Frame Tent vs. Pole Tent: What’s the Difference?

Frame Tent vs. Pole Tent: What’s the Difference?
January 14, 2022

Whether you’re planning a big event like a wedding or a more casual gathering, buying or renting a party tent is a great idea. This structure will protect your guests from the sun and the rain and give the space an extra touch of class.

When looking for a party tent, it’s important to understand your options. Frame tents and pole tents differ in price and structure, and the right one for you will depend on various factors. The following guide will explain the difference between the two and explore the pros and cons of using a frame tent vs. a pole tent. By the time you’re done, you’ll be able to make an educated decision about the best choice for your needs.

What is a Pole Tent?

Pole tents are held up with center poles and side poles. They’re covered with a top that is held in place with ratchet straps on the outside of the tent. These straps are attached to long stakes that are driven into the ground.

The outward pressure is what pulls the poles into place, so the tent remains strong. The center poles raise the middle of the tent canopy, keeping it taught.

Benefits of a Pole Tent?

Pole tents are the most traditional type of party tent and are an economical option. They’re easy to set up and typically only require two or three people to complete the job. However, you will have to take care to be sure your tent is anchored correctly.

Potential Drawbacks

Since pole tents are held in place with large stakes, they typically must be set up on grass. If you need a tent that you can put up on asphalt or concrete, this won’t be the right option for you.

Space can also be an issue. The center poles can cut back on the room to move around inside the tent, and the ropes and stakes can restrict movement around the outside. You’ll also need a large enough space to accommodate both the size of the tent and the outside brackets.

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What is a Frame Tent?

A frame tent is made of aluminum or steel pipes and fittings. They’re assembled from the ground up. These freestanding tents do not require any center poles or stakes.

When assembling a frame tent, you’ll start by laying out the frame on the ground and then placing the poles into fittings. Once the frame is assembled, the top is pulled over the framework, and the entire tent is lifted into the air before the legs are attached. Finally, the top is completely secured, and the tent is anchored down.

Benefits of a Frame Tent?

One of the biggest advantages of a frame tent is that it gives you more flexibility. You can place a frame tent on a concrete patio, blacktop, deck, or a variety of other locations. When staking isn’t an option, the tents can be held in place with water barrels or concrete ballast.

Since there are no center poles, you’ll have more options for laying out the interior of the tent. You’ll also only need about three feet around the outside of the tent for anchoring. This gives you more flexibility than a pole tent, which needs about 10-feet of extra space around the perimeter.

Potential Drawbacks

Frame tents tend to be a bit more expensive than pole tents, which can be a drawback if you’re on a tight budget. However, many people find that the advantages are well worth the extra cost.

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Frame Tent vs. Pole Tent: Which is Right for You?

Once you understand the primary differences between pole and frame tents, there are some simple questions you can ask yourself to determine which is best for you.

1. Where will you place your tent?

If you’re planning an event where you have plenty of space on the grass to set up a tent, a pole tent might be a good option. However, if you’re tight on space or you need to place your tent on a hard surface, then you’ll want to choose a frame tent. You can also set up a frame tent right up against your home or another building. This is not an option for pole tents.

2. What type of event are you planning?

Pole tents are a great option for short-term events – like weddings, parties, or trade shows. If you plan to keep your tent set up for a longer period of time, a frame tent may be a better option. Since they aren’t dependent on anchor ropes and tension to hold them up, they’re more stable over the long term.

3. How much space do you need under your tent?

Pole tents are often available in larger sizes – with some having as much as 200 feet underneath. However, the center poles can restrict the set-up. So, you’ll want to think about the layout of your event before making your decision.

4. Are you on a strict budget?

Whether you’re buying or renting, pole tents are less expensive than frame tents. While it’s usually not a huge difference, if every penny counts, this may impact your decision.

5. How many people are available to help with set-up?

If you only have a couple of people to help you with the set-up of your tent, you may need to choose a pole tent or hire a company to help you with assembly. Frame tent set-up can be more complex and takes longer, so the more people you have to help you out, the better off you’ll be.

6. Are aesthetics important to you?

Many people love the sweeping effect a pole tent creates, as well as the higher ceilings inside. If you’re planning a formal wedding or another type of event where the external aesthetic is important, then you may want to consider a pole tent.

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Is it Better to Buy or Rent a Tent?

Whether you want a party tent for personal use or you plan to use it for business, you’ll want to start by weighing the pros and cons of a frame tent vs. a pole tent. Next, you’ll need to decide whether you want to buy or rent.

If you’re planning a single event, like a wedding, then renting might seem like the obvious answer. However, there are so many different ways to use a tent—you might decide you would rather have one available for multiple occasions.

A tent can come in handy for tailgating, backyard barbecues, birthday parties, and more. When deciding whether buying or renting is right for you, there are some pros and cons to consider.

Benefits of Renting a Tent

If you're only planning to use your tent once, then renting is less expensive. You also won't have to worry about setup or tear-down since the rental company will take care of it for you. Some rental companies may also offer a package deal, allowing you to get discounts on chairs or other items.

Potential Drawbacks

While renting a tent is certainly convenient, it comes with a cost. You'll only be able to choose from the tents the rental company has available, and the set-up and tear-down isn't free. Whether you have to pay for it separately or it's bundled into the total cost, you will end up paying for the labor. You'll also have to pay for a rental every time you need a tent.

Benefits of Buying a Tent

Many people decide to rent a party tent simply because they don’t realize how affordable it can be to purchase one. If you’re going to use your tent frequently, the initial cost will quickly become less than the cost of repeat rentals. You could even make money by renting it out when you’re not using it.

In addition, buying a tent allows you to be confident of its quality. When renting, you’re never quite sure what you’re getting until the day it arrives. You’re also at the mercy of the delivery company and will have to plan your set-up around their schedule.

Finally, when you purchase a party tent, you’ll be able to choose all the features that are important to you, and you can even customize it however you want.

Potential Drawbacks

If you’re on a tight budget, the upfront cost of buying your own tent can be a bit intimidating. Since you don’t have the rental company to do the set-up, you’ll also need to gather some people to help you or hire a company to do it for you. When your event is over, you’ll need to clean your tent and put it away. This means you’ll need to find a safe place – like your garage, basement, or a steel shed – to store it when you’re not using it.

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Weigh the Pros and Cons Before Your Next Event

If you’ve got an event coming up, there are some important decisions for you to make. Start by weighing the pros and cons of a frame tent vs. pole tent, then decide whether buying or renting is right for you. You may be surprised to find that purchasing your own tent is a smart investment that will pay off for years to come.

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