If you are at the beach or outside in the sun all day, sunscreen is often not enough protection. Even waterproof sunscreen washes off eventually. The best protection is shade, which is a rare commodity at the beach (though less rare than modesty). You can create your own shade by bringing an umbrella or tent. This article describes the types that are available and which one is right for you based on the size of your group and other needs.
The easiest and cheapest choice (other than a hat) is a beach umbrella. However, keep in mind that beaches are often breezy. If the umbrella is not sturdy and is not attached to the ground securely, the first strong breeze will send your umbrella cartwheeling down the beach.
The other problem with umbrellas is that they are relatively small. You might get a nuclear family under a large umbrella, but if you have a large group, the only thing nuclear will be the radiated skin of the unfortunates who could not elbow their way into the shade.
The best beach umbrella that I have seen is the Sport Brella Umbrella. It has a clever side attachment that allows you to turn the umbrella into a sort of tent, with side protection.
Small beach tents are a slight step up from a beach umbrella. They usually offer a little more coverage, especially on the sides, and they can shield you from blowing sand. But tents are harder to set up, so if the thought of putting things together raises your blood pressure, stick with the umbrella.
Also, make sure the tent allows the air to flow through. Otherwise, it can get hot and the wind is more likely to knock it over.
Coleman Compact Shade Shelter
The most expensive and of course, the most functional sun protection, is a large open-sided tent, big enough to allow you to stand. The good ones are sturdy and won't blow away if you set them up correctly, unless you go to the beach during a tropical storm (only surfers are crazy enough to do that). Some of these tents are big enough for several chairs and a cooler. Shade for your cooler helps keep your food and drinks cool for a longer length of time. Finally, a large tent offers some protection from the rain, which an umbrella or a small tent is less likely to offer.
Eurmax Basic Pop up Canopy
The problem with large tents is that you usually need several people to put it together. And at least one of them needs to know what they are doing. If you need a large tent, you probably are with a large group, so you should have no difficulty finding people to help.
Large tents are also much more expensive. They can cost between $175 - $500, depending on the size. I recommend making friends with someone who already has one.
You can also use a tent that has walls, but some beaches don't allow fully enclosed tents. Also, they can get stuffy unless they allow air flow.
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