Canopy vs Tent – What’s the Difference?

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While browsing around Amazon or at a store retailer, you’ve heard the two words ‘canopy’ and ‘tent,’ perhaps used interchangeably, to describe the same basic structure. What are the differences between the two?

Both canopies and tents are sold as structures that provide temporary shelters. The category of tents can encompass a broad range of shelters, from large outdoor tents designed to shelter hundreds of people, down to small camping tents that can fit into a backpack.  Many tents also provide shelter where you can sleep at night.

In general, canopies have a frame and do not provide a place for people to sleep at night. They are open, rather than closed, and serve as temporary outdoor ‘rooms’ or ‘buildings’ where a business or party can be set up.

In this article, we’ll take a look at both canopies and tents, and go in-depth into their features and advantages.

Canopy Features

  • Usually Has a Peaked or Pyramid Roof
  • Comes In Different Sizes
  • Portable To Move To Different Locations
  • Frame To Support the Roof
  • Open Structure

Tent Features

  • Multiple Roof Types – Triangular, Round, Peaked, Pyramid, Etc.
  • Can Be Closed With Side Walls and Doors
  • Usually Larger Than Canopies
  • Made Of All-Weather Materials
  • Don’t Need a Frame

Crazy About Canopies

Due to their smaller sizes, the emphasis on frame durability, and their open structure, canopies are used more than tents in business settings. You’ve probably seen many canopies at craft fairs, fairgrounds, sporting events, tailgating before the big game, or at smaller outdoor parties and celebrations.

A canopy’s number one function is to provide shade from hot weather, since it’s usually set up at an event that lasts all day. Canopies also need to be incredibly durable, since they have to stand up to multiple people and visitors walking near them and under them for hours at a time. Canopies should have some way to advertise a business name, so many come with sleeves to put your sign in.

Canopies have adjustable frames that can move their height from lower up to higher amounts. The common example of these are the Easy Up Canopies. This is to accommodate retail displays, visitors, decorations, and other event type needs. Canopies usually don’t have side walls, although, depending on the model, those can be purchased and put up for either weather protection or more privacy.

Canopies are designed to be seen. They’re bright and colorful, often featured in snazzy hues that could complement your favorite sports team, your business’s logo, or your party’s theme. They add a festive atmosphere wherever they’re set up.

Canopies could be set up with one person, but it’s usually better if you have at least two people helping. Their frames are heavy duty, and they come in plenty of sizes to accommodate all kinds of events. Some canopies come with stakes or anchor weights, although many don’t, so you’ll have to check the model before purchasing. Canopies are usually pretty resistant to weather, so they’ll hold off rain, wind, and intense heat.

Talking About Tents

Plenty of us have spent at least one night in a tent, proving that this type of portable shelter is very popular. Tents come in all shapes and sizes, colors, and for different purposes. Serious campers are looking for lightweight models that can hold up to an amazing array of weather conditions. Many tents are available for backyard hangouts or for children.

Large festive tents can be set up to accommodate any sized gathering you can think of, from intimate parties to huge weddings. This is where the line between canopy and tent can become blurred, since some tents can technically be large canopies. These are the ones offered by rental companies that are usually for parties and corporate events. They’re not shelter tents designed for complete weather resistance and sleeping.

Just like canopies, tents can also come in bright colors. They’re offered in a wider range of hues than canopies, especially sleeping tents. Unlike canopies, however, they’re not designed to be seen as a business item that has to stand out in a crowd. There’s not as much personalization done to tents as there is to canopies, because they’re used for different functions.

Tents can be used at craft fairs, but they’re usually much larger than the standard 10’ x 10’ canopy tents. They need to be staked down and anchored properly by experts, while a canopy can be erected by just one person. Tent fabrics are strong, usually weatherproof, can be fire resistant, and are usually woven of high quality materials.

In essence, tents are canopies that have been customized, optioned, used for more purposes, and in a wider variety of settings. A canopy is a tent without a lot of the accessories and features of a tent.


Looking at the features, you can get an idea of which situations would be better for a canopy and which would be better for a tent. These two structures are remarkably similar, but they also have some marked differences.

What’s your particular use for a shelter structure? Are you interested in a smaller pop up structure that you can use to provide cooling shade at the beach or for tailgating before the football game? Then a canopy would work best for you. Since they’re lighter in weight, you can easily put them in a car and take them where you need to go. They’re very portable. Canopies are also great for smaller businesses to set up at an event.

However, if you’re in the market for a structure that has more weather resistance, comes in more colors and styles, and is more durable and sturdier, then you’re going to want to go for a tent. Tents are usually more expensive because they’re made from better, more high-quality materials, so price point alone might be the deciding factor.

Whether you’re looking for a structure that provides shade for a graduation party, to sell your handmade jewelry, or simply a place for everyone to enjoy in the backyard, both canopies with hold-down legs and tents make the outdoors a better place to be.

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