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August 22, 2022American Tent Life


American Tent’s very own Tent Guru, Pete McVey, has always had a passion for bringing people together. Tents are his trade and his expertise, and below he’s giving us a rundown of everything you need to know about Sidewalls.

There are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind regarding sidewall. Firstly, if you're going to be efficient at hanging sidewalls, you need to learn how to store, fold, and transport your sidewall. There are certain ways to do this, and not all are equally efficient. Obviously, we’ll be going over the most efficient method.

Start with the piece of sidewall laid out on the ground and ready to fold. When laying it out, be sure that the clips for hanging it are set out with the open end of the clip facing up. The reason for this is so it doesn't snag anything as you're folding, and the second reason is that having it facing up allows us to do the next phase, which is hanging the sidewall.

Start with a fan fold, wherein you pick a midpoint to use for folding over the sidewall. This is best done with two people, almost like playing a game of tug of war to ensure the fold is tight and even. You need to fold it in again and again until it is folded up.

Once this is finished and your sidewall is folded into a much narrower rectangle, you can do one of two things. If the sidewall is serviceable, in other words, it's going to go right back on your shelf or right to another job, we recommend folding the side wall in thirds. This gives you a very nice, flat package that sits in a truck or a shelf and doesn't unfold; and, if you stack them all with the single fold out, you can count the sidewall without making mistakes.

But what should you do if it does need TLC? Let’s assume you took this sidewall down and it had a couple of clips torn off or it's very dirty. In this case, instead of folding in thirds, you would roll the sidewall up and that would designate that this sidewall needs service and it can't go back out until it's been serviced, washed, repaired, or anything similar.

We don't recommend the rolling method for normal transport because they don't stack very well, they don't sit, they're hard to count, and they can kind of unroll. The flat fold is the best way to go for normal transport.

Next up is hanging sidewall. Take the tri-folded piece of sidewall and open it up enough to find the clips. You always want to hang the sidewall with the open end of the clip facing the inside of the tent, not the outside of the tent. The reason for that is the sidewall is manufactured to have the shiny side have the ultraviolet sun inhibiting chemicals in the vinyl, while on the inside it's duller and does not have that same quality as the vinyl. So, be sure that you have the shiny side facing out.

Start by grabbing your piece of sidewall and putting it on your shoulder. Find the first clip and can clip it up in the corner to hold it in place. Use the overlap clips to connect multiple pieces of sidewall together or to keep a piece of sidewall secure around a pole. To do so, just wrap the sidewall around the pole and snap the piece into itself.

The benefits of this method are that one person can hang the sidewall, you don't need a drop cloth, and it's very very fast. The sidewall is going to unfold right off your shoulder as you walk backward and then about every eight to ten feet, you should stop and reach up to hang one clip and then continue. 

After you’ve clipped it on in a few places, you can go back and clip the rest of it in to make it more secure. Wrap it tightly around the pole when securing it, and make sure to pull the sidewall taut to get rid of any slack. This will ensure it can resist any wind, rain, or other weather that mother nature sends at you. If you do have a partner, they can follow behind you and hook up the remaining clips for you.

Lastly, it’s essential you know how to take down the sidewall properly. Firstly, take your overlap clips off the pole so that the sidewall is loose. Then, it's the reverse of the hanging process. Leave the first clip attached and take down the middle clips and let the sidewall kind of hang down. You're not going to take all the clips off immediately because you want to keep them out of the dirt.

As you unclip the final clips, the key is to basically bunch it up on your shoulder just like when you hung it up. Don’t put it on the ground and fold it, as it should never touch the ground (or else it will get dirty). If you’re going to lay it down, it needs to always be on a drop cloth.

If you need more guidance on the care and handling of the sidewall, contact us at American Tent!

Tony Ehrbar's headshot

Tony Ehrbar

Owner & CEO

Tony's entrepreneurial spirit is woven into the fabric of American Tent (an Inc 5000 company), shaped by his experience running a successful event venue & tent rental service. His recognition as the Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2019 is a testament to his impact & dedication to his community. As the Co-founder and CEO of Renegade Plastics, Tony is leading initiatives in the tent industry to integrate eco-friendly, recyclable materials. Contributing as a board member for the Advanced Textiles Association (ATA) & the Green Bay Area Public Schools Foundation and being featured by Entrepreneur, Oracle, & Modern Weddings, Tony plays a pivotal role in enhancing the growth and success of the textile industry.

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