HomeRamada / Canopy

August 2013

In three years I have learned much about the pop-up canopies.  I shall share some of it with you and attempt to keep it brief -- if you want verbose, read the 2010 paragraphs.

Center Vent

This is a requirement!  This is critical!  With no center vent the first breeze turns your canopy into a giant kite.  I had my Costco canopy staked down with the provided aluminum stakes.  Three pulled out.  My lot fence stopped the flight and one corner stake did a tap dance on the hood of my car.  Serious repaint.  The Sam's Club canopies are no better.

First-Up

This is my favorite.  I have had it almost five years and other than the canopy is fraying, it works just fine.  It has survived without damage the total weather here in El Golfo.  And we get some good winds.  We get really hot (+120 degrees).  Weather that damages plastic and cloth.  I shall need a new First-Up next year.

Coleman

Coleman After 1 MonthThis is the canopy that made me update this article.  It has a pretty top -- Coleman colors and signature.  It has some reinforcement tabs at the top hinges.  I wish my First-Up had these as the hinges are the first wear points on the canopy top.  But after this, the Coleman is a really shitty product.  I do not like to use that word but it seems appropriate in this case.

Coleman neglects to include a hammer in the required tools list.  You will need one of these to get the legs to extend.  Putting up a canopy is sort of like Alice putting the flamingo in golf club case.  The legs go everywhere.  The hinges on the Coleman are especially flexible and fragile.  Be very careful attempting to move the canopy even a foot or two.  The corner feet will catch and your canopy will emulate the flamingos.   Every other canopy had more of a problem keeping the legs collapsed.  The Coleman legs need encouragement to extend.  Do not hit the corner too hard as this may break the plastic latch.  And who wants to damage the pretty orange latches?

The Coleman and my First-Up are not too far apart on my lot.  The first breeze broke the Coleman.  No wind has in almost 5 years damaged the First-Up.  The plastic hinge covers on the Coleman just bent over and popped off.  Several of them.  The sides of the Coleman collapsed into the center leaving the canopy just a pretty green-gray heap on the ground.

I have solved the Coleman structural  problem.  I have 4 10-foot steel construction rebar rods.  These are attached with steel wire along the  hinge lines on each of the four canopy sides.  The canopy has lasted an hour with no damage.

The Next Day

I apologize if I have said anything nice about the Coleman Canopy.  It rained last night.  The First Up is the same today as yesterday.  Almost 5 years old with a little wear on the top but nothing else.  But after this rain, the Coleman canopy material shredded.  In about a month the Coleman  had gone from a poor simulation of a ten foot canopy to pieces of junk.  Totally useless.  I shall retrieve my rebar pieces, put the Coleman pieces in a bag, and attempt to return it to WalMart.  I doubt even WalMart will accept the return.  I am out about $140 and a lot of wishful thinking. And I note that nothing else on my property was damaged.  There was no hail.  Nothing to suggest that anything should go wrong.  Just the Coleman company obviously trying to return to its reputation of the 1950's but losing.

Oh.  And by the way, the l Coleman had all four canopy sides torn the day after this picture.  This picture was after the first windy night and a week before before our winter winds.

Limping along

I am not rich but I do have some resources.  I have no money to buy a new canopy this year but I have an interim solution.  The rebars are enough to keep the Coleman top frame working.  The Coleman leg architecture is so weak that the flamingo legs will expand and the whole thing collapse.  I have staked the feet and tied two upper corners to my wooden ramada.  I dug up an old canopy cover that I had bought many years ago.  It had lasted three years before it went to storage.  Yes, I am a pack rack.  And we had our first winter wind storm last night.  Serious winds.  No damage to the First Up.  No damage to the cover on my Coleman -- my old recycled cover from some years ago.  I hope to make this work until Spring when I can afford to buy a new First Up.

And if I am lucky, someone will find this web page and not waste their money on a Coleman canopy.

Variety and Cost

I shop mostly at WalMart.  They go through a good quantity of canopies during the year.  Some good.  Some not so good (Coleman comes to mind here).  I have seen canopies at WalMart from $50 to $150.  The $150 were a bit larger.  The Coleman at $120 was the most expensive of the 10-foot canopies.  The First-Up cost $90 this year.  I wish they had been in stock when I bought my Coleman.  But then I would not have needed to write this article.

The $50 canopy might work in your basement but I would not attempt it outdoors.  No center vent.  Spindly looking legs.  Obviously cheap.  They had an 11-foot model just like it for more money.  I would not have bought either of them.  No center vent.

I am sure that there were more as every month the display changed.  But the time I needed a canopy there were no good ones in stock.  Just the super cheap and the Coleman.  I should have waited.

2010

Costco

I went to Costco and bought one of their 10x10 foot ramadas.  Cute.  It cost a little over $100 and had one wall attachable with a zipper.  This year they sell the same canopy with 4 walls and charge $200.  The canopy infrastructure is sturdy.  The canopy lasted almost a week before the prevailing beach wind tore the canopy apart.  Literally.  It was in pieces.  The fine print on the instructions tell you to not use the ramada in high winds.  I think this depends upon your definition of "high wind".  The beach winds are not high in my definition, they are just always there.  As the canopy was immediately in front of my RV I could watch it as it destroyed itself.  No, the damage was done almost immediately and watching the remainder of the tearing just gave me the satisfaction of knowing that there are not enough engineers left in this country.  The fault of the Costco canopy was that it had no center (or any other for that matter) vents -- it acts like any other umbrella.

Replacement Top

So,  I went online and ordered a new canopy top.  Surprise.  Replacement from the same company cost double the original Costco price.  For $200 (including shipping and handling and taxes), I could enjoy watching the new cover for another week.  For $300 dollars I could get a different brand.  I finally  found (Google -- Garden something or other) a canopy that claimed universal fit and defined itself as a replacement able to survive the winds.  And it only cost $100 plus a small amount for shipping.  It has a one meter square piece of material on the top and tacked at the four corners to the main canopy.  The hole underneath is slightly smaller than the cover.  With the 4 corner tacks, there are 4 large vent holes for the wind.  The material is not as strong as the Costco original and the tiny Velcro strips are hardly worth having.  But it survived the week with only tearing out the Velcro strips.  I was surprised because the material did not tear.  But I figured help was needed.

The Costco structure has a center post a little more than 1 meter tall making the canopy come to a nice point in the center.  The problem is that although the material is lightweight, it is ugly when there is no wind at all.  The entire canopy is supported by the 4 corner tacks and looks like it stretched itself (it didn't).  This problem is easily solved.  I drilled two holes crossing through the center post just below the little circle at the very top.  I passed cords through the holes and connected the cords at the opposing corners of the frame.  I left the cord just taut enough to support the roof taking the weight off of the tacks.  Tighter than this would have closed the holes in the vent and made the ballooning worse.  These cords served there purpose very well.  The only problem now is that the wind blows the cover off of the top.  This was the intent of the tiny Velcro tabs (long gone).  Oh.  The cover has a few grommets.  These are NOT for strength.  These are for water runoff.  I made the mistake on only one grommet.  Now it is just a hole.

It was time for more drastic measures.  I hate jury-rigged contraptions seemingly favored by single old men in converted buses living by themselves in the middle of nowhere with their solar panels providing the electricity for their "lives".  I was not about to make this thing ugly.  So I took more of the cord and strung it through the vent from middle to middle in both directions.  This cord is about the same color as the roof and ties down at the middle of the infrastructure sides, passes through the vent, out the other side and ties down on the middle of the other side.  Two of them at 90 degrees to each other.  This works and completes the solution.  Again, the cord is just taut enough to follow the roof line when there is no wind at all (rare).

It is fun to watch the roof in action.  It has now survived a fairly serious dust storm.  When the wind blows, the one side sags inward and the opposite side bellows outwards,  The middle cord holds the bellow from being a balloon.  The corner cords keep the sagging side from total collapse.  Since the side cords are not fettered in the middle, they can move to the bellowing side just enough to hold it in place.  The corner cords act in a similar manner but are more restrained.  I am proud of what I have done.  It works.  It looks good.  And I think there will be no more $100 shipments.

But a couple more weeks and I realize that this cord-supported replacement canopy will not work either.  So I removed my new top before it tore itself to pieces.  I think a little stronger corner "welds" would have helped.  Along with some center welds.  Some serious Velcro at the edges instead of little pretty but useless pieces.

WalMart to the Rescue

You can buy an entire new ramada, frame and all from WalMart for less than $100.  It is an ugly dark blue and not white -- for the money I could live with blue.  It is center vented with a sturdier center vent than the replacement top I bought for more money.  And the other is an ugly tan instead of cream or white like the original.

Zippered Walls and Pretty Black Cords.

Oh.  The zippered walls?  You can forget them.  If you use all 4, you cannot use the ramada as a garage.  If you use all 4, your stakes had better be good as the thing will literally fly.  One wall? Same problem on a smaller scale.  And it really will try to fly.  My first attempt had flying stakes.  And watch how you connect the corner cords to the frame  I had a couple tear before I used stronger cord.  The black cord is pretty and it really is strong enough.  It just cannot take the friction of rubbing on the canopy frame or the little hole in the pretty yellow stake.  Now I use yellow rope.

Shower Curtains and Tennis Balls

But these are history now.  I found a solution -- and I am in the middle of a serious storm right now and shall see if it works.  If not I am out $25 for two fabric shower curtains and a bottle of cheap tennis balls and some yellow rope.  I fastened a shower curtain using the supplied holes on one edge to the ramada frame with yellow rope.  On the other end I tied a tennis ball into the corner with more yellow rope and tied this to the ramada.  The same for the other corner.  I did the same for the other curtain.  This takes care of the front half of the ramada frame.  The part over the front of the car.  Then I took more yellow rope and made 4 crosses.  One under and one over each of the curtains tied off at the ramada strut crossings.  So far this arrangement (you pick the colors) has gone through more wind without damage than anything I had bought.  I had lots of yellow rope from the previous attempts.

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Written:  2007  Updated:  August 4, 2013          Back To Top