  • Elements can enter. The smoke hole can let snow and rain in, making it essential to ensure the hole is adequately covered in bad weather.

Making the perfect glamping destination.

Now that you’re a bit familiar with both types of tents, you can choose the tent style that will best suit your needs for the perfect glamping experience.

Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or a family holiday, each tent will offer more than enough features to make your camping trip a success.

Feel free to decorate the inside of your tent however you want, add extra insulation for warmth, or even divide up the space into separate rooms (again, if it’s big enough). Add a king-size bed with Egyptian cotton sheets, maybe a wood stove, and you’ll have a campsite for a king and queen.

No matter what you choose, your glamping destination will be sure to make lasting memories. So don’t hesitate to get carried away!

Inside view of a tipi

Bell tent and tipi FAQ.

We get questions all the time about modern yurts, bell tents, tipis, cabins, and all sorts of other outdoor camping structures. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about bell tents and tipis.

If we don’t answer your questions here, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Or you can check back as we’ll continue to update these FAQs as we get more questions.

How much space do bell tents and tipis take up when set up, compared to traditional tents?

Typically, bell tents and tipis are larger than traditional camping tents and often require more room to set-up. However, they can be more efficient regarding space utilization since they may not require as many stakes or poles to stay upright.

For example, a bell tent with a typical 16′ diameter will provide 201 square feet of space. A standard tipi is generally around the same diameter as the bell tent with around 200′ square feet of space. A larger traditional tent, such as the CORE 9-person camping tent, will provide around 126 square feet of space.

Is there a difference between a bell tent and a tipi?

Yes, one of the notable differences between a bell tent and a tipi is the shape.

A bell tent is a more traditional camping tent, with four sides and an apexed roof. The walls generally slant in towards the center of the tent. This gives it more of an oval shape when viewed from above.

On the other hand, a tipi has a conical-shaped frame with the walls slanting in towards the center. Tipis don’t use a single center pole, making setup easier but less sturdy when compared to a bell tent.

Furthermore, while both tents offer protection from wind and rain, one key difference is that bell tents are more breathable than tipis. This can keep you cooler on hot summer days.

However, there are some similarities between the two. Both bell tents and tipis are a type of canvas tent and use a similar type of waterproofing. They also both provide plenty of space for larger groups and can be used to create a unique camping destination.

What kind of weather can bell tents and tipis withstand?

Surprisingly enough, both bell tents and tipis can withstand strong winds, heavy rainfall and snow. The canvas tent material used is generally waterproof, and both tent styles are designed to resist rain runoff.

Additionally, the shape of a bell tent or tipi helps them to stand up better in windy conditions than traditional camping tents.

If you’re planning an extended stay in either a bell tent or tipi, some tents come with additional waterproofing and weatherproofing features, such as an included rainfly or ground sheet on the floor. These can help to keep you even more protected from the elements.

We’d even recommend avoiding uneven ground as it could cause water to pool where you don’t want it.

No matter which type of tent you choose for your glamping destination, a bell tent or tipi will offer plenty of weather resistance protection from the elements. While each one has a unique feature set, both of these tents can be used to create an unforgettable glamping experience.

How much do they typically cost?

While there are considerable variables when it comes to cost, in general bell tents and tipis are more expensive than traditional camping tents.

For example, you can find a basic bell tent with a 16′ diameter for around $500-$700. A high-end model may set you back around $1,000 or more. On the other hand, a standard 10-person dome-style tent may cost you a fraction of that.

Tipis usually range in price from $800 up to around $2,000 and beyond for fancy models.

Although they’re more expensive than traditional camping tents, both bell tents and tipis offer plenty of luxury features and ample space. There’s a reason many glamping getaways use them as their featured structure on site.

How easy are bell tents and tipis to set up and take down, compared to traditional tents?

Both bell tents and tipis are generally more challenging to set up and tear down than a traditional tent. They have more components, including poles and stakes, that must be put together before the tent is ready for use.

Additionally, both bell tents and tipis require more space to set up than a traditional camping tent. This is due to their larger size. The center pole in a bell tent also requires additional setup time since it needs to be properly placed and secured.

Traditional tents, on the other hand, go up pretty quickly. They’re designed for easy setup and require fewer pieces, and are considerably lighter than bell tents or tipis. However, one significant difference with a traditional camping tent or traditional yurt is that they may not offer the same level of protection from wind and rain as a bell tent or tipi.

Which is better for you – a bell tent or a tipi?

With options ranging from yurts to bell tents to tipis, there are various glamping shelter options out there. Ultimately, the best option for you depends on your needs and preferences.

A bell tent may be the way to go if you’re looking for a structure with an easy setup, plenty of room, and protection from wind, rain, and snow. The sloping walls provide an even better weather-proofing option than a traditional tent.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for an even more unique glamping experience with plenty of space to accommodate larger groups and a design that will stand up to any kind of weather, then you should go with a tipi. The conical shape makes them more wind-resistant, sturdier and more resistant to rain runoff.

In the end, it’s all up to you! Just remember that both bell tents and tipis will provide an unforgettable experience that you won’t soon forget. So don’t hesitate to try out one of these unique camping shelters.


Matt Johnson

Senior Content Writer

Matt is an experienced camper and glamping enthusiast with a Master's degree in Wildlife Science from Texas A&M University. Authoring posts for GlamperGear, he shares his wealth of knowledge on picturesque campsites, luxurious accommodations, and the best gear for outdoor adventures. His passion for nature and knack for comfort in the wilderness make him an expert guide for your next camping endeavor.

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