Are you looking at portable canopies for your craft show booth and feeling completely overwhelmed by the choices?
I know that's how I felt when I needed to buy a craft tent.
I was frustrated by the lack of clear information and had to sift through a lot of bad advice. The worst recommendation I got was from a craft show organizer who suggested I buy a $3000 tent - Completely unreasonable for someone who was just doing a few small shows.
There's no need to panic or feel frustrated. I have gathered everything I've learned about buying craft tents here. The comprehensive articles you can access from this page will show you everything you want to know about craft tents (and more).
You can read through all of the articles and become a craft tent expert, or you can jump straight to the information about popular brands to see which brands most craft business owners use.
Let's get started!
First, I really wish I could completely simplify the choice and tell you that one particular brand and model is best for most people, most of the time, but there isn't one single best canopy that I would recommend to everyone because different craft business owners have different needs, and different tents meet different needs.
Luckily, though, there are a few reliable brands that are popular and used frequently at shows, so you really don't have to compare too many options to find the one that's right for you.
First things first.
There are really just a few tent brands that are commonly used at crafts shows, and within each brand there are often a few models or options to choose from.
In addition, the brands available will vary depending upon where you live. For example, EZ Up tents are quite popular in the United States, but they can be hard to find in Canada, where Caravan canopies are more commonly used.
Want to know what tent is most popular in your area? Just go to a show (particularly an outdoor show) and take a close look at the tents. You should be able to see the logos on the tents. That will give you an idea which brand (or brands) is popular and available in your area.
EZ Up Tent Review
This tent is extremely popular among craft artists, particularly in the US. Read the review for a detailed look at some of the pros and cons of buying this canopy.
EZ Up Models
Here is a look at the different models of EZ Up brand tents that are appropriate for craft shows.
Caravan Canopy Review
The Caravan Canopy is the brand of tent that I own, and it has served me well. Here's why I chose this brand, and a few things to consider if you're thinking about buying a Caravan Canopy.
Hilary, from Salamander Feltworks, wrote to tell me why she loves her Undercover tent. She also had a smart strategy for researching portable canopies. Find out how Hilary found the right craft tent for her needs, and why she loves the Undercover tent.
The Quik Shade Instant Canopy comes in a few models with different features and price points, and the commercial style is suitable for use at shows. If you purchase a Quik Shade Instant Canopy, do be sure to order a model that is 10x10, white, and has straight legs. The colored canopies with splayed legs are not ideal for craft shows, in my opinion, because they don't make the best use of your space, and it is hard to attach sidewalls to tents with splayed legs.
The King Canopy is priced higher than the Ez Up tent, but lower than the Trimline. It is a strong commercial portable tent that is well liked by many professional craft artists.
The Trimline Canopy, available from flourish.com, is a pricier option. Prices for this portable canopy start at approximately $900; however, this canopy is well loved by many professional craft artists, particularly those who have a well established business and do many outdoor shows each year and, therefore, require a canopy that stands up to a lot of use.
Light Dome Tent
Light Dome tents are also pricier tents. The prices start at $850 for the frame, canopy and 4 side walls. Craft artists who use the Light Dome tent say this is a sturdy tent and a good investment in your business. Like the Trimline Canopy, the Light Dome canopy is typically used by established craft artists who do several outdoor shows each year.
If you are selling at an outdoor booth that has an irregular shape, you may want to consider using a white umbrella for shade. Here are several things to consider when buying a white market umbrella for your booth.
A 5x10 canopy is another alternative if you are dealing with an irregular booth on a regular basis. They are not as readily available as the standard 10x10 models, but they do exist. Here's one company that offers white 5x10 outdoor canopies.
There are some basics that I believe everyone should look for in a craft tent. Here's a list of questions everyone should ask themselves before buying a a particular brand and model of canopy.
Confused about choosing the best craft tent for your needs? Download my free, printable craft tent comparison chart to organize your research and choose the best craft tent for you.
Budget can be a big factor when deciding which craft tent to buy, especially if you're just starting out. Portable canopies can be purchased at every price range from about $50 to $1000 and more.
We all certainly need to live within our means, but cost shouldn't be the only consideration when buying a craft tent. Of course, the quality of the tent will vary with the price of the tent, and the model that will best serve your needs depends on several factors.
To choose a canopy that best meets your needs ask yourself the following:
If you will be participating in many outdoor shows, it makes sense to invest a little more in your portable canopy.
If you are doing a couple of outdoor shows, but you are not completely certain whether you will commit to selling at outdoor craft shows for the long term, then you may want to look at a more inexpensive tent until you determine whether selling at outdoor shows is the best direction for your business.
Almost all craft artists who sell at outdoor shows face weather issues at some point. However, some locations are more prone to inclement weather than others.
If you will be attending shows in an area that is known for rainy, windy or other weather related issues, you may want to put extra thought into considering how well your tent will stand up to the elements.
Craft tents fall into a huge range of prices. They span price points from being quite easily affordable for many people to being a major investment in your business. The primary features you need to look for in a canopy (in my opinion) are a white, 10 x 10 canopy with straight, not splayed legs, and those basic features can be found whether you are able to spend $100 or $1000 on your tent.
Don't feel you have to buy a top of the line canopy when you are first starting to sell at craft shows, particularly if doing so would break your budget. Look at starting with a mid-level tent, one that is professional looking, meets your needs, but still fits within your budget.
Once your business becomes more established, if you feel you need a more high end tent, start to look around for deals on those tents. You will have more contacts once you've done several shows, and one of those contacts may be able to help you find a high end tent for a good price.
Some tents are known for being quite easy to set up alone; others require a little more effort to set up. Those who do craft shows alone need to look for a tent that can be easily set up by one person.
That being said, any time my husband or I have seen someone struggling to put up a craft tent on their own, we have always helped out. At any of the shows I have attended, although people have been focused on their own booths, they were always friendly, and there always seemed to be a helping hand available if someone really needed one.
Practice setting up your new tent in your backyard before you go to a show.
If you are going to be at the show alone, practice setting up the tent alone; if you will have a helper, practice with your helper.
Popular tents like the EZ UP Tent and the Caravan Canopy are generally simple to put up, but if your tent is new, it helps to practice setting it up a couple of times before your first show. That way you will know exactly how to put up your tent, and you will avoid any surprises on the day of your first show with your new tent.
Before you decide to buy a specific brand of canopy, find out the dimensions of the tent when it is folded, and ensure it will fit in your vehicle. This check is particularly important if you drive a small vehicle.
Also, consider the weight of your craft tent; there is a balance to be found between durability (heavier tents) and portability (lighter tents). The right balance for you will depend on how much wear and tear your tent will need to endure, and how heavy of a tent you can manage.
You might be wondering if you even need to buy a craft tent. Here are a few things to consider:
Renting a craft tent is often surprisingly expensive.
Some people consider renting a 10 x 10 canopy instead of buying one. However, the cost of renting a 10 x 10 white canopy is often close to the cost of buying your own canopy. Do check your local party planning or rental center if you're not certain that you want to commit to buying a tent, but don't be surprised if the cost to rent a craft tent is quite high compared with the cost to buy one.
Not sure if you really need to invest in a tent at this point? These tips on when to buy a craft tent will help you think through that decision.
There is some variation in the features of popular craft tents. As you compare different brands of 10 x 10 canopies, look for the following features, and consider whether they are necessary for you to assess how well each tent meets your needs:
A white canopy normally works best for shows. Some juried art shows specify that your canopy must be white. Colored canopies can make your booth area hot and dark and can affect the perceived color of your items.
You might be starting to feel overwhelmed by all this craft tent buying information.
I've created a convenient, downloadable Craft Tent Comparison Chart to help you keep all of this information straight when you are researching portable canopies. It's really not that complicated once you get your information in order. You can learn more and download the chart from the page above.
Your tent will need to protect you, your customers and your inventory from the rain at outdoor shows. Some portable canopies do better than others when it comes to keeping out the rain. Here are a few tricks to help keep the inside of your craft booth dry:
If you do want to Scotchgard your tent, be sure to spray a small, inconspicuous test area first to ensure there are no problems. Read any care information that came with your tent to ensure Scotchgarding is okay, and follow the instructions on the product carefully. If you have a colored canopy, keep in mind that Scotchgarding can slightly alter the color of the fabric. Also, be certain that the fabric is completely dry before you pack it away.
You can prevent water from pooling in those areas by eliminating the slack in the canopy. If you place a hula hoop or a bent pool noodle between the frame and the canopy fabric at each corner of your portable canopy, it will take up any slack in the fabric and reduce or eliminate the problems caused by water pooling on the roof. If you use a pool noodle, bend it in a U shape with the curved bottom part of the U pointing toward the center of the tent, and secure each end between the frame (on each side of the corner) and the canopy fabric.
It is absolutely necessary to secure your canopy with weights so it does not blow away. Although most portable canopies come with stakes for anchoring the tent to the ground, there will be many situations when you will not be able to stake it to the ground, either because you are set up on cement, or because you are not allowed to use stakes.
People have come up with plenty of ingenious ways to create tent weights. You can buy ready-made tent weights for about $40 to $60, or you can make your own weights with PVC pipes filled with concrete and a ring bolt secured in the top so you can suspend the weight from the top of each leg.
Whatever type of tent weights you choose, keep in mind that most people recommend you have at least 40 pounds of weight on each corner of your tent, and some craft show organizers require you to have your tent weighted in this way.
If you have difficulty lifting heavy weights, consider dividing your weights into two 20 pound weights for each leg rather than using a single 40 pound weight on each leg. The lighter weights will be easier to manage.
Also, ensure that your weights are secured carefully so they do not create their own safety hazard. Make sure they cannot swing freely if they are suspended, and ensure they do not create a trip hazard if you have weighted your tent from the base of the legs.
Remember that side walls can cause your tent to be more prone to blowing around in the wind, so you will need to be extra careful about wind when you have your side walls up.
Here's a primer on choosing tent weights for your canopy. They really are an essential part of an outdoor booth. You can make your own, or buy them ready-made for a reasonable price.
Phew! Now that you're an expert on craft tents, you're ready to make an informed purchase. There are several retailers that sell portable canopies. Here are a few popular places to check out:
Amazon carries Ez Up Tents, Caravan Canopies, King Canopy, Quik Shade Instant Canopies, and other brands of white canopies suitable for use at shows.
Sam's Club and Costco also carry popular models of white 10 x 10 portable canopies at competitive prices.
If you buy your canopy online, read the product description carefully to ensure you are buying the exact tent that will meet your needs, and be aware of any shipping fees and import duty you may need to pay if you are purchasing from another country, as well as the store's return policies.