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March 19, 2020Best In Tents

It's the eternal question, here in the tenting business: frame vs pole tent.

You might not think it makes much of a difference - but it does. In fact, there are a lot of important differences between pole and frame tents. In today’s post, we’ll provide you with a brief overview of a few of these facts to consider when contemplating pole tent vs frame tent or frame tent vs canopy tent. Whether you’re planning a big party, a wedding reception, or you’re looking for a commercial tent to add to your rental business’ stock, understanding these differences is important when it comes time to make a decision.

Criteria for Choosing the Right Style Tent 

Now that you know the difference between a pole tent and a frame tent, how do you decide which tent styles best suit your needs? It all boils down to how you intend to use your tent. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What kind of surface will the tent be set up on (e.g., sand, blacktop, grass, or gravel)? 
  • How much space will you have to set up the tent?
  • How many people will be attending the event?
  • Will you be serving casual snacks or a formal banquet style meal? How much room will you need for tables, seating, etc.?
  • What is your budget?

Pole Tent Features

Pole tents are one of the most popular types of tents we carry, and it’s easy to understand why. Pole tents are simple, elegant, and can be customized with a variety of sidewalls.


The hallmark feature of center pole tents is at least one central pole that serves as the structure’s primary support (larger structures may have several). You will most likely find pole tents on grassy surfaces because they require vertical staking for stability. Without the additional anchoring, the tent poles alone cannot safely bear the weight of the canopy. If rain is in the forecast, a pole tent is probably not the best choice since soggy soil isn’t conducive to secure staking.


Pole tents tend to have a distinctive peaked appearance due to the center pole, making them a good choice for formal events, such as wedding receptions. You can adorn center poles with warm white string lights, cover them in flowers, or find other creative ways to incorporate the poles of your party tent into your next event. 

Set up

One of the advantages of center pole tents is that they are relatively easy to set up. When purchasing or renting, your tent should include everything you need for setting up and securing. At American Tent, our pole tents include a basic pole package with anodized aluminum center poles and galvanized steel side poles. You should also invest in a good drop cloth to protect your tent canopy during set up and take down. When it comes to setting up your tent, enlist the help of a few handy friends (or more depending on the tent size) and follow the directions to the letter.


When to Use a Pole Tent

The stability of a pole tent is hugely dependent on how well it is staked into the ground. As we mentioned, you need dry ground that will hold anchors securely. This means that pole tents will not work on concrete or paved surfaces, such as parking lots or sidewalks. For important safety reasons, be sure to contact Diggers Hotline before driving any stakes into the ground. You never know where underground electric, gas, oil, steam, telephone, CATV, water, and sewer
Services may be located.

How to Measure for a Pole Tent

There’s a good reason for that timeless expression: measure twice, cut once. While you won’t be doing any cutting, you still want to make absolutely certain that your tent size is in alignment with the size of your venue. Keep in mind, that you’ll need enough space for not just the canopy, but also for staking. You may need as much as an additional five to six feet around the area of the tent for secure anchoring. For example, if you have a pole tent that measures 40 x 80 feet, you’ll need an additional seven feet for a stakeline. That means you’ll need an area that is at least 54 x 94 feet for your 40 x 80 tent.

Tent Capacity Chart

Anchoring Method

Staking is the tried and true method for anchoring pole tents. The number of stakes depends on the number of side poles, also known as “legs”. Drive a stake approximately 5’ away for 7’ legs, 6’ away for 8’ legs. Stakes should have 6” or less of the head exposed. The deeper the stake is driven, the better the holding strength. Stakes driven vertically have better holding strength than stakes driven at an angle.

Advantages of a Pole Tent

Pole tents are an extremely popular option for several reasons. They are usually lower in cost than frame tents and have few parts and a less complicated set up and take down. To summarize, pole tent advantages include: 

  • Quick and easy setup on grass or asphalt; 
  • Larger sizes - lengths up to 200 feet or more;
  • Budget friendly;
  • Distinct canopy appearance.

Disadvantages of a Pole Tent

Of course, one size tent does not fit all. Consider the following cons of pole tents:

  • Center poles can obstruct interior views;
  • Requires larger land footprint for anchoring;
  • Cannot be used on solid surfaces like concrete.

Frame Tent Features

The primary difference between pole tents and frame tents is that, while the former must be staked into the ground and features center poles, the latter does not.


Without the center poles for support, the frame tent relies on load-bearing vertical poles around the perimeter of the tent. You can think of that “frame” as the tent’s support system. When assembled properly, frame tents are stylish, sturdy and a reliable structure for shelter.


Why Choose a Frame Tent

While not quite as glamorous as some other types of tents (we’re looking at you, pagoda tent), frame tents are still an excellent choice for both business trade shows and special events, such as wedding receptions or graduation parties. What frame tents may lack in a dramatic exterior, is more than made up for with its open interior space and sightlines. Plus, our frame tents can be customized to be as pretty as they are practical - giving you the best of both worlds!

Space usage

These tents maximize the amount of interior space you can use, and because they do not depend on the surface beneath them for support, they are ideal for long-term use. Moreover, many of our customers choose to buy frame tents because they allow for a completely custom floor. Maybe you’re throwing a wedding reception and you need to install a mobile dance floor in the center, or perhaps you would like to furnish the space with a beautiful faux-wood design. Whatever you’d like to do, frame tents provide you with unobstructed space in which you can bring your event to life.

Set up

If you have a few helpers and a sledgehammer, frame tents are quite easy to set up. When you’re ready to assemble, lay out all the poles and fittings and begin assembling, starting with the center crown. Just be sure to put down a drop cloth first; that will ensure that your tent canopy stays clean, dry, and protected.

How to Measure a Frame Tent

One of the primary differences between pole tents and frame tents is their different footprints. Frame tents have much different anchoring requirements, which means they take up less space than pole tents.

Anchoring Method

With frame tents, you have the luxury of many options for anchoring since staking is not required. In addition to stakes, you also can create your weights using water buckets or concrete ballasts. Just be sure that your anchors are the appropriate weight. American Tent manufacturers recommend 40 lbs at each tent leg and American Tent offers the Giffy Tent Ballasting system.

Advantages of a Frame Tent

For clear sightlines and long-term use, frame tents are a fantastic option for nearly any event. Other benefits of frame tents include:

  • More usable interior space;
  • Smaller footprint;
  • Can be used on different surfaces.

Disadvantages of a Frame Tent

Of course, you may want to consider the following considerations when choosing a frame tent vs a pole tent:

  • Additional hardware and parts;
  • Less portability if you are using cement ballasts;
  • Size limitations for larger events.

High Peak Frame Tent vs High Peak Pole Tent

frame vs pole tent

Vertex tents, also known as high peak tents, offer a striking, romantic profile. Their peaks are created by tension from cables pushing up on a center mast, allowing for a large amount of usable space underneath the tent, making the space feel open and airy. Even better, although these tents look dramatic, there is no drama involved in assembling them. Just a few extra hands and you’ll have your tent up statement peak and all - in no time.

High Peak Frame Tents

Like its lower peak cousin, high peak frame tents do not have a center pole, guaranteeing clear sightlines throughout the tent. Their dramatic profile instead relies on cross cables and a mast attached to the tent frame and suspended in the air. For the most part, high peak frame tents offer the same pros and cons as standard frame tents. One of the primary differences between the two is cost - all of that high peak class does come at a higher price point. The other disadvantage is size limitations. If you need a larger tent for a big event, you may have to settle for a lower peak since high peak tents typically only come in smaller sizes.

High Peak Pole Tents

Again, high peak pole tents have most of the same pros and cons as standard pole tents, including the center pole. However, in a high peak pole tent, the center pole is more of an advantage, since it is between 5 and 7 feet taller than the center pole found in average height pole tents. That extra height creates the dramatic high peak that is the hallmark of high peak pole tents. Just like in homes, the higher ceiling makes the entire tent feel much more airy and open. Both elegant and striking, high peak pole tents are a favorite for formal gatherings and weddings.

Why Choose American Tent?

Choosing your event tent manufacturer is a big decision. At American Tent, we work hard to ensure your purchase of a frame or pole tent is a great investment. Our tents are made with the highest quality materials, right here in the USA. With a fast turnaround time, access to customer support, and a gorgeous final product, you will love ordering your frame or pole tent from American Tent.

Plus, if you can’t find the exact frame or pole tent you’re looking for, American Tent offers custom event tents as well. Our team will work with you to create the exact size and style of tent you need for our unique event.

Our Best Pole and Frame Tents

center pole tents

Whether you’ve got your heart set on a pole or frame tent, we’ve got you covered! Take a look at some of our most popular tents - and don’t forget to check out our sidewalls!

30x30 Frame Tent

Enjoy coastal vibes in this West Coast-style frame tent. Consider it a 900 square foot blank canvas, ready for you to turn into a masterpiece for your next event!

20x30 Frame Tent

Neither rain nor glaring sunlight will hinder your next event with our 20 by 30 frame tent. It can work on nearly any surface and set up is a breeze!

15x30 Frame Tent

This workhorse is also a rockstar! Our 15 by 30 frame tent is a fan favorite and one of our most popular tents. Not too big, not too small; it’s just right for your next gathering.

20x40 Pole Tent

Whether you are planning a bat mitzvah, kwanzaa celebration, or baptism, our 20 by 40 pole tent is ready for a good, old-fashioned revival!

40x60 Pole Tent

Expecting a crowd? Your guests will have plenty of elbow room in our 40 by 60 pole tent. The only problem you will have with this tent is that your guests won’t want to leave!

20x30 Pole Tent

Feeling ‘tents’ about planning your next event? Relax! Our 20 by 30 pole tent makes party planning easy. Easy to set up and take down, this user-friendly tent will put you at ease!

Frame vs Pole: Conclusion

The above facts are just a few of the most important differences between the frame and pole tents. Every situation is different - the question of frame tent vs pole tent for a wedding, for example, is way different than deciding pole tent vs frame tent for your church picnic.

If you would like to learn more, then we invite you to contact our fantastic sales team, Jake and Paige, to find the information you need. We’re always happy to help you with more specific questions, so don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you would like more information about any of the products we offer! We look forward to working with you soon.

Order Your Event Tent Today!

If you enjoyed today’s entry, be sure to bookmark our blog page and check back frequently for the latest updates.

We regularly post helpful resources that can help you plan great events and learn more about our event tents.

Our friendly customer service team is always happy to answer any questions you have about pole tents, frame tents, and sidewalls, so don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you need more information!

Find out how much better it is to have Shelter. Simplified.

Give us a call today at (920) 431-0938!

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