When I’m not hiking up a mountain or doing bushcraft in the woods, there’s nothing I like more than chilling out on the beach. There’s something about coastline that’s deeply relaxing, particularly the sand and the surf. But I have Scottish ancestry which means my skin always fares better out of direct sunlight! So I’ve searched high and low to find the best beach canopies, best sunshades and best shelters for shade-bathers, families and group get-togethers. I hope you find it useful!
(Note: I’ve dedicated a separate post to beach tents which provide a much more enclosed space for changing and storing gear).
Coleman Instant 10 x 10 Beach Canopy
Otentik Beach SunShade (with sandbag anchors)
Red Suricata Family Beach Sunshade
Coleman 13 x 13 Canopy
Sport-Brella Sun Umbrella
The Coleman Instant Beach Canopy is 10’ x 10’, has lightweight metal legs, three adjustable height settings and air vents in the roof which is made with UV-guard material. It comes with stakes, guy lines and a carry bag. It weighs 45lbs. ($$$$)
When all is said and done there’s three very nice things about this beach canopy: it’s really easy to set up and break down, it’s super-sturdy and it’s easy to transport.
It maximises your time at the beach! OK, Coleman claim it only takes 3 minutes to set up and I think that’s a bit optimistic. But one person can definitely do it in under 5 minutes. And given you want to get everything into place as quickly as possible so you can enjoy the day, this is a really good feature. Similarly, it’s extremely quick and easy to break down so you don’t have to spend ages packing up. And unlike some of the competing products, it fits neatly (but not too tightly) in the carry bag, which also has wheels!
A lot of cheaper beach canopies can’t hack the wind, with legs bending and buckling in the lightest breeze. The sturdy metal legs on the Coleman mean you should have something that lasts for several years and not just one season. When it comes to securing it you have the choice between burying the legs, using the guy lines and a set of specialist tent stakes (I really rate the Cosmos stakes for sand) or buying some canopy sandbags like these.
Another nice feature is the adjustable height settings which means you don’t have to erect it on a surface that’s 100% flat. It’s one of those touches that shows Coleman have properly thought through how to design a product for real-life use.
If you’re looking for 100 square feet of shade, don’t want to deal with the hassle of complicated rigs or easily-broken legs and are looking for a canopy that will last more than 1 season, I highly recommend you seriously consider the Coleman 10 x 10.
Made from an eco-friendly Italian sport fabric (Eurojersey Sensitive), the Otentik Beach Sunshade comes with 2 poles, 4 reinforced sandbags and a drawstring carry bag. It’s available in 30 colours and 4 different sizes. And it weighs only 4lbs - 5lbs depending on the size. ($$)
Not everyone wants to take a gazebo to the beach, so if the idea of a solid, 45lb structure like the Coleman doesn’t appeal, this is a really excellent choice at the other end of the spectrum.
The Otentik has been a firm favourite with beach-goers for several years now basically because it’s lightweight, compact, easy-to-set up and durable. And when combined with 120 different size/colour combinations, there’s literally nothing to dislike about it!
OK, when I say easy to put up, the first time can be a bit daunting. But there’s several helpful Youtube videos on how to set it up (apparently you can even email customer services for help setting it up and they’ll respond really quickly - so you can’t say fairer than that!). It’s simple to adjust, meaning you can tweak it here and there to shelter from the wind or track the sun to keep it in the shade. One person can erect it in 5-10 mins.
It holds up well in the wind with reports of people being comfortable in 20mph winds. However, you will want to familiarise yourself with instructions on how to set it up best for windy conditions because if you don’t you might find it flaps around a bit. Get it right, though, (again, see the Youtube videos) and you’ll be in for a very comfortable day.
Probably the best beach shelter for wind I’ve come across. If you’re looking for a sun shade that’s really portable, sturdy and lightweight, look no further!
The Red Suricata Sunshade is a large, portable shelter measuring 10’ x 9’, which is easily enough room for a family of 6. You get UPF50 UV Protection from the stretchy, polyester/lycra fabric. It comes with 4 lightweight aluminum poles, 4 sandbag anchors, 4 pegs and a carry bag. And it weighs 8.6lbs. ($$$)
Where most beach canopies only come with 2 poles, this one comes with four which makes it more robust in the wind than some competitors.
As with most sunshades, the first time getting it up can be a bit fiddly, but as soon as you've done it once it becomes so easy your kids could put it up in minutes. Take down is also super-simple.
A couple of downsides. Firstly the headroom is a bit limited. Not a problem for a lot of beach trips but it means you won't be spending much time on your feet, mingling under it. And the other small issue is that it's only available in red or blue. Not a problem for me because I have the fashion sense of a hippo. But others may find the choice limiting.
This is a fantastic large sunshade. I like how easy it is to put up and take down. It's much lighter than a gazebo-style beach canopy. And so if you need a large space and you're not looking for a space to stand up, I'd definitely recommend it.
Measuring 13 x 13 feet, the Coleman Back Home Instant Shelter features a sturdy steel frame that is one-piece and is easy to setup with Coleman's exclusive release levers that use push-buttons allowing your fingers to safe during takedown and setup. This is a heavy-duty canopy that has a hex-shape with a large center height of eight feet and four inches. It also includes SPF 50+ UV Guard protection from the sun's harmful rays and poles that are footed for security and tent pegs made of steel for extra stabilization. ($$$)
Able to be set up in three minutes, the Coleman Beach Canopy easily creates a shady area on the beach. Constructed with UV Guard material, the Coleman Beach Canopy gives you protection from the sun’s harmful rays and includes two-way roof vents that keep the air circulating as the temperature rises. Telescoping poles are pre-attached and lightweight enough so that anyone can set up the tent by themselves without having to reach over their head. And it has "eaves" that draw the covering tight on the frame which is what makes it so stable in the wind.
With adjustability that is pinch-free, the shelter will lock into place with comfort grips once the canopy is completely assembled. The Coleman Beach Canopy provides stable shelter on concrete, grass, and asphalt due to its steel feet that are welded. Easily transported and stored, the Coleman Beach Canopy also includes a carry bag with wheels that is easy to pull that fits inside most vehicles.
If wind is the thing that most troubles you and you’re looking for a large canopy, you’re not going to go wrong. Coleman obviously have a fantastic reputation anyway, and this product ain’t gonna disappoint.
The SportBrella Beach Umbrella has an 8ft canopy and is available in red, blue and turquoise. It comes with 8 steel ground stakes, 3 tie downs and a carry bag. Its design includes both side panels and wind flaps. And it weighs about 9lbs. ($)
This is a great value shelter and perfect for a couple heading down to the beach for a day. The side panels mean you can get extra protection from the sun while you can open the wind flaps to get a bit of extra ventilation so it's pretty flexible to suit the conditions.
It didn't provide quite as much shelter as I expected although you can definitely fit two chairs under it comfortably. I'd probably only use it if we were a party of two.
And you may want to invest in some specialist stakes for sand, because I didn't really rate the ones that come with it.
If you want a beach umbrella, you don't really need to look further than this. It's got everything you want for great value.
A Buyers Guide to Beach Canopies
When the temperature starts to rise, lots of people head to the beach to cool off. Depending on the number of people that need to seek shade from the hot sun, you will need to find the right sized beach canopy that is not only durable and wind and water resistant, but that is also easy to set up and carry. There are tons of beach canopies on the market with different sizes and features, so you decide what features are right for you and your beach canopy, you should have no problem finding the right beach canopy for your needs.
When looking for a decent canopy you’ll be asking yourself a bunch of questions:
Does it have to be a beach canopy? Or will any old canopy do?
How big does it need to be?
How light is too light and how heavy is too heavy?
How easy are these things to set up and pack away?
I’ve gone and taken a look at a whole range of options to help you navigate the array of canopies on the market. In this article I’m going to offer up few tips on what to look for in a great beach canopy and selected 6 of the best to review so that you don’t have to spend any more time than necessary making a decision. And that means you can focus on the important stuff like getting the ice packed into the cooler. (And here's a video on how to do just that...)
Types of Canopy to Consider
Slant Leg vs Straight Leg Canopy
Slant leg canopies tend to look better and they are also usually a bit cheaper. But they have two problems: firstly you lose coverage and secondly they tend to be less stable than straight leg canopies. If you want your beach canopy to hold up in strong winds, you might be better off with a straight-legged canopy which is generally more sturdy. And when it comes to space, you know exactly what you are getting.
Fixed Location Garden Canopy
This style comes with a replaceable fabric canopy and side curtains so it has the ability to turn an open-air tent into a weatherproofed shelter.
Square Canopy on Four Legs
Normally measuring 10 x 10 feet, some of these canopies with this style measure 8 x 8 feet but have feet that spread out for a total of 10 feet square size. Varying in ease of setup and portability, this style is convenient as a backyard shelter and is a popular choice for those needing to cover a temporary outdoor display like crafters.
Often used at pools or restaurant patios, this canopy style is considered seasonal use and is connected with rope onto places that are hard to reach.
Designed to cover up to three vehicles, this style comes with a heavy-duty fabric and is often used to cover boats, cars, truck, and agricultural equipment.
Similar to a supersized beach umbrella, beach canopies have a “pop up” style that can have a reflective surface and ventilation to lessen the heat inside, plus they are sometimes rated for sun screening.
Baby Beach Canopy
These canopies are usually about three feet square and also feature a “pop up” design that works at the beach and in your backyard. I’ve reviewed a bunch of pop up tents for the beach which you can read here.
Sizes range from big to small depending on the type of event being held. Used with or without sides, they can also come equipped ready for electricity and are usually measured by square footage as well as guests it can accommodate.
Considerations for Selecting a Beach Canopy
You also want to make sure you have something that is portable, easy to set up, and will do well in the wind.
Ease of assembly is often a big consideration when choosing the right beach canopy. The last thing you want is to be wrestling with a canopy in the wind in the hot sun. You may want to choose a tent that is easily set up by one person instead of requiring two people as that can indicate the difficulty level of the setup.
Make sure it has few parts that can get lost and has easy to pop up lever that is easy to secure in the wind. You also want a canopy that will disassemble just as easily and fold down well into the included carrying bag.
If you are buying a canopy for the beach, you are obviously planning to have to carry it to places. You need to consider whether the tent can be moved, but that once it is folded down and packed away, that it is easy to take back to your car.
Does the carrying case have wheels or a handle that is handy for lifting and rolling? How heavy is it once it is fully loaded and will it fit into your vehicle? You need to answer all these questions before choosing a canopy.
Some canopies will come with side walls to help keep out rain and wind. It also helps to create a private atmosphere or keep insects away. In some cases, it can cause an unwanted build-up of heat, so some designs allow for the side walls to be rolled up or tied back on corner posts when they aren’t needed.
You may choose a canopy for its rain protection, so make sure you check to see if the seams are properly sealed so they won’t leak. You should also look to see if the canopy is fire retardant and meets any relevant regulations. If you intend to put up your canopy on a windy day, make sure it has sufficient weight on each of its corners, usually about 40 pounds, and make sure the sidewalls are weighted as well.
Most contemporary canopies are very weather resistant and include durable aluminum poles that support it. Canopies with fewer parts are better for having less important pieces to lose, and durable fabrics are important, especially if it is a fabric that quickly dries after it rains.