I've had a love-hate relationship with my EZ-up...or should I say EZ-UPs (plural!). I went through 3 EZ-UP canopies in 4 years due to the frames snapping during bad weather (2) or while folding up the canopy (1). The first 2 EZ-UPs were a lower-end model and each only lasted me about 2 shows before the frames snapped. The third was a moderate priced model that served me well through at least 60-70 shows...however, I've had to replace several of the frame bits at least once a year due to breakage.
The one thing I did love about my EZ-UP is that I could unfold it and have it up and ready by myself in less than 5 minutes. However, my biggest gripe is that even if I had the tent weighted with 120 lbs of weights (30 lbs in each corner) and had it staked down, the canopy would still shake violently in the wind and the frame would twist and snap. I spent more than enough shows hanging on to the canopy in fear of complete destruction.
I've seen too many of these pop-up canopies take flight, land on cars (I saw one land through a Hummer's windshield!) or on top of someone else's canopy. I've seen them tumble and roll through crowds and over children and take down everything in their path. Arriving back to a show for the second day after the canopies have been up overnight, I've seen EZ-UPs and other pop-up style canopies broken and scattered about like a field of dead dried daddy longlegs with their legs all askew. Sadly, peoples displays and belongings would be destroyed as well. When these frames snap, the metal ends are sharp as razors and I've seen many people cut badly by these, one man required stitches. The other thing is that the EZ-Ups are not waterproof, so leakage and water pooling was a problem which made me resort to modifications using extra tarps, pool noodles and hula hoops...more stuff to lug around.
I have had to pull down my canopy during several shows in moderate wind to ensure the safety of my customers and everyone else. I recently even left one show as soon as I arrived as I knew the EZ-UP would not be able to withstand the conditions. That same day I heard from a friend about another person whose weighted EZ-UP lifted in the wind and the foot caught the vendor in the mouth, ripping out her front teeth and cutting her face badly. That was the last straw.
For the last couple of years, I have been looking at 2 other canopy types, the Flourish Trimline and the Light Dome Finale. Both are heavy duty professional barrel style tents. The Trimline is mainly composed of snap-together steel poles while the Finale is mainly made up of anodized aluminum poles. I've watched both of these canopies in action during shows and they are incredibly study. At one show where I was forced to take down my canopy during moderate winds and rain, the Finale canopy next too me was unphased and was open for business. One great thing about both of these is the wind/heat vent at the top of the canopy which lessens effects of winds and allows air to pass through. They are both fully waterproof.
YAY! The other day, my luck changed! Lucky me! I found a used Flourish Trimline with mesh sides on Craigslist however, I had to drive from West Virginia to New Jersey to get it. The seller was super kind and accommodating and allowed me to place a deposit via Paypal to hold the canopy until I could drive to NJ. Once I arrived several days later, the seller was generous enough to offer to show me how to set it up, but I declined as I really didn't expect him to do that...I had seen multiple pics of the set-up canopy and all the parts were there. I also had a 4-hour return drive back home so I really didn't want to take the extra time nor waste these lovely people's time.
My Flourish tent came with a waterproof vented top with skylight illumination panels to let more light in, 3 lower stabilizer bars, 3 heavy duty mesh display sides, 4 fully waterproof zipper sides, bags for poles, top, sides and other bits, anchoring stakes, and lamp brackets to add lighting. I saved over $900.00 from buying the complete set-up new. I was happy that Flourish has posted canopy set-up tutorials on You Tube as the kit didn't have any instructions and I was a bit scared after seeing all the bits and pieces. Taking into account the time I took to chase after the dog, talk to my neighbors, answer the phone and watch the videos, I'll say it took me about one hour to put the entire canopy together including the lower stabilizer bars, 3 mesh sides, and 4 zipper sides. Everything fit together nicely and it was pretty intuitive to get it all together. To my surprise, the zipper sides zip up super easy and seem very sturdy and well made. My main limitation is that I'm not tall, so I found that my step ladder helped made reaching the top and adding the zipper sides much easier. Now that I know how to set up the Trimline, I think I can get it together a lot quicker next time. I was a bit unsure that I could actually put it together all by myself, but I managed just fine. My only injury was a blood blister when my hand got caught between 2 snapping poles. Ouch! Gotta watch that!
The mesh sides are terrific! They are meant to be able to hang artwork such as framed prints and paintings but I will use them to hang new wood panels that I'm designing for pendant displays. This means no more tables and tall folding displays that can topple in the wind or by an over excited child! My entire booth design is now under renovation. My new booth design will allow more people inside my booth at once and also will allow me to display twice as many pendants. I'm so excited! Wheeee!
I plan on adding 4 40lb sandbag weights, an awning and a banner stand from Flourish. I can't wait to use my new canopy at my next show this weekend!
In closing, I'm not condemning EZ-UPs as they are useful and they do have their place. They are affordable, easy to put up and they work well under the right conditions...however they scare the hell out of me when the wind starts up. If you use an EZ-UP, be mindful and weight it down well with at least 30 lbs on each corner and stake it down when you can. If the wind picks up, consider removing the fabric top or taking the entire thing down for your safety and everyone elses.