Pole Tent vs Frame Tent_What's the Differance

Pole tent vs. frame tent, “what’s the difference, which one should I rent?” are some of the most common questions when searching to rent a tent for the first time.  In the world of tents, there are many different tent rental options. There are pole tents, high peak pole tents, frame tents, high peak frame tents, structure tents, clearspan tents. Which tent should I rent?  

The most popular and common tent options, break down into two categories; pole tents and frame tents.  Each option has pros and cons depending on on-site location, event type, application of your tent, and personal preference.  Since there are so many options, we will detail in this guide the difference between a frame tent vs pole tent. 

Pole Tent vs Frame Tent Time-lapse Comparison

Table of Contents

Criteria for choosing The Right Style Tent

Firstly, knowing which style tent, a pole tent vs. a frame tent, to rent boils down to a few locational criteria for the tent’s placement.  When searching for a tent to rent, please keep the following in mind to guide your decision. 

  1. Is the tent placed on blacktop, gravel, concrete, patio, or grass?
  2. What are the measurements of the space you would like the tent located?
  3. Can the tent be staked into the ground, or does it need some alternative anchoring?
  4. What type of event are you planning? 
  5. Which items would you like placed under the tent? Guests dining, food tables, bar tables, dance floor, or other items be placed under the tent? 
  6. Are there any height requirements/restraints for the tent?
  7. Do you have a specific budget?
  8. Are there any underground utilities in the area you would like to place the tent?

Pole Tents

Pole tents, the original tent, are the most traditional, popular, and economical style tents.  The two main options for pole tents are standard and high peak.  


A pole tent has center poles, side poles, ratchets, and the tent top. They are most commonly be placed in the grass due to the  42″ supporting stakes driven into the ground, anchoring the tent but occasionally are staked in blacktop/asphalt but typically only at commercial locations.

How to Measure

When measuring for a pole tent, it’s important to ensure the below:
  1. Your location where the tent will be placed is flat or relatively flat.
  2.  Check the length, width, and height clearance.
Pole tents are staked out 5- 7’ around the tent’s perimeter, with a center pole(s) that range from 14’ – 25’. Regarding the tent height, the perimeter of a pole tent is approx 7’ and gradually increases as it goes to the center pole between 14’ – 25’.  So, If you are planning on renting a 40’ x 100’ High Peak Pole tent for your wedding, the ideal space for this tent would be a 55’ x 115’ with a clearance of 21’ (because the center poles are 21’), this would allow for enough room to stake and install your tent.   If your location does not have that space available, it’s best to reach out to a tent rental near me company to see if there are other alternatives or schedule an onsite visit.

Download our free cheat sheet to measuring for a pole tent: 

Set Up and Installation

First, a tarp is laid on the ground to protect the tent. Second, the tent is laid directly on the ground and stretched.  Thirdly, the stakes are laid out around the perimeter of the tent  5’ -7’ feet and driven into the ground.  Fourth, the side poles are set around the tent’s perimeter that is then placed at an angle. Once most of the tent’s weight is lifted by the side poles, the center pole is placed underneath the tent and then lifted in the air.  Finally, once all center poles are in the tent, it is tightened by going around to each side pole and ratcheting the tent until it is tight, starting with the corners.


Anchoring Method

A pole tent is anchored with 42” stakes driven into the ground and typically placed every ten feet around the tent’s perimeter. The stakes are connected to the tent utilizing ratchet straps. This anchoring system provides the tension the tent requires to be safely installed. 

Pole Tent Description Recap

  • Contain center poles.
  • Staked 5 – 7’ feet outside of the tent. If you have a 20’ x 20’ Pole tent, the footprint or space required would need to be a minimum of 30’ x 30’ flat grassy area.
  • Anchored by Stakes and Ratchets(Guy Ropes)
  • Most economically priced tents.

Ideal for:  Fairs, Festivals, Weddings, Formal Events, Large Gatherings, graduation parties

Frame Tent

Frame tents are also referred to as west coast frame tents or high peak frame tents, depending on style. Typically, frame tents are slightly more expensive due to the additional pieces required to construct the tent. However, a frame tent allows for more flexibility and has fewer obstructions for your guests.  Therefore, when comparing a pole tent vs. frame tent cost, the tent prices for frame tents are typically higher. 


Frame Tents are assembled from the ground up utilizing aluminum or steel pipes and fittings to build the tent’s framework and supporting structure.  Frame Tents are free-standing and do not require center poles or stakes.

How to Measure

Because frame tents have a smaller footprint, they require less space than a pole tent. For a frame tent, if you are renting a 20×30 frame tent, you would only need an area of 23′ x 33′ with a clearance of 14′.  Another consideration is that even though frame tents do not have center poles, the clearance at the top is similar.  

Download our free cheat sheet to measuring for a frame tent: 

Set Up and Installation

Frame tents are laid out on the ground and built by placing the frame poles into the fittings. First, the frame is laid out and then built.  Secondly, the tent top is pulled over the framework and secured. After the top is placed onto the framework, the tent is lifted into the air, and then the legs of the tent are placed under the tent. Finally, the tent top is completely secured to the frame, and the anchors for the tent are installed.

Anchoring Method

Frame tents can be anchored with stakes, water barrels, or concrete ballast. Because frame tents do not need to be staked, there is more flexibility for installations and can be placed on the blacktop, concrete patios, decks, and any location where staking the tent is not an option. We detailed below a picture of a tent anchored with water barrels.

Frame Tent Description Recap

  • Frame tents do not contain center poles or any interior obstructions.
  • Need to be staked 3′ feet outside of the tent. If you have a 20’ x 20’ tent, the footprint or space required would need to be a minimum of 23’ x 23’ flat area.
  • Can be placed on blacktop, grass, concrete, decks, patios. 
  • Tents can be anchored with stakes, concrete ballast, or water barrels. 
  • Slightly higher cost than pole tents but allows more flexibility with fewer obstructions for guests. 
  • It does not need to be staked/anchored at every side pole around the perimeter.

Ideal for:  Driveways, Patios, Decks, Wedding Ceremonies

High Peak Frame Tent vs High Peak Pole Tent

One other comparison to note is a high peak frame tent vs. a high peak pole tent.  When comparing these two, the above criteria are the same; however, high peak frame tents are limited in their size options. While you can rent a high peak pole tent in almost any size, frame tents have limited sizes.  If you are having a small wedding or wedding ceremony, a high peak frame tent is our “go-to” recommendation.  If you have the availability and space for a high peak pole tent, they are perfect for any event.  Both high peak frame tents and high peak pole tents add an extraordinary touch of elegance to any event, and we highly recommend them. 

Rent a High Peak Frame Tents

A high peak frame tent combines the standard west coast frame tent and a high peak pole tent’s elegance, adding flair to any event. Much like the west coast style, the high peak frame tents do not require a center pole, so there are no obstructions.  This style uses cross cables and a mast attached to the tent frame and suspended in the air.  

High peak frame tents have the same advantages and anchoring as a standard frame tent. While its price point is higher than the standard frame tent, it provides a classy look for any event. 

Ideal for:  Wedding Ceremonies, Small Weddings, Graduation Parties, Galas, Corporate Events

Rent a High Peak Pole Tents

High peak pole tents also contain similar characteristics as a standard pole tent. However, the main difference is the size of the center pole. While your standard pole tents have a lower clearance, these pole tents obtain their “swoop” by increasing the center pole’s height by between 5-7′. 

By far, this is our most popular tent for large weddings, even at an increased price point.  The inside feels more open with the taller center poles, and aesthetically the tent is beautiful from the outside, adding elegance and class to your event.  

Ideal for: Weddings, Galas, Corporate Events, Formal Gatherings

Pole Tent vs Frame Tent for Weddings

Wondering which, a pole tent vs. a frame tent for weddings, is best? Well, that depends on a lot of the criteria we listed above.  The good news is both styles can offer a high peak.  So, a high peak frame tent may be best for smaller weddings or wedding ceremonies, while a high peak pole tent would work best for larger weddings in grass that would enable you to have everything under one tent. 

Sometimes you do not need to choose a pole tent vs. a frame tent for weddings. You can have your “cake and eat it too.”   We have a lot of customers that utilize both. They will utilize a high peak pole tent for the main areas for guests dining, dance floor, etc., and they will utilize a high peak frame tent for their wedding ceremony, catering tents, or occasionally they want to move the dance floor under a separate tent.  Another great option for those fall weddings is a clear top tent rental

For weddings, it’s similar to any other event when choosing a frame tent vs. pole tent, but either way, if you go with a high peak tent, you can’t go wrong. 

In addition to renting tents for summer weddings utilizing an outdoor heated tent rental is perfect for those fall and winter weddings.  Both frame tents and pole tents can be heated by adding sidewalls and heaters. 

Seating Capacity Chart

Now that we have detailed the differences between a pole tent vs. a frame tent, we wanted to include a standard seating capacity chart for both style tents in each size. In turn, this will give you an idea of the potential sizes you may need once you have identified the size of your event.  These are standard-capacity guidelines, and depending on the layout, and how many ancillary tables your event requires, it could decrease the total guests count. The numbers presented are utilized to obtain a starting point to decide which tent size would make a good starting point. 

Also, please keep in mind that Pole tent sizes range from 20×20 up to 80x and larger. Frame tents size range from 10×10 up to 60x and larger. 

About Academy Rental Group

At Academy Rental Group, we are here to assist you with your event planning. We have over 25 years of experience in the tent and party rental industry, a large inventory, and have serviced thousands of customers over the years.   We are fully insured, a member of the ARA, and work with many local municipalities, like Anderson Township Events, Cincinnati wedding venues, and multiple churches and schools. 

Please contact us for your free consultation on your next event at 513-772-1929, or feel free to click the button below.