Canopy Buyer's Guide

Canopy tents offer a quick, easy, and practical way to get shade, promote a business, or just add a new place to enjoy the outdoors. But, when you start searching for a canopy or tent, the vast amount of information available can be overwhelming. After sifting through various options, including instant canopies, party tents, garden canopies, camping tents, and many others, it may be difficult to know which one you actually need.


This article will give you some simple strategies to help you with your search. First, there are a few things to consider before you buy a tent canopy such as the size you will need, the materials most appropriate for your event, and the accessories available to you.

Just like any event, it's important to have a fair estimate of the number of guests you intend to accommodate. This will help you decide on the best size for your canopy tent. Obviously, the more people you invite, the larger tent you will need. Keep in mind, tents come in a variety of sizes, so, chances are, you'll find one that is just right.

Find the Right Size Canopy Tent

Tent size often dictates the type of canopy needed. It's worth noting that bigger tents often yield more complicated setups, which can also impact labor costs and requirements. Because individual circumstances will vary, there is no foolproof method for determining an exact canopy size. However, by reading the information below, you will have a better understanding of the amount of space you should reserve for each guest.

If you are hosting a party, it's common practice to allow 10 to 12 square feet per person. For lecture-style events, five to six square feet per chair is appropriate. Events with meals are a bit more complex, given the plethora of dining options available. Think about it; you have buffet-style, served meals, food stations, and more, so there is no cookie-cutter approach that will work for every dining option. Nevertheless, this article explores best practices to ensure you make good choices to accommodate your guests.

Generally, for events with meals, you can estimate around 12 square feet per person when using round tables or 10 square feet when using rectangular ones. For business and commercial uses, the way to estimate is a little different.


For a craft tent, sales booth, or display center, instead of measuring for people, the best way to determine the capacity requirements is to measure all of the items. Doing it this way dedicates enough space for your products, which allows you to create a more attractive station for potential customers. Now that you have size configurations down, the next step is determining the type of canopy tent you'll likely need.

Determine Which Canopy Will Work Best for Your Event

Because canopies for sale are so often used for outdoor parties and events, they come in a variety with a multitude of names. There are so many that it can be hard to tell the difference between them. Below, you will find some basic information about each type.

Instant and Pop Up Canopies

It doesn't get much more user-friendly than with pop-up canopies. They can be set up and taken down quickly and easily by a single person. Plus, they don't require tools! Transporting them is also a breeze. Very light for their size, it's not unusual for models on the smaller size to weigh as little as forty pounds. They also fit in the trunk of a midsize car when collapsed, compact and ready to be taken anywhere. Many also come with carrying bags for extra convenience.

Now, that doesn't mean pop up canopies are the right choice for every situation.


Their praised ultra-light construction and simple set up make them less durable and more susceptible to damage in extreme weather. They also can't withstand being left open for long periods of time, even for a few days. Nevertheless, there are some heavier duty models, such as the Monster line by Caravan which provides a heavier, more durable pop-up tent.

The downside to having these more durable, waterproof canopies is that they are often more cumbersome in that they require extra time to assemble and put away. Overall, instant canopies are the best choices when portability and ease of use outweigh the importance of durability. For more specific information about pop-up tents, you can read our Fast and Easy Guide to Pop-Ups.

Pole Tents

Stronger than their instant canopy counterparts, pole tents utilize center and perimeter poles as well as stakes or anchors for stability. They are more suited for long-term use, due to being heavier than instant canopies but lighter than other heavy-duty event canopies. Despite their heavier weight, they are still relatively quick and easy to set up in comparison to more elaborate varieties.

Pole tents offer a large range of party tents, so finding one that provides the shelter you need with the look you want is fairly easy. Many manufacturers offer tops in a variety of colors and different sizes to accommodate small, personal events or large corporate celebrations. Pole tents also provide an extremely cost-effective way to shelter areas, making them particularly popular for tent rentals. There are a few downsides to using a pole tent though.

Due to the use of stakes, they can't be installed indoors or any location that won't permit full anchoring. Side clearances are also a concern, sometimes needing as much as six feet per side. This makes it very difficult to use them next to a building or structure. The center pole can also impede visibility and certain layouts. If the center pole and location limitations won't be a problem for you, then these might very well be the best type of tent for your outdoor event.

Tension Tents

Looking at a tension canopy, you might wonder how they differ from pole tents. While it's true that they share many similarities in structure and other characteristics, the main difference between them is the height of their peaks.


Often referred to as "high peak" tents, tension tents feature much taller peaks than traditional pole tents. This gives them a more dramatic look and makes them more aerodynamic, allowing them to be perfect for formal events while also providing increased wind resistance and drainage.

Ideal for long-term use, many models can even be assembled as permanent structures. But, similar to the pole tent, the center pole of these tents may pose visibility issues. In addition, they may not be used indoors or too close to existing structures. Despite these limitations, this tent could be the answer to your needs.

Frame Tents

Frame tents avoid the structural limitations of pole and tension tents by using tubular metal structures to support their canopies rather than tension from stakes. Consequently, they do not need the same large clearances, making them much more suitable to be next to buildings as well as indoors.

Another factor that sets them apart is that they do not require center poles, making them ideal for events that necessitate an open layout and complete visibility. In order to accommodate the flexibility of installation, you will also have to consider the downsides of this type of tent.

Slightly more expensive and heavier than their lightweight counterparts, they require specific hardware for setup. As such, frame tents are best suited for permanent installation where the higher cost and more intricate installation fair well for their long-term use.

If you would like more detailed information pertaining to the benefits of frame tents or how they're used, please review some of our other canopy and tent-related guides for more assistance. To learn more about tents specifically designed for parties, we recommend reading our Ultimate Guide to Party Tents.

Shelters for Storage

Much like party tents, storage shelters have a variety of names and uses. Instant sheds, portable carports, instant garages, and portable boat and RV shelters are all considered part of this classification. These storage shelters can and do protect a variety of items. You can find the right one to shelter your vehicle in a portable garage or carport, your industrial equipment or outdoor supplies, and even your livestock! Or, if you are looking for an outdoor shelter that multitasks, a storage canopy can double as a party tent!

Screen Houses

Protection from insects and sun are two key features of the screen house. Enjoying the outdoors doesn't mean having to deal with the bright sun or pests anymore! Screen houses sometimes come designed like party tents, meant for home and casual use. Others are portable and much like a rugged tent for camping. Some even attach to the side of your RV.

Enclosed Canopies

Enclosed canopies are more affordable options in comparison to a full shed or entertaining area. They feature sidewalls to enhance weather protection, privacy, as well as ensure the safety of the belongings you are storing inside. The shelters in this category typically come packaged with sidewalls, although some brands allow customers to add sidewalls at a later time.

There are a variety of sidewalls available, depending on the model. More information about this can be found in the accessories section. It should be advised that only a small number of manufacturers offer customizable sidewalls to customers.

Portable Tents

Tents grouped into this category can seem a little confusing. All canopies are designed to be portable, right? While many an outdoor canopy tent come with storage bags for portability, there are some specifically made for easier transport than others. They also tend to be relatively light for their size and easily assembled. Due to their increased portability, most tend to be on the small to medium side. Pop-up tents, garden canopies, portable garages, and portable carports all fit into this category.

Garden Canopies and Shade Canopies

As with many classifications of tents, there are no official guidelines on what makes a structure a garden canopy. Some manufacturers use this designation to identify products with an emphasis on aesthetics and features to enhance your outdoor space. These often have options for valences or built-in bug screens. Other manufacturers consider any tent or canopy that improves your outdoor living space a garden tent, which means you may find portable garages and carports, as well as shade sails in this category.


Shade canopies are often considered very close or the same as garden canopies. Many of the same types of canopies and tents are part of both categories. One of the simplest types in this category is the shade sail. These are pieces of material that are secured to trees, parts of your home, or other structures to create shade. With no tools required, the set up is very easy and perfect for travel or situations where you need short-term shelter. However, they lack the same degree of rain and wind protection as more traditional shelters.

What You Must Know about Parts and Accessories

At this point, you probably have a good idea of the type of tent that is most suitable, but no matter which one you choose, they are all composed of the same basic parts: frames, tops, legs or stakes, or a sidewall. Most manufacturers will also have accessories from which you can choose to enhance the quality, convenience, or functionality of your canopy tent.


While there may be some minor variations in materials, most frames of canopy tents are made of either steel or aluminum. Steel is sturdy yet heavier and less portable than aluminum. Whereas, aluminum is lighter but more likely to bend. As such, you really have to decide between sturdiness or mobility.

In terms of durability and corrosive vulnerability, aluminum forms aluminum oxide, a hard substance that actually helps prevent further corrosion. Steel, on the other hand, rusts even with the treatment applied to frames to avoid the oxidation process. This information also warrants consideration when making your selection.


There are two main options for top material: polyester and vinyl. Polyester is most commonly used for pop-up canopy tops as they typically cost less than their vinyl counterparts. Both materials are durable and water-resistant. However, vinyl tops offer better UV protection and weather resistance, and they're even easier to clean! Many vinyl tops are certified for flame-retardancy as well.

One other thing to consider when making your top selection is the denier, which is the unit of measurement used to determine the thickness of textile material. For the most part, fabrics with a higher denier thread count are perceived as stronger options. But, it's important to note that you can't always assume that a higher denier indicates superior strength if you're comparing two different materials.


Every material has its own strength to weight ratio. In order to understand this more fully, you have to know how denier is calculated. Denier is determined by measuring the weight of 9,000 meters worth of textile fabric in grams. If, for example, 9,000 meters of cotton weighs 550g, then its denier would be equal to 550. Applying this logic, it's easy to see how certain fabrics, particularly synthetic ones like polyester, may have a lower denier rating but greater durability than a fiber such as cotton.

Other important components to examine before purchasing your canopy tent are the posts or legs. While top materials are certainly important for providing overhead shelter, the legs are equally important for holding the shelter in place. Thus, pay special attention to the structural makeup of your canopy's legs.


Your canopy tent will come with either slanted or straight legs. While this may just appear to be a difference in aesthetics, it's actually a major structural component. Slanted legs are less stable than straight legs. They also take up more space while causing less overhead coverage.

For instance, a 10' by 10' slant-leg pop-up tent will usually offer 64 square feet of shade, whereas a 10' by 10' straight-leg model provides 100 square feet of shade. However, the trade-off is cost. Straight-legged canopy tents are more expensive.


Canopy accessories generally overlap across two classifications, structure-based and convenience. Some of the most common types of accessories are sidewalls, stakes and anchors, and storage bags.

Sidewalls are just what the name implies. They enclose some or all of the canopy tent for privacy or weather protection. Some options available, depending on the canopy and manufacturer, include mesh walls, half walls, full sidewalls, some even have food-service walls!

For lightweight options like instant canopies, wind can present a huge problem. To prevent wind disturbances, most companies also manufacture anchoring systems to keep the canopy in place.

There are three different kinds of anchoring methods that work extremely well. One of the most common is stakes, which you place around the perimeter of the canopy and push down into the ground to add more stability. Using anchors is similar to using stakes. The main difference is that you twist them in the ground, providing a better hold than stakes.


The third option is weight bags, which use additional weight to stabilize your canopy tent. Most canopy tents do require the use of anchoring to keep them in place, but choosing the most appropriate type depends greatly on the model you decide to purchase. Transportability falls next on the list of accessory must-haves. Being able to take your canopy with you on trips is equally important.

A sturdy travel bag makes transporting your canopy easier. There are several different varieties, including some with wheels or a hard outer shell, but the main things you should look for are good handles and sturdy construction. Quite a few models come with custom travel bags included.

Another option to accessorize a canopy tent is getting custom graphics put on it. This is such an easy way to promote your business or organization. There are a few different ways this can be done; however, this may be limited by the canopy size or the canopy covers. To learn more detailed information about your customization options, take a peek at our Custom Canopy Graphics article. If you're looking for an all-encompassing option, pre-packaged canopy deals may be the way to go.

Package deals are becoming increasingly popular due to the multitude of accessories bundled together for an affordable price. There are many different sets from which to choose, so how do you figure out which one is the right one for you? To make sure a package deal works, consider the math behind the package. If it doesn't add up to savings, it probably isn't that good of a deal. Also, make sure you need all the items that come in the package! Spending more to get things you won't use is not advisable.


Explore Some of the Top Manufacturers

  • ShelterLogic — ShelterLogic canopy tents come in a variety of sizes and purposes. They specialize in pop-ups, party tents, larger traditional canopy tents, and portable garages.
  • EZ Up — EZ Up canopies can be used for a variety of purposes, thanks to the multitude of options offered. They have both straight-leg and slant-leg canopy tents of various sizes and purposes.
  • Eurmax — Eurmax has a selection of different popular sizes of canopy tents. Primarily straight-leg versions, the tops of these canopies tend to be polyester of various deniers.
  • AbcCanopy — AbcCanopy offers pop-up canopy tents in a variety of sizes and colors. They also have party tents and package deals on canopy tents in a variety of colors.
  • Coleman — Coleman may not be known for canopy tents, but they offer those as well as screen houses and sun shelters, coming in a variety of styles.

Examine Assembly Difficulties

Many people like pop-up canopy tents since they are so easy to assemble, requiring only one or two people for setup and takedown without the use of any tools. It should be noted that while no two canopies are going to be constructed in the exact same way, all shelters labeled as "pop up" should have a similar setup.


If the assembly manual has many complicated steps or requires tools, it's not truly an instant canopy. With one or two people, you should be able to pull the frame, so be sure to keep that in mind as some products can be mislabeled or have names that are designed to mislead you.

Frame, pole, or other types of canopy tents are generally more complicated to set up without generic advice to follow. To assemble these, we recommend that our customers follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully to ensure the canopy tent isn't damaged in any way.

What is the Typical Lifespan of a Canopy Tent?

A tent that is properly cared for can last up to 10 years without any major issues. The fabric is most prone to damage during handling, transportation, set up, and tear down. Proper handling combined with taking down the canopy prior to severe weather will prolong the canopy's life. If you would like more information about canopy care and ways to extend the life of your canopy tent, read our 14 Rules for Canopy Care article.

Know How Your Canopy Tent Will Be Shipped

Smaller canopy tents and their accessories are generally shipped via parcel, although they may come in multiple boxes. Canopies delivered this way are generally 10' x 10' or smaller. However, they are packaged in larger boxes that can weigh 60 to 70 pounds. Take this into consideration before it is scheduled to arrive, as many customers need more than one person to move the box.

Bigger canopies, such as those larger than 20' x 20' will arrive by LTL freight. The freight company will call to schedule a delivery date and time to the home or business and will deliver the canopy on a pallet.

Upon arrival, you are encouraged to take time to observe and check the canopy for damage since some manufacturers have limited warranties. Many times with freight deliveries, there will be a requirement for more than one person to receive the package. Take the time to arrange for someone else to be present at the time of delivery.

Review the Details of Your Warranty

After purchasing a canopy for sale, it's always a good idea to review the warranty and care information provided by the manufacturer. This will most often have the best tips for taking care of their specific canopy. Refrain from going against the manufacturer's recommendations; doing so may void the warranty. The length of the warranty will vary between companies as well, so pay close attention to this information as you make your canopy selection.



Whether you are purchasing a canopy tent for entertainment or business purposes or simply for good-time fun, don't forget to enjoy the buying process too! You now have the power of knowledge to invest in the appropriate type of canopy for your event. The only thing left to do now is to decide on customization options.

If you still have more questions, however, our expert technicians are always here to help. Feel free to contact us at any time via phone or email.

Dani Bell

About the Author

Dani Bell

Dani, our Head Writer and Editor, has been in the hearth and fireplace industry for six years. She has written a number of our articles for both eFireplaceStore and eCanopy to balance technical knowledge with customer-friendly terminology and style. Currently, she is studying to earn all of her National Fireplace Institute (NFI) certifications and works with the content department to add products to the eFireplaceStore and eCanopy websites.

Customer Q&A with Product Specialists

Ask a Question