There are essentially two broad categories of party tents:
1) traditional rope and pole tents; and 2) frame tents.
What distinguishes one from the other is the installation process and the structural framework that is used to keep the tent upright.
Rope and pole tents rely on one or more central poles and a set of peripheral poles that are covered by a tent-top. The poles are not driven into the ground but are held upright merely by tensionning a vinyl top over them and tightening the fabric by securing the top to the ground with ratchets, ropes and stakes. Because of the additional support that poles provide, traditional rope and pole tents generally tend to cover much larger surfaces than standard frame tents.
Rope and pole tents are available in two basic models:
1) standard pole tents; and 2) high peak.
Standard pole tents have a simpler external appearance. They are generally less expensive and are therefore ideal for economy weddings, church gatherings, commercial usage, fairs, festivals, car lot sales, school graduations and similar type events. High peak tents have a more graceful external appearance with elegant peaks and fine sweeping lines. Their classic look makes them particularly well suited for high-end weddings and corporate functions. Neither high peak tents nor standard pole tents are suitable for decks or patios. They must be installed on grass, asphalt or other suitable surface where stakes or anchors can be driven into the ground.
Unlike rope and pole tents, frame tents are installed using interlocking bars that are joined together to form a rigid freestanding metal structure that supports the tent-top. Once the top and sidewall are attached to the metal framework, they produce an elegant enclosed area that is uninterrupted and free from center poles. Frame tents may require staking at the periphery but can also be secured simply with weights and ballasts. They are therefore somewhat more versatile than pole tents and can be installed on virtually any terrain type including decks and patios.
Frame tents can be further sub-classified as:
1) standard frame tents; and 2) clearspan style tents.
The difference between the two types lies in the manner in which the fabric is mounted on the structure. With standard frame tents the fabric is simply placed on top of the metal framework, whereas with clearspan style tents the fabric is fed into specially designed grooves that are built into the metal frame and help hold the fabric firmly in place. This gives clearspan tents the appearance of semi-permanent structures with a tighter, more modern external appearance that is ideal for high end outdoor events and upscale corporate functions. Naturally, because installation and dismantling of clearspan tents requires using heavy machinery and specialized equipment, they tend to be on the higher end of the spectrum in terms of pricing. Therefore, if you have a modest budget and need a tent installed in a location where staking is not an option, standard frame tents my be a cost-effective alternative.
Of course, the best way to recognize the various types of tents that are available on the market is to simply look at actual pictures of each tent type by visiting the web site of a reputable tent manufacturer. Each tent type has unique physical characteristics, and once you see a high peak or a clearspan tent, you are unlikely to confuse them with their standard counterparts.