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!
We believe the best beach sunshade is the Red Suricata. It comes comes in 2 sizes & 8 different colors. It’s affordable, portable & extremely popular! Other excellent options include: the Neso Grande (a 9’x9′ canopy with 18 different colors & patterns to choose from) or Otentik (which has 4 sizes and 30 colors to choose from).
The best beach tent is probably the Pacific Breeze which is lightweight (6lbs) and portable (36″ x 6″ x 6″).
The best 10×10 canopy is the Coleman Instant 10×10 Beach Canopy. It’s a sturdier, fixed-leg beach canopy. Less portable than the sunshades above but rock solid and perfect if you want a sunshade you can use for a wide variety of different outdoor activities.
Red Suricata Sun Shade Review – Best Overall Beach Canopy
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. ($$$)
Where most beach canopies only come with 2 poles, this one comes with four which makes it more robust in the wind than some competitors.
As with most sunshades, the first time getting it up can be a bit fiddly, but as soon as you’ve done it once it becomes so easy your kids could put it up in minutes. Take down is also super-simple. You’ve got 5 colours to choose from (not something that speaks to me because I have the fashion sense of a hippo, but others may enjoy the choice!).
Only real downside is the headroom is a bit limited. Not a problem for a lot of beach trips but it means you won’t be spending a lot of time on your feet mingling with friends.
This is a fantastic beach sun shelter. I like how easy it is to put up and take down. It’s a much more portable canopy than a gazebo-style beach canopy. If I was buying for 2 I’d probably look a the small version, but any more than that and I’d spring for the larger one. Basically, if you need a large space and and don’t need masses of headroom, I’d definitely recommend it.
Otentik Beach SunShade Review – Best Beach Canopy for Wind
Made from an eco-friendly Italian sport fabric (Eurojersey Sensitive), the Otentik Beach Sunshade comes with 2 poles, 4 reinforced sandbags and a drawstring carry bag. It’s available in 30 colours and 4 different sizes. UPF50 sun protection. And it weighs only 4lbs – 5lbs depending on the size. ($$)
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.
Lighter to carry (4lbs-5lbs)
4 sizes/30 colors
Great in winds up to 20mph
More expensive – check prices here
If you’re happy to spend the moolah, this is the better beach shade, especially in higher winds.
Slightly heavier (4lbs-6.5lbs)
2 sizes/8 colors
Great in winds up to 15mph
Slightly cheaper – check prices here
If you’re more budget conscious and only intend on using it occasionally, the Neso won’t let you down.
Neso Grande Review – Best Beach Canopy for Family
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
Pacific Breeze Deluxe XL Review – Best Pop Up Beach Tent
The Pacific Breeze Easyup Beach Tent weighs a little over 6lbs and folds down into a very neat 36″ x 6″ x 6″ carry bag. When pitched, the floor space is 8′ x 4′ and the height is just over 4′ meaning you can easily fit 3-4 people in.
As you can see from the picture, it has 3 large windows. It also has five sand pockets and comes with 4 stakes to provide greater stability. It has a range of cool features like internal pockets and hooks for storage. And you can pay for a small upgrade to get an extended floor. It has a one-year warranty.
This is a hugely popular beach tent and rightly so! Whether you’re a shade-bather like me or have kids or even a dog, this beautifully-designed tent will give you the space and sun protection that you need.
I love how lightweight and compact it is (I mean, who wants to cart 100s of pounds of kit to the beach…it’s a vacation, people!). It’s an absolute “breeze” to put up (pardon the pun!): you just pull on the strings and up it pops. Taking it down is easy too…you push press a pair of yellow buttons and the whole thing buckles. And excitingly, it even fits back in the bag! (How often does that happen?!).
The 5 sandbags mean that the tent will easily stand up in 15-20 mph winds. (Top tip: if you take some large resealable bags, you can fill them with sand and put them in the pouches. That way, you won’t have to shake out the pockets!). And if you’re wanting some addition support, you can stake it out with the four stakes that come with the kit.
This is a superb beach tent for couples and families. Even if you think it’s too big for you, I suspect you won’t regret buying it, as it really is a superb bit of beach kit.
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.
How to Choose the Best Beach Canopy
There are a bunch of different things you want to keep in mind when looking at the best beach canopies. The first big consideration is what style of beach canopy you are looking for.
- Are you interested in a lightweight fabric sunshade like the Red Suricata?
- Or a fixed-frame pop up canopy like the Coleman 10×10?
- Perhaps you like the look of a beach tent like the Pacific Breeze?
- You may even be thinking about beach umbrellas or some other beach canopy…
Other factors which you probably want to think about include:
- Ease of Setup
- Size & Weight
- How to Anchor Your Beach Shelter
- Sides or No Sides
- Fabric & UV Protection
So without further ado, let’s dive in!
What Do People Use for Shade on the Beach?
Broadly speaking there are 4 different styles of beach canopy. You’ve got your tarp-like beach shades, your pop up beach cabanas, beach tents and beach umbrellas. The best beach canopies all offer excellent sun protection. But when it comes to style, each design has its own pros and cons.
These beach tarps tend to be squares of stretchy fabric ranging in size from around 5′ x 5′ to 10′ x 10′. They usually require a couple of poles to set up and most use sand pockets as anchor bags.
The main advantages of this design are that they tend to be really quite light (even the bigger sunshades will weigh less than 10lbs and most are around the 6lb-range). They are also very portable as most come with a convenient carry bag. And they are fairly easy to set up (although they can be a bit finicky).
The main disadvantages are that they don’t offer the best wind protection. And, because they just consist of an overhead canopy, they don’t provide the same sort of privacy or storage options as, say, a beach tent boasts.
But they are pretty good value. They are easy to travel with (the storage bag can often fit in your hand luggage if you’re flying). And a great all-round option. Examples include: Red Suricata, Otentik, Neso Grande & Artik, all of which can easily be found on Amazon.
A shade tent is generally a bit smaller than a fabric sunshade. They’re usually able to accommodate 2-4 people. And typically a beach tent weighs less than 10lbs. They usually utilise some sort of pop up mechanism for easy set up.
The main advantages of a beach tent are that they offer a fair bit of protection in windy conditions (not as good as a Sport Brella Canopy but good nonetheless). The walls of a beach tent also provide more privacy than a sunshade, say for example if you want to get changed. And finally they are one of the better ways to secure your personal belongings on the beach (because having to open up and rummage through a beach canopy tent is more effort than a straight up snatch ‘n’ grab).
The downsides of beach canopy tents are that they don’t offer as much space to spread out as the bigger beach sunshades do. The walls that protect you on windy days can hold in heat, making them quite stifling places to spend time (which is why the best beach canopy tent will have walls that roll down, or at the very least, have roof vents).
A beach tent is a great idea if you want to prioritise privacy and security. If your beach tent has sides you roll up and down, then they can also be one of the better beach canopies for wind. But if you just want to sit in beach chairs shaded from the sun, then you might be better off with a fabric sun shelter.
Examples of a good beach tent include the Pacific Breeze Beach Tent and the Wildhorn QuickUp Cabana (because the door can be propped open to double as a beach canopy).
Square Canopy on Four Legs
Normally measuring 10 x 10 feet, these sun shelters are a bit more robust and can be used for a variety of outdoor activities (as well as a beach day). They normally come with a steel frame that pops up and down. You’ll usually anchor them with tent stakes. And most come with a carrying bag.
The pros of this kind of beach canopy are that they are incredibly robust, meaning they can withstand harsh weather conditions and torrential rain where other canopy tents may struggle. They are also great to use in a wide variety of activities that might require sun protection. Think sporting events, backyard get-togethers, yard sales, craft fairs etc. They usually have ample space. And because the sides can generally roll up or be zipped down, they perform just as well on sunny days as they do on windy days.
The cons are that they are incredibly heavy (often between 30lbs – 50lbs) and not especially portable (you’ll likely want a beach cart to transport it). Also, because the style makes for a good all-purpose canopy tent that can be used for an array of outdoor activities, ideal as a beach canopy.
An example of a fixed frame canopy is the Coleman Instant Beach Canopy. It’s a good choice for outdoor enthusiasts who often require some sort of sun protection in a variety of situations. So you might use one of these as a beach canopy if you already had one, or if you’re primary use was in the backyard or sports events. But you probably wouldn’t buy one specifically to add to your beach gear simply because it’s so big and heavy.
Possibly one of the most popular types of beach canopy, the umbrella style is a really excellent wind-break and performs excellently in strong winds. However, the overhead coverage is minimal which means it’s less good at protecting you from harmful sun rays. The Sport Brella Canopy is an excellent example of this style. But because it’s not quite the same sort of beach canopy we’ve been discussing in the article, we’ll probably cover it in a separate piece.
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 sun shelter in the wind and the hot sun. You may want to choose a beach canopy that is easily set up in just a few minutes.
The fewer parts is has the better. It’s fewer things to lose and generally means less time to set up. You also want a canopy that will disassemble just as easily and fold down well into the included carrying bag.
Size & Weight
If you are buying a beach canopy, you are obviously planning to have to carry it places. Generally speaking you want it to be as light as possible and to be as compact as possible when folded down.
You’ll generally find that a beach canopy weighs between 5lbs and 10lbs but a fixed frame beach canopy is going to weigh much, much more (30lbs – 50lbs). The advantage of these heavier ones is that they will generally stand up better in strong winds. But the lack of portability is a big trade off.
If you do go with a heavier beach canopy try to choose one with a carrying case that has wheels or a handle or backpack straps to make it easier to transport.
How to Anchor a Canopy on the Beach
You’re basically looking at two different solutions for how to anchor a canopy on the beach: stakes or sand pockets or a combination of the two. Good sand stakes can actually be easier to use, but mean you’ve got more parts to lose. Sand bags are a really effective anchor once you’ve filled them up.
Side Walls: Yes or No?
Some canopies will come with side walls to help keep out rain and wind as well as helping with air circulation. They 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. But if you literally just want an overhead shade, you should roll with a tarp-style design like the Red Suricata.
Protection from Weather & Harmful UV Rays
The main purpose of a beach canopy is sun protection and blocking UV rays. Overdosing on harmful sun rays are a sure fire way to ruin your beach holiday. And so it’s important to make sure your beach canopy is at least SPF50.
As well as sun protection, you may also was to ensure your beach canopy is constructed from a water resistant fabric. Most are, but it’s always worth checking. Water resistant doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll stay dry all the time, but it should protect you from the occasional light shower.
Are beach canopies worth it?
Yes, beach canopies are worth it, if only for the sun protection they provide. They can also protect you from sand blowing in your face. A water resistant canopy will keep the rain off. They can provide privacy for changing and security for storing your belongings… So yes, definitely worth it!
Is a beach umbrella or canopy better?
Is a beach umbrella or canopy better for what? If you are mostly interested in a sun shade, then a beach canopy is probably better. If you are more concerned about wind, then a beach umbrella is probably better. If you are concerned both about sun protection and wind protection, then a beach tent might be best.
What’s the best beach shelter?
Finding the best beach shelter depends a lot on your needs. For straight up sun protection and air circulation the best beach shelter is probably a Red Suricata. For strong winds (and less sun protection), a Sport Brella Canopy may be best. For an all round beach shelter, the Pacific Breeze beach tent is excellent.
Is a tent or umbrella better for the beach?
Broadly speaking a tent is better for the beach if you feel you need privacy and a bit of extra security for your belongings. An umbrella is better for the beach if you are mostly concerned about the wind. A tent offers slightly better sun protection.