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Area Tent's Tent Basics 101

Posted by: Area Tent & Canvas on 02/22/2009

Throughout history, tents have provided people with temporary and transportable lodging. From ancient nomads to biblical characters, humans and their use of tents has been a mainstay in recorded history. However, as time progressed, tents were used for other popular activities. Whether then or now, tents still provide the same basic function: portable shelters.

With such a wide and colorful history, it seems important to learn about the different basic tent designs used today. The following terms may help even the most knowledgeable person learn the differences between various structures available for use today.

Tent: A temporary structure composed of a covering made of pliable materials or fabric that is supported by mechanical means such as poles, metal frames, beams, columns, arches, ropes and/or cables.

Canopy: A tent without sidewalls; usually a very small tent or awning-like structure.

Push-Pole tent or Rope and Pole Tent: A common style rental tent where the tent fabric is lifted up into position by inserting the poles underneath the fabric and using the poles to push the fabric overhead into place. Finally, the fabric is then stretched and secured to the poles and guy ropes stretched and tied to stakes driven into the ground.

Frame Tent: A tent with a frame built of lightweight pipes or tubing that has no center poles.

Clear-Span Tent: A tent with an aluminum frame support and fabric threaded into the frames, which eliminates the need for center pole or side poles. These structures generally are very large in size and are used to satisfy the need for large expanses of overhead cover.

Center Pole: The main pole that lies on the longitudinal center line of the tent and is used to hold the tent fabric up in place at its highest point.

Side Poles: The poles that are used around the perimeter of a tent to hold the fabric up in place along the eaves line-above the scallops.

Sidewalls: Detachable walls made of tent fabric, installed around the perimeter of the tent to enclose the interior space.

Stakes: A piece of wood or steel sharpened at one end driven into the ground to secure the guy ropes of the tent.


When a tent is erected and used, there are other very important considerations and factors that need to be addressed.

Wind Load: The pressure on a structure due to wind blowing on and through a tent.

Live Load: The weight superimposed on a structure by its use and occupancy; not including load from wind, snow, rain, earthquake, or dead load.

Safety Factor: A coefficient used in tent design that takes into account various uncertainties such as variations in material properties, weather, load experience, fabrication and construction tolerances. The use of appropriate safety factors is not optional.

Use these definitions to help you decide which type of tent to use for your special event.


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