I grew up on the east coast and was fortunate enough to be raised by a set of parents who loved trips to the beach. Throughout the years it has been interesting to see how trends change at the shore. Of course I noticed the changes in fashion, hairstyles, automobiles, and music. But, I also witnessed a change in what items people brought with them to the beach. Before the new millennium, the beach umbrella was the most common source of shade for beach-goers. There were variations that attached to chairs, variations that stuck into the sand, and others that needed to be held. Umbrellas served their purpose and were the primary provider of shade for vacationers until the late 1990s.
The aluminum frame pop-up canopy tent didn’t gain popularity until the early 2000s. The early designs from the 1980s were feeble and difficult to set up. People didn’t really start bringing them to the beach until the telescoping legs and collapsing frame were perfected. Once pop-up canopies became durable, affordable, and easy to set up, they became popular amongst beach-goers. Over the last 15 years or so, the pop-up canopy has edged out the beach umbrella as the most popular sunshade at the shore.
This article would be incomplete if it could ended there, though. Canopy Tent Reviews has traditionally focused on the aluminum frame pop-up canopy. But in order to bring our readers the most accurate and up-to-date reviews, we are forced to change with the times. Over the past few years I have seen a new product gaining popularity and I believe that it is only a matter of time before it overtakes the pop-up canopy tent as the most popular source of shelter on the beach. The product that I am referring to does not have an industry standard name yet because it is so new. Some manufacturers call them beach shades, others call them beach tents, and still others call them sun shades. All of these terms are synonymous with the revolutionary new product that is hitting the market like a storm. There are many variations, but the most common design is more similar to a traditional camping tent than a canopy tent. They are about 4 to 5 feet tall and use tent poles instead of a collapsible metal frame. Beach tents are smaller and weigh less than canopy tents, which make them more suitable for beach use. They provide enough shelter to sit or lay under, which is typically the only shelter that most vacationers need because, lets be realistic… The reason vacationers usually go to the beach is to lay out in the sun.
Once we realized how great these new products are, we decided that in order to provide the best canopy tent reviews to our readers we needed to expand our portfolio and review the best beach tents as well. We walked our local beaches and talked to beach tent owners to ask their opinions and get product recommendations. We used these recommendations to put together a list of products that we would review, condense, and rank. One of the most popular recommendations that we received was a beach tent from Lightspeed Outdoors, which was a company that I hadn’t heard of. I reached out to the brand and was immediately impressed with the quality of their customer service. Responses were prompt and genuine and I got the feeling that I was talking to somebody who really cared about my relationship with the brand. I’ve been reviewing canopy tents for a while and have had my fair share of unpleasant experiences so it was refreshing to be treated like a customer should be. By the end of the week, one was on the way to our warehouse. I find it funny that even though we’ve reviewed an abundance of canopy tents, I was still excited for this new beach tent to arrive.
The product that was recommended to me and that I asked to review is the Lightspeed Outdoors Sun Shelter. It arrived in a long skinny 3 foot by 6 inch box that tightly housed all all of the contents. I like to store my canopy tents in their boxes for extra protection when I am not using them. The box it ships in is worth keeping. The only item inside the box was the carry bag which contained the sun shelter and all of its components. The carry bag is made of strong grey polyester with a neon green shoulder strap. The contrast between the two colors and the subtle white logo on the polyester makes the bag look very modern. The instructions and product information are attached to the inside of the carry bag and contain a set of instructions that is clear, concise, and easy to follow.
The carry bag holds two items: the sun shelter and the stake bag. The stake bag was the same neon green as the strap and contained 8 thick plastic stakes. One of the main concerns that I voiced in a previous article, picking the best pop up canopy for the beach, was that the stakes that are included by most canopy tent manufacturers are not suitable for use in the sand. This is not a concern with the Lightspeed Outdoors Sun Shelter, though. They are thick and ribbed and are designed to withstand abuse while remaining firmly anchored into a sandy foundation.
The sun shelter ships tightly wrapped and secured with a red strap and buckle. I like how Lightspeed Outdoors thought about the details and didn’t cut corners when designing their product. The brand could have chosen to include cheap aluminum stakes and not included a fastening strap, and possibly made an extra dollar or two per sale. But, they chose to include quality components and pay attention to the details and I commend the brand for that. Once I removed the strap, the poles which form the frame of the sun shelter fell open from gravity. When the shelter was laying on the ground open, I could see how the poles and joints were engineered and could figure out what I needed to do to set it up without reading the instructions. But the instructions, which are conveniently sewed to the inside of the carry bag, are easy to follow so setup should be a breeze for everybody.
Lightspeed Outdoors is not the only company that manufactures beach tents. Most of the beach canopies that we have reviewed are constructed with satisfactory quality, so we really look hard for unique features that separate a product from the crowd. It was not difficult to find the distinguishing feature that separates the Lightspeed Outdoors Sun Shelter from the crowd. The sun shelter is easier to set up than any beach tent I have reviewed. The frame design is unlike anything I have ever seen and gives Lightspeed Outdoors’ product a leg up on any other beach sun shelter currently on the market.
To set up the shelter I unclipped the strap which allowed the legs to fall open freely. Next I grabbed the center frame support and raised it to about eye level. Lastly I pulled the pull-cord towards me, which made the tent poles extend and lock into position. It was incredibly simple. The whole process took less than 10 seconds. The entire process of opening the sealed box and setting the beach tent up to be ready for use can be accomplished in under 2 minutes. The product comes completely assembled and ready to use. Most of the other sun shelters that we have reviewed require you to stake the shelter down first and then slide tent poles through sleeves, which is a setup procedure common to traditional camping tents. Although this process isn’t difficult, it often takes 3 minutes or more. The pull-cord setup procedure of the Lightspeed Outdoors Sun Shelter is much easier and convenient. Also, it gives users the freedom to skip staking down the shelter if it is not needed.
Once the product was set up, my first impression was that it was pretty cool looking. The color combination for the sun shelter that I reviewed was grey, green, and deep red. These colors contributed to a sleek design that make it catch the eye. Another characteristic of the shelter that became evident once it was set up was the attention to detail that Lightspeed Outdoors paid while designing their shelter. The exterior comes with additional nylon loops and tie down cords pre-attached which allows you to anchor the shelter from a much more stable position. All of the seams are double stitched and the edges of the canopy are finished with additional polyester trim, adding to my impression that this product is made with high quality. The polyester is thick enough that it won’t tear easily. It will provide water resistance and more importantly protection from ultraviolet radiation. The fabric is rated UPF 50+ so the product really does provide shelter from the sun. I also like that the shelter uses exterior hooks to attach the fabric to the frame. If you need to disassemble the shelter for cleaning, separating the frame from the tent is as easy as removing a few plastic clips and removing the tent poles from the eyeholes at the base.
The interior has some nice features as well. There are three mesh net windows that can be closed with interior flaps. They are closed by hooking the corner of each window flap on a plastic hook. It is a simple process. The shelter has a floor that serves dual purposes. The first, and more obvious, purpose is that it provides a barrier from the sand. The floor extends out front past the footprint of the shelter so users can lay fully extended on the floor and not touch the sand if they want to. The extended floor facilitates the second purpose which is to provide a privacy barrier. The floor can be folded up and hooked to the ceiling of the shelter to completely seal off the interior. This is a valuable feature because it gives users the ability to hide valuables or it can provide privacy if they need to change clothes, change a baby, or find themselves in any other situation where they need to escape a crowd.