What’s the difference between a marquee, a gazebo and a canopy?

Australian gazebo and marquee manufacturers and retailers are confusing these terms with no standardisation helping our customers shop for the right product. Convenient, yet reliable temporary shelter and protection from the elements that are provided by our industry can fall under any number of ambiguous terms. Some are:

  • gazebos
  • marquees
  • pop up tents
  • easy ups
  • an outdoor canopy
  • portable instant shelter
  • canopy tent
  • (to name a few)

Each term has its place, but which one is right for you?

Being one of the longest-serving Gazebo and Marquee manufacturers in Australia, we hope to help provide the most accurate classification of each portable tent structure that’s accepted and adopted by industry professionals and customers alike. Long-term manufacturing experience, international trade show exhibitions, and working alongside global entities positions us to assist in demystifying and clarifying these terms. The dictionary also helps!

We want you to know what to look for when in the market for quick shade protection here in Australia.

What is a marquee?

A Marquee is “a large tent set up for an outdoor party, reception, or exhibition” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. A pop-up or folding Marquee tent is a one-piece, large-span portable shelter whose metal structure has the classic “scissor frame” design. It is an easily set up and torn down sturdy shelter that is either used to promote a brand or protect its occupants from the outdoors.

What is a Marquee? - it is a large-span tent constructed with the classic scissor-frame metal structure as shown with the Altegra 4x8 metre Heavy-Duty Marquee.
Pictured is the scissor-frame design of Altegra's 4mx8m Heavy-Duty Aluminium Marquee.

Uncompromising dependability and steadfastness are the key advantages of Altegra folding Marquees.

The coverage area, size and sturdiness of the portable shelter are the defining factors that predominantly categorise a marquee compared with a gazebo. Prior to the inception of the internal scissor-frame, a marquee in the traditional sense was the pole marquee, a design that can commonly remembered by those that are seen at a circus. Rather than an internally reinforced upper crossbow frame forming the shape of the marquee, the pole marquee uses tension across the canopy pulling down from the centre “King” poles to deeply staked anchors. While the pole marquee can shelter a significantly large number of people, it is not a solution that is easy to set up or as portable as a folding marquee.

Considering the size and area of a marquee, our range of folding marquees are solutions that cover an area equal to or greater than 16m2 (172ft2), which caters to an increasing number of occupants.

Common folding Marquee sizes (with area):

Our marquees are constructed from heavy-duty materials to exceed Australian Standards as a temporary structure where reliability and safety are of tantamount concern.

Marquees for schools, promotional events, weddings and those who simply don’t compromise on reliability or safety trust Altegra Marquees.

What is the foldable marquee packed size?

Altegra packed foldable marquee size guide

A packed marquee size chart as a reference for packing the gazebo - Altegra Pro Lite marquee range. Altegra foldable marquees cover an area of 16 square metres or more.
A packed foldable marquee size chart as a reference for packing the marquee - Altegra Heavy Duty marquee range. Altegra foldable marquees cover an area of 16 square metres or more.

How many people can fit under a marquee?

According to the Marquee People, a 12m x 12m Pole marquee can comfortably support 160 people at a cocktail party. When applying the same logic by area, a 4x8m Altegra Heavy-Duty 50mm (58mm diag.) pop up marquee can shelter approximately 50 people.

In contrast to pole and rope designs, our Heavy-Duty marquees deliver enhanced structural integrity provided by the internal upper scissor-frame structure. In addition, Altegra folding marquees provide your event with the flexibility to join multiple sizes in any formation to uniquely house your guests without requiring large open spaces.

How to build strong, safe marquees for all outdoor events.

We are strong advocates of compliance to the guidelines as set out by the Hire and Rental Industry Association, Australia’s official regulatory body for hire and rental companies. Their guidelines are set to ensure public safety at both indoor and outdoor events. The Marquee Weighting and Marquee Pegging specifications outline recommendations that should be adhered to every time your folding marquee or pop-up gazebo is set up. These are the primary guides that we base our recommendations upon. The safety of your family and those around you should be taken seriously when sudden changes in weather can lift a seemingly heavy marquee with ease.

Altegra’s 20kg stackable marquee leg weights have been designed in collaboration with feedback from our hire company partners, for ease of setup and to comply with the above HRIA standards. The stackable steel marquee leg weights are harmoniously seated around the foot-plate of our marquees and gazebos, designed to reinforce the marquee anchoring to the ground. They have been moulded to be portable with comfortable handles, readily stack to multiple high with guidance nodes, and to be “epically” visible for added safety.

Altegra gazebo steel weights - stackable 20kg each with handles and in a colour you can't miss!
Altegra gazebo steel weights - stackable 20kg each with handles and in a colour you can't miss!
Altegra event marquees can be set up to cover backyard events in all shapes - white 3x6m marquee and 3x4.5m gazebo on a deck.
Altegra event marquees can be set up to cover backyard events in all shapes - white 3x6m marquee and 3x4.5m gazebo on a deck.

An example of a modular setup, combining an Altegra Marquee and Altegra Gazebos
1x 3x6 Marquee (18m2), 1x 3x4.5m Gazebo (13.5m2), and 1x 3x3m Gazebo (9m2)

One of the great advantages of foldable marquees over traditional pole marquees.

What is a gazebo?

“A Gazebo is a small decorated building or temporary structure, usually in a garden, that can be used for relaxing or entertaining guests.” Also, “temporary gazebos are often set up in the campsites of music festivals in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, usually accompanying tents around it”. The first excerpt is from the Cambridge-Dictionary followed by this Wikipedia excerpt.

Altegra Heavy Duty gazebo 3x3, in the great outdoors! Australian gazebo manufacturer.
Altegra Heavy Duty gazebo 3x3, in the great outdoors! Australian gazebo manufacturer.

High build quality, reliability, and affordability are the key advantages of Altegra folding gazebos.

As defined by our folding marquees definition, the coverage area, size and sturdiness of the portable shelter are the defining factors that separate the folding marquee from the gazebo. A pop-up gazebo, in terms of our range and relating to the definitions above, is a temporary structure that is great for entertaining or relaxing which can, of course, be custom decorated.

Considering the size and area of a marquee, our range of folding gazebos are solutions that cover an area that is less than 16m2 (172ft2), which are most portable, lightweight, and easy to erect solutions. Our range of folding gazebos are mainly focussed on lighter-weight frames for their packability and portability without compromising significantly on their integrity.

That being said, Australia’s favourite heavy-duty gazebo is still available by popular demand with the Altegra Heavy-Duty 3x3m aluminium gazebo.

The most common sizes (with area) of pop-up gazebos:

A table of the most common gazebo sizes with area - matched with the Altegra range of gazebos.

Our gazebos are available in all 3 of our frame types, constructed from high-quality powder-coated steel or aluminium to again exceed Australian Standards. Altegra folding gazebos are extensively used as:

  • Pop-up Sun Shelters
  • Kart tents
  • Pit Tents
  • Promotional gazebos

What size gazebo for me?

The gazebo size can range from a single person occupancy up to 13.5m2, which will provide enough cover to be used as a stand-alone party gazebo. As stated above, our larger-span foldable shelter is classified as a foldable marquee which are available in up to 4m x 8m sizes, covering an area of 32m2. A gazebo is the more portable solution that has been developed to pack into your car. Gazebos are the more popular option for short-term use as a result. 

Here is a list of the most common gazebo sizes and their popular uses:

  • 2.4m x 2.4m gazebos – This size is a requirement for some market gazebos where allocated space is tight. It is also popular for use as a booth when a small occupancy tent is required.
  • 3m x 3m gazebos – The 3×3 pop-up gazebo is the most popular size for widespread use. It is commonly used as market stall tents, camping gazebos, pit tents, promotional printed gazebos, sports team tents, branded gazebos and more.
  •  3m x 4.5m gazebos – This gazebo size covers an area of 13.5m2 making it a great all-rounder for those who use it to cater to more people or need mobility such as a party gazebo, for backyard BBQs, or as a motor racing gazebo.

To determine the best gazebo size for your specific use, we recommend considering how much area and people you need to cover and compare with the available space. Another note for determining the best gazebo size for you is whether you will need to erect and pack up the gazebo on your own or if you will always have someone to assist.

Is the gazebo too big to move on your own?

Altegra packed gazebo size guide

A packed gazebo size chart as a reference for packing the gazebo - Altegra Premium Steel range.
A packed gazebo size chart as a reference for packing the gazebo - Altegra Pro Lite gazebo range.

What is a canopy?

A canopy is “an ornamental, roof-like projection or covering”, or “a covering, usually of fabric, supported on poles or suspended above a bed, throne, exalted personage, or sacred object”, as defined by Dictionary.com. The canopy is the heavy-duty fabric that is tailored to harmoniously fit a folding marquee or pop-up gazebo frame, covering the shade structure to form the roof. The marquee canopy or gazebo canopy is either ornamental or purely functional in its appearance, however, must be the barrier between its occupants and the sun, rain, and wind.

Altegra branded marquee - different colour pitches
Custom gazebo canopy by Altegra - 100% waterproof, Excellent UPF50+ sun protection, sharp & vibrant colours.

Altegra premium gazebo canopies and marquee canopies come standard across our range.

They are 100% waterproof, UPF50+ sun protective, are colour-fast, and fit like a glove.

When relating to gazebos and marquees, the canopy is the high-quality, waterproof and UV resistant fitted fabric roof that snugly fits its frame. Altegra premium canopies are tailored to fit our range of gazebos and marquees perfectly. Heavy-duty canopy velcro tabs attach to velcro on the pop-up frame for correct positioning. Straps and buckles assist in holding the weatherproof canopy in place, attaching to the upper frame.

We select high-grade polyester as our canopy material because it delivers exceptional good looks and provides a great feeling fabric. Forget that plastic bag in the wind sound from flimsy material. The high-grade polyester has significant longevity as tested in the Australian sun for over 15 years and is great for packability. Check out our video on how to fold your canopy here.

Seam-sealing and a PVC coating provide an impenetrable barrier against rain. They are 100% waterproof canopies and deliver Excellent UPF50+ sun protection. Furthermore, they are reinforced with high-tensile stitching and are complete with layered gusseting. Both details combat breakdown so your gazebo or marquee canopy is built to last. Long-term use and enhanced sustainability is our goal.

Custom designed and printed gazebo canopies

Altegra canopies are also the most eye-catching and memorable way of displaying your brand at your next event. Polyester also happens to be a superbly effective fabric for sublimation printing. This is a high-end printing method that results in the deep permeation of colour rather than surface printing.

The results speak for themselves and stand proudly and obviously in a lineup of custom gazebos.

The meaning behind folding marquee, pop-up gazebo, and canopy - what we have surmised.

In short:

A pop-up gazebo is intended for packability, to be convenient enough to take to any event in the Australian outdoors though large enough to cover and protect your family or guests.

A foldable marquee covers a greater span, over 16m2, adding reliability and is steadfast with a commercial-grade, heavy-duty construction. Chosen when reliability and safety cannot be compromised and a larger span may be needed.

A canopy keeps the sun, rain, and wind off your intended audience, the high-quality  material that fits snugly to your marquee or gazebo. The premium canopy tailored to the required size is included a part of every Altegra purchased.

Other knowledge links:

How to fold a gazebo canopy– A Youtube instructional video to assist with one of the most challenging parts of packing up your gazebo.

The 7 must-have design elements of a camping gazebo – a guide for selecting the best camping gazebo based off our design research and 15 years of customer feedback.

Tips and Tricks to Setting up the Compact Canopy gazebo – An instructional Youtube video highlighting the procedure of setting up Altegra’s Compact Canopy gazebo. A great watch for some additional setup tips.