Frame tent, pole tent, tension tent, sailcloth tent, or clear span structure tent? It is confusing, and it's a question I'm often asked. Often the answer depends on the event site and the individual taste of the client. For installations on patios, asphalt, or concrete, frame tents or clear span structures are the only sensible options. However, for many applications, a pole or tension tent is the logical choice.
A pole tent is anchored in the ground by staking. This maximizes the tension and creates a nice, taut appearance with high peaks. In recent years, the standard ropes on pole tents have been replaced by high tension ratchets or winches. Thus modern pole tents are often referred to as tension tents. Within this category are also found the dramatic, sweeping tents with taller poles. These are sometimes called high-peak tension tents, and offer clients wonderful interior views as well as strongly engineered tents capable of handling substantial wind, rain or snow loads. They must be staked in the ground, so grass is preferable for these tents.
A frame tent is more self-supporting, but the biggest misconception is that a frame tent doesn't need to be staked. If a gust of wind comes along, a frame tent will take off like Mary Poppins unless it's securely tethered down. To meet engineering standards, these must also be staked according to the manufacturers' guidelines. In some cases, heavy exterior weights and blocks can be substituted for normal staking. There has been significant industry and academic work on various staking issues and Sugarplum Tent Company is closely affiliated with both the International Fabrics Association International (IFAI) and the Mid-Atlantic Tent Renter's Association (MATRA) and their in-depth studies.
Another difference between frame tents and pole tents is the price. Frame tents are more time-consuming to install and often cost more, with the anchoring factored in. Another difference -- and one of concern to the client -- is the aesthetics. A pole tent has classic lines, graceful peaks and dips. It is unfettered and clean underneath. Frame tents may eliminate the need for center poles, but looking up from under a frame tent, one sees aluminum beams and structural supports.
The size of the event is another consideration. Since frame tents are usually limited to 40-feet and 50 feet wide, they can't handle a huge crowd or event. But on the other hand, they're the perfect choice for an event requiring a number of smaller tents, such as a city property with limited backyard space or mature trees. Frame tents can be used abutting one anther to form contiguous space. They can also be lined with fabric, softening the appearance of the supporting pipes.
Like pole tents, frame tents have also evolved with the introduction of the heavy-duty clear span structures. Much like buildings with integrated vinyl skins, these structures are an excellent product for heavy duty installations or in months when the weather may be an issue. The structures are self-supporting with interior beams, but no cross bars. They come in white and clear and are quite handsome as well as being one of the safest types of tents.
Sailcloth tents are elegant newcomers to the tenting arena. Inspired by the sea, the tidewater series uses natural wooden poles, sculpted peaks and rounded edges to capture the nautical craftsmanship and the great traditions of sailing. The translucence of the sailcloth fabric enhances daytime events with warm natural light and positively glows when softly illuminating for sunsets on the water. We offer a full line of nautical lighting, New England Plank dance floors and colorful pennants to compliment your open-air event space.
Bottom Line: let Sugarplum's professionals give you our best recommendation for your site & event! We have more than 20 years of experience tenting thousands of lawns and venues throughout the area.