The past few years have been an interesting transitional period for the beach sun shelter market. In the early 2000s the pop-up canopy tent replaced the beach umbrella as the dominant sun shelter on the beach. The collapsible telescoping frame of the pop-up canopy tent was easier to set up and provided more coverage than the beach umbrella, which made it a more convenient option for beach-goers. The pop-up canopy tent has held it’s reign until the past few years. Over the past few years another product has gained significant market share amongst beach vacationers and will soon overtake the canopy tent as the most common form of shelter on the beach.
The product that I am referring to has many names because it is new and an industry standard term hasn’t been widely agreed upon yet. Among a few other names, they are commonly referred to as Sun Shelters or Beach Tents. I am referring to the new product that is quickly "popping up" on beaches across the nation. These shelters are more closely related to camping tents than they are to canopy tents. Beach tents use fiberglass tent poles to support their fabric instead of an aluminum frame. This allows the entire product to weigh less than 10 lbs instead of the 40-50 lb range of the typical canopy tent. When consumers are walking from their car to the beach, they are usually already carrying more than they can handle. The last thing they want to do is to add an additional 45 lb canopy tent under one arm. The lightweight portable design of the new beach shelters are making them appealing to vacationers which is causing the new product to take the market by storm.
The Canopy Tent Review team realizes that in order to provide our readers with the most up-to-date and accurate reviews and rankings, we must accept that the product that we have traditionally reviewed, the aluminum framed pop-up canopy tent, might not be the best sun shelter at the beach anymore. So we have branched from our comfort zone and have started testing out beach tents. We have been impressed with what we have seen so far.
Pacific Breeze is one of the top beach tent brands right now. They manufacture three different quality beach tent variations, each with their own specific purposes. I like all of their products, but I was most interested in their Sand & Surf Shelter because it is their biggest product and it is a completely different archatecture than the half-dome design that is common to the market. I reached out to Pacific Breeze and was impressed by the way I was treated. Customer Service is an important factor for me when evaluating products and brands, so I was happy that I was able to have a pleasant experience with the team at Pacific Breeze. Even though they are a company that is growing quickly, they still operate with an emphasis on customer service that I usually only see from mom-and-pop shops.
The Pacific Breeze Sand & Surf Shelter ships in a 38 x 6 inch light blue carry bag. It weighs right around 10 lbs and the carry bag has a strap so it is easy to carry the product over a shoulder when it is packed. I have transported many aluminum frame canopy tents and I usually wind up wheeling them behind me because they are too heavy to carry. Unfotunately, it isn’t possible to wheel the canopy around once the ground turns to sand. So I can see immediate benefits that this product has for use at the beach. The light blue bag with the black strap and white logo is an appealing color combination that really gives off beach vibes.
The carry bag contains two items, a stake bag and the beach tent. I wrote an article a few months ago on choosing the best canopy tent for the beach, and some of my biggest criticism was that manufacturers never include stakes that are suitable for sand. This is not the case with the Pacific Breeze Sand & Surf Shelter. The product ships with thick plastic stakes that will stay firmly entrenched in the sand through any reasonable weather conditions.
The canopy comes tightly wrapped and secured with a polyester strap. Whenever the polyester strap is removed the legs fall open naturally. Setup is simple because the frame of the shelter is all one piece and all poles are connected by joints. First I unfolded the legs and spread them outward. If there isn’t any fabric wrapped around the legs, they fall open by themselves. But, I had to move some fabric aside to allow two of the legs to fully extend. Next, I grabbed the frame hub at the center of the ceiling of the canopy and raised it above my head. The last step was to pull a drawstring down through the center of the hub, which caused all of the poles to expand outwards, erecting the shelter. The process was much easier than setting up an aluminum frame pop-up canopy. It took me about a minute and can be easily accomplished by a single person. The shelter ships assembled, so it is ready to take to the beach as soon as it comes out of the box. The Pacific Breeze Sand & Surf Shelter is the only shelter that I have seen with the easy setup pull cord frame that provides complete overhead shelter. I feel that this feature sets it apart from the competition and is a big reason to why I think it’s one of the best beach tents on the market.
On the Beach
The Pacific Breeze Sand & Surf Shelter is the perfect size for beach use. Traditional pop-up canopy tents occupy 100 square feet of beach, which is sometimes difficult to find on a crowded beach. Pacific Breeze’s product covers a 95 x 95 inch square footprint, which is large enough to lay under but not so large that it will be occupying excess beach real estate. When it is set up it provides 59 inches of overhead clearance, which is plenty of room to sit under or for a child to stand under. The canopy has an attractive design. The fabric connects to the external frame with plastic hooks, giving the tent a modern feel. External frames are beneficial because they are easy to separate from the tent fabric for cleaning. The polyester fabric is a pleasant shade of blue and is water resistant, and more importantly, ultraviolet radiation resistant. The fabric is rated UPF 50 which means that it will block at least 98% of ultraviolet rays. Beach-goers rely on sun shelters to protect them and their loved ones from damaging rays from the sun, so I place high value in a high UPF rating like this product has.
The unique design characteristic that appeals to me and makes this product deserve to be on list of best beach shelters, is the fact that it provides full overhead coverage. In order to be classified as a beach tent, the shelter must be portable and convenient. Usually canopies that provide full overhead coverage are too heavy and too difficult to set up to be classified as beach tents. The Pacific Breeze Sand & Surf Shelter is the only product that I have seen that is portable and easy enough to set up to fall into this category, while still being able to provide full overhead coverage. The canopy has a permanently attached waterproof floor that provides a barrier from the sand. There is a zipper that runs along the edge of the floor, allowing users to unzip and roll the floor back if they prefer to lay in the sand. One of the four sides of the shelter has a permanent wall and there is a second removable wall included. This allows the shelter to be configured to block the sun from two sides. Because the second wall is removable, it can be rotated and continue to provide protection as the sun shifts in the sky. The shelter has a pocket on one of the walls which is ideal for storing valuables that need to be protected from the sand, such as cell phones.
Teardown is also easy. There are two poles that connect to the top central frame hub that have labels that say “push down”. Whenever I pushed these poles down, the hub loosened and the entire frame collapsed. Once the frame was collapsed, I folded the legs inward and aligned them with the rest of the frame which condensed into a single column. When all of the legs were collapsed I rolled up the excess material and secured the bundle by tieing the included polyester cord around it. The tear down process only took a minute or two to complete and also only requires a single person.
Overall I think that the Pacific Breeze Sand & Surf Shelter is the best full overhead coverage beach shelter on the market. Usually overhead canopies are heavy and difficult to transport so they are not suitable for beach use. But Pacific Breeze was able to design a product that provides the benefits of traditional pop-up canopies while still incorporating the innovative features of modern beach tents such as fiberglass poles and easy setup and teardown. The shelter is the perfect size for use on the beach and is intelligently designed to be functional and pragmatic. I like the retractable floor, removable sun wall, and the built in pockets. I appreciate that Pacific Breeze has included stakes that are built for the sand instead of skimping on thin aluminum stakes. I value that the polyester fabric is resistant to water and ultraviolet rays. All in all I think that the Pacific Breeze Sand & Surf Shelter is a well made beach shelter that deserves to be on the list of best beach tents and is the best option for consumers who are looking for full overhead coverage.