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Outdoor Shelter Comparisons: Canopy Tents vs Gazebos and More

Outdoor Shelter Comparisons: Canopy Tents vs Gazebos and More

Canopy tents are similar to other temporary or permanent types of outdoor shelter. These include gazebos, pergolas, tents, and awnings. However, all these also have defining characteristics that make them distinct from each other. Despite having a lot of overlapping aspects, these shelters nonetheless have certain characteristics that you need to be aware of before choosing the right kind of shelter for your property.

Recreational shelters can be nice additions to your property, though some are also designed for portable and temporary use. You can check out the options below and decide which ones will meet your needs.

Types of recreational outdoor shelter

From canopy tents to awnings, you have plenty of options to choose from. This is why knowing the difference between these structures can help you make sure that you make the right purchase. You might end up purchasing a collapsible gazebo when you meant to purchase a canopy tent. With this guide, you’ll be able to avoid any confusion that might lead you to spend money on something you don’t want.

canopy tent

Canopy tents

Canopy tents are designed to be a type of temporary shelter that can protect from the sun, wind, and rain. Many people use them as permanent or long-standing structures, but they’re primarily meant for temporary use. They’re typically lightweight, portable, and easy to set up and pack up.

Thus, canopy tents can be used for a variety of purposes, including tailgating, picnicking, backyard parties, and outdoor events. These are the tents you usually see in farmer’s markets. Additionally, you can also set a canopy tent in your backyard to shield you from the sun while you grill on the barbecue or lounge by the pool. You can expect canopy tents to come in a variety of sizes, materials, and colors to suit your needs.

A canopy party tent is defined by a pitched or pyramid-shaped top. It can have no sidewalls, one fabric sidewall, or three sidewalls. The ones with no sidewalls are somewhat more common, however. They also have solid yet lightweight frames that are relatively easily collapsible, with detachable canopies. This design is what makes canopy tents portable.

Learn more about the best canopy tents on the market.

camping tent

Camping Tents

There are canopy tents, and then there are tents. Where canopy tents can have no sidewalls, tents are designed to provide you with all-around protection against the elements. A pop-up camping tent and other kinds of tents have a full roof, four full walls, a floor, and a door that you can zip or unzip. Some can be small enough to hold two people, while others can have interconnected compartments and can hold upwards of six people.

Typically, tents are used for camping. You can sleep in them and keep your belongings safely sheltered instead of left out in the open. You can also keep insects and other animals out by zipping up the door flaps. Because of the way a tent is constructed, you’ll have enough privacy even when you’re outdoors.

Additionally, tents can come in different shapes, sizes, colors, and materials. They’re typically portable and are designed to fold or roll up. This makes them easy to carry when you’re hiking or trekking, allowing you to have a convenient shelter for when you have to make camp.



Typically, gazebos are outdoor structures with a full roof and open walls. They can vary widely in style, colors, purpose, and the materials they’re made of. What they all have in common, however, is that they have pitched roofs and are typically meant to be permanent or long-term installations.

Some gazebos are large free-standing structures with their own solid foundation. These gazebos are often built from scratch and are made of wood, brick, cement, and metal. However, you can also buy pre-made grill gazebo kits that you can set up on your deck, patio, or backyard.

These kits come with most if not all of the parts that you’ll need, and you can typically set them up by yourself if you’re especially handy, or with the help of a couple of others. Additionally, gazebo kits won’t take too much time to set up.

Learn more about the best metal gazebo kits on the market.



Pergolas are quite similar to gazebos, in that they’re great for outdoor recreational seating and tend to be permanent or long-term installations. They usually have four posts that hold up an open roof with beams. If you want a covered roof, you can drape a piece of fabric to create a pergola shade over the beams to keep the sun out.

Another similarity they have with gazebos is that pergolas can be free-standing structures. You’ll have to make sure that they’re securely anchored, but they can typically withstand strong winds and harsh weather.

A pergola can also provide you with a way to extend your living area from the indoors to the outdoors. You can have a comfortable outdoor seating area with just the right amount of shade. This will allow you to enjoy nice, sunny days without burning up in the sun.

Learn more about the best pergolas on the market.



Like the other types of outdoor shelters on this list, awnings can provide shade and a comfortable spot to hang out in. However. where canopy tents, camping tents, gazebos, and pergolas are designed to be free-standing, awnings need to be attached to the side of a building. They also come in different sizes, shapes, colors, styles, and materials.

You can install an awning over windows and doors, right over patios or decks if you’re installing them on residential buildings. Because awnings are typically made of a fabric cover, installing them isn’t much of a hassle. They also don’t have to be permanent installations, so they’re less likely to affect the value of your home.

Canopy tents vs camping tents

Canopy tents and camping tents may seem like they have several similarities, but they’re typically used for different purposes. Their differences are also significant enough that the two types of outdoor shelters are not interchangeable. Thus, you probably won’t be able to use a canopy tent for overnight camping. You’re also unlikely to efficiently use a camping tent to efficiently shelter a barbecue grill, and you won’t be able to use it for outdoor events like farmer’s markets.

Here's a quick rundown of the key similarities and differences between canopy tents and camping tents:


Canopy Tents Camping Tents
Full roof
Designed for portability
Can be used in different settings
Designed for short-term use
Must be weighed down to maintain stability


Canopy Tents Camping Tents
Partial fabric sidewalls or no sidewalls at all Four full walls
Open-air design Can provide privacy and a zippered door for security
No floor Includes a floor
Typically square or rectangular in shape Can come in different sizes

Canopy tents vs gazebos vs pergolas

Canopy tents, gazebos, and pergolas are actually similar enough that people are able to use them for a lot of the same purposes. They can all be set up in your backyard, and they’re typically spacious enough to accommodate chairs and tables. However, they also have important distinctions that are worth mulling over.

Here's a quick rundown of the key similarities and differences between canopy tents, gazebos, and pergolas:


Canopy Tents Gazebos Pergolas
Typically square or rectangular in shape
Four posts supporting a roof
Can have open walls or fabric sidewalls
No floor


Canopy Tents Gazebos Pergolas
Closed roof Closed roof Open roof with beams
Roof must be made of fabric Roof can be made of fabric, metal, wood, or roofing tiles Roof is made of the same material as the posts
Temporary to long-term installation Long-term to permanent installation Long-term to permanent installation
Weights needed for secure installation Can be installed directly on the deck or patio Can be installed directly on the deck or patio
One-piece pre-assembled frame Frame typically comes unassembled Frame typically comes unassembled
Quick and easy to set up Needs assembly and can take hours to build Needs assembly and can take hours to build

Canopy tents vs awnings

While canopy tents and awnings can both shade you from the sun and protect you from rain, they also have more differences than similarities. However, it’s still worth comparing the two to see which one is more suitable for your purposes.

Here's a quick rundown of the key similarities and differences between canopy tents and awnings:


Canopy Tents Awnings
Outdoor shelter from the sun and rain
Suitable for residential and commercial use


Canopy Tents Awnings
Typically square or rectangular Can come in different shapes and sizes
Free-standing Must be attached to another structure
Has four posts Can have no posts or two posts
Fabric canopy Canopy can be fabric or plastic


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