Portable Canopies Buying Guide for Craft Shows

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 information (The worst, I think, was the craft show organizer who suggested I buy a $3000 tent - Completely unreasonable for someone who was, at the time, just doing a few small shows).

Don't worry! There's no need to panic or feel frustrated. I've gathered all of the information you need to make a smart buying decision. The comprehensive articles on this page will show you exactly what you need to know to choose the right canopy for your needs.

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 what 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. The information here will show you what you need to consider when buying a portable canopy and help you choose the brand and model that is best for your needs and budget.

On This Page...

Everything you wanted to know about buying a portable canopy for craft shows.

If you don't want to read the whole page, and you're looking for some specific information about craft tents, click one of the links below to jump down to a specific topic.

Or, if you want to get a full understanding about choosing the right tent for your booth, keep reading through the entire page.

Popular Brands

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, which will give you an idea of which brand (or brands) is most popular at shows you might attend.

Tent brands that are commonly used by professional craft artists:


Caravan Canopy

EZ UP Tents

Quik Shade Instant Canopy

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 through many shows. Here are a few things to consider if you're thinking about buying a Caravan Canopy.

Quik Shade Instant Canopy
The Quik Shade Instant Canopy comes in a few different 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, with straight legs. The colored canopies with splayed legs are not ideal for craft shows, in my opinion.

King Canopy
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.

Trimline Canopy
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.

White Umbrella
If you are selling at an outdoor booth that has an irregular shape, you may want to consider using a white umbrella. Here are several things to consider and look for when buying a white market umbrella for your booth.

5x10 Portable Canopies
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.


Ensure Your Craft Tent Meets Your Needs

Budget

Portable canopies can be purchased at every price range from about $50 to $1000 and more. 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:

  1. Will you be participating in several outdoor shows on a regular basis?

    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.

  2. Based on the location of the shows you will participate in, will you likely encounter weather issues (particularly wind and rain)?

    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.

  3. How much can you afford to invest in a portable canopy?

    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.

General Considerations With Display Tents

  1. Consider whether you will be setting up your outdoor shade canopy alone most of time.
  2. 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.

  3. Practice setting up your new tent in your backyard before you go to a show.
  4. 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.

  5. Consider the portability of your canopy.
  6. 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. Also, consider the weight of your craft tent; there is a balance to be found between durability (heavier tents) and portability (lighter tents).

  7. Renting a craft tent is often surprisingly expensive.
  8. 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.

  9. When to Buy Craft Tents
  10. Determine when to buy a tent. A good canopy can represent a fairly large business expense. These tips on when to buy a craft tent will help you make that decision.


Comparing Different Brands of Portable Canopies

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:

Side Walls

  • Side walls are extremely useful for keeping out rain and sun at outdoor shows.
  • They are also useful for blocking any unattractive views near your booth and creating a focused space to display your items.
  • Sidewalls are useful to have when photographing your booth for submissions to juried art shows. The side walls help to focus attention on your booth and away from any outside distractions.
  • Not all portable canopies come with side walls. Read the description carefully to determine whether your tent comes with side walls or if you will have to buy them separately.
  • Some tents, and some sets of side walls come with three side walls, and others come with four.

    Three side walls are all you need during a craft show. You will be able to close off the back and sides of your tent, leaving the front open for customers to enter.

    Four side walls are very useful if you intend to do multi-day outdoor shows. If you have four side walls you will be able to completely close up your tent to leave it up overnight.

  • Side walls come in zippered and velcro styles, and some attach with both zipper and velcro. Zippered side walls fit more snugly to the tent, but velcro side walls can be easier to put up.
  • Although side walls are extremely useful, they can also cause problems in even very light wind. Side walls catch the wind and can make your tent more apt to blow away in the wind if you do not properly weight your tent, so do be sure to choose some type of tents weights to use with your portable canopy.
  • Don't confuse side walls with mesh display panels. Mesh display panels can be attached to the sides of your tent and used to hang items. Side walls are not designed to support the weight of hanging items; their function is to protect everything in the tent from the elements.

Color

  • 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.

Size, Height and Leg Style

Craft Tent Comparison Chart

Craft Tent Comparison Chart
Click the image to download the free Comparison Chart
(requires Adobe Reader to view)

  • A 10 x 10 canopy is best for most people because the majority of booth spaces are 10x10.
  • Tents with splayed legs are not ideal for use at shows. These tents do not always fit well inside a standard 10 x 10 space. They are typically 10 feet square at the base and 8 feet square at the top, which means you do not get to make full use of your allotted booth space.

    Also, you can't usually fully enclose your tent with side walls if you use a tent with splayed legs, so you will miss out on all of the benefits of being able to use side walls with your tent if you choose a model that has splayed legs.

Canopy Material

  • You may need to prove that your canopy is fire retardant, so look for that feature before you buy a tent for craft shows. Some outdoor tents have a tag stating that they are fire retardant right on them, but do keep any documentation that comes with your canopy in case you are asked for proof that it is fire retardant.

An Easy Way to Compare Tents

I have created a convenient, downloadable Craft Tent Comparison Chart to help you keep all of this information straight when you are researching portable canopies. You can learn more and download the chart from the following page: Craft Tent Comparison Chart


Protection from Rain and Wind

Protecting Your Portable Canopy from Rain

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:

Notice the hula hoops at the top. They pull
the canvas tight so rain doesn't pool, and
the craft tent stays dry.
Hula hoop to keep rain out of craft tent

  • Some people scotchgard their tents once a year to help make them more water resistant.

    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.

  • Often leaks are a direct result of rain water pooling on your canopy, particularly in the corners where the fabric tends to be a bit loose in some brands.

    Hula hoops keep the tent dry on a
    rainy day at a craft show
    Pool noodle to keep rain out of craft tents

    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.

  • On days that will definitely be rainy, some craft artists put a sheet of clear plastic between the frame of the tent and the fabric canopy in order to prevent leaks. I have not tried this strategy myself, so I can't personally vouch for how well it works, but some people say it works quite well on rainy days.
  • You may want to bring a couple of clear shower curtains to hang from the front of your booth on really rainy days. Tie or clip the curtains back (just like you would tie back regular curtains on a window) on each side of your tent to create an opening for customers to enter your booth.

Tent Weights - Protect Your Canopy from Wind


Gravity Weight Tubes

Fillable Weighted Feet

E-Z Up Weight Bags

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.


Where to Buy Portable Canopies

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.com 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.


Caravan Canopy

EZ UP Tents

Quik Shade Instant Canopy
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