Some people like vanilla. Some like chocolate. Choosing between a frame tent and a pole tent, though, is more than a matter of taste. Each tent style has its own reasons for being great; and your final decision will be heavily influenced by venue space, time of year, the atmosphere you need to create and – of course – your budget.
Broken down to the most basic design element, pole tents need anchors to hold them up and frame tents need anchors to hold them down. But as you already know, there’s a lot more to each style than that.
Pole tents offer an elegant, sweeping roofline look that just can’t be replicated in a frame tent and many installers prefer them for their inherent simplicity. Many pole tents are also available with engineering certification for very high wind loads, making them candidates for long-term installs.
Tops for pole tents are available in just about any of today’s preferred tent materials, including translucent, blackout and even coated vinyl. They are just as flame resistant as their frame tent counterparts and can even be outfitted with kedered sidewalls for upscale events. Today’s web systems that are used in tops also help the tent maintain the necessary installation and ultimate load tensions required by the engineering – assuming the soil and staking configurations are up to the task.
Pole tents (also known as a tension tent when sizes get larger – like 40’ wide and up) require stakes around the perimeter to anchors and support the tensions applied by the out guy ropes or straps. This tensioning ultimately provides the shape to the tent and helps it withstand Mother Nature’s often fickle moods. Staking requires out guys that extend the footprint of the tent another 6’ or so all around the tent, depending on side pole height. That means a 40’x80’ pole tent will need a 52’x92’ install space. To achieve the swooping roofline and light, airy feel, pole tents – especially the larger ones – also require a row of center poles (or two rows in some tents 60’ wide or larger). These center poles add height to the roofline but also requires a little extra thought when creating the table/chair placement and determining traffic flow on the inside of the tent.
A frame tent doesn’t need tension to create the shape of the roofline. Instead, a frame tent relies on the structure provided by the poles, brackets, and sometimes cables to maintain its shape. Frame tents offer just about endless options to the rental company. They are available in a simple “west coast” design (2” diameter tubing with steel bracketry that simply quick-pin together), in a small frame with snap button connections, as a hybrid frame/keder system, and even as a structure with rotating base plates and drop-in purlins for larger set-ups.
Frame tent systems offer a variety of options for tops including solid and clear materials that let the rental company tailor the tent to the event. Frame tents can also be anchored much closer to the frame since the framework provides the structure on which the tops sit. This allows the installer to choose the best anchoring option within reason. Though the footprint of the installation area can be close to the footprint of the tent itself, be aware that there may be times that a frame tent may need to be out-guyed with stakes some distance from the perimeter of the tent. Alternately, some of today’s more advanced kedered frame tents and structure tents allow for stakes through the base plates, rendering guy lines unnecessary.
Frame tents offer a variety of options for attachment of lighting and décor, making it easier to get that perfect style for your client’s event; and today’s keder systems allow for sliding sidewalls that open and close like curtains. Many times these are so easily manipulated that the end user can decide if they want the walls open or closed for their events and make it what they want.
So whether you need a simple frame tent for an outdoor festival or an elegant twin-pole tension tent for a gala event, each style certainly has pros and cons. As an event rental professional, your customers will rely on you to recommend the best tent solution – pole tent or frame tent – for their special day.
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