How to save money on Tent Rental

The best way to save money when renting a tent is to rent a self-install tent (or canopy). You provide all the labor (not the tent company) so you save a good sum of money (typically about half).

Below are links to two pages that make up the instructions for installing a 20 x 30 Canopy. The instructions are basically the same for a 20 x 20 Canopy with one less center pole and two fewer side poles. Just click on the links to view them (or copy and paste them into your browser).

Remember to measure the area the Canopy will be installed in. A 20 x 20 will require approximately 28' x 28' because the stakes are four feet from the tent on four sides. A 20 x 30 needs 28' x 38'.

CLICK HERE For Canopy Instructions:HOW TO SET UP A CANOPY (Page 1)


Following are some guidelines for installing a canopy:

You want to have a minimum of two people involved when you start the actual install. This will make it easier when you unroll the vinyl top and when you begin to put the side poles up. The installation should take two people about an hour in optimal conditions (no rain or wind).

Check out the Canopy installation area for low hanging tree branches, reasonably level (stakeable) ground, sprinkler lines, and power lines (for when you lift the center pole(s). It is much easier to relocate the Canopy before installation starts.

To start, you spread the tarp on the ground where the tent will be erected (a canopy is a type of tent, so I will just call it a tent) . The tarp keeps the tent top clean (for your event) and helps avoid abrasions (which you may be charged for).

The next step is to spread the tent top out on top of the tarp. Open the tent bag by loosening the cinch ropes and slide the bag off the tent. Unroll the top on the tarp and spread it out. Pull the fabric taught from two corners on the same side. Do the same from the other side so that you form the rectangular shape of the tent. There are generally ropes attached to the tent top which show where the stakes should go. Each corner should have two ropes (& 2 stakes). Along the middle parts of the top there should be a rope about every ten feet (with 1 stake each).

Install Note: It Helps to lay out all stakes and poles on the ground around the tent top before preparing to lift the top so everything is close at hand.

The stakes are hammered (larger hammers are better) into the ground about 4' away from the edge of the tent and should be lined up with the rope. The corner stakes should line up with the edge of the tent so that the rope, tent, and stake form a straight line. The two stakes on a corner will form a line down both edges of the tent (these two stakes will also form a ninety degree angle). Lining the corner stakes up like this will ensure the tent top pulls tight between the adjacent corners.

The side poles are two pieces which fit together by sliding one into the other and lining the button up with the hole to lock them. The center pole (or poles) are four pieces and they fit one into the other making a much larger pole. One type of center pole has an elastic bungee cord running through it so it has to go together properly.

Now the fun part: Starting with the four corners, put the pin at the tip of the sidepole through the grommet in the tent top. Angle the bottom of the pole diagonally towards the center of the tent. While holding tension on the pole, grab the tie-down rope and put the loop over the hook on the stake and slide the slider up the rope to apply some tension (do the same with the other rope and stake-there are 2 on every corner). Your helper will be doing the same thing diagonally across from you so that the tent top is balanced between the poles. Now, quickly go to the other corners and do the same thing.

The tent top should now be balanced between the four corners. Put all the rest of the sidepoles in with the bottoms tipped towards the center of the tent - all ropes should be put on the stakes as you go.

The center pole(s) can now be put in. Push the tarp you started with out of the way as you go under the tent with the pole, pin first. Carefully aim the pin through the grommet hole in the middle of the tent then lift the fabric with the pole until the pole is verticle. Put any other center poles in. If the pole cannot go completely up, you may have to loosen some ropes.

Straighten all the side poles. When you lift them to the verticle position, the rope will tighten more than you could do it by hand. Do not force the pole up if it seems extremely difficult. The rope which goes to the stake is probably too tight - loosen it a little and try again. When all the poles are straight up with ropes going to the stakes you are ready to party!

There is one other smaller rope which I find not too many people use. It is called a "jump rope" and it is attached close to the grommet hole where the poles go through the tent top. These are supposed to be tied around the side poles and center pole(s) so they don't jump out of the holes and poke through the top when the wind blows.

Guidelines for taking a canopy down: (two people make it much easier)

To take the tent down, spread the tarp on the ground under the tent - See Take Down Note below. The best way to do this is to start at one side and stretch out the tarp from the edge of the tent towards the center pole(s). One person can then lift the center pole while the other quickly pushes the tarp under it. After the tarp is under the center pole(s), it can then easily be spread out under the rest of the tent.

Take Down Note: When spreading the tarp, angle the side poles towards the middle of the tent and put the bottom of the pole on top of the tarp to keep the wind from blowing it out of position. Angling the side poles this way will also take pressure off the center pole, allowing it to be lifted so the tarp can pass under it.

Once the tarp is spread out, take down the center pole(s) - don't forget to untie the jump ropes first - then all side poles. From adjacent corners, pull the tent top towards the other corners (folding it in half). Make sure all ropes are put on top of the tent. Continue folding in half until the top can fit in the bag (lay the bag out nearby as a guide). Now you should have a long folded strip. Starting at one end, tightly roll the tent making sure the ropes are inside it. If this part went well, the tent should fit into the bag. Stand the roll on end and slide the bag down on it until the bottom of the bag touches the top, then flip the bag and tent and pull the bunched up bag the rest of the way over the tent. Pull the cinch ropes to close the bag top.

All that is left is to fold the tarp, disassemble the poles and put them in their bag, and remove the stakes.

The take down should take two people about half the time it took to install.

If all this seems like too much work, you can delegate the task while acting as the expert supervisor using the instructions above. Of course you always have the option of having the Tent Company come in to install a commercial pole tent or frame tent.

Contact Mark Saponaro at or visit for more information


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