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The White Duck Regatta Bell Tent is a versatile cotton canvas camping tent that’s super durable, roomy and easy to set up.
To get us a closer look, White Duck sent Man Makes Fire a 16′ Regatta Bell Tent for testing and review. This is what we learned:
White Duck 16′ Regatta Bell Tent Review
White Duck Outdoors makes a full range of cotton canvas tents in multiple sizes and styles, including cabin tents, wall tents, and bell tents. Bell tents have round footprints and are characterized by a single tall central support pole.
Before this summer, I used to think bell tents were just fancy glamping tents. I used to believe bell tents were only made to evoke a nostalgic feeling while ‘camping’ inside a strategically lit tent dressed up with cushy beds, side tables, and rugs.
I was wrong.
The White Duck Regatta Bell Tent does all that — it evokes a positive nostalgic camping vibe that’s certainly great for glamping — but it’s also so much more than I thought it could be.
The White Duck Regatta Bell Tent is an awesome family camping tent. It has drawbacks, of course, but it competes well against the best camping tents available each year. Plus, it’s even versatile enough to compete with more expensive multi-season canvas wall tents.
The Regatta Bell Tent design results in a tall ceiling that feels surprisingly spacious inside. I would say it even feels a bit cozy — and cozy isn’t a word I use often. The top of the tent slopes, which means you won’t be able to stand close to the low sidewalls, but it somehow doesn’t make you feel constrained. For an interior volume comparison, cabin tents and wall tents tend to give you straighter walls and lots of volume . . . but the feel is definitely different.
Depending on the size you choose, which is based on the diameter of the floor, your ceiling will be more or less tall and roomy. The 16′ Regatta Bell Tent center height is a whopping 9’8″. For perspective, standard wall heights in homes in the U.S. are 8′ while a basketball hoop is set at 10′.
Like I said, the feeling inside the 16′ version is expansive. White Duck rates the capacity of the 16′ Regatta Bell Tent at eight sleepers sleeping on sleeping pads, but that rating is generous compared to typical 8-person camping tents. If only eight people sleep on sleeping pads in this tent they’ll have plenty of room to sprawl.
Even though the Regatta Bell Tent is supported by a single pole in the center, it has a very stable design. High winds and shifting winds tend to slide off of it.
The key to the stability is the conical shape, but more importantly, the way in which the tent becomes stable. By staking it down all around the perimeter with stout guylines and heavy-duty stakes, you get full circular coverage with no weak spots.
Compared to large family camping tents made from lightweight synthetic materials, White Duck Regatta Bell Tents are surprisingly cost-competitive. The excellent 6-person REI Co-op Wonderland 6 Tent comes in at $600 — but it’s not nearly as rugged or as roomy as the 13′ Regatta Bell Tent, which White Duck rates as a comfortable 6-person tent. When weight and portability are not critical decision factors, we’re very impressed with the cotton canvas bell tent design.
Most canvas wall tents are diffcult for one person to pitch. They require you to set up the entire frame system or just the roof portion first, then get the bulky canvas over the top of the frame, and then possibly adding the sidewalls and raising the structure into position.
The White Duck Regatta Bell Tent, on the other hand, is easy to setup. In fact, one person can set it up. Here are the basic setup steps:
Stake the tent floor down using the smaller included stakes and full-size rubber mallet.
Make sure the door is unzipped, then place the top of the center support pole on the reinforced section at the center top of the tent. Push the pole upward then walk it to the center of the floor of the tent. The tent body will provide 360 degrees of tension to the pole, holding it place.
Using the attached guylines at the top of the short walls, stake out the tent, alternating from one side to the other until all the guylines are placed.
Install the center door pole in the middle of the door.
Tigthen the guylines to achieve consistent tension around the perimeter.
The biggest setup challenge you might have is carrying the heavy tent from your vehicle to the pitch point!
Is Cotton Canvas Really Waterproof?
Yes, army duck cotton canvas is waterproof. It’s an amazing, counter-intuitive material. When it’s dry, it’s very breathable with tiny gaps in between the threads. When it gets wet, however, the cotton fibers swell, which shrinks the gaps, making it waterproof.
I know, sounds weird. It’s hard to trust until you experience it yourself.
One Note: The floor of the tent is not cotton canvas — it’s a completely sewn-in heavy-duty polyethylene (PE) groundsheet. PE is similar to most tarps you can buy at hardware stores.
Special Care Required
There is a downside to cotton canvas tents: You need to make sure they are completely dry before storage. This means that if you pack up to go home in the rain, you’ll need to get the Regatta Bell Tent unfolded and opened up somewhere where it can dry — like a garage. You’ve got about 24 hours to figure out a place to dry it or you’ll need to set it up again, even if it’s still raining outside. It would be better to leave the tent out in the rain for days than it would be to store it wet.
Why? If you store a canvas tent wet, it’ll grow black mold that will stain the tent.
Meanwhile, typical lightweight nylon tents have this same problem, too — you can’t store them wet either. The key difference is that synthetic tents can usually sit for a couple of days wet in their bags before mold gains a foothold.
Camping & Glamping Awesomeness
As a long-term tent, the White Duck Regatta Bell Tent is hard to beat. The weight and durability of the cotton canvas body, paired with heavy-duty stakes and shock-corded guylines, makes the Regatta series excellent for glamping situations in your backyard. In fact, some White Duck customers use the Regatta as a backyard guest room. White Duck includes a power port in a sidewall for an extension cord if this is something you want to do.
Most importantly, camping in the canvas Regatta Bell Tent feels good.
Similarly, if you have a piece of undeveloped rural or forested property, you could set up the Regatta Bell Tent and leave it up for weeks at a time. In fact, a good friend owns the White Duck 16.5′ Avalon Bell Tent, which they set up every summer near their cabin in Idaho. Their boys sleep in the tent all summer while the adults stay in the cabin. It’s a win for everyone. Over multiple summers, the Avalon has never leaked and is still going strong. Their experience speaks to the White Duck canvas longevity.
For frequent camping, I’d likely choose the slightly smaller 13′ Regatta Bell Tent simply to gain some portability. But if you have a pickup or SUV and are inclined to go big or go home, the 16′ Regatta Bell Tent is pretty awesome.
Wall tents are fantastic for base camp hunting camps. They’re roomy, let you dry wet clothes inside, and most have holes for stove pipes that let you use wood-burning stoves inside the tent for warmth during cold nights. If you do plan to use a stove or heater inside your tent, you must ensure excellent ventilation and take great care to avoid Carbon Monoxide dangers. The same goes for cooking inside your tent — the dangers are real and you need to fully understand the risks, how to mitigate them, and what you’re doing with the equipment you’re using.
That said, White Duck includes a pre-built stove pipe flap and section that you can cut to accommodate a wood-burning tent stove. So cool. Note: You’ll want to cut a hole in the floor so the stove stands over dirt and possibly use a ground ember mat.
While I haven’t yet tried a stove inside the Regatta Bell Tent, I appreciate this versatility. If you’re looking for a tent that can handle colder weather — or even double as a hunting camp tent — the 16′ Regatta Bell Tent is an astoundingly price-competitive option with traditional canvas wall tents (which White Duck also sells).
Canvas Type: 8.5 oz Army Duck Cotton Canvas
Center Height: 9’8″
Door Height: 6’6″
Sidewall Height: 2’7″
Weight: 83-90 pounds*
* Note: Our review unit weighed in at 78 pounds inside the included carry bag.
The Biggest Drawback: Weight
The biggest drawback to the 16′ Regatta Bell Tent is the weight — it’s about 80 pounds. Canvas tents are bulky to store and they’re heavy to transport compared to typical synthetic tents. If you’re prepared to carry the 16′ Regatta Bell Tent with a buddy — and have room in your vehicle — the awesome benefits at your campsite will be worth it.
Obviously smaller versions will weigh less and take up less space.
Competitive Alternatives & Options
There are many large family camping tents available these days, and there are a handful of good canvas tent alternatives, too, though few other manufacturers offer as many color, size, and design choices as White Duck Outdoors. If you’re considering the White Duck Regatta Bell Tent, these competitive alternative options might also meet your needs:
White Duck Avalon Bell Tent — The White Duck Avalon Bell Tent uses a heavier-duty 10.10 oz army duck fabric. Compared to the Regatta, the Avalon has more windows along the bottom, which gives you more ventilation options. In addition, the floor is zipped into place. The key benefit of the zippered floor is that you can unzip the floor and raise the sidewalls to give you a hot-summer tent for shade coverage. One more thing: For true glamping, the Avalon’s V-shaped door pole structure is a bit more inviting compared to the Regatta’s center door pole.
Kodiak Canvas 8-Person Cabin Lodge Tent — If you’re looking for a high-volume canvas tent without the hassle of a wall tent’s frame system, the Kodiak Canvas Cabin Lodge Tent blends the goodness of canvas with a boxier, high-walled design. It has a 7’5″ ceiling height and a 12′ x 12′ square floor.
Teton Sports Sierra 16 Canvas Tent — The Teton Sports Sierra 16 Canvas Tent has a zip-in floor and V-shaped door opening like the White Duck Avalon but is made from a lighter weight canvas. Unlike the White Duck bell tent options, the Sierra does not have a built-in stove jack that’s ready for a wood stove, which could limit its colder weather readiness.
The Bottom Line
All-in-all, the White Duck 16′ Regatta Bell Tent is awesome. Overall quality is excellent. The stitching is strong and precise, the zippers are rugged, and the guyline rope is stouter than average. In addition, the sidewall guylines are shock-corded, which improves long-term durability and makes it easier to keep your tent taught. Most importantly, camping in the canvas Regatta Bell Tent feels good. Somehow the shape and material delivers an outdoor vibe that’s more natural than your standard lightweight synthetic camping tent. The bottom line is the White Duck 16′ Regatta Bell Tent is roomy, warm and inviting. Very highly recommended.