In our series to determine if value brand canopy tents are worth the potential savings over feature-rich tents from better-known brands, we put the two types of tents through a series of reviews. After reviewing the Ozark Trail 10x10 instant shelter we couldn't leave out its closest competition, the Z-Shade tent. Z-Shade has been a staple in manufacturing instant canopies in a variety of sizes and colors since 2000. The brand is wholly owned by large conglomerate Activa Leisure Group who has been in the umbrella and shade business since 1842, so it's safe to say they know a thing or two about outdoor canopies.
A long history in producing shade
In 2008, Activa opened a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility designed exclusively to produce instant canopy tents. With a focus on manufacturing private label tents for other outdoor tent brands, growth exploded within three short years and they had to expand the facility just to keep up with demand. Where did all of this demand come from? Z-Shade was the exclusive licensee and manufacturer for EZ Up at the time, where they produced a number of their canopy series and components to help EZ Up meet their demand.
Once they expanding their manufacturing capabilities, Activa began producing canopies for retail shelves under their own Z-Shade brand. They signed exclusive partnerships with Sam's Club, Lowe's, Academy Sports, K-Mart, and started filling the shelves with affordably priced instant shelters of all shapes and sizes. Many of those exclusive partnerships are still in tact today and is where majority of where sales take place.
Each big-box store has its own exclusive Z-Shade model, but the one most comparable to the Ozark Trail is their 10x10 angled leg outdoor canopy sold on Amazon, so we thought it would be a good tent to review to compare the two.
The pyramid frame design is made of durable and powder-coated steel that is resistant to rust and corrosion. The steel legs are almost exactly the same thickness as the Ozark Trail and similar to that of most cheaper tents, but it's still noticeably thinner than any commercial-grade shelter. The trusses are thin but actually hold up surprisingly well under stress when rotational pressure is applied. The truss connectors are adequate in terms of durability and will help to support the pyramid frame maintain structural integrity during mild to moderate windy conditions. Anything more than 15-20 mph winds and you might find your Z-Shade tent starting to buckle where it shouldn't be buckling.
Angled legs and 10x10 footprint
The telescoping angled legs are well designed and slide smoothly until locked into place of one of the 3 leg lock positions, a choice we always love having the ability to make. The angled legs add a bit more stability than straight-leg tents which we also like, but the design reduces the top canopy to 8'x8' dimensions resulting in only 64 sq. ft. of shade. The plastic foot pads are a nice touch that you don't often see on value-priced tents and they do a good job of protecting the bottom of the legs from wear and tear. Similar to nearly every 10x10 shade canopy under $100, the legs utilize metal insta-lock push buttons that are not the most user friendly. With this feature there is always a need to worry about rusted metal thumb locks that become impossible to push in over time. Cheap tents generally tend to forego a lot of these nice-to-have features that make canopy tent life easier during set up, and unfortunately this one is no different.
The canopy fabric material features the brands signature hallmark, white-colored seems that run the length of each corner up to the peak of the tent. It's an easy way to spot a Z-Shade canopy and one that we think adds dimension to the top and that highlights the steeply angled edges. One popular drawback to these seams is that many users report leaking when it rains because they are not heat sealed stitching, so keep that in mind if you find yourself underneath and caught in a downpour.
The material is one of the most unique features of this tent, comprising of a polyester taffeta-vented top with a 190-denier silver coating that provides 50+ UPF protection. It offers the best UV protection of any canopy material and the polyester material also has water-resistant features (aside from the seams) and has been treated to resist fading from the sun, features that we really like. The canopy has a peak eave height of 6'3" and peak apex of 10'5", so some of your taller friends might have to duck under the valance when entering the tent.
Set up and portability
Setting up the tent is a simple as extending the frame and raising the legs into place, and can be done by just one person in a few minutes, nothing unique or out of the ordinary here. The tent weights a lightweight 31 lbs. which is in line with most in its class. The included carrying bag is made of denier polyester and is pretty well constructed. It has a single zipper closure with double stitching and also features an adjustable nylon shoulder strap for easy transport. Four metal stakes are also included to provide some extra stability and keep the tent from blowing away in strong gusts of wind.
Overall, we think the Z-Shade 10x10 pyramid canopy is a good value buy for anyone in the market for a cheap but durable and protective sun shelter. It's one of the most popular value brand models on Amazon and has some of the best customer reviews to back up its quality claims. Perfect for a small family at the beach, backyard gathering, or weekend soccer tournament. The UV protected canopy is one of the best we've seen on any affordable 10x10 tent. But we must caution anyone looking to purchase to understand that the lifespan of these typically do not exceed one or two seasons. But if you're looking for an inexpensive option that will serve you well in that timeframe, you can't go wrong with this Z-Shade instant sun shelter.