How to Build a Canopy Tent

How to Build a Canopy Tent
Instant shade, economical shelters or simple home-made tents, the pop-up canopies indigenous to farmers markets and art fairs are now sprouting at campgrounds over picnic tables or in shadeless sites. You can build a strong and relatively light canopy on your own and convert it into a tent when the sun goes down.


Difficulty: Moderate


Things You’ll Need:
  • Pipe bender
  • 20 large butterfly spring clips
  • 9 8-foot long 3/4-inch diameter rigid water pipes with or without threaded ends
  • 6 24-inch long 3/4-inch diameter rigid water pipes with or without threaded ends
  • 8 3/4-inch diameter snap connect T-fittings
  • 4 3/4-inch diameter snap connect L-fittings
  • 4 wall-mount disk plates sized for a 3/4-inch pipe
  • 4 8- by 10-foot heavy duty tarps
  • 2 10- by 10-foot heavy-duty tarps
  • 30 feet of 1-inch wide male and female all-weather Velcro strips
  • 4 12-foot guy ropes
  • 4 long tent pegs
Step 1
Place one 10-foot by 10-foot heavy duty tarp on a flat area free of rocks and debris to create the tent floor.
Step 2
Working one side at a time, fold up the tarp approximately 1 foot, and crease the corners like wrapping a present. Clip each corner with two of the butterfly clips to hold it square, creating what looks like a square wading pool.
Step 3
Lay four of the 8-foot long rigid pipes, one to each corner, parallel to the perimeter of the tent floor, making a square.


Step 1
Attach L-connectors to one end of each of the four pipes. Attach the disk to the other end. Do this to all four pipes, placing them back into the original positions when completed.
Step 2
Take two 8-foot pipes. Cut off 4 inches from each end of the pipes creating four 4-inch and two 7-foot-4-inch pipes. Snap a T-connector on each end of the two 7-foot-4-inch pipes.
Step 3
Snap each of the four 4-inch segments into each of the L-connectors on the 8-foot pipes. Pair these now "L"-shaped pipes together in the tent floor.
Step 4
Using the pipe-bender, bend the center of the three remaining 8-foot pipes slightly, just enough so that the center is 2- to 3 inches higher than the ends. If the bent pipe were half of an ellipse, the major axis would be between 7-foot-4-inches and 7-foot-6-inches. All three pipes need to be the same length on the major axis. Snap T connectors on the ends of all three pipes and set them parallel to each other 2 feet apart on the tent floor. Snap the four 24-inch pipes into the T-connectors so that the pattern is "pipe-T-pipe-T-pipe-T-pipe." Do the same on the other side of the three pipes. Connect the three bent pipes into the three T connectors at each end.
Step 5
Connect the perpendicular opening of "T" on each end of the 7-foot-4-inch pipe to the end 24-inch pipe segment. This is the roof frame. The bent pipes allow rainwater to run off the tent. Lift one end of the 7-foot-4-inch pipe with the T connector and the remaining opening to the 4-inch segment on the "L" end of one corner pole. Walk the length of the 7-foot-4-inch pipe holding it up and connect the other end into the L. Repeat for the other end of the frame.


Step 1
Attach the four 8-foot by 10-foot tarps to the exterior side of the frame. These can be hung using shower curtain rings through the eyelets in the tarps or using Velcro in a pattern of 6 inches of Velcro followed by 9 to 12 inches of none. Place the male side of the Velcro on the perimeter pipes of the roof frame and the female portion on the seams of the tarp.
Step 2
Hang the walls to the outside of the tent floor. Use 6-inch strips of Velcro to attach the bottom of the wall to the tent floor sides. Place the Velcro as close to the bottom of the walls as possible in a pattern of 6 inches of Velcro followed by 9 to 12 inches of none.
Step 3
Connect the 1-foot overlap on the wall tarps around the outside of three corners of the tent. Attach the Velcro as close to the edge of the strip as possible using a pattern of 6 inches of Velcro followed by 6 inches without Velcro. On the fourth corner, take one tarp's overlap and fold it around the leg and attach it back to itself. The Velcro strips should be as close to the leg as possible.
Step 4
On the remaining edge of the fourth tarp, curve it around the leg, maintaining the 1-foot overlap, and use about half the Velcro used on other corners to serve as the door flap closures.
Step 5
Attach the wall to the floor using Velcro in a pattern of 6 inches of Velcro followed by 12 inches without.


Step 1
Center the second 10-foot by 10-foot tarp over the roof, ensuring it has a roughly even overhang on the outside of the walls. Square the corners as was done with the floor and secure with the butterfly clips.
Step 2
Starting with one eyelet on each side of the tent floor, attach a bungee cord and clip it to the pipes around the perimeter of the tent frame.
Step 3
Attach the roof to the wall using Velcro in a pattern of 6 inches of Velcro followed by 12 inches without.
Step 4
Tie guy ropes looping around each leg and the frame perimeter on one end and attach to the stakes in the ground on the other end.

Tips & Warnings

During the construction phase, a garage floor or concrete driveway is the perfect place for assembly.
The walls hanging to the outside of the tent floor keep water from working its way into the canopy tent
The overlapping wall strips reduce the flow of wind through the tent
Add ventilation by cutting three sides of flap that can be rolled up. As an option, attach screen to the outside of the opening using all-weather duct or "Gorilla" tape. Attach Velcro strips to allow the flap to be secured from the inside.
The canopy tent must be securely roped to the ground, otherwise strong wind will lift it like a sale.
Clear the campsite set-up area of any rocks or sticks.

Article Written By Eric Jay Toll

Eric Jay Toll has been writing since 1970, influenced by his active lifestyle. An outdoorsman, businessman, planner and travel writer, Toll's work appears in travel guides for the Navajo Nation, "TIME" and "Planning" magazines and on various websites. He studied broadcast marketing and management at Southern Illinois University.

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