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Published Sep. 13, 2021

Before we get into the joys of a pop-up tent canopy, let’s start with a serious statistic: About 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by age 70. Spending time in the sun is meant to be fun, but too much of it can be harmful. That’s why finding the best canopy tent should be a no-brainer. It’s a relatively affordable piece of outdoor gear that can help turn sunny days into bright memories rather than sunburned ordeals. Plus, staying in the shade on a hot day is just more comfortable.  

Even if the decision to buy an outdoor canopy is simple, finding the best one for your needs can be challenging. For instance, the best patio canopy may not be a wise choice for a beach canopy tent. Regardless of what you’re looking for, this product guide has you…covered.

Features to Consider When Shopping for the Best Canopy Tent

The size of the canopy tent is only one consideration. Setup, portability, and the amount of coverage to protect against sun (and against rain, if that’s a need) protection provided also are factors. Here’s a list:

How much coverage do you need?

For most backyard barbecues or tailgaters, a 10×10-foot canopy tent will more than suffice, fitting a table and a few chairs. But if you’re planning to spend an extended time outside — perhaps a weekend at the campsite — or you have an especially large group, a 10×20 canopy tent may better fit your needs. 

Remember that while the size of the outdoor canopy determines how much shade it will provide, finding the true shaded area is not as black and white. For instance, in a slant-leg tent, the footprint of the legs will be larger than the roof. The roof’s shape can also affect the amount of shade it offers. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to the tent’s listed shade coverage. A 10×10 outdoor canopy may very well provide less than 70 square feet of shade.  

In addition, the tent’s peak height will be higher than the tent’s height at the edges. So while a pop-up tent may be able to accommodate a 6-foot person standing in the middle, that same person may have to bend down to fit underneath.

How many four-letter words will setup induce?

Many canopies boast simple setups, promising shade in minutes. The reality can be very different. One-piece alloy steel frames, which are common in pop-up tents, feature legs attached via accordion-like hinges on top. The legs pull apart relatively easily, but the job often requires at least two people. Once extended horizontally, the legs should expand vertically. This is usually accomplished via a push-button mechanism. A shade canopy with a large click button is much easier to release and slide than a shade canopy with those small, round buttons common in telescoping gear like tripods and trekking poles. 

The roofs typically velcro or zipper onto the frame, and stakes, weights, or guy lines add extra stability.   

Will your canopy keep you cool and dry?

The best canopy tents offer as much UV protection as the best sunscreen. Look for fabric that provides at least UPF 50+ protection, which only lets through 1/50th of the sun’s harmful rays. 

The best designs should protect against water, as well. While it’s hard to find a truly waterproof outdoor canopy, you can certainly expect water resistance that’ll keep you dry in all but the most torrential downpours. 

Do you need a traveling tent?

A pop-up canopy should offer some amount of portability, but just because it folds up doesn’t mean you can definitely take it everywhere you need. Pay attention to the size of the bag into which the canopy packs. Does that bag have a handle, wheels, or a backpack strap? In addition, a portable canopy should be lightweight. While some large canopy tents weigh more than 50 pounds, other more portable canopy tents weigh less than half of that.

The Best Canopy Tent for Shade Where You Need it

Whether you want coverage outside the stadium or pest protection while in the woods, here are the best canopy tents to meet a variety of needs.

Best Beach Canopy Tent: Outsunny 10×10 Canopy Tent With Breathable Mesh Sidewalls 

Sun and Bug Protection

From campsite to the beach, this portable canopy with mesh walls offers shelter where you need it. Outsunny

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An outdoor canopy tent for the campsite should be as protective as it is portable. And the Outsunny 10×10 canopy tent is both, weighing less than 30 pounds and featuring removable mesh walls that can guard against bugs. The canopy features a sturdy alloy steel frame, a UV-resistant polyester roof, and it folds into a carrying case that’s roughly the size of a golf bag. The setup is a little clunky, requiring at least two people to expand the frame and push it to its maximum height of 8.5 feet, but once it’s up, your campsite will be made in the shade — and bug-free.

Best Patio Canopy Tent: MasterCanopy Durable EZ Pop-Up Canopy Tent

Table Topper

MasterCanopy Durable EZ Pop-Up Canopy Tent MASTERCANOPY

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This shade canopy features UV protection that blocks 99 percent of harmful rays, and has a steel frame that’s reinforced where the peak poles join. It has three height settings (from 6.75 feet down to just over 6 feet) so you can adjust the height to your liking. It’s available in ten color options, from forest green to sky blue to burgundy, so you can have the canopy match or complement the style of your outdoor furniture. And this canopy packs up into a wheelable bag, so you can easily add it to your camping gear, as well.

Best Portable Canopy Tent: E-Z Dome Instant Shelter Canopy 

Lightweight Coverage

E-Z Dome Instant Shelter Canopy E-Z UP

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Weighing 25 pounds, this is one of the lighter canopy tents you can find. It folds into an 8-inch by 8-inch, by 51.5-inch bag with wide-axle wheels that you can roll to your setup. It can be set up in minutes with snap-button leg adjustments and pull pins for the roof. The alloy steel-framed canopy is UV and fire resistant (though you probably don’t want to use too much lighter fluid when starting that charcoal grill) and even wind resistant thanks to vented peaks that allow air to flow through.  

Best Easy-up Canopy Tent: Coleman Instant Canopy

Setup’s a Snap

Large click-and-release buttons help this 35-pound tent go up easily. Coleman

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A lot of canopy tent makers claim theirs is an easy-up design that takes only minutes to erect. But users say this Coleman outdoor tent actually delivers, thanks to large click-and-release buttons that can be used to expand or contract the one-piece frame. The roof velcros over the top of the frame, providing 64 square feet of shade that has UPF 50+ sun protection. Meanwhile the alloy steel frame and the double-thick fabric are built to last, with pre-attached guy lines to help withstand gusts. 

Best Budget Canopy Tent: ABCCanopy Stable Pop-up Outdoor Canopy Tent

A Shady Deal?

Plenty of sun protection at a price that’s not over your head. ABCCANOPY

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For less than $100, you can stay out of the sun during your next camping trip. This cheap pop-up tent provides UPF 50+ sun protection, and it includes a sun wall and a backpack carrying case. This cheap tent does make some sacrifices, however. It’s only 8×8 feet (the 10×10 model adds more than $30 to the price), limiting the shaded area. Plus, anyone over 6 feet tall will have to crouch, even under the peak. But for setup over beach chairs or a portable dining table, this tent is a great budget choice. 

FAQs

All you need to know about buying a canopy in one place.

Q: Which is better, straight leg or slant leg canopy?

While slant leg canopies are often cheaper, straight leg canopies tend to be sturdier.

Q: What is the best brand of canopy tent?

Some of the best brands of canopy tents include Coleman, MasterCanopy, and Outsunny. Many brands make outdoor tents in a variety of sizes, with add-on features like sun walls and mosquito nets.  

Q: What should I look for in a pop-up canopy?

The main features to look for in a pop-up canopy are ease of setup, how much shade it’ll provide once it’s up, and how easy it is to take where you need it to be.

A Final Tip on Canopy Tents

Take the time to set up whatever you’ll be putting underneath the canopy — beach chairs, a portable table, a camp kitchen — and take some measurements before you invest in a canopy tent. A canopy that’s too small for your purposes will leave you frustrated.

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