I bet I've been sunburned more than you!
A combination of Scottish ancestry and a mis-spent youth means I have many stories of significant sun-related discomfort.
But now I'm older, wiser and a family man. Never again do I want to feel the pain of sun-blistered skin. And I certainly don't want my kids to experience that!
So I’ve done extensive research to find the best beach canopy for shade-bathers, families and group get-togethers. I hope you find it useful!
Editor's Top Picks...
The Red Suricata comes in 2 sizes & 8 different colors and with 4 poles. Affordable. Portable. Extremely popular!
The Neso Grande is a 9'x9' canopy with 18 different colors & patterns to choose from. Plus 2 poles. A great family sunshade!
The Coleman Instant 10x10 Sunshade is sturdier, fixed-leg option. Less portable than the sunshades above but more appropriate for certain occasions.
(Note: I’ve dedicated a separate post to beach tents which provide a much more enclosed space for changing and storing gear than a more simple beach shade).
The Red Suricata Sunshade comes in 2 sizes (small is 7'x7' and large is 10’x9’). The little one claims enough room for 3-4 adults while the large version has 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. The small size weighs just 6.6lbs while the large version is 8.6lbs. ($$$)
Where most beach canopies only come with 2 poles, this one comes with four which makes it more robust in the wind than some competitors.
As with most sunshades, the first time getting it up can be a bit fiddly, but as soon as you've done it once it becomes so easy your kids could put it up in minutes. Take down is also super-simple. You've got 5 colours to choose from (not something that speaks to me because I have the fashion sense of a hippo, but others may enjoy the choice!).
Only real downside is the headroom is a bit limited. Not a problem for a lot of beach trips but it means you won't be spending a lot of time on your feet mingling with friends.
This is a fantastic beach sun shelter. I like how easy it is to put up and take down. It's a much more portable canopy than a gazebo-style beach canopy. If I was buying for 2 I'd probably look a the small version, but any more than that and I'd spring for the larger one. Basically, if you need a large space and and don't need masses of headroom, I'd definitely recommend it.
Made from an eco-friendly Italian sport fabric (Eurojersey Sensitive), the Otentik Beach Sunshade comes with 2 poles, 4 reinforced sandbags and a drawstring carry bag. It’s available in 30 colours and 4 different sizes. UPF50 sun protection. And it weighs only 4lbs - 5lbs depending on the size. ($$)
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 canopy tent that’s really easy to carry, sturdy and lightweight, look no further!
Otentik vs Neso
I get quite a lot of people saying they can't decide between the Otentik & Neso sunshades, so I thought it would be useful to give a little side-by-side comparison.
If you're happy to spend the moolah, this is the better beach shade, especially in higher winds.
If you're more budget conscious and only intend on using it occasionally, the Neso won't let you down.
Measuring 9'x9', the Neso Grande Beach Canopy comes in 8 different colours, including a number of funky patterns. It's got 4 sand anchors, 2 x 7ft poles and a bag that easily fits in carry-on luggage. UPF50 sun protection to block UV rays. It weighs just 6.5lbs. ($$)
The Neso Grande is another great portable canopy to consider. It's a good size; neither too big nor too small. You can definitely fit a family underneath it!
It differs slightly from a number of other portable beach sunshades in that it utilises 'sand anchors' rather than bags. What this in effect means is that you can just pile sand on top of flat bits of fabric rather than going to the hassle of shovelling sand into a bag. And then at the end of the day you just shake them off. It's a nice design touch that saves a few minutes setting up and taking down without any big compromise in performance.
The main reason I think this is the best sun shade for families is the slightly cheaper price point. As a family man myself, I definitely like to save a few dollars and so the fact it's cheaper than either the Red Suricata or Otentik is interesting. That, combined with the sand anchor design, makes it very worthy of consideration.
The two poles that are included in the package are fairly standard. There is the option of purchasing two extra poles (check them out here), but once you've gone to that expense, you may as well have bought the Red Suricata which already comes with 4 poles. So the Neso Grande is only a cheaper option when you roll with a 2-pole setup.
Performance-wise it is solid. I think the build-quality of the Otentik and Red Suricata is marginally superior, but if you're already stretching your budget with the Neso then don't let that hold you back from buying it.
This is a decent beach shade canopy for a budget-conscious family looking to go on the occasional beach excursion.
(If a 4-pole setup is important to you then go with the Red Suricata which includes 4 poles in the price because you'll get a slightly better rig for about the same spend).
Sun Ninja vs Neso
There are plenty of people who are very happy with Sun Ninja. So if there's something you love about it, don't let that put you off! But side-by-side, Neso offers more choice and is more portable.
The sand pouches are a slightly inferior design. The canopies are heavier. The bolt-ons seem a bit gimmicky. It looks to be a bit more expensive.
- Choice of 7'x7.5' or 10'x10'
- 7.2lbs or 9.2lbs
- 4 colors to choose from
- 4 poles
- Sand trowel
Seem to be a more-established company (based in California). The sand bags are easier to fill and empty. Lighter. And usually slightly cheaper.
- Choice of 7'x7', 9'x9' or 11'x11'
- 4lbs, 6.5lbs or 9.5lbs
- 18 colors to choose from
- 2 poles
- No sand trowel included
The Artik Beach Canopy comes in 3 sizes: Large (9.8'x9.8') Medium (7.4'x7.4') and Small (7'x5'). It is available in 8 colours, including garish pinks and a purple. It also comes with 4 sandbags and 2 x 7ft poles. ($)
This is a fairly standard beach shade but with Artik quite new on the scene they are competing a bit on price, meaning they are offering a relatively cheap beach canopy.
It's not as lightweight as the Otentik but even with the large version coming in at less than 10lbs, it's very portable. It breaks down into a really compact case. And the telesopic poles provide decent headroom.
There's not a lot to dislike about these sun shades. Coming in at around 30% cheaper than the higher end sun shades, the compromises are in the material and the stitching. Which means it's a bit bulkier and a bit more prone to wear and tear than the others.
It's cheap enough you won't break the bank. It's lightweight enough you won't break your back. If you can, you should seriously consider springing for a portable canopy from one of the more expensive competitor brands because they offer a better build quality. But if cash is tight, then Artik will do the job!
The Coleman Instant Beach Canopy is 10’x10’, has a lightweight steel frame, 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 pop up 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! Coleman claim it only takes 3 minutes to set up (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 options can’t hack the wind, with legs bending and buckling in the lightest breeze. The sturdy metal legs on the Coleman instant mean it's a fantastic beach canopy for wind and also you'll own something that's going to last 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, want something a bit more serious than a bit of fabric and are looking for an instant shelter that will last more than 1 season, I highly recommend you seriously consider the Coleman 10 x 10.
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 protection from the 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 sun shelter for your needs. This buying guide looks at a whole bunch of different things.
When looking at beach canopy reviews you should 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? Does it have a good carrying bag?
- What protection from the sun does it offer? What technology is blocking those UV rays?
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 portable 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, a sun shelter has 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. Finally, protection from the sun is critical so do make sure it is at least SPF50 to stop those UV rays.
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.