Going to the beach without an umbrella is a rookie mistake. The sun is usually hotter than you think it could be, and you always burn quicker than you thought you would. To protect your skin (and avoid looking like a tomato by the time you leave) you should make sure you always have a beach umbrella on hand.
It’s important to note, however, that all beach umbrellas aren’t made equal. So don’t just reach for the first available option in your local grocery store! Ask yourself the following questions to make sure you get the best umbrella for your needs.
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Where do I want to use it?
Are you planning on taking the umbrella to the beach or do you want to use it next to the pool at home? This will affect what type of umbrella will be best. Umbrellas designed for the beach often have a pole that is easy to stick into the sand, but you might struggle to make it stand on your lawn without a stand or pole holder. So think about where you’ll want to place the umbrella before you try to find the most practical option.
How big do I want it to be?
Beach umbrellas come in different sizes, offering sun protection for one, two, or even four people. Generally, beach umbrellas are between 5 and 8 feet in diameter. A small 5-foot umbrella will provide shade for up to two people, so if you’re looking for an umbrella for an entire family you’ll probably want something a bit bigger.
We’d recommend looking at umbrellas of 7–8 feet if you’d like to seat four to five people under it. However, the bigger the umbrella, the heavier and bulkier it will be, which could make it difficult to carry. If you don’t quite feel like lugging a large umbrella around, but you have a bigger family, consider getting two smaller umbrellas and placing them side by side.
How important is the look?
There are some beautiful, colourful beach umbrellas out there, but there are many more plain ones too. When looking at options, it’s good to have an idea of how important design is to you. Do you want to make a statement on the beach or would you be okay with a more plain, functional umbrella that still gets the job done?
Once you’ve answered these questions you’ll have a good idea of your needs. You’ll then likely want answers to this next set of questions to help you make a completely informed decision.
What type of umbrella is the best?
When thinking “beach umbrella,” an image of a traditional standing umbrella probably comes to mind. While this type of umbrella is still very popular, there are also other types of beach umbrellas you can consider.
These are the three main types of beach umbrellas you could choose:
This is the “normal” beach umbrella that you grew up with. It has a pole that sticks into the sand and stands upright, providing a ring of shade around it. These umbrellas are still very popular and they have evolved to now providing many great features like easy tilting and wind resistance. They also come in a variety of sizes. For a classic look, this is the way to go.
As explained by beachstore.com a clamp-on umbrella is smaller than a traditional umbrella, as it is designed to attached to the top of a beach chair or lounger. These umbrellas are generally large enough to provide shade for the majority of your body. They can usually be attached to any chair using an adjustable clamp. If you just need shade for one person, and you hate trying to make an umbrella stand in the sand, this is a good option. However, if you need shade for an entire family, this umbrella won’t do the job very well.
3. Beach tent
If you want full protection against the sun and other elements like wind, a beach tent is the way to go. Unlike a traditional umbrella, a beach tent sits flat on the sand, like a tent you would use for camping. The difference between a beach and camping tent is that the front part of a beach tent will be open, allowing you to look out. Beach tents come in lots of different sizes and are also great for keeping your personal belongings safe.
On the downside, a beach tent will take a bit longer to set up than a normal or clamp-on umbrella.
How important is UV protection?
Getting an umbrella with UV protection can help protect you and your family against the sun’s dangerous rays. According to the NHS, research conducted in Spain showed that a beach umbrella with UV protection blocks almost all the direct rays from the sun––definitely a good feature to have.
However, it’s important to note that this same research showed that when you’re under an umbrella you’re still exposed to some diffuse radiation (rays reflected off surfaces or scattered by air molecules), so it is still advisable to wear sunscreen even if you do have an umbrella with UV protection.
What other features do I need?
While UV protection is arguably the most important feature, as the main function of a beach umbrella is to protect you against the sun, there are some other features you should also look out for. Aspects to consider before you buy include:
- Is the umbrella wind-resistant? It often gets windy at the beach and you don’t want to have to hold your umbrella every time the wind comes up. Many umbrellas come with air vents to make it more sturdy when it’s windy.
- Does it have a sand-anchor? Umbrellas will this feature are easier to keep in position.
- Is it water resistant? Should it start raining it would be nice if your beach umbrella could keep you dry.
- Is it fade resistant? If the sun fades your umbrella, it will soon look old and dilapidated; however, a fade-resistant coating can combat this.
Once you’ve considered these aspects and know what type of umbrella you want, you’re ready to go shopping! Here are some options we’d recommend.
Tommy Bahama 2016 Sand Anchor 7 feet Beach Umbrella with Tilt and Telescoping Pole (Green/Blue Stripe)
This umbrella features a special aluminium undercoating for extra sun protection and a wind vent for added stability. The umbrella, with a green and blue stripe design, measures 7 feet and comes with an integrated sand anchor (the bottom of the pole looks like a corkscrew that you can twist into the sand) to secure it. You can buy this beach umbrella for around $45.
What we liked:
- The umbrella has a tilt function so you can easily adjust it as the sun moves. This improves stability as the umbrella won’t have to be angled to maintain shade.
- This umbrella is really easy to set up, and because it comes with a sand anchor, you can rest assured that once it’s set up it will stay put for the rest of the day.
- It’s large without being cumbersome. Three beach chairs can fit under it, but it’s still easy to carry.
What we didn’t like:
- Despite its wind vents, the umbrella doesn’t stand against the wind very well, so you won’t be able to use it in very windy conditions.
- The pole and umbrella spokes are not as strong as they could be and might bend after a while.
Selling for around $60, this umbrella offers all-weather protection. It has UPF 50+ protection, and wind flaps for ventilation. It is also water resistant. The umbrella’s 8-foot canopy is made of durable 210 D polyester supported by 4.5-mm steel ribs and a 5-mm steel stretcher. When broken down, the umbrella is easy to carry and weighs about 9lbs.
What we liked:
- The umbrella is easy to set up and take down, and everything fits into the carry bag nicely, so transporting it is not a hassle.
- This umbrella holds up exceptionally well in windy conditions.
- The umbrella has side windows that allows for airflow under the umbrella.
- It comes with a floor attachment so you will no longer have to take a picnic blanket with you if you don’t want to get covered in sand.
What we didn’t:
- The umbrella can’t really be used standing up, it has to rest on the ground with two poles digged in. this means that headroom under it is a bit limited.
- The stakes to pin the side of the umbrella to the ground are a bit thin––thicker poles would have given more stability.
This is a beach umbrella that can clip onto your beach chair. The umbrella is made of dual aluminium-coated polyester, which provides sun protection––t blocks 99.8% of UVA and UVB rays. The umbrella’s extended kite shape gives you more coverage and protection and you can easily adjust the umbrella’s height. This umbrella sells for around $33.
What we liked:
- The umbrella’s kite shape works really well, keeping your entire body in the shade without making you feel cramped.
- The umbrella holds up quite well in windy conditions.
- It is smaller than a traditional beach umbrella which makes it easier to carry––perfect for a no-fuss beach day!
What we didn’t like:
- The umbrella’s clamp could’ve been stronger, you might struggle to make it stay in place on your chair.
- The umbrella can’t be adjusted to sit very high above the chair, so tall people might have a problem with bumping their heads against it.
- The umbrella doesn’t have a tilt function, which means that when the sun moves you’ll have to move the umbrella too if you want to continue to sit in the shade.
This 6-foot beach umbrella is affordable at around $30, but still strong and durable. It has a lightweight anodized aluminium pole and fiberglass ribs, making the umbrella relatively windproof. The pole has a screw design to secure it to the ground. It comes with a screw handle that allows you to rotate it into the sand. It has UV protection making it great for kids.
What we liked:
- The umbrella has a tilting function so you can easily adjust it when the sun moves without having to get up.
- It has air vents that allow air to move through and reduce the chances of the umbrella being blown away by the wind.
- It comes with a convenient carry bag and is light enough to carry around easily.
What we didn’t like:
- If the umbrella is secured well in windy conditions the aluminium pole may bend.
- The umbrella’s carry bag is not very durable, it may tear or the handle could break after a few times using it.
- While the umbrella’s colours are initially very bright, the material will fade after having spent some time in the sun.
This product is a tent rather than an umbrella, but it is still designed to be used primarily on the beach. The tent is compact and lightweight. It provides UPF 50+ sun protection and is also rain proof. It has a spacious interior and pockets to store personal items. Selling for around $100, it comes with a carry case, sand pockets, and stakes to secure it to the ground.
What we liked:
- The tent is really easy to put up––it won’t take you any longer than five minutes.
- The sand bags work well to keep the tent in place, so you don’t have to worry about it blowing away in windy conditions.
- The tent doesn’t weigh any more than your average beach umbrella, so you’ll be able to get it to the beach easily.
- It’s large enough to fit two beach chairs with ease, so you and your partner can both enjoy the shade.
What we didn’t like:
- The tent could get a bit hot if you spend all day in it as the air vents on the side don’t let in a lot of air.
- Depending on the position of the sun, your legs might not be in the shade if you’re sitting on a beach chair in the tent, it is just a bit too small to provide full shade.
When buying a beach umbrella, its level of UV protection and wind-resistance should be key deciding factors. Whether you go with a standard umbrella, a clamp-on, or a tent, you’ll want it to have these features.
Generally, we’ve found that standard beach umbrellas or beach tents are the most effective, as clamp-on umbrellas are often too small or don’t clamp onto the chair as well as they should.
If you’re looking for a normal umbrella and have a bit more money to spend, we’d recommend the Sport-Brella, as it’s large enough for a family, it’s durable, and wind resistant. Or if you’re on a bit tighter budget, the EasyGo Rainbow Beach Umbrella is a good option. Even though it is cheaper, it is still sturdy and will give you the sun protection you require.
Alternatively, you can go with a beach tent like the Pacific Breeze; however, we’ve found that beach tents generally do not provide as much shade as a traditional umbrella.
The Sport-Brella in our opinion is the best beach umbrella. If your budget allows, click here to buy one now.