High Winds – Holding the Tent Down?
Have you ever visited an art fair and witnessed artists holding their tents down during high winds?
- Where they able to maintain their conversation with you?
- Was the conversation about their art, or the weather?
My Tent Criteria
I’ve been in a number fairs that had winds around 20 – 25 mph, gusts up to 35+ mph all day long. Vendors in these conditions, and for good reason, become nervous about both their tent and product.
Prior to taking the leap into art fairs with my own fine art landscape prints, I spent one summer just attending different venues and looking at the various canopies used by others, primarily photographers. I saw the lightweight canopies and the much heavier canopies, and a few in-between.
My criteria for a canopy became simple: very sturdy, even in wind, relatively easy to set up by one person, strong vinyl top and walls, easy to add options, if desired.
Lastly, I wanted the tent to feel spacious and light, not closed in and dark.
You will notice price is not a consideration.
My goal was to purchase a quality tent that met my criteria, knowing full well it was going to be more expensive than most other options.
Settled on the Flourish Trimline
After extensive research and talking with other artists, I settled on the Flourish Trimline 10×10 canopy. One photographer gave me great advice: “Buy it. You’ll never be disappointed.” How right he was.
If you aren’t familiar with Trimline tents, they immediately meet the first criteria – very sturdy.
The frame consists of steel tubular poles that snap together (5 foot sections). The top and sides are made of a tough, rip-stop 11 oz. waterproof vinyl. The walls, combined with their strong marine grade zippers, are easily added either during set-up, or during the show in the event of inclement weather.
The top comes standard with a center translucent panel, allowing light into the booth even on overcast days. In fitting with my spacious feeling requirement, the top has an arch that elevates the canopy center approximately 2 feet. Visitors do not feel claustrophobic.
An additional requirement was the ability to add options easily when needed. Admittedly, this turned out to be very important after the first year when I added the front awning and front 3-panel door. Both make it much easier to operate in the rain.
Is the Trimline easy to set up?
It takes me, by myself, approximately 30 minutes to set up the canopy, awning, and Sta-bars (side stabilizers) with the weights. It takes another 15 minutes if I’m installing the outside walls. (Setting up the panels and actual display is not included in this timeframe). I use the Easy Riser pole system in both the set-up and tear-down.
Tear-down is about the same. If I’ve used the zippered walls, then it takes about another 20-30 minutes. This is one task that goes much faster with two people. (The walls are not as flexible in the cold).
Is the Trimline heavy?
Yes it is. I keep the top canopy, sidewalls and awning all in one Sterilite plastic 27 gallon see-through bin. The metal parts (corners, connectors, etc.) are stored in a smaller, Sterilite plastic 7.5 gallon see-through bin. All the poles (and there are many) are stored and transported in four separate Flourish pole bags.
As you might imagine, the steel poles are the heaviest. Packaging these in four bags makes it much easier to handle. I use my Pro Panel “Haul it All” cart to transport everything to and from my vehicle.
How does the Trimline handle the wind and weather?
This is where the Trimline canopy excels. I’ve been in heavy rains and have remained dry, as have (most importantly) my prints. While others are holding down their tents during high winds, I simply go about the business at hand, talking with customers about my photography.
In consecutive years, I’ve come back on the Sunday morning of a 2-day autumn art show only to see the late night very high wind storm destroy lighter tents.
I weight my tent with 4-40 pound Great Weights (sand bags from Flourish), and also secure each leg with a stake (Flourish stake), when possible. These together work very well.
When I first started, I’d use only the weights, both on grass and pavement. As you may suspect, weights are the only option when set up on on a street or pavement.
One evening of a two-day show, using only the weights set up on grass, very high 60mph wind gusts blew through the art fair venue. This occurred well after the show had closed and we had departed for the day. Although the front was forecasted to come through, the strong winds were somewhat of a surprise.
My booth was set up somewhat east to west, and the winds came from the north. The left side wall was perpendicular to the wind. Combined with the Pro Panels, this wall provided a solid surface to take on the wind.
On my return Sunday morning, I noticed the wind had moved the left front corner of the booth into the booth space about 4 inches (rolled the weight). The back corners, back wall, and right side wall never moved. Many others lost much lighter tents.
I learned a lesson that
Since that time, and whenever I can, I use the stakes in combination with the weights. Never say never, but I feel confident it will take a very high, sustained wind to take this tent down. (Fortunately, I’ve not yet been in such a situation).
Visual Comparison after High Winds
The below picture shows my Trimline on at a two-day art fair, this being Sunday morning (same show, just different year than mentioned above). Strong 35-40 mph winds blew through the night. My neighbor’s tent, to the right of mine, was blown into the pines and destroyed.
Now that’s not to say that I’ll never receive damage to my Trimline in high winds. I’ve heard stories from reputable artists using Trimlines who have been unfortunate to hit those very, very high winds. As one artist explained their tent loss, they believed it was strong “straight line winds” that blew in with a force.
My own experience, I’ve had shows with winds gusting 35-45mph (and the nighttime gusts of 60 mph). Everything has remained as set-up.
And in the end, is the Trimline worth the investment?
Once again, the answer, for me, is a clear Yes.
At a recent art show, an individual approached my booth, looked at the tent and said, “You have to do a lot of art shows to make a tent like this pay.”
My response was, “I only have to do one. One very high windy show, or one very rainy show (or combination thereof), and the tent has paid for itself”.
If one values the artwork they are diplaying within their booth, then doesn’t it make sense to have a quality canopy protecting that investment?
I go back to the advice the photographer gave me: “Buy it. It is well worth the investment.”
(Editorial Note – If you are interested in additional articles about my equipment and/or experience at art shows, click on the category “Art Fair Participation” category on the bottom left, for additional articles of interest).