If you’re heading to the beach or park this summer packing a sunshade or beach umbrella is as essential as sunscreen, or finding a bathing suit that won’t crawl up your butt. Kids need shade to stay safe in the sun — and additional protection to maintain un-bitten on buggy days.
But before you buy a sun-protective tarp or umbrella, consider the conditions where you’ll be using it. If it’s buggy, you may want a tarp with no-see-um sidewalls. If it might be windy, choose one that’s less likely to bend, break or blow away. Some sunshades require trees for setup. Others require sand. So beachgoers may choose a different shade than families who want to use a sunshade by a lake or at a playing field. And while most of the sunshades here are family-sized, personal sun umbrellas are also an option. One last thing: If you get caught in a squall, remember to fully dry your sunshade before you pack it away. That will prevent mold from degrading the fabric. And if you’re beach bound and your sunshade or tarp doesn’t have sand-specific stakes, buy yourself some sand anchors. With that said, drum roll please, here are our favorite beach umbrellas and sunshades for families.
Protect your family from sun, rain, and bugs with Nemo’s Bugout ($199-$249). String this tarp-on-steroids from two trees and two hiking poles. The 9’ x 9’ or 12’ x 12’ shelter can be used alone, or with its bug protective mesh sidewalls unfurled to keep the occupants from getting bitten. When the bugs aren’t out, screen walls roll up and tuck out of the way. Multiple lash points make it easy to secure. Use it like a playroom, or as a shaded, bug-free dining room or lounge when you’re car camping, in the backyard, lakeside, riverside or anywhere else you want to string it. Use it. With 81 or 144 square feet of space inside.
Beach Bub All-in-One Umbrella System
The best shade umbrella for windy beach days, the 7.5’ diameter Beach Bub ($138) is an upright umbrella, like you might have on your deck or patio with a robust anchoring system that secures it in sand. The umbrella, which is 50 UPF and rated to withstand up to 35 mph winds, has an integrated tarp at the base you fill with sand then clip to the umbrella pole to weight and balance it. Because you’re using sand from the location where you set up, there’s no extra weight to carry. And filling the anchor tarp is quick and easy. The umbrella and base weigh around nine pounds packed into Beach Bub’s carry bag. The base is 120 lbs. when filled with sand.
A freestanding three-legged tent-style tarp, Kelty’s Sunshade has enough shaded space for your family and friends, and it’s tall enough to stand up in. Three fiberglass poles give the Sunshade structure, and a moveable sidewall lets you keep glare out of the occupant’s eyes and off their skin. When it’s windy, guy lines and extra stakes help further secure it. Extra lines tuck away in storage pockets when you don’t need them. The 12 lb. shelter packs up into a backpack carry bag to leave your hands free.
REI Camp Tarp 16
A minimalist square camping tarp that’s light enough for backpacking, and versatile enough for beach chilling, the Camp Tarp ($100) blocks sun, wind, and weather over a 256’ area. How you set it up is only restricted by your own creativity. Use it like a wing or a tent. Stake sides to the ground, or leave them elevated. Tie your tarp to something tall, like a tree, or buy REI’s adjustable tarp poles, sold separately, to set it up when you’re far from the forest. Six stakes are included. Multiple webbing loop lash points along the edges provide easy setup. And the six guy lines are reflective so you won’t trip on them after dark.
Sport-Brella Portable All-Weather and Sun Umbrella
A giant beach umbrella with stakeable sides, the Sport-brella is eight feet in diameter, big enough to shade several beach blankets or chairs. Made from water-resistant UPF 50+ polyester with strong, wind resistant steel ribs, this portable palm tree also has zippered windows for airflow and visibility and the perfect game of peek-a-boo. Side panels block the sun when It’s low in the sky. They also block wind. And you don’t need sand to stake this umbrella. So use it at the beach, park or game field. It’s quick and easy to set up, and protects you and your family from sun, wind, and rain. Packed, it weighs around 9 lbs. On windy days, stake it out with extra cords, which are included.
Field and Stream Chair Umbrella
Turn any camp chair into a shade zone with Field and Stream’s Chair Umbrella ($7). It costs less than a bottle of sunscreen, and attaches to most beach chairs and camp chairs with an adjustable clamp. A personal sun shade means you don’t have to be packed together in a single location–everyone can have their own. This auto-open chair umbrella shades approximately 2.5’ x 4’. But save it for sun only. It’s not recommended for use in stiff winds or rain.