Reviews You Can Rely On

Big Agnes Three Forks Shelter Review

Big enough to stand under and enjoy with multiple people, this portable beach canopy fell short in a few key areas like wind resistance
big agnes three forks shelter canopy tent review
Credit: Big Agnes
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $250 List
Manufacturer:   Big Agnes
By Michael Wood and Michelle Galinak  ⋅  Jul 18, 2019
  • Livability - 25% 6.0
  • Ease of Setup - 25% 6.0
  • Wind Resistance - 20% 4.0
  • Durability - 15% 6.0
  • Portability - 15% 8.0

Our Verdict

The Big Agnes Three Fork Shelter is a dome-style canopy tent, with a height of 6.5 ft and 100 square feet of floor space. This tent made an impression as a beach or even camping canopy tent for its ease of setup, lightweight nature, and multiple stability options (stakes and guy lines are included). This tent did suffer on a windy day at the beach, though, making it tough to make it our favorite for taking to the water's edge where gusts of wind are the norm. It also made us question its durability to some extent. This tent is recommended for single-day use in mild conditions, whether it be at the beach, campsite, or front yard. In nice weather, it's great to bar-b-que underneath! On a crowded beach, though, this model is probably unwelcome.
Spacious compared to other beach canopies
Webbing connection frame is easy to trip on
Low wind resistance
Not a lot of shade for its size

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison

big agnes three forks shelter canopy tent review - big agnes three forks set up on the beach with mt. tallac in the...
Big Agnes Three Forks set up on the beach with Mt. Tallac in the background.
Credit: Michelle Galinak


Boasting a 100 square foot base and a height of 78 in, the Three Forks Shelter offers space enough for four people comfortably. This tent no longer ships with the sidewall extension like previous models, but the wall can be purchased separately. Even without the sidewall, the shade and wind protection is still pretty solid compared to other beach models. Note that traditional, street market-style canopy tents tend to offer better shade due to their design and thicker canopies that block more light. The dome shape limits the livable space around the poles in comparison to camping and traditional canopies.

Despite a relatively large floor space, this tent doesn't provide a ton of shade, as seen in the images. It's enough to give a couple of people full coverage, but more than that, and some body parts will be out in the sun. We also didn't love the webbing frame around the perimeter of the tent, as we tripped on it multiple times.

big agnes three forks shelter canopy tent review - enjoying the sun protection on a sunny beach day.
Enjoying the sun protection on a sunny beach day.
Credit: Michael Wood

Ease of Setup

The Three Forks Shelter relies upon a three-pole design (two legs, one roof) which is possible to set up alone unless it's windy. Once the legs are assembled, they slide smoothly through the fabric sleeves and are stabilized by the grommets at each leg. The third pole is a short ceiling pole which slides through a similar sleeve at the top of the tent, which stabilizes the ceiling. The average time for a single person setup was 8 minutes in our testing, which decreases the more people helping. For the majority of these tents, we recommend a two-person setup, but this tent is one of the few that can be set-up solo with relatively little difficulty. It's pretty straightforward, but not very fast.

The footprint for this tent is quite large. If at a crowded beach, you will need a decent amount of space to set up. The poles are very long and can become a hassle if you do not have enough space for setup. You'll need more space than the final footprint to set it up.

The aluminum stakes do a good job of keeping the tent in place and are easy to insert into the ground, but due to their composition, expect some bending if forcing into firm ground. Sand is no problem. We recommend utilizing the guy lines, even if it isn't windy when setting uip this model.

big agnes three forks shelter canopy tent review - the aluminum stakes are easy to stab into the sand but could deform...
The aluminum stakes are easy to stab into the sand but could deform if you try to force them into firmer sediment.
Credit: Michael Wood

Breaking this model down is simple as well since there are only three collapsible poles to worry about, averaging at 4:23 for a solo takedown. If weather shifts dramatically, it's reassuring to know you can pack this tent up easily and quickly compared to some other canopies out there. Do note that there are canopies we tested that are faster to put up and take down, though.

Wind Resistance

The aluminum poles and tent stakes are susceptible to bending in windy conditions. However, this risk is reduced with the use of the provided guy-lines and ground stakes. The footprint can also be tightened or loosened to provide additional stability. With that said, we found setup and stability affected by increased winds.

On a moderately gusty day, the canopy acts as a large sail that catches the wind easily, making setup difficult and frustrating. It held up for a bit, but every time a big gust came through we were ready to chase it down the beach. Eventually, even with the tent staked down and guy-lines set, one gust collapsed the tent, making the poles to bend. As far as beach canopies go, this one handles light wind well but needs to be resecured and checked frequently in moderate wind.

big agnes three forks shelter canopy tent review - showing the collapse and bending of the pole due to a strong gust...
Showing the collapse and bending of the pole due to a strong gust with the Three Forks shelter.
Credit: Michelle Galinak


Both the stakes and poles are aluminum, which makes them lightweight and strong, but also susceptible to deformation. As noted above, one of the poles bent out of shape due to wind during testing. We bent it back into usable shape, but that weakened the pole's strength and still looked a bit deformed. Fortunately, the tent does come with a 6-inch splint in case of a pole snaps during an outing.

The fabric is polyester, and all the seams are taped with a waterproof, non-solvent tape, which increases the water-resistance of the shelter. Since the structure's primary components are aluminum, we recommend using this tent as a single day use structure since high winds could cause the aluminum to bend and potentially snap.

big agnes three forks shelter canopy tent review - guy-lines and stakes protect this shelter on windy beach days, but...
Guy-lines and stakes protect this shelter on windy beach days, but in strong gusts, the aluminum poles aren't the strongest material.
Credit: Michael Wood


Weighing in at 7.5 lbs (packed) and packing down to 7" x 28", this tent is easy to transport and becomes an easy addition to beach or car camping trips. The relatively small size and low weight allow for trouble-free transport even over relatively long distances.

One issue we have with the carrying case is the lack of hand/shoulder straps, which could significantly increase the ease of transportation. Its size, however, does allow for it to be put in separate bags or carried atop something to help with transport.

big agnes three forks shelter canopy tent review - of these three beach canopies, the big agnes model lands in the...
Of these three beach canopies, the Big Agnes model lands in the middle for size and weight.
Credit: Michael Wood

Best Applications

The Three Forks Shelter offers a lightweight and easy to set up experience while still maintaining reasonable sun and wind protection. This tent offers great protection for up to four adults. Since this tent can be set up by one or two people, it's an accessible beach tent for small groups, while probably a bit too much tent for a single person. Overall, this tent is best for day trips with fair weather when you need standing space underneath the canopy for grilling.

big agnes three forks shelter canopy tent review - our testers found this to be a good beach canopy for days on the...
Our testers found this to be a good beach canopy for days on the sandy shores of Lake Tahoe when the wind wasn't too strong.
Credit: Michael Wood


The price of this tent falls right about in the middle of the range within the beach canopy market. It offers decent value, but without great wind resistance or durability, it's not a show-stopper for the money.


This tent is good for day use. It is lightweight to carry a bit further from your vehicle but still big enough to provide standing or sitting room for up to four people. If you are looking for a canopy for beach days with a lot of open air space, the Big Agnes Three Forks Shelter hits that target.

Michael Wood and Michelle Galinak
You Might Also Like

Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.

GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.

Learn More