to get a pop up canopy because of how quickly and easily they can be
set up, but now you're discovering that the process of
finding the right one isn't nearly as user-friendly. There
are so many sizes and styles that it can be hard to distinguish them
from one another, much less figure out which model would be best for
you. So if you're having trouble getting your canopy-hunting
bearings, check out the following guide. Once you're
armed with the appropriate information you'll find that selecting a
canopy doesn't have to be all that daunting.
Part 1: Some Basic Information
You already know that pop up or instant canopies have a reputation for
being easy to use. What you may not be aware of is what makes
them so much more user-friendly than other shelters. The
convenience of these structures derives from their unique,
accordion-style frames that can be collapsed and expanded with just a
bit of simple pulling and pushing. Two people can generally
set one up in a matter of minutes without any tools. Take
down, which is just a matter of contracting the frame to its
original size and removing the top, is also quick and most pop ups will
fit into a storage bag for convenient transport.
Of course, no two canopies are going to be exactly the same in terms of
construction, but all shelters labeled as "pop up" should have a set up
similar to the one described here. If a structure's assembly
has a lot of complicated steps or requires tools, it's not an instant
canopy. It's important to keep that in mind while searching
because products can sometimes be mislabeled or, unfortunately, feature
names that are designed to mislead you.
Part 2: Determining Your Needs
Many people start their canopy search with the question, "What size do
I need?" But, in truth, this should actually be your second
question. Before you start to look at details like size you
need to ask yourself exactly what you're going to be using your instant, easy setup
canopy for. The way you answer that question will have a direct impact
on how big your shelter should be. A shelter that's going to
be used for barbecues and other backyard social gatherings, for
example, will probably need to be larger than one being used to house
merchandise at a craft show. Unless, of course, you've got a
lot of products or it just so happens that you excel at making enormous
lawn sculptures. The amount of space you need really is going
to depend on what you're doing and what you want to protect.
Your Ideal Canopy Size
Unfortunately, individual circumstances are so variable that
there is no way to perfectly calculate your ideal canopy size.
It is possible, however, to get a rough estimate of how much
space you need. Generally speaking, it's reasonable to allow
anywhere from 10 to 12 sq. ft. per person when you're hosting a party.
If you're willing to do a little more math, the following
guidelines can give you a more situation-specific estimate:
- Chairs - If
you plan to hold events like lectures where you'll only need seating, a
good rule of thumb is to allow 5 or 6 sq. ft. per chair.
- Meal Seating
- If your event involves a meal, the amount of
space you're going to need is going to vary depending on the dimensions
of the tables you use as well as how many people each one seats.
Try to allow at least 12 sq. ft. per person when using round
tables and 10 sq. ft. when using rectangular ones.
- Other Items -
If you need any extras like a podium, buffet table, or
display case for your event, make sure to take the dimensions of those
items into account when calculating your space requirements.
Business and Commercial Uses
You probably noticed that the previous section didn't mention anything
about how to figure out your space needs if you're going to be using
your instant canopy as a sales booth, display center, or other
commercial structure. That's because the needs of business
owners are going to vary significantly depending on the nature of their
business and what they're intending to use their shelter for.
If you plan to use your canopy for commercial purposes, the
best way to determine your space requirements is to measure all of the
items you know you want to house. Since you're often going to
be more concerned with accommodating objects than people, the total
you'll get when you add those measurements together can actually
provide you with a reasonable idea of how big your tent should be.
Part 3: Construction
All pop up tents may have similar set up, but they are by no means all
the same. They're made with a variety of different materials
and your situation and preferences are going to dictate which
combination is going to be right for you. Read on for some
brief descriptions of common canopy materials.
When it comes
to instant canopy frames you've really only got two choices.
You can go with aluminum or the more common steel.
It's important to note here that while many consider aluminum
to be superior, there are advantages and disadvantages to using each
take a look at them.
- Weight - Aluminum
is lighter than steel so if you're going to be doing a lot of traveling
with your collapsible canopy you may want to go with an aluminum frame.
Its lighter weight is also helpful during set up,
particularly if you need to put up your shelter by yourself.
But, if you're going to be using your tent in windy
conditions, steel would probably be a better choice since its heavier
weight will make it more stable.
- Strength - Aluminum
is more prone to bending than steel so a steel frame is - barring poor
manufacturing - going to be stronger than an aluminum one. If
you're going to be using your canopy for occasional personal use the
difference in strength probably won't matter, but if you're going to do
a lot of entertaining or have business purposes in mind you may want to
go with steel.
- Corrosion- Both
steel and aluminum corrode. The difference is that when steel
deteriorates it produces damaging rust whereas aluminum forms aluminum
oxide, a hard substance that actually helps prevent further corrosion.
Most steel canopy frames are treated to prevent rust, but
that, of course, doesn't guarantee that it will never happen.
You'll need to decide whether this potential problem is
serious enough to affect your interest in steel.
- Aluminum canopies can sometimes cost more than steel ones, but due to
the different types and gauges of steel available there's no hard and
fast rule. Prices vary significantly from manufacturer to
Once again, you've got two basic choices. First is polyester,
the most commonly used instant canopy top material. All
varieties are durable and water-resistant, but the thicker the material
is, the tougher it's going to be. You can determine a top's
thickness by looking at its denier. The higher the number,
the stronger the fabric. A top with a higher denier will,
however, also be heavier so if you're trying to maximize portability
you may better off with a thinner top.
Your other alternative is a vinyl top. These tops, which are
actually made of polyester that has been given a vinyl coating, offer
better UV protection and weather resistance than standard polyester
ones. They're also very easy to clean and many are certified
There's no doubt that vinyl tops are tougher, but they're also more
expensive. So once again, you've got to decide what's more
important: durability or economy? If
you're going to be using your pop up canopy relatively infrequently or
for shorter periods of time, a polyester top will probably
needs. If, however, you plan to use your shelter more often
it up for longer time spans, you may want a vinyl-coated top.
It's really about finding a balance that works for you.
Waterproof Vs. Water-Resistant
Canopy tops are either waterproof or water-resistant.
Waterproof models, thanks to a special coating or treatment,
are completely impervious to water, whereas water-resistant models can
handle a lot of exposure to moisture, but are ultimately vulnerable to
some mild water penetration. Most instant
canopies feature water-resistant tops rather than waterproof ones.
Why? Unfortunately, most waterproof materials simply don't
perform that well when they're set up and taken down with the frequency
most pop up shelters are. They tend to wear out more quickly and are more cumbersome
than water-resistant ones. So, in order to provide tops with
the longest possible lifespan and ease of use, most manufacturers choose to use
Part 4: Slant Leg Vs. Straight Leg
Instant canopies come with either straight or slanted legs.
At first glance this may seem like just a minor style
variation, but the type of legs your shelter has actually makes a big
structural difference. Slanted legs, while able to give your
canopy a sleek, sporty look, are less stable than straight
ones. They also take up more space while providing less
coverage - a ten-by-ten slant-leg pop up tent will usually only offer
sixty-four square feet of shade while a ten-by-ten straight-leg model
offers one hundred.
So why would you want to buy a tent with slanted legs? The
answer, like so many related to making a major purchase, has to do with
money. Slant-leg structures are generally cheaper than ones
with straight legs. Therefore this is yet another instance
where you're going to have to decide whether performance or cost is
Part 5: Accessories
Depending upon how and where you're going to be using your instant
canopy, you may need to customize it in order to make it fit your
specific needs. Use the following descriptions to help you
determine which accessories might be right for you.
Sidewalls, or side
walls, allow you to enclose all or part canopy.
They're ideal for situations where you want to create some
privacy or give your shelter a more formal look, say at a business
conference. They can also provide a bit of extra weather
In terms of materials, sidewalls have a range similar to that of pop up
canopy tops. You can find polyester ones of varying thickness
as well as ones made of polyethylene fabric blends. It's also
possible to get mesh walls if you want bug protection that won't
interfere with air movement. The types of sidewalls you'll
have to choose from vary significantly from brand to brand so if you're
looking for a specific kind you may need to stick with certain
manufacturers. And, if you're thinking about buying a canopy
package deal, it's important to keep in mind that you won't be able to
choose which walls come with your pop up; each package comes with a
specific set of walls.
Thinking about buying more than one sidewall? Consider
investing in a kit. Not all manufacturers offer them, but
many do and you'll usually wind up spending less money per wall when
you purchase them this way. Even if you can only find kits
that include more sidewalls than you think you'll use, getting one
might still be a good idea. It's hard to anticipate
everything you might need beforehand and having an extra wall around
may prove helpful.
Stakes, Anchors, Weight Bags, Roller Bags, and Carry Bags
All canopies are vulnerable to wind. Instant canopies can
often have even more problems because they are specifically designed to
be lightweight so it's vital to secure them properly. There
are three different accessories you can use to stabilize your shelter.
|Stakes - Many
pop up canopies actually come with these. They're extremely
simple to use and are generally reliable. If you're going to
be taking your shelter to the beach, though, stakes aren't going to be
a good choice; they simply can't get a good grip in the sand.
These work a lot like stakes, but usually provide a
stronger hold because you have to twist them to get them into the
ground. They aren't suitable for use in sand either.
Bags - These use additional weight rather than a
physical connection to the ground to keep your canopy stable.
You simply attach them to your shelter's legs
and fill them with sand or rocks. The weight each
bag can hold varies by manufacturer, but it's not unusual
for one to hold somewhere between fifteen and thirty pounds.
If you're going to be using your canopy in an area prone to
high winds or you want to take it to the beach, these are going to be
your best option.
Roller Bags and Carry Bags
Roller Bags and
Carry Bags Most people are interested in pop up
tents because of how light and portable they are. A sturdy
travel bag will make it even easier to take yours wherever you need it.
There are several different varieties, including some with
wheels and ones with a hard outer shell, but the main things you need
to look for are good handles and sturdy construction. Just
make sure to check what is included with your canopy before buying one,
though, since quite a few models come with bags.
Part 6: Custom Graphics
you're going to be using your instant canopy for business purposes or a
special event, you may want to add some custom graphics.
There are a couple of ways you can do this. The
first, and most expensive, option is to have your design printed
directly onto your canopy's top, sidewalls, or siderails before they
are sewn together. If you want to go this route you're going
to be limited as to the types of canopies you can use since not all
manufacturers provide this service. It's best to ask your
retailer which tents are available with custom graphics before starting
The other way you can add custom images to your pop up shelter is with
a product called a canopy headband. This is a separately
purchased item that can be customized with your design and then slipped
right over the top of your canopy. It sits on top of your
canopy's valance, making it appear as though it is part of the original
top. Of course, a headband may not be quite as dramatic as a
fully customized top, but it is more cost-effective. Opting
for one of these will also give you a bit more flexibility as to what
canopy you can use because they don't have to be incorporated into its
construction. Just make sure to check that your retailer
offers a size that will fit the shelter you're interested in.
Part 7: Package Deals
If you've spent even a little bit of time hunting for an instant
shelter, you've probably come across package deals containing a canopy,
sidewalls, and possibly a few other accessories. You've also
probably wondered if those sets are actually as good of a value as they
seem to be. The answer to your question depends on a variety
of factors. If a canopy package has caught your interest, ask
yourself the following questions:
- Is the canopy
included in the package of good quality? Make
sure that you scrutinize the canopy in a special deal just as closely
as you would an independently-sold model. If you wouldn't
purchase it on its own, chances are you won't be much happier with it
as part of a set.
- Does the math
add up? Before deciding to purchase a package,
make sure it will actually cost you less than all of the individual
pieces would. In most cases it will, but if specific parts of
the set are on sale, for example, you might actually spend less if you
buy each item separately.
- Do you really
need all of the items that come in the set?
Manufacturers count on the fact most people are more tempted
to buy items that are on sale or in pre-made packages because feel they
shouldn't pass up a bargain. Be sure that you will actually
use all of the items in a canopy package before buying one.
If you've answered yes to all of those questions then the package
you've found may indeed be a good choice for you.
Part 8: Some Helpful Information
The world of canopies contains quite a bit of jargon. Below
is a little bit more information about a few terms you might come across
during your search.
As mentioned earlier, this is a measurement of
fabric thickness. It's determined by measuring the weight of
9,000 meters of a fiber in grams. If, for example, 9,000
meters of a particular fiber weighs 550g, then its denier would be 550.
That's why a 300 denier polyester canopy top would be
stronger than a 250 denier one. It's important to note,
though, that you can't always assume that a higher denier indicates
superior strength if you're comparing two different materials.
Because every material has its own strength to weight ratio,
it's definitely possible to have a 300D fabric that's tougher than a
Powder-Coated Finish -
is a durable, scratch-resistant metal finish. It's created by
spraying finely-ground, electrostatically-charged resin and pigment
particles onto a positively grounded object. Then the object
is placed into a curing oven where the particles melt and fuse to
produce a solid coating.
Part 9: Putting it All Together
Unfortunately, there's no amount of knowledge that can make finding the
right instant canopy as easy as using one. But that doesn't
mean it has to be horribly difficult either. If you do a bit
of planning and keep some basic information in mind while searching,
getting a shelter that you'll be happy with can be a simple,
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