By now, it’s dawned on all of us: if we want to socialize this summer, we’re going to have to get comfortable spending a lot of time outside. Whether we’re meeting at the local park or enjoying a socially-distant beach day, we’ve got to put on our outdoor hats (literally and figuratively) and prepare to face the elements.
We’ve stocked up on bug spray, invested in the top-rated cooler on Amazon, and charged our portable Bluetooth speakers to 100%, but there’s one thing we mustn’t skimp on: sun protection. And we’re not just talking SPF — we mean a real-deal mini-shelter where you can escape the punishing midday UV rays and cool off for a spell.
Sun tents and shelters come in every iteration and price point, from a $60 shade that simply pops open, requiring no set-up at all, to a party-of-five size that's outfitted with what can only be described as outdoor bay windows. We rounded up all the best ones we could find on the internet, so whether you’re traveling light on a solo outdoor mission or hauling a family of four (or more) to the seaside, there’s a sun shelter ahead that will meet your needs.
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A pint-sized package becomes a shady shelter in one swift motion with Picnic Time’s “Brolly” shelter. We love the sea-friendly stripes and minimal footprint of this quick-setup tent-umbrella hybrid. (Tumbrella? Uent?) At almost three feet wide, it’s perfect for kids, a couple, or someone who wants to spread out and have the shade all to themselves.
Picnic Time Brolly Beach Umbrella Tent, $, available at Food52
We came for the quaint nautical design of L.L. Bean’s Sunbuster tent, and stayed for the glowing reviews. Happy customers praised the easy setup, thanks to the fancy-sounding “Lightspeed” folding technology, enabling a user to erect the structure in seconds with the swiftness of opening an umbrella. It comes with stakes and sandbags for added stability, and rolls up into a carrying bag when not in use.
L.L. Bean Sunbuster Folding Shelter, $, available at L.L. Bean
For those among us who aren’t, like, “set-up” people (you know who you are) — Picnic Time’s aptly named “Manta” pop-up tent is your friend. Wide enough to comfortably accommodate two adults and a kiddo, it requires little more than a flick of the wrist to pop into formation. With a rear window for ventilation and stakes for when things get windy, this frippery-free tent is perfect for the lo-fi sun-seeker. (P.S. This shopping writer purchased this one for herself!)
Also available on backorder at Food52
Picnic Time Sun Shelter Pop-Up Tent, $, available at Nordstrom Rack
The camping experts at Coleman thought of everything with this lime-hued sun shelter, which is large enough for two adults at almost eight feet wide. The roll-out floor can zip up for privacy, and there’s even a line for hanging clothes to dry. Set up will take about five minutes with this model — a small time commitment for such a convenient, well-thought-out shade.
Coleman Coleman Beach Shade, $, available at Walmart
If you’re traveling with a larger gaggle, Pacific Breeze’s “deluxe” sun tent will provide you with ample space for up to four adults. It’s also equipped with three windows that wrap around the perimeter of the tent for optimal ocean views. (One reviewer was delighted that her six-foot-tall husband could occupy it comfortably.) Bonus: despite its hefty size, it only weighs about 6 lbs. when collapsed. So far, 2,374 reviewers have awarded this model an average of 4.6 stars — will you be the 2,375th?
Pacific Breeze Easy Setup Beach Tent Deluxe, $, available at Amazon
This camp-ready shelter will protect you from a whole host of elements: sun, rain, and even snow, according to one reviewer who brought it while traversing Montana’s Smith River. The setup appears to be a little more involved with this one — reviews confirm it is a two-person+ job — but the comfort rewards are great, as the shelter can accommodate numerous people, chairs, and all. Aluminum hybrid poles mean the structure is strong but lightweight, and the whole thing folds up into a neat little knapsack for easy transport.
Kelty Kelty Shade Maker 2, $, available at Backcountry
The convertible design of Big Agnes’ sun shelter is mighty handy, allowing you to easily reposition the shade behind, above, or in front of you. The floor can also latch to the uppermost point of the tent for privacy, and the exterior is waterproof, meaning that the shelter will protect you from sun and rain. At over 10 feet at the widest point, it even provides plenty of room for social distancing.
BIG AGNES Whetstone Shelter with Floor, $, available at EMS
If you’re looking to provide SPF for an outdoor dining session, a large-scale tarp-esque sunshade like Monoprice’s may be your best bet. There’s room for your whole communal table beneath its 18-foot wingspan, and setup is surprisingly simple — you simply stake it down at six points and then raise the metal bar in the center. The shade is also waterproof, should the skies open up mid-’nic.
Pure Outdoor Large Wing Tarp Shelter, $, available at Monoprice
This eye-catching sun shelter is ideal for clear-skied beach days, with a cotton shade that comes in seven sunny colorways so that your friends can find you easily when its time to meet up.
Fatboy UV Filter Portable Beach Tent, $, available at Urban Outfitters
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