The tents you offer are the most essential part of your rental company brand. After all, the color, shape, and quality of your offerings will determine the kind of clients you attract (and what those clients have to say about you to their friends). Not every tent is right for every client, and providing the wrong tent can hurt your reputation — and your bottom line.
That’s why it’s important to carefully source every aspect of a tent, from the frame to the fabric exterior. When shopping for an outdoor tent fabric, how do you get a product that’s best suited for your company’s needs? How do you know you’re getting it for the best price?
To determine the best tent for your company’s specific needs, start by asking yourself these three big questions:
Consider where the tent will be located and how this will affect the materials you select. Here are three sample test cases to give you an idea of what to consider:
Weather along the Gulf Coast is famously unpredictable, but one thing is all but certain: it's going be humid. Frequent summertime rain and high humidity mean mildew-resistant material with Rain-Kleen treatment is the right choice for James.
Margerie’s tents will face a lot of hot weather, gusty winds, and tons of sun exposure. When selecting a material, she should prioritize UV-resistance to prevent fading and premature cracks and tears.
During the long Northeast winter, Carlos keeps most of his tents in storage. Low warehouse temperatures can cause certain fabrics to become brittle, leading to creases and cracks. Carlos needs to be sure to check temperature guidelines for the material he chooses.
Different clients have different needs and tastes. Knowing what types of events the tent structures are likely to house — weddings, corporate gatherings, fundraisers, so on — will dictate what fabric attributes you should prioritize.
Takea wedding or high-end fundraiser for example. Photography will be an essential aspect of the ceremony, which puts the light quality inside the tent at center stage. Tiny rips and tears in the tent fabric can create pin holes that ruin photos (and, all too often, tarnish once-in-a-lifetime moments). If you regularly service this type of client, the investment into pinhole-proof fabric makes fiscal sense.
Even color is a decision that weighs heavily on your end user’s tastes. If your company services a lot of upscale events, traditional white tent fabric is a safe and smart choice. When you tend to work with startups or festivals, more colorful selections will be popular (in this instance, Showtime fabrics, which are available in 17 high-gloss colors, can’t be topped). Before choosing a fabric, consider the tastes of your target client.
Side walls help create a more intimate and private experience that’s shielded from wind, rain, and intrusive sunlight. They also block out most natural light and foot traffic, and stifle airflow within the tent.
The decision to include side walls or not (or, a third choice, to use transparent acrylic window panels) is highly situational, and will weigh heavily on both the local climate and your client’s preferences.
Nowadays, rental tents are available with dozens of fabric compositions, weaves, and finishes to choose from — not to mention numerous manufacturers vying for your attention. How do you find the right fabric for your company’s needs? Consider these factors in your decision making:
Ask any rental company owner what makes a tent fabric stand out and they’ll say “durability.” It’s the factor that takes the pressure off event planners, ensures a safe and comfortable space for guests, and cuts down on time spent repairing tents after the busy season. But what does durability really mean?
Most durability comes down to offsetting four factors that degrade fabric. They include:
Over time, sunlight causes outdoor textiles to fade, become brittle, and eventually crack.
Store damp textiles and you run the risk of unsightly mold and mildew, which will smell and eat away at your material over time.
Scrapes and scuffs happen. Is your textile designed to be rugged in the face of wind, grit, setup and breakdown, transport, and more?
Long term storage can create creases in some fabrics that lead to weak points and tears. Variations in storage temperature can weaken low quality fabric.
Thankfully, outdoor textile engineers have found solutions for these problems. For example, StarFree Blackout pinhole protection helps prevent the small rips and tears that occur from abrasions, while Rain-Kleen top coating keeps fabric dry to prevent rot.
While nearly all fabrics made for outdoor use are water resistant to some extent, not all are waterproof. That misunderstanding on the part of the rental company can spell disaster when a downpour opens up during a wedding ceremony. For that reason, waterproofing is a must for centerpiece tent structures, especially in climates where wet weather is common.
Unexpected showers are only part of the waterproofing equation. Tent fabric that lacks adequate water resistance can retain moisture after prolonged exposure, leading to mold and mildew stains that are difficult to remove.
At many events, the size and dramatic impact of a rental tent will make it a main focal point. Wedding planners see tents as part of the ceremony, as essential as floral arrangements and lighting.
As a rental company buyer, you want to choose a fabric that’s tough and durable—but it also needs to meet certain aesthetic expectations. Selecting a fabric is as much about choosing a texture or color as it is about technical specs. Small differences in weave and color tone can make a big difference, too.
Fabric selection will be impacted by aesthetic choices you make in your design as well. Pole tents and frame tents each come with different fabric needs (more on that later). If you decide to add side walls or transparent windows to increase natural light, that decision involves sourcing additional textiles.
State and local law stipulates that nearly all outdoor textiles sold in the US need to be made from flame retardant material. Like waterproofing, you should be aware that different classes and ratings for fire safety exist when it comes to these materials.
All reputable tent fabrics sold today will meet the national NFPA 701 standard, and most will meet the more stringent guidelines set by California. All Herculite products meet both the NFPA and CSFM requirements. Check with your local fire department for local regulations and more information on fire safety.
Some rips and tears are small enough to evade the eye during routine inspection. When vinyl is perforated or abraded, pinholes are created that create tiny columns of light inside the tent.
While pinholes are troublesome as a sign of wear and tear, they can be especially detrimental to rental tent companies that work with wedding planners. Tiny points of light ruin photographs and make documenting key moments in a ceremony near impossible.
When selecting a fabric, it’s important to tailor that decision to the bones of your future rental tent. The structure of the tent creates wear points that can influence the performance of your outdoor fabric selection.
The two most common tent styles are frame tents and pole tents. Here’s a breakdown of how each impacts your fabric selection:
A classic design that still inspires excitement today, pole tents are supported by one to several poles that create a tall peaked silhouette like a classic carnival tent. They are staked to the ground, and typically mounted over grass or soft turf.
Frame tents are freestanding structural tents that use a network of peripheral supports to “frame out” the interior. They provide an open floor with no obstructions from poles, and they don’t require staking to set up.
What kinds of fabric are most commonly used to build outdoor event tents? There are dozens of different brands and features available, but they tend to boil down into seven basic categories:
Most of these categories are made using synthetic material, and each comes with its benefits and challenges. When weighing costs and benefits — say, increasing durability or water-resistance versus your price tag — material is really where the rubber hits the road.
Each material has its strengths. Solution dyed acrylic is a soft-touch UV resistant fabric that's popular choice for nautical use, where its attractive weave and water wicking qualities make it a winner. Polyvinyl composite is among the most water-fast choices on the market, which is why it’s a popular tent material for damp and humid climates. Lightweight polyester is affordable, easy to transport, and highly breathable, but it can degrade quickly under prolonged UV exposure.
When event rental companies set out in search of the best fabric for the job, many don’t realize that selecting the right product manufacturer is equally important.
Technical specs indicate performance capabilities under ideal circumstances, but a manufacturer’s reputation serves as a valuable confirmation of service, honesty, and product consistency. Buying large amounts of outdoor textile is building a relationship with a manufacturer— you want to know that you’re in good hands.
When selecting the right manufacturer for your new rental tents, consider the following:
Where an outdoor fabric is manufactured can be an indication of product quality. A lot of imported fabric is made with very little oversight from the home office.
In many cases, imported textiles are made to dubious standards set by overseas authorities in key categories like chemical composition and quality assurance, not to mention substandard environmental and labor protections. American-made material may come with a higher price tag, but it’s usually made to a higher standard. That matters.
Even high quality imported material may not always be there when you need it. Supply chain disturbances, shipping lag, even simple customs processing can grind necessary returns, replacements, and restocks to a near halt. Selecting a stateside manufacturer on the other hand keeps your supply chain close at hand.
Industry certifications and awards cut through the marketing static to give you the straight truth about high quality products. A company that achieves ISO 9001:2015 certification, like Herculite for example, will come with that International Organization of Standardization’s reputation behind it.
Industry awards are another valuable metric for assessing product quality. Buy from the winner of the InTents Magazine “Best Tent Fabric Supplier” award and you’re sourcing product with the assurance of their readership and editorial team.
Herculite has been manufacturing the highest quality, award-winning performance textiles for more than 50 years. Every textile Herculite sells is made start-to-finish in the USA for unmatched quality assurance and customer service.
Some of their most popular tent fabric brands include:
The industry standard for rugged tent rentals. Architent is a proprietary PVC formulation for excellent resistance to UV degradation and cold temperature flexibility. It also features best-of-breed mildew inhibitor treatments for maximum mildew and wick resistance.
All the best qualities of Architent, but made extra tough in a rugged 18 ounce formulation for semi-permanent structures.
Colorful and customizable tent fabric designed for theme parks and special events. Showtime is an ultra-smooth, high gloss material that’s available in both translucent and blackout.