You cannot even believe how much time I spent last summer tracking down the best beach umbrella. I finally went with my parents’ strongly recommended pick, which was a surprise one to me.
(And you have no idea how strongly recommended it was, unless you a) know my parents or b) saw their 18 emails detailing just why it was the very best one and how they spend even more time researching products than I do and how I’d be crazy not to buy it.)
Well, thanks to my parents and my own obsessive beach umbrella-searching skills, I’m here to share my finds for the best beach umbrella and tents for families of all kinds. Hope they save you a lot of time — and more importantly, a lot of sun exposure you’d rather not have.
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Best Beach Umbrella Overall:
Tommy Bahama 2016 Sand Anchor 7-foot Beach Umbrella
I can’t say that I’ve ever bought anything from Tommy Bahama, let alone advertised for them free, on a giant beach umbrella — until I did. There’s a reason my parents gushed about this excellent beach umbrella (now updated for 2016) which does everything it’s supposed to do: The canopy is a decent size for maybe 2-3 beach chairs, the wind vent is a nice touch, and the tilt from the hinged, telescoping pole is amazing for readjusting the shade when the sun moves. Plus, I like how portable it is with its carry bag, especially when you’re juggling your kids’ 8 zillion must-have beach toys too.
But what really makes this beach umbrella my top pick is the sand anchor that’s built right in. It’s easy to twist it down, corkscrew style, so that your umbrella does not, in fact, blow away and terrify other beachgoers, which is my number two most important characteristic in a beach umbrella besides shade itself. Even my own parents can twist it down easily and it stays put.
So basically this umbrella has everything a best beach umbrella should with one exception: a ginormous logo. In fact, a big “shame on you” to the sellers on Amazon showing photos with no apparent logo on the umbrella, which is not representative of the product that arrived for me. Buyer beware.
Even so, I can’t recommend this enough. There’s a reason that every one of the more seasoned beach-going families alongside us were using the very same one. ($36+ at Amazon)
The Best Beach Umbrella For Big Families:
This thing is like a tent-beach umbrella hybrid and it’s massive — and that’s a great thing. A family of four can easily seek protection under the shade of the well-lauded Sport-Brella, which is essentially an 8-foot wide stretch of UPF 50 polyester that leans back onto the sand, nearly like an open tent. If it’s windy, just pop open those windows! I like the four colors offered, and the fact it turns into a convenient 9-lb. roll for easy carrying. Just know that it folds down to about 54″ long so be sure you have room in your trunk. ($56 and up, Amazon)
The Best Beach Umbrella for Single Users:
The Sport-Brella Versa Brella with Clamp
Also from Sport-Brella comes this affordable clamp-style umbrella made to connect to a chair or other surfaces. (Like say the leg of a folding table, if you’re trying to keep the sun off the macaroni salad.) It’s a nice option if you tend to be the only one (hi!) in your family who wants shade, while everyone else is off frolicking in the sun. It’s lightweight, it’s got a UPF 50 lining, and it’s got that fantastic hinged handle again, which makes it easy to keep up with the sun as it moves west. ($19.99, Amazon)
The Best Beach Tent for Easy Set-Up:
Pacific Breeze Easy-Up Beach Tent and Easy-Up Beach Tent XL
This super lightweight beach tent gets incredibly high marks from users for easy set-up and collapse, while still providing good UPF 50 coverage. At 87″ across — or 95″ across if you sport for the XL sized beach tent — you’ve got plenty of room to keep multiple kids out of the sun, if not a way to shut down their inevitable complaints about it. ($69.99, Amazon; $99 for XL)
The Best Beach Canopy for Entire Days at the Beach:
Caddis Sports Aluminum Rapid Shelter
If you are serious about your beach time — as in, your posse arrives at the crack of dawn and stays until the lifeguards kick you out — a full beach canopy might be a better alternative than a beach umbrella. This is a serious bit of equipment though it sets up in a snap and offers a waterproof nylon canopy and adjustable heights. It is heavy at 46 pounds for the 8×8 shelter, so it’s definitely not for quick jaunts to the beach. But it’s a terrific investment if you entertain in the backyard, camp a lot, or take your entire extended family to the seaside all summer. And there are three sizes, depending just how extended that extended family happens to be.
($239 for the 10×15 Shelter; $179.95 for the 10×10 Shelter (shown above); $169 for the 8×8, all at REI)