Beach Umbrella Buying Guide

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A beach umbrella and a typical patio umbrella have a lot in common, since they exist for the same general purpose: to provide shade. However, there are also some significant differences between these two types of umbrellas. Beach umbrellas are made to stick into the sand at a beach, unlike table patio umbrellas or freestanding umbrellas, which come with their own stand and can be placed anywhere. While there are rectangular patio umbrellas, beach umbrellas are almost always round, with or without fabric flaps for extra protection. Beach umbrellas often use SPF or UPF fabric, are available in a wide variety of colors and designs, and usually have a carrying case.

Mechanics

The poles of beach umbrellas are usually made with aluminum to keep from rusting. Good umbrellas will have sturdy poles, since they must be driven into the sand without breaking, and have to withstand winds along the beach. Some umbrellas will need sand anchors or ground stakes to be fully secured, while others are supposed to be fine with just the pole. Whether it needs anchors or not, a beach umbrella should be easy to set up and take down, since you don’t want to waste your beach time messing with the umbrella. What is easy for one person, though, might not be for another, so if you can manage it trying out the umbrella yourself before you buy it is ideal. Otherwise you’ll have to rely on reviews and a good return policy.

An umbrella for the beach can have either a straight pole or one that can tilt, which allows you to adjust where your shade is throughout the day. If the umbrella is especially easy to set up, though, even one with a straight pole can be pulled out of the sand and readjusted as needed. Some umbrellas are meant to lean on the sand, while others are meant to stand completely upright on their poles. The closer an umbrella is to the ground the more shade it will provide, but that also means part of your view will be blocked.

Special Features

One common special feature found in beach umbrellas is UPF protection. Most umbrellas will advertise having an SPF or UPF of anywhere from 25 to 100 or more. This is a helpful feature in these umbrellas, since sitting on a sunny beach for hours at a time can cause sunburn or other skin damage, and fabrics without SPF/UPF protection might seem safer than they actually are. (Of course, using an umbrella with SPF does not mean you shouldn’t also use sunscreen.)

Something else you might look for in a beach umbrella are air vents or wind flaps. These vents are designed so that a large gust of wind can pass through somewhat, and won’t turn your umbrella inside-out or jerk it out of the sand.

Portability is important for a beach umbrella, since it has to be carried to and from the beach. To truly have a portable beach umbrella it has to be able to fold up nicely and come with a carrying case. The more lightweight an umbrella is the easier it will be to carry around, but be sure you are getting a good compromise between weight and quality.

One of the fun things about beach umbrellas is the bright, tropical designs and colors they come in. A popular design is to have multiple colors stretching out from the center like petals; these umbrellas resemble a beach ball. Another option is horizontal strips covering the umbrella, sometimes called cabana stripes. You can also get solid-colored umbrellas in red, blue, or other colors.

Choosing an Umbrella

The best beach umbrella for you depends on your priorities. Quality, portability, ease of setup and the umbrella’s appearance are all important deciding factors. If you already go the beach regularly, you might have an idea of the kind of umbrella you want. You could try asking someone more about their umbrella to decide if it’s right for you, too. As mentioned above, be sure to buy your umbrella from a company that allows returns in case it falls apart the first time you try to use it, or you find it’s impossible to set up at all.

Something else to keep in mind is whether you will be using the umbrella soley for the beach. If you have sporting events or other outdoor activities you would like to have some portable shade for, consider a multipurpose umbrella like the Sport-Brella. Although this umbrella is far from lightweight, it is reasonably priced and has a lot of extras, like flaps that fold down on the sides to provide more shade or protect from wind or rain, and windows that can also be opened for ventilation.

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