Can plastic barrels full of water provide the holding power necessary for safe tenting?  This educational blog explains alternative ways to safely anchor a tent without stakes.
** At the bottom of the article are several links to discussion by industry experts
 
Water barrels have their place in tent anchoring, but not for this long term rental
Water barrels have their place in tent anchoring, but not for this long term rental
 

Manufacturer’s Design for Stakes

A manufacturer usually engineers their tent anchoring around the data provided in studies for stakes and their holding power.  When a tent manufacturer designs a tent from the ground up, the engineers produce written specifications for anchoring. These specifications will be conveyed to the tent installer in an installation manual, which often includes drawings.  The staking is then applied to the site-specific situation where the installer takes into consideration several factors:

  • site wind exposure (valley vs top of hill)

    Wind is a variable we cannot control
    Wind is a variable we cannot control
  • 5 day forecast
  • duration of rental
  • soil density (holding power) for staking
  • soil water saturation (drought vs muddy)
  • nearby structures (building, trees)
  • the size of the tent (surface area)

Not all customer’s sites can tolerate staking.

There are situations where customers will not allow stakes to be placed in the ground.  This is when “anchoring with ballast” is used.  Ballast can take many forms, but the most common method is concrete block or water barrels.

Small Tents with water barrels

Water barrels cheap to buy, but don't hold much
Water barrels easy to find, but not much holding power

Water Barrels will work with many small tent installations as long as the weather forecast is taken into consideration.  Water barrels do not have substantial holding power against strong winds because they are top heavy, easily tipped over or will easily slide along the ground surface. Tent widths of 10′ and 15′ present smaller wind surface areas with little challenge to secure.  Tents 20′ wide and larger present greater surfaces for the wind to push against.  If a 20′ wide tent does not require sidewall, the wind-load is lessened. When using water barrels the final decision for the number of barrels needed is best determined based on the weather as close to possible to the installation date.

Large Tents need concrete ballast

Winds act on sails like they act on tents
Winds act on sails like they act on tents

Event Central’s policy is to use Concrete Block for all tents measuring 30′ and wider because safety is no accident. These size tents present huge wind surface area (square footage) far exceeding the sail area of the America’s Cup Sailboats. A study conducted by one tent manufacturer verified through testing that one – 1000# concrete weight has the equivalent holding power of 10 – 385# water barrels, and ultimately presents a much cleaner finish to the tent installation.

Proper installation of Concrete Ballast

The most effective method of anchoring with ballast is to use a system of Concrete ballast placed on an anti skid surface (rubber mat) which reduces the sideway friction on a blacktop or concrete driveway.  For every tent leg, there must be a ballast pairing.  A leg not secured to a stake or ballast becomes a  “floating” leg when exposed to high winds, ultimately the “weakest link” of the tent installation.

Safe Tenting and Handling of Material

10x20 marquee with no wall anchored by 4 barrels - a safe installation
10x20 marquee with no wall anchored by 4 barrels - a safe installation

 

Large tent properly anchored with concrete blocks
Large tent properly anchored with concrete blocks

 

Employee Safety requires specialty equipment when handling concrete SafeBlocks™
Employee Safety requires specialty equipment when handling concrete SafeBlocks™

 

Event Central carries 3 different concrete weights to handle a wide variety of applications.

  • 1800# Lego Block 2′ x 3′ x 24″ H
  • 1000# SafeBlock™  2′ Diameter x 21″ H
  • 500#   Baby SafeBlock™ 18″ Diameter x 18″ H

We also manufacturer the SafeBlock™ ballast for resale to tent rental companies and long term rentals.  Call us for a quote.

 

** Links to references by industry experts regarding anchoring:

2 thoughts on “When is it Safe to use Water Barrels to Anchor Tents”

  1. This is information that anyone renting a tent should know! Thank you for providing this blog post. I’m going to share this information with everyone who rents a party tent from me.

    Thank you!

    1. Carol, Check out this Facebook page, and scroll down to the video dated Feb 11 titled “40 mph winds” to see how 10 water barrels glide across a parking lot while attached to a 20×40 frame tent & wall

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