owning a marquee – garden tent

A garden marquee is quite the thing in times not only when only outdoor mixing is allowed but also when you live in a climate with rainy summers. This page collects my experience of maintaining a tent over twelve English summers.

choose your tent and size

I choose a 6m x 8m marquee tent which offers a generous space for two long tables and chairs plus side tables and a BBQ. Other things being equal I find this size to be the limit of what I could manage to erect on my own or two people could manage with ease.

I bought from Gala Tent who to their credit continue to sell every spare part of a tent bought 12 years ago. The thing I soon learned is that the wind is rather destructive and that a tent is a consumable. (That’s not entirely the fault of the tent material). I originally bought the cheapest cover (called 250g PE) which after five years was looking shabby. The entire set of covers was replaced with 650g PVC which is noticeably heavier and better in every way.

A groundbar set is an essential for security. So the full shopping list was:

  • Tent X * Y metres in 650g PVC
  • Groundbar set X * Y m
  • Tie down straps and stakes, one per upright (12 total on an 8 x 6m)
  • Extra ball bungees; 4 extra hooped stakes for the ground bar on the side facing the wind.

know your weather

My tent framework is erected and left permanently to endure the weather all year. Taking the structure down each winter caused more issues than leaving it out through the winters. The white outer covers are added in May and removed around September. That seems to lessen the wear on the fabric. During the summer months there will be a couple of storms – whereas there’s nearly always a fierce winter storm that could uproot the structure.

And here’s the thing to know: I’d recommend not only using a ground bar set and tie-down straps on every upright but also ensuring that you use every covering panel and every fixing supplied. To weather a storm you need to create an enclosed box. If you leave even one side open you’ll create an umbrella.

will it last?

After 10 years the framework that sits outside all year suffers superficially and needs a spray of white paint to look good again. The groundbars last too but the corner joints fail on one corner. A fully fitted tent lasts longer than one with flapping panels. You really don’t want flapping panels if you want them to last.

erecting a marquee

Here’s us putting on the covers at the start of summer. In real time it’s 2-3 hours work for one and over an hour for two people. The far end A section is left open since that side is well sheltered.

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