As anyone who participates in art events knows, your tent is one of your most valuable (and expensive) pieces of equipment.
That tent is all that stands between you and the elements.
Its job is to protect you and your products from sun, wind, and rain.
If you read my post A Buyer’s Guide to Choosing the Best Vendor, Craft Fair Tent, then you already know that you want that tent even in the sun!
Honestly, even if you’ve already bought your tent, it’s a great story!
And anything you can do to make your life on the road easier along the way is great, too!
So, no matter what quality tent you have, that tent is only as good as the care you give it. And there are things you can do to make even the lowest quality tent last longer and work harder.
Before you set up that tent for the first time at an event, set it up in your yard. Or your neighbor’s yard, or your Mom’s. You want to pick a place where you can leave that tent up for a couple of days.
First, they rarely arrive with the canopy already on the frame, and with good reason.
A tent that is folded up with the canopy still attached will pinch that canopy. That pinching can create small rips in the canopy. And once there are rips or small tears, it doesn’t matter how waterproof that tent is, it will leak now.
But more on that later.
Make sure it doesn’t have any rips, tears, or holes. The easiest thing to do is to set it up, stand under it on a sunny day, and then check to see if you can see any light peeking through anywhere.
If you find any tears, the first thing you do is contact your supplier and work on resolving the quality issue.
But what if your event is just days away, and they can’t replace your tent quickly enough?
This tape is geared toward extreme weather and can be used to make repairs to your tent canopy if necessary.
It’s not ideal to have to use a damaged canopy since you want to project a professional and well-maintained image.
You may want to keep some of this tape in your Murphy Kit. You never know when something will happen while you’re on the road and you need a quick fix.
I like to be prepared for anything that can happen on the road.
Spray water up and over the tent while someone is under it.
Have your assistant watch for wet spots, drips, or any evidence that the tent leaks.
My best tip ever is about how to make your tent truly 100% waterproof.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that most tent manufacturers have different ideas about what waterproof means.
Some will call their tent waterproof, but water seeps through in just thirty minutes of mild rain. Other so-called waterproof tents leak at the seams.
The trick is to use a waterproofing sealant spray on the inside of your entire canopy. This one is really good.
I have several friends who have used Atsko brand, and they’re very happy with the results.
This Rust-oleum spray is the one that we used. We love it.
Our tent survived torrential rains without a drip under the canopy.
Once your waterproofing treatment has cured, you can take down your tent.
You’ll have to make that choice before you pack that tent away.
The problem with that is that when we pack up that tent, and it’s all secure, that canopy gets pinched. So, we’re risking putting holes in the tent by leaving the canopy attached to the frame.
Most events start early in the morning, and I’m not a morning person. So I’m not much help at all at getting that tent setup.
Plus, he often does events alone since we have other family and professional obligations that I take care of while he’s away.
We just regularly inspect the tent for issues so that we can take care of issues while they are small.
But now that you’ve tested your tent and waterproofed it, you’re ready to put it away until setting up at the location.
Now, let’s talk about how to secure your tent in all circumstances.
Nearly every tent will come with at least plastic stakes and nylon guidelines for tying down your tent when you’re on grass.
I recommend using these no matter how nice you think the weather is going to be.
If you’re expecting windy weather, we’ve found it’s best to upgrade our stakes. I’ve had a plastic stake snap clean off at the hook, leaving a guide rope flapping in the wind.
Upgrading to a decent quality aluminum stake will offer you some extra security on a windy day.
Keep extras around in case you need to double up, or you can lend a spare to a neighbor.
A lot of our vendor friends swear by using these spiral anchors instead of tent stakes.
We’ve borrowed some (ours were NOT in our kit for some reason… grrr), and we loved them!
We’ve absolutely decided we’ll be switching to these for the next show season!
We don’t use these for every show. Usually, we use the nylon, and we’re perfectly happy with them.
But some events are on hills where it’s SUPER windy, or it could be the windier season.
When we know we’re going to test that tent, we use the ratchet straps and use them in place of the nylon.
Another way to get some extra security is to add weights to your setup. Stake down your tent, then weight it down with tent weights. Sometimes, you’re on a hard surface like a parking lot, so you’re not able to stake your tent down.
That’s when these weights can save the day.
A lot of DIY friendly crafters and artists might make their own weights. We had some sand-filled PVC pipe that we strapped to the tent legs with bungee cords.
They worked fine, although they’re a bit unwieldy and slid around if the tent was bumped.
You can get weights that are essentially sand bags that are shaped to wrap around the tent leg and secure with a strap of some sort.
The canvas is more durable than some of the vinyl versions on the market.
You can also use the disk weights.
One friend uses two sets of these interlocking weights for her tent. She loves that she can use one set, or they’ll lock together for her to use two per leg.
One more way we’ve found to secure our tent is to join forces with our neighbors. Most events have vendors lined up in columns.
At one event we attended, there was a serious chance of thunderstorms with high winds late in the day.
While pondering how to keep the tent secure if the wind picked up, the vendor next to us overheard us talking. She recommended we lash our tents together.
Since we keep a stash of bungee cords in our Murphy Kit (seriously, you need one!), we were able to bungee the two legs on one side to our neighbor’s tent.
I don’t know if anyone else followed our lead, but our three tents survived the storm that arrived just as we were trying to pack away products.
By tying and weighing down each tent, then lashing them together, we set up a block of secure tents that anchored each other.
Now that your day is over, you need to take down the tent and get it packed away.
You’d think this was a simple matter of just taking the tent down, and cramming it into that carry case that probably came with it.
Yes, take it down.
If you have the carry case, you’ll maneuver the tent into it. This can be tricky with the canopy on, but it’s not much easier without it.
Some of us no longer have the carry cases though… we bought a great tent, but it had a terrible quality case with it.
The zipper and a seem both burst the second time we tried to put the tent away.
Now, you could just buy a new bag. But I haven’t found one I like, or that is durable enough to be worth the effort.
In the end, I knew I’d need to solve this another way.
So, first, we cover the folded tent with a canvas tarp to protect it from being damaged in transit. Things shift while driving, and we had a display poke a hole in some other canvas… so we decided to protect the tent.
He cut one of these down to just four foot to avoid that long 15-foot tail.
At the end of an event, I give the tent a hug to hold it compressed while he tightens the straps.
They worked great, but he likes ratchet straps better… so we use the ratchets!
All you need to do is strap it to a foldable hand truck to get the same effect as that wheeled carry bag… and with less fuss!
It folds flat when we’re at an event, so it’s not taking up space.
And we keep all of the stakes, cords, straps and other pieces of the tent in a wheeled duffel bag.
Ours is intended for transporting hockey equipment, so it’s pretty durable.
Plus, with all the pockets, we can keep things organized. I even keep the banner bar and sides for our tent in that bag.
So, there you have it! These are our best craft show tent care tips.
Take care of that tent, and may it last you for years to come!
Hi! I'm Sandy, your Head Gypsie here at Art Market Gypsy. I've been working the markets since 2003 when a friend asked me to show some jewelry I'd made at an event she was coordinating. I cobbled together what I could with the limited answers I could find to my questions, and I've been roaming art and craft events ever since. I've expanded my line to include wire and bead sculpture. I'm exploring French beading, and I've recently discovered the joy of clay! But no matter the medium, writing about those questions unique to art market vagabonds is always on my mind!
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