The 10 Best Patio Umbrellas
This wiki has been updated 36 times since it was first published in March of 2015. No matter where you live, the sun can make outside spaces unbearably hot at the height of summer. The right patio umbrella can provide a stylish addition to your deck or garden decor, reduce your skin's exposure to UV rays, and cool things down enough to let you enjoy the outdoors throughout the year. We selected models of various sizes and designs to suit a range of preferences. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
August 18, 2020:
In selecting our patio umbrellas, we wanted to make sure that our choices could suit a number of outdoor areas, from compact balconies to porches in windy cities to sweeping verandas. Durability was important, since these may be subject to wind, rain, and, of course, harsh sunlight. We also looked for a few special features that would enhance the experience of relaxing outside.
As far as those add-ons that improve the al fresco experience, the Sun-Ray 81104 caught our attention because it has LEDs for a charming ambiance and Bluetooth speakers that let you play your music under the stars or blue skies. The Wondershade Ultimate Portable also earned a place on the list, thanks to its built-in cupholders and storage hooks, which make it easy to keep essentials nearby.
On the sturdiness front, we like that the Kozyard Butterfly Double-Sided has a base that can be filled with sand. We also added the Pure Garden Half Round because it holds up well in moderate winds, while also making a smart choice for those with limited outdoor space. Our previous similar model, the Sundale Outdoor Half, lost its place because it blows over too easily. The Blissun With Fringe proved to be quite fragile and doesn't hold up to regular use, so it, too, was removed during this update.
Those hoping to add something stylish and cheery to their patio may like the California Umbrella 3-Way Tilt, with its bright color options and wind flaps. Though we liked the festive look of the Bayside21 Hula Thatched, its straw proved to be too sparse and looks a bit like plastic, so we replaced it with the EasyGo Thatch Tiki, which offers a very similar aesthetic but with higher-grade materials.
If providing an impressive amount of shade to guests is your priority, you may like the Purple Leaf 10-Foot Square Cantilever, with its sizeable canopy, or the Kozyard Butterfly Double-Sided. Either of these should cover a large outdoor dining table or sofa nicely.
April 16, 2019:
The exact patio umbrella that's right for you will depend on the climate in which you live and how you prefer to enjoy your outdoor space. Taking that into consideration, we made sure to include a few models that will keep you comfortable outdoors in extreme heat and under the brightest sun. The Kozyard Butterfly is so massive that it should provide shade for large parties, meaning nobody will feel the need to go inside early just to get away from those intense rays. The Abba Patio Sunbrella blocks out an impressive 98 percent of UV rays, so those who are nervous about spending time outdoors due to sun exposure can rest at ease beneath this model. If you live in a windy area, you'll like the Abba Patio Outdoor Push Button, the California Umbrella 3-Way Tilt, and the Bayside21 Hula Thatched, each of which are well-vented to stand up well to those heavy gusts. The venting also allows heat to seep escape on hot days. We understood that some patios face certain space constraints or slightly difficult layouts, so we added the Sundale Outdoor Half for those who don't have room for a full-size canopy. We also included the Abba Patio 11-Foot Offset, the pole of which can be positioned conveniently off to the side of the main relaxation area, so it won't interfere with how you arrange your furniture.
Frontgate Altura Cantilever Umbrella You can customize the Frontgate Altura Cantilever Umbrella by choosing from three sizes and three colors for the canopy, and two different frame materials. Even its smallest of canopies is a generous 10-by-13-feet in diameter, providing plenty of shade, and its offset design lets you get the most of the UV-blocking fabric, without having to rearrange your furniture. frontgate.com
Patio Sun Umbrellas Solid Wood Round The Patio Sun Umbrellas Solid Wood Round looks sophisticated and is quite durable. Its vented top allows wind to pass through without lifting it up, and its canopy is available in four colors as well as two sizes. Backed by a lifetime warranty, it should see you through years of relaxing in the sun. patiosunumbrellas.com
Don't Succumb To The Melt
Bricks absorb heat from the sun and radiates it back up at you, baking you like a fine NY-style brick oven pizza.
Even for those of us with darker complexions whose skin is much more amenable to the crushing UV rays of our great solar body in the sky, it's nearly impossible to keep from melting when outdoors on a hot, sunny day.
I'm mostly Italian, so I tan like it's nobody's business. Even when I burn (which is rare), the red turns to a deep, rich tan within about 48 hours. Still, when it's too hot, it's too hot. So, what's a person to do if they're even more sensitive to sunlight than I am? Sunscreen can help keep you from burning, but it won't keep you from melting.
That's where the umbrella comes in, and it's the patio umbrella, with its increased surface area and stable grounding mechanisms that will save you from turning into a human puddle.
Now, it isn't that the shade created by an umbrella actually makes the air underneath it any cooler. If you measured the temperature of the air in the shade and in the sunlight, it'd be about the same. To a human being, though, and not to a thermometer, direct sunlight increases your perception of the heat by 10-15 degrees. Think of it as the opposite of wind chill. Under the shade of an umbrella, you feel the air for what it actually is.
On a 85˚ day, sitting in direct sunlight would make you feel like you were suffering a 100˚ heat wave. In the shade, that temperature would feel like 85˚, if not a degree or two cooler. This is especially true on brick patios. Bricks absorb heat from the sun and radiates it back up at you, baking you like a fine NY-style brick oven pizza. Keeping the bricks beneath you under the shade of an umbrella will help reduce the rise in temperature even further.
A Lifestyle In The Shade
You don't have to look too deeply within your soul to decide on the right patio umbrella, but that doesn't mean it's a decision you should just toss out there. After all, this is your summertime comfort we're talking about, not to mention the look of your carefully curated outdoor space.
If you opt for a cheaper solution, your canopy is liable to fade in the sun and tear more easily over the years.
The first parts of your decision are liable to be practical, whether or not a certain umbrella will be a good fit for the space at hand, whether it's big enough or too big, for example, or whether to opt for a fancier umbrella on a boom pole over a more traditional design. This part of your decision is going to come from the outside in, instead of the other way around.
After that, however, your aesthetic takes over, and style becomes the number one consideration among available umbrellas. One of the special features that some of these umbrellas boast is a built-in mood lighting system. Either charged by simple batteries, a solar charge, or electricity run to the umbrella, these lights line the underside of the umbrella's ribs and cast a favorable glow on all who sit underneath them.
You'll see the prices of any good patio umbrella increase along with an increase in the durability of the frame materials and weather-resistant canopy. If you opt for a cheaper solution, your canopy is liable to fade in the sun and tear more easily over the years. It's also likely that the ribs, stretcher, and shaft materials will break more easily if the umbrella gets carried off by the wind or even simply dropped by a handler. It's better to make an investment in materials that will last.
Made In China?
I'm don't mean to imply that the umbrellas on our list are universally made overseas. That's not the case at all. The very first collapsible umbrella, however, was chronicled in China back around the year 21 CE. It was outfitted for a carriage to keep both driver and riders shaded from the sun in what I assume was very heavy, regal clothing.
I'm don't mean to imply that the umbrellas on our list are universally made overseas.
There is evidence suggesting the use of umbrellas prior to this Chinese example elsewhere in the country, but it's hard to know for sure whether or not these umbrellas were collapsible. These records date back to the 6th century BCE, so the idea of the umbrella has been with us for at least 2600 years, collapsible or not.
Images of Egyptian parasols have been dated back almost 3000 years, but these were much lighter devices used only for protection from the sun, and couldn't withstand the environmental conditions against which the Chinese developed their umbrellas.
What the Egyptians most notably contributed to the umbrella is its superstitious danger, specifically if you open it indoors. This was considered in Egyptian times to be an insult to the Sun God, and would bring misfortune on anyone silly enough to do it.
Whoever came up with it first, there's a curious European period of almost 1000 years after the fall of the Roman Empire, during which wealthy families abandoned the umbrella as a status symbol and protection from the sun. It wasn't until the Renaissance that the umbrella came back into fashion in Europe, where they developed into the common umbrellas and patio umbrellas we use today.