Alternative Canopy Shelters

Alternative Canopy Shelters

Canopy tents aren't the only type of sun shelter. Check out our list to see which is right for you.

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While planning a trip to the beach or another outdoor destination, you need to figure out what you will do for shade. You might be thinking about getting a canopy tent, but may be interested in checking into some of the alternatives before you do.

Or perhaps you are going to be throwing a party or hosting another gathering outdoors, and you are looking for another way to provide shade for your guests.

Below, you can read about alternatives to canopy tents and their advantages and disadvantages.

Beach tents or camping tents

Depending on where you are headed, you might consider a beach tent or a tent designed for camping. There are a number of different types of both to consider on the market. Three-sided pop-up tents with a dome structure are particularly popular for the beach.

Beach Tent
Click to see our top rated beach tents.


  • Beach tents and camping tents are usually lightweight and easy to carry.
  • You can often set up these types of tents in minutes.
  • You have shade and shelter on most or all sides, depending on the configuration of tent.
  • These tents are designed with ventilation to be breathable and comfortable.
  • The tent may include a floor.


  • Wind could destabilize this type of tent.
  • Usually there is not enough vertical clearance to stand upright in a beach tent.
  • These tents usually are most appropriate for one or two people, or possibly a small family.


If you are hosting an event, you might be wondering whether a traditional gazebo is a good alternative to a canopy tent. A gazebo is similar in structure to a canopy tent, except that it is permanent.

Pop up Gazebo
Click to see our top rated gazebos.


  • If you already have a gazebo on-site, it makes sense to utilize what you already have if possible.
  • If you will be hosting regular events in the future, a gazebo is a permanent shade solution.
  • Once a gazebo is in place, you do not need to deal with setup in the future. Also, it is a heavy, stable structure.


  • A gazebo is not particularly portable.
  • Initial assembly of a gazebo takes more time and effort than setting up a tent.
  • Gazebos are much more expensive than canopy tents. If you do not need a permanent solution, a gazebo is overkill.
  • You may not have space on-site for a permanent structure.

Oversized umbrellas

An oversized umbrella is just a very large umbrella which you can bring with you to the beach or other settings for shade.


  • An umbrella is a simple solution with easy and fast setup.
  • You can reposition an umbrella pretty easily as the sun moves.


  • You don’t get a huge amount of coverage even from a really big umbrella.
  • Even with air vents, it is pretty easy to destabilize an umbrella.
  • If your umbrella does invert, it may be damaged.

Sun shelters

These minimalist products generally take the form of an awning held up by 2 or 4 poles. The corners extend out and down to the ground like guy lines, ending in anchors.

Neso Sun Shelter
Click for more info on the Neso Grande.

There is also a related product which simply consists of a rainfly between two poles plus guy lines for stability.


  • Sun shelters are simple, elegant, and lightweight.
  • You can adjust the sun shelter to your liking to provide the right amount and angle of shade.


  • Sometimes there are stability issues with these shelters. So, they may not be ideal if it is windy.Canopy umbrellas
  • This product is a kind of hybrid between an oversized beach umbrella and a beach tent. You prop it up on the ground, and it has extensions on the sides to provide you with additional shade.
Click to see the Sport-Brella on Amazon.


These shelters combine the simplicity and versatility of an oversized umbrella with the additional shade and shelter benefits of a beach tent.


  • Like regular oversized umbrellas, it is easy for these shelters to blow over in a strong wind.
  • Only around 2-3 people can fit underneath this type of shelter.
  • You cannot stand up under one of these umbrellas.

Homemade shelters

You can always set up some poles or even pieces of driftwood, and hang a tarp or such between them.

Tarp Shelter


  • This can work as an impromptu solution if you do not have time to plan in advance, but still have some basic supplies at hand.
  • It is easy to customize your shelter.


  • You may have a hard time securing the sheet to the poles. It could detach and blow away.
  • You probably will have to engage in a lot of trial and error to figure out a working solution.

Natural shelter

If you are heading to a location with plenty of high rocks, cliffs, trees, etc., you might get away with not bringing a shelter.

Hammock under trees


This is literally an effortless solution. Sometimes natural shelter exists without any need for additional effort.


  • Not every location has viable natural shade.
  • When the sun moves, you may lose your shade.
  • Trees don’t include protection from UV rays. Canopy tents and other shelters often do.
  • You may have no shelter from the breeze.
  • You won’t have any privacy.

Why Choose a Canopy Tent for Your Next Outing or Event?

Now you know the pros and cons of various canopy tent alternatives. While each of these shelter ideas may work well for various scenarios, a canopy tent is a best-of-all-worlds solution. It is lightweight, easy to set up and take down, portable, and may include attachable side-walls.

In these regards, it is similar to a beach tent, sun shelter, or umbrella. But unlike those products, it offers plenty of vertical clearance and space underneath for a larger group, lending it some of the advantages of a gazebo without a gazebo’s drawbacks. Keep exploring our site to learn more about the advantages of canopy tents, tips for using them, and products we recommend.

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