Tent weights are absolutely essential for outdoor craft shows. If you don't want to worry about your tent taking flight in a bit of wind, you must properly secure it.
It is surprising how easily just a small amount of wind can send a craft tent sailing across the street, particularly when you put up one or more of the side walls. A securely weighted tent will ensure your canopy does not take off and damage your inventory or the inventory of craft artists near you, or injure someone at the show. In fact, some shows wisely require that all tents must be properly weighted.
Here are several solutions to anchor your tent at a show.
The two primary ways to secure your tent are with weights or tent anchors.
Tent anchors can be driven into the ground and then secured to your tent to keep it fixed in place, just like you would secure a camping tent. Some brands of craft tents come with stakes included.
You will be able to anchor your portable canopy at some, but not all of the craft shows you attend. Many outdoor craft shows are street festivals where the tents are set up on cement, so tent stakes are out of the question. Even some shows that are held in parks, where craft tents are set up on grass, forbid the use of tent anchors in the grass.
Because you will often be unable to anchor your tent, you must have a strategy to weight your tent. Of course, you can anchor your tent as added security when you are able to, but do know that tent anchors do not take the place of canopy weights.
Tent weights can be used in any situation and on any surface. While they can be heavy to transport (Most people recommend that you use about 40 pounds of weight on each leg of your craft tent, and some shows require even more than that per leg), harder to set up, and take up more space when packed than tent anchors, they really are more practical than tent anchors and a necessary part of your craft show booth.
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Suspended vs. Secured to Base of Leg
Canopy weights are either suspended from the top corners of your outdoor canopy or secured to the base of each leg.
I won't even pretend to understand the physics of suspended canopy weights vs. weights that sit on the ground (if someone does understand the physics of suspended weights vs. weights on the ground, I'd love your input), so I'm not going to get into the pros and cons of weighting your tent with hanging weights vs. using weights secured to the base of your tent legs from the point of view of how each system reacts to the wind.
Some craft shows have specific requirements about the type of tent weights you must use. Therefore, my suggestion would be to research the requirements of craft shows that you plan to attend. Find the rules for vendors published on their websites, determine their requirements for weighting craft tents (they will likely specify type of weights required and amount of weight per leg) and ensure you buy or make a system of tent weights that will comply with the rules of any show you are likely to attend.
Homemade vs. Store Bought
Plenty of professional craft artists use their own homemade systems for weighting tents. Homemade canopy weights are typically slightly less expensive than store bought weights, and they can be custom made to specifically meet your particular needs.
Store bought weights, on the other hand, are extremely convenient, and they are typically not that much more expensive to buy when compared with the cost of making your own tent weights.
Although I personally prefer store bought weights, plenty of craft artists make their own, and it is a reasonable option. Below, I have described both homemade and store bought tent weight options so you can determine for yourself which types of weights are best for you.
If you plan to buy your tent weights, there are a few types of weights on the market and features to consider and compare.
If you plan to make your own tent weights, there are a few solutions that people have used
PVC Pipe Weights
PVC pipes filled with concrete (or sometimes sand), are used by many professional craft artists.
To make your own PVC pipe tent weights you will need:
To make your own PVC pipe weights, simply fill a length of 3-4 inch PVC pipe with concrete (Quikrete is a popular brand and is available at many home building supply stores). Look for white PVC pipe, which will blend in with your white craft tent better than other colors.
The length and diameter of the pipe you choose will depend on how much you want the pipe to weigh. Although many people aim for 40 pounds of weight on each leg, you may want to create 8 pipes that weigh 20 pounds each (i.e. two weights for each leg) instead of 4 pipes that weigh 40 pounds. 20 pound weights will be easier to manage than 40 pound weights. If you go to a home building supply store that provides good customer service, they will be able to help you do the math on the amount of concrete (and, therefore, the size of PVC pipe) you will need to create the amount of weight you want.
Secure end caps onto one end of each PVC tube. Mix the concrete according to directions, and pour into the PVC pipes.
After you pour the mixed concrete in the pipe, and before it sets, insert a ring bolt into each weight, which will allow you to hang the weights from the corners of your tent. Many people use bungee cords to hang their weights. I have used these for hanging weights in a pinch, although you do need to be extremely careful to ensure they are secured well.
In addition to hanging the weights from the top corners of your tent, you can also secure them to the legs with some white velcro wrapped around the pipe and the leg to prevent the weights from swinging around.
Large buckets are less attractive than white PVC pipe, but they are a simple and inexpensive solution.
Some craft artists simply fill large buckets with sand or water and suspend those buckets from the corners of their craft tents.
If you are filling buckets with water, you'll need 5 gallons of water for 40 pounds of weight. If you are filling buckets with sand, you'll need about 3.2 gallons of sand to create a 40 pound weight.
One benefit of filling large buckets with water or sand is that, if you know you will have access to water or sand at the show, you can fill them up at the location and avoid carrying a lot of extra weight. However, you will not have access to water or sand at every show, and filling your weight buckets at the show will add one more step to your set up process.
A few craft artists like to bring along a few large buckets to use as additional back up weights on particularly windy days. They may use store bought weights, or another homemade system as their primary tent weights, and they simply add water or sand filled buckets to the system on days when they feel they need a little extra weight.
Because this type of canopy weight is not very attractive, you will probably want to find a way to cover them up. A simple solution is to hang curtains from each corner of your craft tent, and tie off the curtains so that the buckets are hidden within the folds of the curtains. You can use this solution to hide any suspended tent weights, but because the bucket tent weights are particularly unattractive, I'd strongly suggest finding a way to hide the buckets.