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ask-tom-pictureTom –

Your tailgate tent looks very “vintage” but mine breaks every few years. How do you make it last so long?

– Curious from Celo

Curious –

I started selling shrubs at tailgate markets in the early 90’s without a tent. I graduated to a $40 umbrella that I “fired” one day during a thunderstorm with rain that came under one side of the umbrella and out the other. On the advice of Pete Dixon I bought a “Quikshade” brand 10X10 tent that is entering its twelfth year and should be good for many more. Here are some thoughts on tent maintenance and repair that may help your tent last.

The number one preventive action is to ensure long tent life is to keep it from becoming airborne. I recall a gust at the West Asheville Market that lifted a tent up about forty feet without touching the table, wares, or vendor. It landed about 100 feet away in an empty (fortunately) parking space at the West End Bakery. For liability alone, we should all keep our tents anchored. The little pins that come with some tents look useless to me and most parking lot owners object to nails in their pavement. One consideration is the weight of the tent frame. Our tent is very heavy, perhaps four times the weight of many lighter versions. Our main protection is to tie the tent to the bumper of our pick-up. Some venues require weights on each corner. Gallon jugs of water are common. We added sash weights this year to the two legs that are not next to the truck. In my view, keeping your tent on the ground is the best way to make it last.

The covering is subject to wear so we always use the cover that came with the tent before we load it into the truck. Some vendors use a square of carpet to cushion the end that slides in first. Mildew can be a problem so we always dry out a wet tent when we get home. Winter storage in a dry location also helps the cover last. Punctures can be mended with heavy thread. Occasionally the seams give out but they are easily fixed if caught early.

Frame failure seems to be the leading complaint, particularly as manufacturers move toward lighter and lighter metal. Four of ourtent ribs have broken and have been temporarily repaired with duct tape. Twice we hired our neighbor welder to insert a sleeve and then to drill a hole for the bolt at a hinge point. More recently we have developed a better patch involving plastic conduit. We pick a conduit size slightly larger than the broken rib, press its round cross section into an oval with a vice, insert the broken rib, and then remove the vise pressure, allowing the conduit to squeeze the rib. We drill a hole in the right location and the repair is done. One of these patches has lasted for over a year so I am optimistic that it will be somewhat permanent. This description may be a little hard to follow so refer to the photo below. The photo shows a welded patch in the foreground and the more recent conduit patch to the rear.

Happy selling. – Tom

Ask Tom © 2013 Tom Elmore & Organic Growers School

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Tom Elmore

Author: Tom Elmore

Tom Elmore is co-owner and operator of Thatchmore Farm in Leicester NC. He has grown certified organic fruits and vegetables for 25 years and serves on the Boards of the NC Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Association and the Organic Growers School.

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