Instant Shade Review: What Are The Top Pop Beach Canopies?
Call it a beach tent or a canopy - if your family enjoys the beach, you need one. These portable shelters provide essential shade for long days in the sun - giving you and your family relief from sun and wind.
This year, I’ve decided to purchase a canopy for the beach - and in my quest to find the perfect one, I learned that not all are created equal!
Read on for my reviews of the best pop up tents for beach shade.
Different Shades Of Beach Shelters: What Makes each Good?
When looking for the best beach shade, I learned there are three basic types: continual pole popups, traditional pole tents, and hybrids. A continual pole popup is made to twist into very compact storage - then spring open when you want to set it up. A traditional pole tent has corded poles that must be assembled, then passed through guides to give the shelter structure. Hybrids combine the two styles - they look like a traditional pole style tent, but they assemble quickly thanks to telescoping poles that pop up when you pull a string. Each type has its pros and cons.
Tips For Use In Windy Conditions:
-if the wind isn’t high, use the sandbags to weigh down your shelter - but don’t stake it. This way, you’ll be able to easily turn the tent to optimize shade as the sun moves.
-in windy conditions, you may need two people to set up a tent that otherwise would be manageable for one. Plan accordingly.
-it may help to stake the front of the tent down before you fully open it; that way, you can be sure it’s secure before the wind has a chance to catch it.
Across the board, the best beach shelters share a few qualities: they have pouches on the outer side that you can fill with sand to provide weight, and can also be staked down; they provide three-sided protection from the elements; and they are usually made of UV-blocking SPF fabric.
Beyond these common top features, beach tents can be very different; they may have mesh windows to allow for air circulation, or none; they may have a floor, or not; they may be designed to allow for privacy, or simply to shade you.
Let’s take a look at some of the best beach canopies on the market for you and your family.
1. Good Value: A Traditional Tent-Style Shelter: Texsport Calypso Beach Cabana
The Texsport Calypso Beach Cabana is the best option for a tight budget, yet still offers you great shelter from the sun and wind. This beach tent will comfortably accommodate two adults, has a floor, and is the least expensive of the products here. It also looks a little different from the others - with rainbow stripes that are easy to spot on any beach, this tent is definitely easy to locate.
The main difference between this beach canopy and the others I’ve collected is the fact that it uses corded poles to support the structure. Three poles must be assembled, then fed through guides in a particular order. This is best accomplished with two people, although it is doable with one - and while it can be done speedily after some practice, it may be more difficult to set up this tent if you have young children and lots of gear in tow.
Texsport Calypso Demo
Another potential con to this beach tent is the carry bag; most reviews say that it will not fit back into the provided bag without significant effort - you may end up simply folding the tent and stuffing it into your beach bag, then toting the poles separately. However, this can also be a major plus if you are traveling to a beach vacation by plane; this tent can easily fit into a small suitcase, unlike many of the others which are quite long when folded.
Overall, the Texsport Calypso is a great, inexpensive, airline-friendly option for beach tent shade - but definitely best for those with two hands free.
Dimensions: 84” wide, 48” deep, 48” tall
2. Great Versatility: Sport-Brella Beach Umbrella Review
The Sport-Brella is the lovechild of a beach canopy and an umbrella.
Basically a giant beach umbrella, it features extra side flaps that can be tethered down to turn the umbrella shape into a three-sided tent. The Sport-Brella can be used on its side or upright, so it offers you the best of flexibility depending on the sun’s position and your activity.
This beach shelter is extremely quick and easy to setup - just like popping open an umbrella, only bigger. It features top wind vents and two mesh windows for circulation, and can be staked down easily. Inside, it is coated with reflective material that repels heat and provides a great SPF of 50+. It even has a couple of pockets inside that you can use to stash personal effects. At eight feet wide, the umbrella is large enough to shelter more than one person, although you might prefer the nine foot wide ‘XL’ version.
One of the best features of this beach tent is the flexibility it offers - if the sun is directly overhead, you can plant the umbrella’s pole in the ground and enjoy direct shade. This is also handy for picnics in the park. That same pole is also a drawback to this design, because it doesn’t retract - and you may find yourself wishing it did, when using this on its side as a tent. This does not have a floor either - which may be an issue or may be great, depending on your preference and needs.
When it’s time to pack up, the Sport-Brella comes down as quickly as it went up, and slips into a carry bag - beware that it ends up being quite a long package, although it only weighs nine pounds - petite users may find it awkward, and if you have a small car it may be a challenge to fit. And as it is an umbrella, it’s advisable to use caution on very windy days - always open it facing into the wind, and avoid use on extremely gusty days.
Overall, this beach shelter is one of the best in terms of quality, and offers a unique design that may be perfect for you.
Dimensions: 8’ wide when open
3. Best Lightweight, Hybrid Beach Shelter: Lightspeed Outdoors Seaside
The Outdoors Seaside is a top option for two people to enjoy shade at the beach.
This shelter is a hybrid design - thanks to its integrated telescoping pole system, setup is simple and quick - you simply pull a cord to pop up the tent, and you’re good to go in under five seconds. Anchor with sandbags and/or stakes and you’re set. This tent is extremely lightweight at only 3.5 pounds, and offers 50+ UV protection.
The Seaside has a floor, and is closed in the back but has two mesh windows - one per side - for airflow. The windows are huge and will definitely keep you cool inside. A drawback here is that the windows do not have covers; if you want them to be closed, you’ll need to rig up a towel or sarong over them - easily done with a couple of clothes pegs, but good to know in advance.
Overall, this beach sun shelter offers you the best of many worlds - it’s lightweight, easy-as-pie to set up, and offers you protection from sun and wind. It may not be as big as you’d like, but for two people or for a child or two, it has a lot of nice features and it’s easy on the budget, too.
Dimensions: 77” wide, 45” high, 42” deep
4. Review Of Best Pop Up For Family Outing: Shade Shack Family Shelter
If you have young’uns at the beach, you might be best served by a popup beach tent like this one, appropriately called the ‘Shade Shack’.
This shelter sets itself up - all you have to do is open the carry case and toss the contents a few feet away, and watch the magic. The Shade Shack is large enough for a family of four to enjoy - and features an SPF factor of 35 - not the highest around, but something.
This top beach shelter has two side window openings and a back that can fully zip open, giving you a completely open tent with a nice cross breeze. It has no floor, which may be great for young children to play in the sand - although you may find yourself laying a blanket down underneath.
Shade Shack Demo
The tricky part of using this tent is packing it up; although it’s a simple design, learning how to recoil it can take a little practice. Tip: keep the instructions handy the first few times you use it! Once you’ve mastered this, though, it fits neatly into a petite round carry case with a shoulder strap. Overall this one of the best family beach tents for shade and definitely a great value for your dollar.
Dimensions: 90” wide by 53” deep by 51” high
5. Best Beach Tent For Overall Height & Features: Genji Sport Instant Hexagon Review
At 56” high, the Genji Sport Instant Hexagon has the best height of this beach tent roundup - by a good six inches.
It’s definitely large enough to provided shade for two adults and assorted children to take refuge in. It also offers the most comprehensive collection of features. This beach shelter is a hybrid - offering instant setup with a top-pull system, you can be fully operational in about three seconds. Although this it offers plenty of space, it weighs only seven pounds. And like all the best beach tents, it offers a UV protection factor of 50+.
The Genji offers a full floor and a front flap that can be laid flat in front of the tent, or zipped up for complete privacy. Three windows of superfine mesh keep sand out while letting airflow in; and these windows come with flaps that zip closed, which is a really nice feature if you don’t want to fuss with rolling and tying these flaps.
Tip: Its best to unzip the flaps when you store this beach shelter, so that when you next set the tent up, the wind will not catch it as much. I like the design of these windows, too - they are half-circles and placed close to the bottom of the tent, unlike others which are rectangles halfway up the tent’s sides.
Of all the beach tents reviewed here, this one is the best for the shade and features it offers. It’s the one I’ve chosen to order for my family.
Dimensions: 94.5” wide, 59” deep, 56” high
Pop Up Beach Tents: Summer Shade That's Good To Go!
I hope this has been helpful in wading through the various options, styles and setups. After doing my research, I know which beach tent is best for my family - and hopefully there’s one that’s the right shade for you as well.
I’d love to hear from you - do you have a preference in style for a beach shelter? Which do you think is the best of these options? Do you have any special advice for using a beach canopy? Please share your thoughts in the comments!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.