The 10 Best Beach Shelters
10. Sport-Brella Portable
9. Wildhorn Quick-Up Cabana
8. Clam Corporation
6. Easthills Outdoors
5. Pacific Breeze Easy Up
4. The Hamptons Baby Pop & Play
3. AI&Go Swiftopen
2. Genji Sports
1. Pacific Deluxe
Which Type of Beach Shelter Makes The Most Sense for You?
Believe it or not, beach shelters are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Different companies manufacture different styles. And yet the majority of beach shelters still fall into three basic categories. Below we've provided a breakdown of each one:
1. The Dome. This is the most common type of beach shelter. It has a wide and rounded top with an open face toward the front. Most Dome models can be zipped open or shut, providing varying levels of privacy, or protection from the elements, depending on your needs. Domes are the most popular type of beach shelters because they look cool, they offer room for 2-3 people, and they're easy to assemble or take apart. If you're a person with a small family who enjoys an occasional outing at the beach, a dome is probably your best bet.
2. The Gazebo. A gazebo isn't so much an honest "shelter" as it is a miniature party tent - five poles and a durable canopy that stretches tight overhead. These structures mark your territory, while also allowing enough room for standing - or even barbecuing - underneath. Gazebos block the sun, but not the wind. They are ideal for any group that is slightly larger than the traditional family, and they make just as much sense at a state park or a tailgating party as they do at the beach.
3. The Fly Tent. A fly tent is your basic triangular piece of fabric held up by several poles, perhaps even anchored by some rope and stakes (think Boy Scout tent, and you're on the right track). Fly tents are inexpensive, but they look odd on a beach. You can recline or sleep inside these shelters, but otherwise they're mostly designed for keeping delicate items in the shade.
What Do I Need to Know About A Beach Shelter Before I Buy?
The first thing you need to know is how many people you plan on taking with you during an average trip to the beach. Next, you'll want to read some product descriptions so you can start to gain a grasp of what differentiates a mediocre beach shelter from a great one. How much does each model weigh? What does the manufacturer say about assembly? Does the shelter come with a carrying case? Does that carrying case have wheels? Does it have straps or handles, ala a backpack? Does the open-ended front section of the shelter zip up for occasional privacy? Does the shelter feature plastic windows, or pouches, or zip-down storage sections inside?
Once you've gotten answers to these questions, scroll down to read some of the customer reviews. Don't be dissuaded by a single negative review. What you're looking for are consistent patterns, any selling points or complaints that rear their head again and again. Patterns represent a significant indication that you'll want to take something into account before you buy. On top of which, customers tend to be more straightforward - and emotional - than manufacturers. Customers also have the benefit of having lived with the product for a while.
Along those lines, be sure to check out what type of material each shelter is made of. Polyurethane (sometimes abbreviated as "PU" in product descriptions) is the industry standard. If the shelter's lining is made of this material, chances are it'll be both reliable and light.
A Very Brief History Of The Beach Shelter
Casual observers might look at a photo of an average beach shelter and think, Hey, wait a minute, isn't this thing just a tent? And the truth is, for the most part, those casual observers would be correct. Beach shelters are nothing more than a marketing term for what was originally known as a "beach tent." Beach tents were a derivative of the more traditional camping tents. Both structures were made of the same materials, both were built to stand up to the elements. In fact, the only aspects that differentiated an early beach tent from a similarly-shaped camping tent were an open front and a smaller size.
While most Americans have come to associate a "tent" with camping, these structures, which date all the way back to The Iron Age, were originally used to provide protection in the deserts, along with any arid lands. This, of course, means that a modern-day beach shelter serves the same basic purpose that was originally intended for a tent.
All irony aside, the popularity of beach shelters in America grew as an extension of the free-standing beach umbrella. Today's beachgoers can enjoy all of the shade originally provided by an umbrella along with an increased barrier of protection thanks to a shelter. What's more, beach shelters stand up to wind a lot more effectively than beach umbrellas do. Comparatively speaking, it'd take a significant gale to send someone sprinting down the beach after a 7-lb. shell.