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Vendors: All About Tents

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You can find tents at a wide variety of price points: catching a sale at a big box store you might get one for as low as $70. These are great if you are unsure of whether you want to do a lot of outdoor shows – however, like with many things, you get what you pay for.

I saw buying a tent as an investment. I knew I wanted to do a bunch of summer festivals and wanted the security that my product and I would be protected from the rain. I spoke with a bunch of tent having folks and read (so many) reviews. Finally, I decided on this tent – and I’ve been so happy with my decision!

This first fair I used dumbbells instead of sandbags as I forgot to buy sand! This tent kept me so dry in torrential downpours!

Is it the cheapest? No. Is it the lighest? No. Is it SOLID, durable and strong? Check, check and check. The first weekend I had this tent I set up was at Westboro FUSE Festival. It POURED for much of the weekend. When the downpour started I quickly threw up the four walls (velcro on the top, zippers at the seams) and my tent became a dry oasis for those still braving the festival to flock to and stay dry. I was dry, my product was dry, and the weekend was salvaged as a success.

The other thing I love about this tent combo is everything it came with: sandbags for weight, four walls (including one with a door), an additional screen wall, and a wheeled case. All I needed to buy was sand to fill the sandbags!

Thing to Consider When Purchasing a Tent

  • Level of water protection: Tents and canopies can be sunshades, water resistant or waterproof.
  • Sides: Get a tent with sides, or buy sides as an addition. Even having one or two sides up can give you (and your customers) a welcome reprieve from the sun (and rain that can sometimes go sideways). Sides also limit points of access in terms of loss prevention (theft).
  • Colour of the canopy: Tents with coloured canopies can cast a hue onto your products. White tents will appear brighter and will not cast a hue. Some shows only allow white tents/canopies.
  • Set up effort: How many people does the tent take to set up? Are you going to have that many people at shows? (Can it be done alone?) Pop-up canopies are more likely to be suitable to put up alone.
  • Cost-to-use value: Look at your budget, expected sales, and frequency you’re looking to use it.
  • Try before you buy: Not sure if you need a tent? Try renting (or borrowing) a tent to try it out.

Option: Rentals

You can also look at renting a tent. Some organizers will have an arrangement with a rental company that will handle drop off, set up, and tear down. Otherwise local party and event companies will have options. In my experience, at least in the Ottawa area, tent rentals normally start around $100 a day. That being said, these rentals will be tents of good, solid quality. Depending on your needs, this can be a good option.

Some well reviewed tents available in a range of budget options:
This one for around $130!
This one for just around $120.
This one for over $200.
My tent of choice (just over $400).

Tips for Using Tents

Whatever tent you go for, there are some basic tips to keep in mind:

  • Always set up your tent at home first before dragging it out to a big show. The first time setting up is awkward and takes significantly longer. Get to know your equipment so that you can be efficient.
  • Always, always, always secure your tent (more on this below).
  • Know whether your tent is waterproof, water-resistant, or a sunshade and plan accordingly.
  • If you’re worried about rain, consider bringing pool noodles to stop water from pooling near the corners (see picture below).
  • Consider lighting options.
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Pool noodle trick in action.

Securing Your Tent

This is the most important consideration for any outdoor show. The weather can change so quickly: a calm sunny day can get windy, or the clouds can roll in and unleash a downpour. Knowing your tent is secure gives peace of mind to you and your neighbouring vendors.

Figuring out how to secure your tent has a few variables but the first ones to consider are if you are on pavement or ground/grass and if you are allowed to use pegs. Even when on grass, some venues do not allow the use of pegs in order to protect their turf! Make sure you read your contracts and ask the organizer if you are unsure.

Methods of Securing Your Tent

  • Sandbags: (affixed with Velcro to the base of each leg). These are great as they work on any surface, don’t take up room on the floor, and don’t create tripping hazards.
  • Rubber Plate Weights: solid and durable, these were my current choice to upgrade. The downfall is the overall footprint (hello stubbed toes) and price, but they are solid, heavy, and can be stacked for additional weight.
  • Tent Pegs & Guy Lines: These are awesome for on grass (when allowed), and when done right with quality pegs, can be the most secure. However, they do create a trip hazard, and it is not always possible to use them. I got these from Costco.
  • DIY Weights: These options can range from using dumbells to cinder blocks 4L water jugs (filled) and string. These are often very cheap (or free if you already have them). However, they can be more unsightly and can pose a tripping hazard.

Still have questions? Or comments? Or thoughts about something we missed? Let us know! is an online resource that offers a comprehensive calendar of craft and vendor shows and a vendor directory. Currently serving Eastern Ontario and the National Capital Region, works to connect vendors, organizers, and shoppers with opportunities that work for them.

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