Fire Resistant CanopiesMany brands and models of canopies and tents boast flame-retardant or flame resistant certifications as part of their features. But what do those seals of approval mean, and who grants them?

While there is no federal flame-retardant standard, the textiles industry relies on one of two certifications to demonstrate their products’ flame resistance to consumers. One is granted by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA); the other, by the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI.) Though neither certification is “official” in that it carries legal weight, both are important means of determining whether your canopy material is adequately tested to resist burning or catching fire.


The National Fire Protection Association is a non-profit trade organization that provides copyrighted fire resistance and flame retardation standards and codes to various governmental bodies. The NFPA grants its NFPA 701: Standard Methods of Fire Tests for Flame Propagation of Textiles and Films certification to fabrics, draperies, and textiles that have passed a series of rigorous tests.

In NFPA Small Scale Testing, samples of fabrics are held against an open flame for twelve seconds. The ignition resistance, or flame resistance, is recorded and scored along three separate criteria. Passing scores are given to fabrics that:

  1. - Have an after-flame of no more than two seconds.
  2. - Have a char length of no more than 6.5 seconds.
  3. - Do not continue to flame after reaching the test chamber floor.

Because NFPA-701 regulations allow for weathering of the fabric before testing, the certification presents a convenient and accurate means of determining fire resistance in fabrics intended for outdoor use.

The NFPA updates its standards every few years, with the most recent revisions published in 2010. As standards change, the canopy manufacturer may choose to include the updates into their fire-resistance treatments for their products. Manufacturers may choose which year’s certifications by which to abide when making their fabrics fire-resistant.

Despite its technically non-legal status, NFPA 701 certification’s influence remains broad and powerful. Many state and city governments nationwide have adopted NFPA 701 standards as their official legal threshold for textiles and fabrics used in public spaces. Their fire codes specify that fabrics and other textiles must meet NFPA 701 specifications.


Fire resistant canopiesThe CPAI-84 specification is awarded by the Industrial Fabrics Association International. It is a voluntary, industry-wide designation used primarily regarding the flame resistance of camping tents. However, the IFAI’s definition of camping tent extends to include recreational vehicle awnings, canopies, play tents, screen houses, and even ice fishing tents.

CPAI-84 testing measures char length, mass loss, and after-flame. It does not measure flame spread, a criteria more widely used for fabrics intended for indoor use. It also does not certify that the material in question will be fire retardant. IFAI officials (CPAI stands for Canvas Products Association International, the IFAI’s original name) are quick to stress that the 84 certification is both voluntary and non-committal.

Screen houses and other structures that use mesh fabric heavier than 50 grams per square meter (g/m2) are eligible for CPAI-84 certification.

Other Important Facts About Flammability and Fire Resistance

Obviously, the best defense against fire is avoidance. Don’t set up your canopy next to open flame sources, including bonfires, campfires, or open-flame stoves. Strong winds and gusts can blow burning embers atop the canopy top, where they can become trapped by the canopy’s shape.

Never burn fires beneath the canopy covering, including fires contained within barbecue pits and grills. Escaping smoke can lift burning embers and ash towards the canopy material. Burning fires underneath the canopy cover also drastically increases the dangers of smoke inhalation.

Local fire departments, as well as state fire codes and ordinances, may restrict where you can set your canopy up within closed spaces and even outside. Contact your local fire department to check these legally binding regulations.


Three cheers for the red...

The Fourth of July is like the centerpiece of summer, so there’s no better time to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. Celebrating America’s independence is also the best time to enjoy some thoroughly American activities like barbecuing, picnicking, and putting in high-quality time with your backyard and patio.

Here’s five ideas to get your Fourth of July party planning up and running, including some tips on how to throw a party without throwing your budget out of whack.

America is the land of plenty – of food.

The main attraction at any Fourth of July party – besides the fireworks, of course – is always the food. Serve traditional American fare like hamburgers and fried chicken with plenty of sides – potato salad, baked beans, potato chips, and anything else – along with plenty of dessert: ice cream, pies, cupcakes and pastries, and Jell-O.

But America’s also a land of many different places. If the classic American menu seems too broad, celebrate your state or your region: seafood for the Gulf Coast and Atlantic states, Barbecue for Texas and  the Southwest, steaks and fresh vegetables for the Midwest. (We’re painting in broad strokes, here, but you get the picture.) Make sure your family and friends know they’re welcome to bring their own family recipes, too.

If you’re looking to save money, invite your family and friends, but let them know you’re planning that great American tradition – the potluck. Set up everyone’s dishes under the canopy or tent and let everybody help themselves.

Raise a Red, White, Or Blue Beverage


... white...

Refresh and revive the celebration by offering your guests red fruit bunch, “white” lemon-lime soda, and blue lemonade. For extra fun, use plastic ice molds to freeze different colored ice cubes, or freeze the juices and colas themselves. For the kids, remember that drink mixes also work with milk to create red, white, and blue milk drinks. And remember to get plenty of ice if you’re serving drinks outside!

Raise Your Flags – And Your Banners and Bunting

You can’t celebrate America without saluting The Stars and Stripes. Bedeck your patio, backyard, canopy or portable shelter, and even your back deck with red white and blue bunting, banners, and other decorations to set a patriotic mood. If you have an appropriately-sized flag, carefully hang it from the overhang of your patio or pergola, or from the side of your canopy. Be sure to follow all due flag etiquette when flying Old Glory, too.

For a slightly more mature ambiance, string light chains around your patio, backyard, or canopy to set a more romantic or more sophisticated mood.

See Fireworks Everywhere

Traditionally the grand finale of the Fourth of July bash, fireworks are an event all by themselves. To help spread their glittering cheer, pass out sparklers and party favors, then treat your guests to a few fireworks at the close of the evening yourself. Just remember to check local laws to make sure firecrackers are legal in your area, and to follow all safety precautions.

For the frugal patriot, keep in mind that cities and municipalities usually have fireworks shows that everyone can enjoy, so it’s not necessary to sink a lot of money into creating your own event.

Leave The Television On – And Out!


... and blue!

Let’s face it – Americans love their television, and whether to watch the big game, the fireworks from Washington, D.C., or just a favorite program, a television is a welcome guest at any Independence Day bash. Bring the television to the patio if you can, stretching extra connecting wire or letting the antenna do the reception work for the duration. Just make sure to keep the set covered in case of unwelcome weather. If you take it into the backyard, cover it with a canopy or tarp.

A stereo system playing classic American music – old-time rock and roll, smooth jazz, or musical showtunes – also makes a great alternative. Happy Fourth of July!




Camping Tents Summer is just around the corner, and for millions of American families that means it’s time to go hiking and camping. One of the nation’s favorite past times for more than a hundred years, camping (and hiking too!) lets us all get outside and enjoy the great outdoors while getting plenty of exercise.

But for parents especially, camping is also the time to pay close attention to proper safety guidelines. As you hit the trail, keep the following expert advice in mind.

Observe Proper Campfire Safety

Clear a four-foot area around the campfire site of all debris and loose rocks. This will help prevent children tripping into the fire. Keep embers trapped inside the fire area by building a ring of rocks or using a metal hoop to contain them.

When extinguishing the fire, don’t pour water on the fire but instead toss small amounts atop the embers. This will prevent fires from continuing to burn in air pockets created by wet soil and dirt.

Plan Your Route and Stick To Camping Area Guidelines

Camping TentsCarry maps and trail, park, or camp guides with you at all times, and cover only as much ground as you and your family can manage without over-exerting yourselves. Stay abreast of weather reports and other bulletins by bringing a battery-operated radio. (Smartphone coverage may not extend into wilderness areas.)

Use existing campsites whenever possible, and stick to established trails and walkways. Hiking and camping experts recommend making camp 200 feet off the main hiking trail and away from water and other campsites. This provides a reasonable amount of privacy and mutual safety but also protects the park and water sources.

Use a portable latrine or dig a six-inch hole to bury your family’s biological waste. Make sure the hole is 200 feet away from water to avoid contaminating it.

Pack all food and snacks in watertight baggies, and take all your trash with you out of the camping and hiking area. Keep food in sealed containers to prevent it luring wild animals into your campsite. Wash your hands frequently, using hand sanitizer if water is not readily available.

Avoid heights such as the sides of cliffs and buttes, and keep your children as close to the trail as possible. Avoid getting too close to the edges of rivers, ponds, and streams. Rivers may have sharp currents that can pull children (and adults) inside, and ponds and lakes may shelter snakes and other wildlife.

Take Care of Your Pets and Stay Clear of Wild Animals

Don’t approach, attempt to pet, or otherwise “befriend” wildlife, as even seemingly tame animals can become ferocious when they feel threatened. Some animals also carry diseases which spread to humans upon contact.

Use insect repellent to guard against diseases spread by mosquitoes and other flying pests.

Preparing for Dangers and Emergencies

Camping TentsKeep a GPS tracker and cel phone with you everywhere. Bring an emergency first aid kit, and learn the locations of all ranger stations and other park emergency services before beginning your camping trip.

Make sure your family has sufficient sun blocker to guard against sunburn. Use lotion rated at least SPF 15.

Take time before the trip to explain to your children that life in the wilderness often bears little resemblance to the version seen in movies and televisions shows. Explain the basics of hiking and camping safety before you set out, and review the rules with them as you make your way to the campsite.

For more information on staying healthy while taking in the great outdoors, visit the Centers for Disease Control’s guide to healthy camping and hiking.

The classic American camping tent has come a long way from its canvas-and-rope roots. Since camping first grabbed America’s attention a little more than a century ago, the camping tent has undergone constant and focused innovation, and the modern camping tent is a minor wonder of lightweight construction fused with durable, innovative construction.

Different Size Tents for Different Needs

Camping Tent

A backpacking tent

Modern camping tents fall into three distinct categories, according to their function. Family tents are designed for groups of three or more people in mind. Some squarish models, called cabin tents, are in many ways like portable houses; other family tents use the traditional dome structure.

For outdoor enthusiasts, backpacking tents are reinforced for hikers or for travelers who frequently change campsites.They are designed to setup and break down quickly, and come in a variety of structures and shapes including the dome, the classic a-frame, and the long, narrow “tunnel tent.”

Expedition tents, sometimes called mountaineering or winter tents, are usually heavier than other tents thanks to their sturdier construction meant for withstanding harsh weather conditions. Expedition tents typically sit lower to the ground than family tents, in order to better deflect wind. A special class, called “four season tents,” are specially reinforced for year round use.

Poles, Materials, and Tent Specifications

No matter what type of tent you’re looking for, it’s important to consider the peak height, floor dimensions, and sleeper capacity before making a final selection. These three factors will give you a general idea of the interior space the tent offers. You should also consider the floor plan inside the tent, to make sure it’s good fit for everyone who’ll use it.

As a rule, camping tent poles are made from either fiberglass or aluminum. Preferred by backpackers for their lighter weight and sturdier construction, aluminum poles nevertheless remain more expensive than fiberglass. Top-tier aluminum poles, known as 7000 Series Alloys, use zinc for a metallurgical base.

The fewer poles a tent uses, the easier the setup. However, tents with more poles offer greater stability.

Camping tent material is commonly either vinyl or nylon, and many models include a polyurethane coating to increasing water resistance. Nylon is the tougher of the two, as well as the more lightweight. “Ripstop nylon” is a special kind of nylon that includes additional threading to stop the spread of rips.

Fabric thickness is measured according to its denier index. The higher the denier, the thicker the tent material.


Camping Tents

A three-room family tent

The simplest form of tent flooring is a groundcloth, meant to protect the bottom of the tent from ground debris such as rocks, twigs and hard-packed dirt. Footprints are groundcloths that fitted to the shape of your tent that offer superior water protection. For inside the tent, bathtub floors are molded flooring pieces that surround the bottom two inches of the tent walls on all sides. Because the tops of their sides are several inches off the ground, they offer the best water protection.

Other Accessories

Other tent add-ons and extras include:
Rainfly – a waterproof cover for your tent.
Guylines – rope used to anchor the tent to ground stakes or to low-hanging tree branches.

Camping Tents

A clip-on tent light

Vestibules – narrow, enclosed areas outside the tent’s main door, used to hold shoes, backpacks and other equipment that might consume too much room inside the tent’s main chamber.
Tents and fans – truly bringing along the comforts of home, camping fans and lights clip to tent poles or stand free within the tent.
Gearloft – like the overhead compartment on a plane or train, gearlofts are overhead storage areas suspended from the tent roof.