Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Giving Back: A Tent Weight tutorial for Vendors and Outdoor Enthusiasts

After nine years of working the local Farmers Markets and outdoor shows, Terry and I have seen it all.  As we have evolved as vendors over the years with our tent set up, so have Farmers Market managers.  The days of using large pieces of iron, gallon jugs of sand, barbell weights and other heavy items tied to a tent to hold it down are numbered, now that market managers are encouraging vendors to properly weight down their tents and to conform to a more uniform standard.  More and more market managers are enforcing this standard and have gone from encouraging it to making it mandatory.

Many vendors have moved to weight bags as a solution, and although there are many ways to accomplish this, some have drawbacks.  For example, filling weight bags with sand seems like a great idea in theory, and we have done this ourselves.  However, we have learned over time that this is not the best long-term strategy.  Bare sand in a weight bag eventually causes friction against the sewn seams, and after a year of use, the sand begins working its way through the bag eventually eroding the seams, causing a hole and sand leakage. In addition, rain causes wet sandbags. Couple this with the friction and they create dust and grit which permeate the bags making them dirty to handle and problematic when placed in your clean vehicle for transport.

We also tried the novel idea of filling empty 2-liter bottles with sand and placing them in the weight bags.  This worked very well for a while until the sand eventually broke through the thin walls of the plastic bottles into the weight bags, taking us back to square one.  Eventually, we came across vendors who had a hardware store make weights for their tent bags which solved these problems.  Their bags remained clean on both outside and inside and lasted for years of service.  Last year we had weights made by a local hardware store, which were great, but the cost of labor and materials was pretty steep.  Tent weights for us are somewhat of a capital expense, and since I had to get a new set made for our second tent, I determined to do the labor myself, saving about $65 doing so.  In order to give back to our fellow vendors (and anyone else who uses an outdoor canopy often), I’m gonna give you instruction on how to make these yourself and save money.

What you need (Materials):

4 tent weight bags - offers a huge selection of zipper or velcro lined bags as low as $19 for a set of four, each with a two weight compartment. We prefer velcro over metal zippers which can rust.

One 10 foot section of 3” PVC Pipe (around $20) – I found 2-foot lengths of PVC pipe at our local Home Depot for around $5.50 each.  Since each of my weight bag’s compartments accommodate the length of one foot plus the end caps, this worked out well.  You will need 8 pieces of PVC pipe to outfit your weight bags so you can cut two-foot sections in half yourself, cut the larger pipe into suitable lengths or have an associate cut them for you (which I did). Note: While 3” thickness is standard, your bags may accommodate a wider or thinner width of pipe, so choose accordingly.

Sixteen 3” PVC Pipe Caps (around $4.50 each) – (Your biggest expense) A larger local hardware store should have these in quantity, but even our local Home Depot only had so many, and I cleaned them out of their supply.  You may need to go to several stores to get a total of 16.

1 Large Bag of Play Sand (around $2.50)

Tools Needed:

A Hammer or Mallet
A small block of wood 2X4
A small scoop

Once you’ve acquired your weight bags, measure the length of one of the compartments.  You may need a foot or more of pipe depending on what bags you get. An easier way to do this is to bring one of your bags with you to the hardware store, take a smaller length of PVC and place a cap on the end.  Then place the end cap and pipe into one of the bag’s two compartments and judge how much length you need, leaving enough room to close the bag securely.  Most hardware stores sell 10-foot lengths of pipe, but as I mentioned above, I was able to find 2-foot lengths which could be split in half.  If one-foot lengths work for you, fine.  If your bags are longer, you will need to cut exact lengths from the larger piece of pipe. NOTE: It is very important to take the end caps in consideration for your measurements to prevent your weight from being too long to fit the bag!

When you are ready to assemble the weights, take a length of cut pipe and place it into one of the end caps. Set the wooden block on the open part of the tube and pound it firmly into the end cap.  Because of their tight fit, you will not need any adhesive to keep them secured, which saves a bit of cash.

Once you have your eight tubes with end caps assembled, fill each tube with sand.  Tamp the sand down with your fingers or by lifting each tube and slamming it to the ground.  Place more sand in until you fill it with as much as it will take.  Clean the sand off the edges of the pipe. Then place another end cap on the pipe and tap it in place using the wood block and hammer. 

Place your completed weights into your weight bag, and seal closed with the velcro closure.

There you have it!

The total cost of materials:

Tent bags around $20, PVC Pipe approx. $20, End Caps approx. $72, Sand $2.50 = approx. $115
It cost me about $180 to have weights made by the hardware store.  Savings: $65

While $115 is nothing to sneeze at for most vendors, the cost savings, and convenience of having permanent (and market compliant) weights for your tent/canopy make it well worth the money spent.  The weights themselves will outlast your weight bags through the wear and tear of the market season, and after several years of use, your only added expense would be replacing torn or worn out tent bags as needed.
I hope that this simple tutorial is of benefit to you.  Thank you for taking the time to read it. Be well!

Nehemiah Inverse,                                                        Winter Goddess Foods       


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