- Pros and cons of various backyard guest cabin tent options.
- How to use a tent cabin to share with friends & family?
- Step-by-step process on how to set-up & furnish a canvas cabin tent site.
- Tips on hosting and promoting a glamping businesses.
Sooner or later as a homeowner you come to a brilliant realization: Hey, I can put a little guest tent house in the backyard. Maybe just for family or friends to stay in, when they visit? Maybe just to tool around and have fun with? Or maybe even to rent out a guest house to strangers for extra income?
And then comes the next moment of genius: Hey, I bet I could even build it myself!
Sound familiar? Perhaps this isn’t you, but a loved one? Or a neighbor? Sadly, even the best ideas can turn into nightmares when they become acted on. And building your own DIY backyard guest tent cabin can quickly turn into a costly, time-consuming, energy-sucking project that is way more work than you anticipated.
But the idea is still genius - it’s just the whole building-a-house thing - no matter how tiny - that can overwhelm most people. This is why we are strong believers in putting up a bell tent as a modular backyard guest tent house. It’s an easy DIY project, it’s flexible and modular, and it’s actually pretty cheap, considering you could be completely furnished and ready to go without spending over $3,000.
Best of all, you can find all sorts of uses for a guest tent cabin, whether it’s for family visits or friendly get-togethers, or to start a legitimate Airbnb style nightly rental side business.
And at any point, you could pack up the bell tent and take it on an epic road trip or camping adventure. Can you do that with any other style of guest house?
Tent Cabin vs Tiny House, Yurt, Container, and DIY Guest House
The appeal of using up some backyard space for an add-on structure is undeniable. At first it starts with wanting a fun playroom, maybe a man cave or a she-shed, or just an entertainment hut. And then there’s the pitch for a workshop, or an office, or just a place where you can get stuff done.
When you’ve gone through all the fun excuses for a backyard tent house, you then move on to more practical reasons. Like, hey, maybe our parents can stay here when they visit? That way they could make it an extended stay, without overextending your patience inside your home.
But most likely the best reason for building a guest house is because you could actually make extra cash renting it out to visitors. Think of it like an Airbnb, except with more privacy for you and the guests. There are even websites already in place for you to start advertising your backyard oasis to travelers looking for an affordable and unique place to stay.
Costs of DIY Guest Houses and Backyard Yurts Add Up
When you start to research the costs and challenges of guest houses, however, all the potential income is quickly dwarfed by the up front expenses. You need to hire a contractor, file for all the necessary permits, and purchase all the materials, all of which can grow into tens of thousands of dollars in no time.
Of course, you could do something more DIY if you have the time, but if it’s your first backyard guest tent cabin, then chances are you’ll run into unexpected expenses as well as barriers. Meanwhile, your backyard is a mess and you’ve got potential water and electric issues to deal with in your home.
PHOTO BY ANDREA DAVIS ON UNSPLASH
Yurts make for a fantastic alternative to solid structures, and you also don’t have to deal with the hassle of permits, property taxes, and a permanent structure. All it takes is a solid foundation, and you could probably install the yurt yourself. But, they’re still a little expensive. If you’re paying $15,000 for a yurt, you better have a business plan in mind because that’s quite a big loss if you only get a renter a few times per year.
With a yurt, you also can’t easily remove and re-use or re-sell it if you change your mind later down the road. A yurt platform can be as substantial as a normal house foundation. There are plans for building your own tent platform (like below), and that’s a great option if you’re good at woodworking, but newbies might want to seek help or buy a prefabricated system.
CABIN TENT PLATFORM RENDERING (ASK US FOR THE PLANS)
A bell tent, on the other hand, requires nothing but a flat area in your backyard, some furniture inside to make it cozy, and if you’d like, a little furnace to make it warm. Your in-laws can use it, your friends visiting from out of state can use it, you and your family can use it. And if you get the traveler’s itch, you can quickly pack it up and bring it along for a camping experience that is more like a yurting excursion than a little cramped tent campout.
And it costs about as much as a pimped out iPad. Which is fun but no one is ever going to pay you to rent it. Which brings us to...
Renting a tent out in your own backyard
If you’re thinking about buying a bell tent, you probably already have a list of reasons why it would be useful - or just plain fun - in your life. But adding a potential income source really seals the deal.
Not only can a bell tent in your backyard bring you easy, passive income without you having to do much more than simply own one, there’s also the added benefit of travelers arriving at your doorstep. If you want to keep to yourself and don’t dig conversation with strangers, ok, that’s cool. But for many of us, the possibility of sharing coffee and stories with a few kind adventurers every once in a while - in your own backyard - seems like a real nice perk. Plus the fact that they’re paying you for the privilege.
Ok so what does it take to rent out your backyard? First, you need a bell tent, a spot to place it, a little creative DIY spirit for decorating and making it warm and cozy, a way to advertise it online, and a toilet. But we’ll get to all that in just a moment.
Capitalize on the Growing Glamping Trend
First, ask yourself an important question. Would anyone actually want to stay in your backyard? Do you live in a desirable place that’s near a popular destination, or alternatively, a remote location that’s far from cities and hotels?
You don’t have to be in a particularly busy area to make a backyard tent rental worth it. Some towns have short periods of high demand for beds and backyards, like college campuses during game nights, or areas near festivals. Or maybe your property lies along a scenic route, where there are more passing visitors than there are lodging for them.
Today’s travelers are looking for unique experiences as they seek ways to invest their limited vacation time to explore new locations, and many are looking to glamping or backyard guest houses as a way to fulfill this desire. More and more glamping accommodations are popping up to rent, but these rentals are not keeping pace with the ever-growing demand.
With a little up front work and an affordable investment (check out our Life inTents cabin tents), you can capitalize on the growing glamping trend by sharing your property with adventurous travelers from around the country.
Step-By-Step Guide to Getting Your Tent Ready to Share With Others
Select a Backyard Spot For Your Cabin Tent
If you have a choice, try to find a location that is flat, private and “Instagram-able” for your cabin tent placement. Yes, we’re serious about that last part.
The most important criteria is to identify a fairly flat piece of ground to set up the bell tent - you don’t want your guests rolling off their bed when they sleep. Trees logically provide good shade from the hot sun, but they are actually an enemy when it comes to long-term set-up of canvas bell tents. Sap, debris, and bird droppings will fall onto the roof and are difficult to clean and encourages the growth of mold and mildew. So, we suggest keeping a distance from trees if possible.
Water drainage is also important to consider when placing selecting your tent site. Will water drain away from the tent with the placement you are selecting? You will want to avoid setting up in locations where water gathers or runs through, so that your tent and guests are able to avoid mud and puddles.
If the grade of the land is up to snuff, then hopefully you can visualize an appealing background composition that enhances photos of your tent. Your visitors will love to share their adventure with their own networks, so fun and attractive backyard glamping photos will do wonders in helping to book you more guests in the future.
If you are considering multiple tents, then take into consideration the privacy of each site. The beautiful thing about sleeping in a tent at night is that it lets in many sounds from nature – both near and far. To account for this, set up multiple tents as far away from one another as possible. It is also a best practice to avoid having tent doors facing each other so that your guests aren’t forced into inadvertent peeping during their stay.
Prepare the backyard guest house tent site
Start by trimming back any grass, branches, or plants that could interfere with your set-up or guests. Once the space is clear you will want to think about the bell tent foundation that it will be placed upon.
Next, grab a metal rake and shovel to level the ground where the tent will be placed, taking care to remove any sharp debris that is present.
To help with water drainage we would suggest laying down some finely ground rock, such as decomposed granite.
If you want to go the extra mile you can build a wood bell tent platform deck to set your tent up on. This not only looks great, but it virtually guarantees a flat surface and comfortable barrier from groundwater.
Finally, suggest taking extra precautions when performing a long-term tent set-up and use a bell tent foot print tarp to help create a protective barrier between the dirt, rock, or wood foundation and the tent.
How to Set up a Bell Tent?
Take a little extra time and pay special attention to the finer details while setting up the bell tent.
Make sure that the floor is pulled tight as you insert the ground stakes to eliminate wrinkles on the groundsheet. Double check that the groundsheet zippers are securely covered by the canvas to prevent unwanted rainwater from seeping and getting your guest’s belonging wet.
Finally, tighten the guy lines to create smooth out the canvas of the tent walls and roof to encourage rain to drain off and away from the tent. We suggest regularly double checking these elements on a weekly basis!
For a detailed guide, check out our article on Bell Tent Setup, or watch this video below:
Now it’s time to give your bell tent rental some character, comfort and charm by choosing the furnishings and decorations. Pick a design style that you’d like your furnishings to match (i.e. boho chic, country western, rustic, elegant and modern, shabby chic, etc.) and go shopping!
The most important decision that you want to make is the beds. Decide on how many guests you will want to open up reservations for, and whether or not you anticipate that families will be welcome.
Outside of the bed and linens, here’s a short checklist of other important furnishings to consider including in the bell tent:
Power Up the Cabin Tent
Fortunately, in today’s world there are many options for providing your guests with electrical power. At minimum you will want to offer a solution to recharge phones so that they can take pictures of your amazing tent and share them with the world. Here are some power solutions to consider:
Rechargeable power bank charger (20,000-30,000 mAh USB charger or an all-in one solution)
Rechargeable portable power station with an optional solar panel
Run an extension cord and power strip directly from an outlet
If you decide to go with rechargeable power stations or a power bank, consider offering these as an add-on. That way you can check these items in and out and make a few extra bucks.
Prepare Your Backyard Cabin Tent For Weather
It is good to anticipate temperature swings that nature brings so you can help keep your guests as comfortable as possible.
For chilly evenings, a simple solution to help guard against colder temperatures is to include a few extra blankets that they could use in the bell tent when temperatures drop. But you may also want to consider a heat source.
Portable propane tent heaters can work well in canvas tents, and most come standard with safety features that will shut them off if they tip over or oxygen levels get depleted. You could also go all out and install a wood burning stove in your tent cabin so that guests can stay extra cozy.
The daytime during the summer months will bring with it sweltering summer sun that is difficult to combat inside of any tent. Even with the screened windows and doors open, a breeze is sometimes hard to come by. Fortunately our double wall tents allow you to roll up the lower walls to allow more air in. But you may consider adding a rechargeable fan to your tent to help encourage the airflow.
We also offer a tent flys that can be set-up over the top of the tent to help regulate the internal temperatures within the tent. Once installed, the fly creates a layer of air between the tent that helps to keep the tent cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. As a bonus, the fly will also keep your tent roof clean from falling debris!
As for rain, we’d recommend helping to keep your tent floor and rugs clean by including a boot tray that will encourage your guests to take off their muddy shoes in the tent, and an entry mat so that they wipe their feet before entering.
Provide entertainment options to Backyard Guests
Your guests will likely be happy to pass the time with conversation and reflection from their adventures, but anything you can do to help facilitate some extra fun will certainly enhance their stay.
We suggest adding a few books and magazines that they can leaf through during down time. Including a handful of games such as playing cards, a cribbage board, Exploding Kittens or Cards Against Humanity, which is especially nice for rainy days.
You will also want to curate a list of local destinations that your guests can experience outside of their campsite. Print out a booklet that includes local hikes, sights, shops and experiences that your guests could consider while they are on their vacation.
With the overwhelming nature of the internet and its million rabbit holes to get lost in, visitors who are seeking out backyard glamping are most likely into the analog, simple, and personal experiences that come naturally with a backyard tent rental. So, pump up the analog, simple and personal experiences!
Prepare the bathroom
The restroom isn’t a sexy amenity, but it is critical to attracting and keeping a fully booked reservation calendar. If you only plan on having guests every few months or so, you could get away with letting them use a bathroom inside your house. But there will be times where you’re not at home and your guests need to go, so having a toilet solution will be important.
Depending on the infrastructure that is already in place or that you will to invest in, bathrooms can range from rustic to luxurious. Given that your guests are camping, you won’t need to go overboard here, but you do need to be mindful of comfort and privacy. Here are several options that could be implemented:
Stand-alone plumbed bathroom with running water
Outhouse with 4 foot hole dug into the ground
Share your home or office toilet
No matter the route you go, make sure that you have enough toilets and that they are placed close enough for a midnight run. If you don’t have the luxury of have an onsite sink with running water then we’d suggest including wet wipes and hand sanitizer for your guests.
A hot shower is one of the best parts about camping, because you come to appreciate it so much more when it’s a luxury. Having a shower available will encourage your guests to stay for multiple evenings. If a fully functioning bathroom isn’t an option straight away then you could consider a few alternatives:
Propane tankless water heater shower with privacy structure
Solar shower bag with privacy tent or structure
Partner with a local gym to obtain day passes
And during the times when your guests don’t have a shower solution in the backyard, you may find that the current hot water sources meet the guests needs adequately. Maybe giving your guests access during a certain part of the morning makes sense, or maybe the local gym is perfectly fine and saves you a lot of money and time in the long run.