Snuggling your whole beach crew under one small umbrella is certainly no longer the norm. Head to any busy beach these days and you’re sure to see plenty of canopies and beach tents dotting the shoreline. Beach canopies are just as portable and practical as umbrellas, while providing significantly more shade and sun protection – and for more people! But PSA, folks: an awning is no excuse to skip the sunscreen. Yes, that even goes for those with SPF built into the fabric (don’t worry: we’ve rounded up some of the best celebrity-approved sunscreens, too.) And if you’re not sure what to look for in a beach canopy, don’t worry – PEOPLE tested 19 of them, and we’ll explain exactly how to find one that suits your needs. (Our favorite of the bunch? the Sun Ninja pop-up beach tent.)
Here are the other winners of the best beach awnings tested by PEOPLE.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Beach Canopy
How many people do you need to fit in your awning? How much shade are you looking for? How much space do you have to store your awning when not in use? These are all important factors in determining which one is right for you. You’ll also want to think about canopy height, especially if you’re tall and don’t want to have to bend down when moving around.
Ease of assembly
How quickly you can set up and take down your awning and whether the setup can be done alone or with a second person are all important factors to consider (for example, the EZ-UP Sierra II will require a buddy). For solo beach days, you’re better off using a quick pop-up option like the Shibumi so you don’t have to call on another beachgoer for help.
Do you usually drive or walk to the beach? How you get there will determine how important it is that your awning comes with a carrying case and is easy to transport. You’ll also want to note the weight – the EZ-Up is deceptively heavy at 31 pounds, while many others on this list weigh less than 4 pounds.
Rainstorms, misty sea breezes and beach humidity are all things that can dampen a fabric that isn’t water resistant, so be sure to note the “waterproof” indication beforehand. to buy. (All of the awnings here are waterproof, with the exception of the Shibumi which isn’t listed as water resistant on its site.) You’ll also want to look for a lightweight but durable fabric, like polyester and Spandex, for regulate the temperature and ensure good air circulation. Finally, consider a UV-blocking material, like all of our winners!) for extra sun protection. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, UPF 50 fabric blocks 98% of the sun’s rays, significantly reducing your risk of exposure.
Beach awnings certainly run the gamut in terms of price. For example, while the Shibumi awning was definitely the most expensive on our list, it provides plenty of shade, is easy to assemble, and has a nice curb appeal too. However, if you don’t have much to spend, the Qipi will certainly suffice – it all depends on your personal preferences. Keep in mind, however, that summer products are usually on sale off-season, so look for deals at the end of peak beach season.
How we tested
We PEOPLE tested 19 beach awnings to see which were the best for getting a shaded break on a hot day. First, we noted how easy it was to transport the canopy to our beach. After installing the awnings, we evaluated their resistance to hours of exposure to the sun and wind, if they had any peculiarities and the quality of construction. We then took the canopy apart and noted how easy it was. Finally, our testers rated each awning on portability, ease of use, performance, quality and value.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use an awning on my beach?
Check the local rules and regulations for the beach you plan to go to – some may have restrictions on when and where canopies and tents can be used (eg Shibumi is not allowed in Myrtle and North Myrtle Beach, SC and Rehoboth and Bethany Beach, DE).
Are beach canopies machine washable?
Some fabrics are machine washable, some are not – be sure to check the label on yours before putting it through the spin cycle. However, your best bet is to hand wash your beach canopy outdoors with cold water and dish detergent to remove tough stains and baked-on sand and let air dry.
How do you prevent a beach awning from blowing away?
If your beach canopy didn’t come with sandbags to weigh it down, consider making your own sandbags by filling a pillowcase or tote bag with sand and tying it to the poles of your awning. You can also purchase canopy weights that clip directly onto the bottom of the poles for a less DIY option.
If your awning has side walls, the tent will be more likely to tip over if the wind blows through the opening. On particularly windy days, remove the side walls until the wind subsides.
What is PEOPLE Tested?
We created the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval to help you find the best products for your life. We use our unique methodology to test products in three labs across the country and with our network of in-home testers to determine their effectiveness, durability, ease of use and more. Based on the results, we evaluate and recommend products so you can find the one that suits your needs.
But we don’t stop there: we also regularly review the categories in which we have awarded the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval, because today’s best product may not be tomorrow’s best. And besides, companies can never buy our recommendation: their products must deserve it, fair and square.
In short, PEOPLE Tested provides recommendations you can trust – every day, every purchase.
Want more product recommendations? Check out all of our People Tested content.