Retrofitting an extension to a different tent

This is one of the most common questions we get asked here at Taunton Leisure.

Most camping brands/tent manufacturers have purpose-made canopies, extensions and awnings for each model, or a universal tent canopy that fits a range of tents. Unfortunately, there are times when that option just isn’t viable.

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You’ve bought your tent but didn’t buy the matching canopy/extension at the time, for whatever reason. Now, you realise that you’d like to have that bit of extra room – to shelter from the sun, or eat lunch under – but the manufacturer has stopped making the matching canopy for your tent. Sometimes they’ve stopped making your tent altogether!

Sound familiar?

What to look out for:

Here we’ll give you some tips on the things you need to look out for when trying to fit a tent canopy or extension from another brand or a different tent model, onto your current family tent.

The first thing to say is that in many situations you can make something work. There will be some option out there to extend the sheltered space of your tent.

How keen you are to have this extra space and how important it is for the canopy to match and fit exactly to the tent (ie – how willing you are to ‘botch’ it) will greatly affect your chances of being able to add extra room to your satisfaction.

1) Dimensions

The most crucial aspect as to whether a particular canopy/extension will fit onto your tent is the matching up of dimensions between the two items at the point where they meet.

You’re going to need to compare the height and width of the tent with the height and width of the extension. Take a look at the image below (click to enlarge): key-dimensions Notice how the the width and height of the extension is marginally greater than the same dimensions on the tent. This is to accommodate the material from the extension, allowing it to run over and around the front pole of the tent towards the points of attachment.

Height: Needless to say, the canopy needs to be of a sufficient height. Most stand-up height family tents stand at somewhere around the 195-220cm mark.

  • Your canopy needs to be a greater height and width than the tent, due to the way that the vast majority of canopies attach to their ‘parent’ tents.
  • Take into account the capacity of the tent (say a 5 or 6-man tent) – a tent manufacturer like Outwell or Vango dedicate a fixed amount of space per person to the total tent width, around 60 cm. So, a 6 man tent is going to be 320cm minimum with additional space added to accommodate room around the inners etc.
  • Don’t mix and match – If you’re looking for an extension for a 6 man tent, you almost certainly need to be looking at extensions for other 6 man tents.

Side Canopies:

Side canopies are mainly found on tents for at least 4 or more people. The method of connection here is simplified, so all you need to worry about is that the height is comparable to the height of the tent.

For side canopies width is not a factor. To our knowledge, there are no side canopies that are actually wider than the tent they were made for!

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Side Awning (closed fronted extension) fitted to a Vango Calder 400

Side canopies have roof material that runs over the tent and peg directly into the ground on the opposite side. You need to ensure that the material that runs over is long enough to give adequate coverage and the guy lines are long enough to reach to the ground on the other side, they almost always are.

Tent extensions, awnings & canopies

2) Connection Method

There are two main methods by which a tent extension/canopy will fit to a tent:

  • Webbing & clips: Many connect to their ‘parent’ tent using adjustable webbing straps on each side with a clip to attach to one of the tent poles. The following image illustrates this method:

extension

  • Zips: An increasing number of tents, particularly higher-end polycotton tents, are manufactured with a zip on the tent, and the extension has a corresponding zip so they can be zipped together.
  • If you can’t get the correct canopy in this instance then you’ll need to find an extension that fits and clips on using the previous method.

 3) Pole Material/Shape

Due to the nature of their design, tunnel tents (as opposed to dome tents) are easier to attach a canopy/extension too, even ones that weren’t originally designed to fit them.

It is particularly important when trying to find an alternative front extension that the pole material and shape matches those used on the tent you are looking to attach it to.

On a steel-poled tent, where the poles are thicker, the profile or shape of the pole when connected is more angular than on a ‘regular’ fiberglass pole.

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Fiberglass poles are made up of one several sections or smaller poles that are linked by bungee cord. When joined together they form a more curved ‘u-shaped’ profile.

Tents with alloy poles again create a different profile and would not be compatible with either steel or fiberglass poled extensions. Linking tent and canopy featuring two differing types of pole material will almost certainly be incompatible.

Be aware that some tent extensions/canopies use a pole from the tent they are made to connect to in order to be pitched. For example, some extensions/canopies need two poles to be pitched, but are only supplied with one and the other pole is taken from the tent. Please check how many poles come with your canopy before purchasing.

4) The year of the tent’s manufacture

It is sometimes the case that you are unable to find the extension/canopy from the same year of manufacture as your tent, so you decide to buy an older or newer one instead.

Be careful when doing this and check the connection method of the extension you’re going to be buying. Tent manufacturers frequently change their tents for the new camping season.

Although it may have the same name, and may look the same, there are sometimes smaller less noticeable details that have changed and can decide whether a canopy will actually fit.

For example, the connection method may have change from zip to clip (or vice versa), or the tent may have been widened enough to prevent old canopies from fitting.

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As we said earlier, if you are determined enough there will be a way of finding the right alternative tent canopy or extension for your family tent. Just consider these points and you should be able to narrow down to the right canopy for you.

Good luck and happy camping!

  • Please note that we cannot guarantee that any tents or extensions will be compatible and fit together other than items that are purpose-made to be used together.
  • These guidelines are a logical approach to finding an alternative when a ‘matching’ tent canopy cannot be found.
  • We will not be held liable if any tents and appendages do not match up to your satisfaction.
  • We advise you to exercise caution when combining such items together as they will be non returnable once pitched because they become used items.

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