Choosing the Best Beach Umbrella For Your Day in the Sun

Tip: Cover yourself - take a beach umbrella for your day in the sun.

In addition to providing cooling shade, a good umbrella provides shelter from the wind and of primary importance, protection from the sun.

When shopping for a beach umbrella there are several features to consider.

Size and Weight: Umbrellas for the beach are meant to be both large and lightweight. Make sure that the one you select will collapse down to a size that fits easily into your car. Also that it is lightweight enough that you can, and will carry it from your car to the beach. After all, n umbrella left at home or in the car because it's inconvenient to bring to your day at the beach is just a waste of money.

Sun Protection Factor: Just like sunscreen products, beach umbrellas are rated by the Sun Protection Factor or SPF. Umbrellas often include the term "sun screening" in the product name. Just like there is a difference between a sun screen and a sun block, take note of the specifications. A sun screening umbrella may be rated from 35-50 SPF while a sun blocking umbrella may be rated at 100 or more. The higher the SPF, the more protection you will receive and the longer you'll be able to enjoy the sun at the beach.

Size: Most of the umbrellas meant for use on the beach measure 6 feet in diameter. They do range up in increments to 9 feet but the 9 feet ones may be a bit to difficult for a normal trip to the beach.

Features: Many umbrellas are hinged so they can be tilted to provide long lasting shade as the sun moves. Another helpful feature for the beach is venting. Some umbrellas have a mesh panel built in to help the wind move through and keep your shade from blowing away in the ocean breezes.

Materials: There are two main parts to a beach umbrella. The canopy or shade and the pole, ribs and spreaders which make up the skeleton. The canopy is usually made from polyester or a cotton-poly blend. The weight or thickness will range from about 75 deniers up to 300 or more. The higher the weight the more sun protection and durability but also the heavier it will be to carry. The skeleton will usually be made from steel or fiberglass.

Accessories: There are two useful accessories that can make your trip to the beach more enjoyable. A device called the Sand Anchor is built to hold your umbrella's pole firmly in the sand. It screws into the sand or turf and makes your umbrella much more secure. The other accessory I recommend is the Umbrella Hook. This is a device that attaches onto the pole right up under the canopy. It has hooks that can be used for towels, cameras, beach bags or anything that can hang to get out of your lounging space.

Sand Anchor
Umbrella hook

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