I've never trusted EZ-Ups from any manufacturer. I've seen too many blowing down the street, and am convinced that the only ones that can withstand what the playa have to offer are the ones that get modded. Replace the cotter pins, add or replace the standard stake-downs, and in some cases replace the tarps or reinforce the poles. Seems like a lot of work, and a lot of hassle, for something that still leaves you wondering "oh shit, is my camp okay?" if you're out somewhere when a dust storm kicks up.
I use/design a conduit frame structure, and highly recommend it to anyone. The way it works... I get my tarps and fittings from this guy
, though there are a few places to get tarps, fittings, and ball bungees. Then get standard EMT conduit at Home Despot (or any building supply store) and cut your vertical poles to size. Then when you get out to the playa, it goes together like lego blocks. 10' (longer) poles to make the horizontal shape, and shorter ones for vertical height. Assemble the frame, then attach the roof tarp and finish by adding side tarps (if you worked them into your design. They have some kits which have all the fittings you need, or if (like me) you liked building your own junk out of your lego blocks just get the parts to make whatever shape/size/configuration you like.
With various camps and projects, I've built and designed a number of structures (that are all still surviving and going to the playa in one form or another), here are a couple things worth noting.
- 3/4 inch conduit designs can easily withstand up to 60-75mph dust storms and dust devils. Beyond that, some of the poles will start to bend and need reinforcement. Certainly didn't lose the structure or ruin anyone's burn, but with that design it seems like every year a few poles end up getting replaced.
- 1 inch conduit designs (if anchored properly at the corners) can withstand 100mph storms. Easily handles anything the playa's thrown at it, with no poles getting bent or replaced year after year.
- Try to get a 1 foot minimum clearance between the top of your tallest tent and the roof of the shade structure. When the sun's hitting that tarp, heat energy will radiate downward too, and if the tent's too close it'll get warmer than you like. I've done a few height's, but for me, the 'sweet spot' ended up at 6'8". Gives us headroom for the tents, clearance so reasonably tall folks can stand upright, and you need nothing more than a stepstool to set up. Well, I'm 6'1" and don't need anything, but anyone under 5'8" probably would.
- For your roof, get an extra heavy duty silver on silver tarp. Silver reflects away the maximum amount of the sun's heat energy, making it the most efficient for the job. If your tarp isn't silver on both sides, then it's darker on one and the playa's daytime sun will make the tarp hotter.
- If you do side tarps (we do), color is less crucial. We do white, so the space inside doesn't get too dark and feel like a cave.
With 2 people, any structure I've built has gone up in under an hour (unless caught up in a dust storm). One of these days I'll do a proper conduit frame structure thread, but in the meantime hopefully this info helps.