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Which is The Best Event Tent? An Honest Comparison of Tipis, Clearspan & Traditional Marquees, Stretch Tents and Yurts.

Full disclosure: we only hire Tipis and Sailcloth Tents for large events. However, the aim of this article isn’t to convince you to hire those options. We simply want to help you discover which is the best event tent for you. The answer may be different for everybody!

By now, you probably know that there are many different types of event tents: tipis, clear span marquees, yurts, stretch tents and traditional pole/sailcloth tents.

But what you may not know is that even between these there are differences. Now those differences may not massively affect your choice or your event, but like anything in life it is good to know the facts. Here at Elite Tents we want to tell you about all of them! This way you can choose the right one for your special event.

Clearspan/Frame Marquees:

These are a contemporary tents that in recent years are built using semi rigid poles (often aluminium) and strong white pvc coated polyester. This means they are waterproof. The beauty of this type of marquee is that they can can be adapted to your guest numbers easily – with tents as small as 3m wide up to 50m wide and any length that you need (in multiples of 3m).

Suitable for: weddings, parties, sporting events, additional space at fairs and exhibitions.

Pros: These are relatively inexpensive and so if you have high numbers to cater for can be a good option. They can also be erected on solid floors, such as patios, concrete and car parks. They are sturdy in winter too.

Cons: For special occasions you will need to factor in additional money for decorating to make these more stylish, plus in summer they can get incredibly hot as the pvc can act a bit like a greenhouse. Can also be noisy in the wind as the plastic rattles against the poles.

Things to consider: If you have high guest numbers, a need for your tent to be erected on a hard floor the fact these have no guy ropes is great. As they have no poles inside the tent it also means you are not limited with your floorplan. You can position whatever you need wherever you need it – always a plus. If you would like a clear span marquee but want a premium feel you can add in glass walls or doors, sophisticated flooring systems and a variety of linings and lighting to really add that luxury feel.

Traditional (Pole) Marquees and Sailcloth Tents

These tents have increased in popularity since Bake Off and are known for their high peaks and wooden poles. But are they the best event tent? They lend a very English Country Garden feel to an event and need to be erected on grass. These can be decorated simply and elegantly and so have become very popular for weddings in recent years. The wooden poles add a rustic feel to your theme. Sailcloth tents have clear sides meaning if you have a beautiful view you can still see it in inclement weather.

Suitable for: Weddings and Summer Parties

Pros: They are large, elegant and simple to decorate. They are also great for photos! With the clear sides and white peaks they allow a lot of light inside them.

Cons: They need to be erected on grass and are not suitable outside May-early October.

Things to consider: These take quite a large team to erect which can add to the expense, you need to have your event during the summer as they are reliant on guy ropes to hold them in place and so bad weather, particularly wind, can affect them. They are however a great option for those who want an outdoor rustic wedding but still a level of the traditional ‘white’ wedding style. They suit both long rustic or round tables.

There are many manufacturers of pole marquees, some of the less well made ones can leak where the poles meet the canvas/pvc coated polyester. Check with your pole marquee supplier and ask the question…


Tipis are a natural timber construction, with (usually) a natural coloured canvas. It is their aesthetics and customisable, linkable quality that makes them so appealing for an outdoor event. Standing with peaks of 8m they look magnificent and can add a real WOW factor to an event.

Suitable for: weddings, parties, festivals and corporate events that want a party, more informal wedding or festival vibe.

Pros: They are stunning, customisable so that whether there are just 50 or over 200 they can be linked to create the perfect place for your guests.

Cons: They are one of the most expensive to hire and they need to be erected on grass.

Things to consider: There are several manufacturers of Tipi and consequently there are different choices of what to hire.

The original, authentic tipis were developed by Tentipi™ in Northern Sweden in a village called Arvidsjaur. These were developed to protect the Sami people (the indigenous people of Lapland) from mosquitos in the summer and from snow and extreme weather in the winter. With the strength of their wood (Norwegian pine) and the durability of the canvas, these tents will not leak, fail or have any issues when you hire them for an event. The down side is that these have to be imported so are usually more expensive to hire for your wedding. If you were to compare which is the best event tent solely on durability, Nordic Tipis would be on top.

By contrast the copies of the authentic tipi created in the UK (The Tipi Company and KataTipis) use British (well Scottish) pine. This type of pine also looks beautiful, but the way that branches grow opposite one another does mean that the poles made from this pine may be weaker at those points than their Swedish counterparts. These companies use a slightly different canvas. To find out more about the differences please click to read our article The Origins of Our Tents. The up side of using an English Tipi Hire company is that it will most likely cost you less. These tents are cheaper for hire companies to purchase and that is often passed on to you as a customer. One word of warning, some English tipis require ‘weatherproofing systems’. Not needed by the authentic Nordic ones, which may incur slightly higher costs.

For that reason you may have two quotes that are seemingly for the same items with quite different costings, but you need to be sure you are actually comparing apples with apples!

Stretch Tents

Stretch tents are a funky option and are particularly popular for summer parties. They’re very unusual with internal supporting poles of varying lengths and freeform dipping canvases. The fabric is anchored at the corners and sides and these tents are most popular without walls.

Suitable for: Parties and weddings

Pros: Very contemporary, unusual and not in need of much decoration.

Cons: Need to be erected on grass. To make them weatherproof they need additional walls inserting which does reduce their WOW factor.

Things to consider: Like tipis they are made of natural canvas but be wary as there are some manufacturers who don’t use fabric that is properly water resistant which can be an issue if it rains.


Which is the best event tent? Inside of a yurt

These wooden structures are kind of a cross between a tipi and a sailcloth tent, having lots of wooden poles, but with the fabric over the top have the light of a sailcloth. They are usually circular although some companies offer an oval version. They are pretty sturdy, need to be erected on grass but don’t have the option of clear sides, meaning that you cannot see out of them.

Suitable for: weddings and parties

Pros: unique and cool, these tents have the rustic, unusual feel and can be erected all year round.

Cons: The circular shape leaves little flexibility for creating your wedding or party set up. They are also quite expensive to hire. Most companies have a limit on capacity of about 150 so if your number are above that you will need to do some research!

Things to consider: Depending on your event and numbers you may need to think about hiring two smaller yurts to enable you to have dining, dancing and a bar area. You need to think about whether this will split your party up. If a yurt is your favourite option for an event tent there are quite a good number of UK venues that have them as part of their set up and you can rent them over a weekend as an option. Keeping your venue options in mind is important when deciding which is the best event tent for you.

So that in essence is a guide to the types of tents and which is the best event tent. At Elite Tents we offer both authentic Nordic Tipis and a fully weatherproof Sailcloth Tent (summer only). If either of those are your preference why not book a consultation with one of the team. We will be happy to answer any questions you might have.

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Authentic Nordic Tipi Association

Elite Tents insist on Tipis made by Tentipi and are proud members of the ANTA. Tentipi have been manufacturing Authentic Nordic Tipis for over 25 years and their quality is second to none. With a Tentipi Tent you DO NOT NEED TO WORRY about having a 'weatherproofing option' as these tents were designed for the weather in Scandanavia and will stand up to wind, rain or whatever the British weather can throw at them!