The best beach tents are lightweight shelters designed to provide protection from sun and wind, in an area that can be quite exposed and lacking in natural shade. Whether you're looking for a sand-free spot for the picnic, a place to keep at least some clothing dry and salt-free, a protected spot for your toddler to nap, or somewhere to get changed in privacy, a beach tent will do the trick.
Even though this is a fairly specialised product, there are still a wide variety of beach tents out there to choose from. Size is a key deciding factor, as well as weight – some beach escapades are only a few inches from a carpark, but some are quite a trek, making the heavier options of limited fun. It's important to keep a wary eye on the UV rating of unbranded options too; although the best beach tents will offer good protection, you don't want to be accidentally frying in apparent shade.
Another practical question is how to tether the shelter down. Unlike the best tents for camping, these take very little in the way of pitching, and beaches can be very obliging spots to put up a shelter as long as you've the right tools for the job. Stony, rocky areas are a nightmare to hammer stakes or poles into, but brilliant for tying and wedging guylines, while sandy expanses render normal pegs useless, but sandbags a brilliant idea. Of course, it's not really possible to predict all these variables in advance, so it's worth having a bit of flexibility to save you frantically chasing a runaway beach tent.
A beach tent provides an ideal base for your day at the seaside. While you're here, you might also want to check out our guides to the best camping chairs for a comfortable perch, and one of the best cool boxes or bags to stash refreshments in. But for now let's kick off our ranking of the best beach tents to buy now.
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Best beach tent 2021
Our top pick for best beach tent is the LittleLife Family beach shelter. This deceptively compact package unfurls into a large shelter that's roomy enough to house a whole family – ideal whether you get caught in a light shower or just want somewhere shady for a seaside picnic. 50+ UV rating keeps the sun out, a small ventilation panel at the back allows for some airflow through the space, while the zip up door ensures privacy for changing, or peace for toddler nap-time. The geodesic design will keep it standing strong on blustery days, and there are also pockets around the perimeter that you can fill with sand for added security, if you're concerned about it blowing away. In fact, the only real down-side we noted in our LittleLife Family beach shelter review is the lack of internal pockets.
The Glymnis Pop Up Beach Tent is the kitchen sink of beach tents, providing a substantial 3-4 person shelter with all mod cons. Complete with guylines, sandbags, pegs and a highly-engineered ‘hydraulic spring design' rapid pitching system that claims to get this up and ready to go in three seconds, this is one to make your beach neighbours green with envy. A standout feature are the two windows with mesh panels and rollable curtains, which enable you to let the breeze in while still keeping some shade. The front is permanently open, and you also have the option to lift up another entire side if you wish. There's a pocket for phones and other essentials, SPF 50+ UV rating, and even a camping lamp hook for the evening. Essentially, if this beach shelter doesn't have what you need, you'll have to get a caravan. On the downside, there's potential for complexity in getting it set up, and it might be overkill for your average beach trip.
If you're looking for a safe, shaded space for a young child or baby to hang out on a family beach trip, the best beach tent for you could be this Babymoov offering. Crucially, the front is made from mesh, so you can zip it up completely but still see them – ideal for keeping bugs and curious dogs out, as well as preventing your little 'un heading off on an unplanned adventure the second you take your eyes off them. There's also a mesh panel at the back to allow plenty of airflow through the tent, and of course, you've got the maximum 50+ UV protection rating too.
This Babymoov tent packs into a compact, very light, circular case with shoulder strap for easy carry – although, as with all popup tents, the packed version is a bit unwieldy, and getting it down for the first few times can be confusing (luckily there are YouTube videos dedicated to the art). Once you get the hang of it, it’s a doddle to put up and down.
The Coleman Sundome is a more minimalist beach tent from one of our favourite outdoor brands. Although not a popup design, it's high quality, easy to erect, and the fibreglass poles are strong yet flexible. All this does, of course, make it a bit heavier than some other beach tents, but if it's durability and longevity you're after, this would be a good investment. As well as packing in SPF 50 UV protection, the shelter can be fully zipped up for extra wind protection while those poles hold it firm, and there's a HH rating of 500mm, which means it'll keep the showers out, too.
While it's not light, the SKLZ Sport Brella justifies its own heftiness easily enough. For one, it’s huge – tall enough to accommodate an adult in a camping chair and wide enough for three to sit comfortably. For two, it’s impressively rugged, with an innovative umbrella design that encompasses side flaps for full-coverage protection and, we suspect, to ensure you won’t get blown away. It comes complete with two sets of spikes to suit all sorts of ground, so it could come in very handy as a camping shelter too.
The Easthills Outdoors Easy Up Beach Tent is a geodesic dome-like tent might look like something you’d expect to find on a commune in the California desert, but it’s really quite a sensible option for family trips, whether that’s a day at the beach or a camping holiday. Usually you can expect pop-up tents to be on the smaller side as a trade-off but this oversized shelter makes no such concessions. With enough room to fit two comfortably, or as a separate base for kids and pets, reviewers say it’s surprisingly lightweight for the size and best of all, amazingly easy to put up. It's available in a surreptitious sand colour of a more easily spottable baby blue, and if this one's not big enough, there are larger sizes available in the range too.
The best popup tents take all the pain out of getting set up, and this nifty offering from scuba expert Cressi takes the same idea and applies in to a beach tent. The Cressi 1946 pops up in seconds to create a large sheltered space with a good anti-UV rating, which is exactly what you want from a beach tent. You'll fit three to four adults in this, albeit sitting up, and it comes with it's own carry bag too – although be aware that, as with all popup options, this packs down into a large flat disc, which is light but can be unwieldy.
The ominously-monikered Vango Sentinel Airbeam tackles an issue that was last addressed by the Victorians with hessian and stout larch poles, thus deserving a place in this best beach tent list for blind innovation at any cost. A modern upgrade for the ubiquitous British beach holiday windbreak, the Sentinel Airbeam rocks inflatable Airbeam poles (no more hammering of wooden poles into compacted gravel), as well as guylines for exceedingly breezy spots. Covering a gigantic area, and weighing in at a substantial 6.15kg, this is no lightweight, and there's no sun protection to speak of, but for serious beachgoers and more formal beach-based events it's a bit of a winner, especially with the panoramic windows that let the views in but keep the wind – and sand – out.