Best Canopy Tent of 2020
Best Overall Canopy Tent
Eurmax Premium 10x10 Pop Up
The Eurmax Premium 10x10 Pop Up offers 100 square feet of sun protection, along with a peak height of 11+ feet. The moment we opened the box, it was apparent that this shelter was of the utmost quality. The impressive design and quality of materials make this weighty shelter easy to set up and amazingly durable. Quick-release tabs combine with a steel frame allow each leg to slide into place for an easy setup and takedown process. The traveling case deserves a review of its own with wide-open access, durable wheels, and comfortable handles. Pockets on both the interior and exterior of the case allow for the organization of tent stakes and other components ensuring you won't lose your stakes again. From portability to reliability, this tent impressed our reviewers every step of the way.
The chief disadvantage of this shelter is its overall size and weight. This is the heaviest shelter we tested, though in this case, the weight is an indicator of the quality of the steel frame. Still, this shelter may be too large and cumbersome to operate, especially if you plan on being extremely mobile, or if you're solo. Otherwise, if you want a commercial canopy tent, this is where you should start your search.
Read review: Eurmax Premium 10x10 Pop Up
Best Bang for Your Buck
E-Z Up Pyramid
The steel frame adds weight to the structure but makes the tent stable and durable, capable of keeping your goods safe in inclement weather. In severe weather, though, we would place our bet on the Eurmax Premium, which we also expect to last longer than the Pyramid. This tent does come in a variety of colors, making it easy to match your aesthetic needs. Of all the commercial canopies tented, this was the fastest to set up and truly stood out in all aspects.
Read review: E-Z Up Pyramid
Best Beach Canopy
Pacific Breeze Easy Setup
The Pacific Breeze Easy Setup is a half-dome designed beach tent, with enough space to shade one to two adults. Due to its hub-system design, setup is hassle-free and takes seconds. With integrated poles and a one-piece product, this tent takes away all stress of installation. Weighing 5 pounds and packed in a carrying bag with a shoulder strap, this tent is easily portable. It takes up minimal space in the car and won't hurt your back while carrying it. This design is different from the others we have tested, but due to its almost instant setup and simple layout, we believe this tent provides everything a solo beach dweller or two could want for a quick day out.
With that said, this is a half-dome design, meaning it does not provide that open-air feel or maneuverability in the tent. The footprint is small and is only optimal for up to two people. The fiberglass poles, although lightweight, are not the strongest materials, though if oriented properly with stakes and sand pockets filled, risk can be minimized. For the beach-going couple, individual, or small family who wants shade provided with minimal effort and price, the Pacific Breeze provides what most folks need for a perfect beach day.
Read review: Pacific Breeze Easy Setup
Best Camping Canopy
Clam Outdoors Quick-Set Escape
If you're seeking a large, spacious camping canopy to keep the bugs of summer at bay, the Clam Outdoors Quick-Set Escape is worthy of a long look. Of all camping models we tested, this one came out on top. Easily fitting over a standard-sized picnic table, we were able to have six adults at once eat dinner under this shelter. Because the design is unique, there's a slight learning curve to getting it erect the first try. However, once you get it down, this tent goes up super fast so you can spend more time relaxing at your campsite. Other tents cannot compete in this hassle-free, speedy setup. With reasonable care, we also expect this burly tent to last a long time. We even like the subdued, non-intrusive dark green color, helping our tent blend into the forest rather than stand out.
This model's biggest drawback is its long and heavy packed size. Storing and transporting this tent might be its biggest hassle and an important consideration for anyone who doesn't have the space. Of course, this isn't all that different from many camping canopies which all weigh a considerable amount and take up some space. As mentioned, the first time you set this tent up, do not expect quick and easy, but trust that setup times will all but disappear once you get the hang of it, which doesn't take more than a few tries at most. Lastly, it's pretty spendy. Again, though, for a camping canopy that can take multiple camping trips without falling apart, the price of this model is within a reasonable range of other high-quality camping canopies. We've tested and judged hard, and at the end of our use and abuse, the Clam Outdoors canopy stands out as our favorite model for camping with family and friends.
Read review: Clam Outdoors Quick-Set Escape
Why You Should Trust Us
We assembled a team of experienced canopy tent users, from beach lovers to market vendors, to thoroughly test each model in this review. Michael Wood led our team. He is a regular at local markets and has set up various models commercial canopies countless times. He also has spent many holidays at campsites utilizing camping canopies and using beach models for shade on the shore. Michelle Galinak helped with this review in the camping and beach category. Being a true beach and mountain dweller, she understands how shade on a sunny day or protection from bugs and wind can really enhance an entire trip. Senior Review Editor Ross Robinson also lent his experience to this review. Ross relies on canopy tents to survive on summer days while entertaining at local establishments and farmers' markets and has used enough canopy tents to know what separates a reliable, wind-resistant model from one that, well, isn't.
Our experts teamed up to come up with a rigorous test plan, which was applied to every model in our review. In varying environments of the Lake Tahoe Basin mountains, meadows, lake beaches, and forests, we learn a lot about each model. Each model gets set up and broken down repeatedly to assess their ease of use and craftsmanship, separating the well-designed from the confusion or failure-prone. Methodically, we use each tent in its intended environment, plus some unintended ones, to see how much we can get out of them. We set canopy tents up in every weather condition- sun, wind, and rain to test the tents in the worst and best of elements. We even mark off 100 yards and carry or roll every tent to see how much suffering it takes to move them from point A to B. We also hosed down the tents to see if the material is indeed water-resistant and strong enough for an afternoon Sierra thunderstorm. The results are an unbiased and exhaustive review.
Related: How We Tested Canopy Tents
Analysis and Test Results
Our test metrics include Livability (how enjoyable the space underneath the canopy is), Ease of Setup (based on their hassle factor and timed average), Durability (how much life you should expect from a given model in varying weather conditions), and Portability (either on wheels or carried in hand). With the implementation of four metrics, weighted according to their importance, we were able to grade and rank each shelter, side by side, on a scale of 1-10. Below, we discuss the metrics we used to score each model and highlight impressive performers in each performance area.
Related: Buying Advice for Canopy Tents
Not sure which canopy is going to deliver the best bang for your buck? This category can get pricey quickly, so having an eye on quality per dollar is a great idea. Typically, the lower-priced options in this category will work for the short term, but their lower-quality materials are more of a struggle to set up, and the longevity generally isn't there. They are usually less weight, though, which is handy when lugging them around, but not as durable in wind or trying weather conditions. The higher-priced models weigh more, but that's because the weight comes from more durable and stable materials like steel and thick canvas. Determining which features you are looking for in a canopy can help choose which canopy provides maximum efficiency at just the right price.
When it comes to value, our favorite commercial canopy is the E-Z Up Pyramid, followed by the Caddis Rapid Shelter. The Pacific Breeze is an inexpensive beach canopy that provides the essentials for a quick, hassle-free setup, but it's not built to last many summers of use. And while the Eurmax Premium is a big jump in price, the value is still there due to its likely ability to outlast the others in the long term.
The first metric we tested for is livability. This metric involves the floor space and height of each shelter, along with any design that may limit accessibility and maneuverability of the user. Each shelter was erected, and the height and floor space were measured and compared to tents in its sub-category of commercial, camping, or beach canopy. The majority of the shelters tested offered the common 10x10 floor space, but where we see the most variation is in the height and design of each shelter. Another key aspect of livability is the extra convenience features provided by various models. For example, built-in pockets, hanging loops, or storage compartments that make canopy use easier and more organized throughout your day or event.
The E-Z Up Pyramid canopy (below, left) utilizes a frame that adheres to the ceiling, which increases the headspace while limiting the visual peak height. The Eurmax Premium (below, right) in comparison has an impressive peak, but the frame extends much lower than the perceived height, limiting the amount of available headspace. Both tents boast three height settings, which is helpful when setting up under tree branches or other height restrictions. The quality of the canvas also provides reliable protection from the sun and precipitation.
As for beach tents, the Big Agnes Three Forks and the Paha'Que scored the highest, while the limited space of the Pacific Breeze or sloped style of the Neso 1 scored the lowest. However, livability might not be your largest factor when seeking a beach model, because you might spend just as much time outside of the canopy as under it. For many folks, the spaciousness of a beach canopy isn't a critical factor. Extra pockets for sunscreen storage in the Pacific Breeze or hanging loops on the REI Co-op Screen House provided bonus livability features. Our testers weren't too upset to head out to locations like Nevada Beach on the shore of Lake Tahoe to test these models.
The Three Forks and PahaQue canopies have an open-air layout promoting maneuverability and ease of access. The Pacific Breeze has a half-dome design which provides shade but does not encourage movement underneath the canopy. It comes down to what you are looking for and how you intend to use these tents to decide which one best fits your needs.
Among the camping models, we found the Clam Outdoors Escape to provide the most internal space with its unique, rounded perimeter. It accommodates a picnic table and guests inside with space to move around. This model, along with the REI Co-op Screen House, adds insect protection with their mesh screens, although this can make them feel less open and airy compared to some of the other canopy tents tested.
Ease of Setup
Our second grading metric involves how fast and easy it is to set up and takes down each shelter. While we recommend most shelters to be set up by a minimum of two people, due to the quality of materials and design, shelters vary drastically in how well this process goes down. Each shelter was set up and taken down a minimum of 10 times with a stopwatch, with the final times compiled and compared to generate an average length for setup. Another factor that goes into ease of setup are the features each canopy provides. For example, quick release systems or sliders for less potential to pinch fingers or toe pegs on commercial canopy legs to step on when popping up a heavy tent can make a huge difference when setting up a canopy tent, especially in less than ideal conditions. The footprint a canopy tent takes up during set up is also a factor in this scoring metric.
All tents reviewed were set up with two people except for the Pacific Breeze which utilizes a pop-up hub system created for setting up by one person. This design limits hassle and time with integrated pole-to-canopy design in a single system. One person simply folds the legs out and pulls on the rope in the center of the frame with pops the frame into place. We found it to be the easiest and quickest system tested.
Commercial canopy tents are typically the most difficult to set-up due to their sheer weight and size. The Eurmax and EZ-UP, however, utilize quick release systems that limit the resistance as the legs slide into place. The smooth action translates to less struggle during deployment.
Shelters like the AmazonBasics that utilize the familiar metal tab release run the risk of that tab braking, as well as the risk of a pinched finger. Quick-release systems remove both of these threats by offering a much more user-friendly system. While weight and size have a factor in ease of set-up, we found that the quality of the tent can counteract the weight. The Eurmax, for example, was our heaviest tent that we reviewed, yet it was one of the easiest to install due to its design and quality steel legs.
The beach tents that we tested are generally easier to erect compared to their commercial counterparts since they are smaller and lighter. Remember, beaches tend to be windy, so it is helpful to have another person to manage the "sail" factor of the canopy. Some beach canopies, like the Pacific Breeze, utilize a different design that promotes a single person setup. The design and lack of structure of beach models proved detrimental to the tents' overall stability. The Paha Que and Big Agnes canopies shared very similar designs, both utilizing aluminum pole construction. However, the Big Agne's three-pole system proved to be a bit simpler, which is why it was ranked higher than the Paha Que.
In the camping canopy vein, we also found variance. Due to the familiar design of the REI Screen Shelter, which resembles most camping tents, its setup is comfortable and straightforward. The Clam Quick Escape, however, has the potential for a faster and easier setup since all structural components exist as a whole with the material. The fiberglass poles and the canopy are attached, so the poles don't need to be inserted into any sleeves, which means the tent just needs to be "popped" out. In our experience, this usually led to a very fast setup once we got the hang of it. There were a few occasions, though, where the frame got jumbled, and setup became stressful.
The third metric has to do with a shelter's ability to resist windy conditions. Wind resistance is linked to the product's weight, design, and provided stability options (guy-lines, stakes, etc.). Beach and camping tents tend to be more prepared to handle strong winds as they are most likely to be set up and utilized in gusty weather. They are also more aerodynamic than commercial models, with curved and angled canopies instead of being boxy. They also often come with guy lines and stakes. Commercial canopies, on the other hand, rely more on their weight to keep them stable and are assumed to be used in more moderate conditions. Additional stability options for commercial canopy tents can be purchased to increase wind resistance, one of the most useful being sandbags. Often, a shelter's ability to resist the wind can be linked to another key performance area, durability.
As far as commercial canopy tents go, the Eurmax stole the show again, with a weight over 60 lbs and by offering high-quality steel stakes and legs, this was the most stable commercial tent tested. Beach tents rely more on their additional stability options (stakes, guy-lines, or sand pockets) rather than their weight for their stability. Dome-shaped shelters like the Pacific Breeze and Paha Que Cottonwood LT can survive heavy winds if they are properly anchored down. The Paha Que felt a bit more stable in windy conditions which is why it ranked higher than the Three Forks in this category.
Assessing wind resistance during the setup stage is an important ranking value in this metric. Does wind make the setup more difficult or frustrating? When testing the Pacific Breeze and Three Forks on the same day, we found two very different results. The Three Forks was much more frustrating to set up due to the canopy catching the wind. After anchoring the tent down with stakes and guy-lines, a gust of wind collapsed the Three Forks Shelter and bent its aluminum poles. After taking the tent down, we set up the Pacific Breeze. We staked it down and filled the sandbags, and although it tilted a little in the wind, we found it to be more sturdy due to design in moderate to heavy winds. The setup was also less frustrating in the windy conditions.
The fourth metric is durability, relating to the material durability and expected lifetime of the product, as well as the stability in inclement conditions, due to the use of stabilizers such as guy-lines and stakes. Stability in poor conditions reduces wear and tear on a given model. By decreasing the chances of movement during stormy weather, shelters are less likely to become damaged.
Commercial canopies tend to be more durable and stable due to their high weight, materials, and frame design. Steel legs are more likely to survive the tests of time and repeated abuse over aluminum or fiberglass ones. They won't bend or warp nearly as easily. The quality and thickness of the canvas canopy also plays into durability. The Eurmax Premium model has a tough, 300-denier polyester top that resists abrasion. That, with its heavyweight status and steel legs, increases our confidence that this model will likely outlast pretty much any other model tested. The thick guyline webbing and long stakes are also a favorite among our testers, giving confidence to this tent's stability, which translates to less wear and tear and a longer life.
Design also matters. Some models, like the Eurmax and E-Z Up, glide smoothly into position during setup. On the other side of the spectrum is the AmazonBasics model, which requires more force to set it up. Using such force repeatedly, it's almost inevitable that such a model will break down faster.
When comparing material durability, the REI Screen House and Clam Escape feel similar to a traditional camping tent with ripstop or polyester canopies and aluminum or fiberglass poles. Despite the Clam Escape having fiberglass poles compared to the aluminum ones on the REI model, it struck us as more durable due to its overall design and internally protected poles.
Among the beach canopies, we'd put our money on the PahaQue Cottonwood to last the longest. It's the heaviest and burliest, along with a solid design and thick canopy. It has the highest quality materials of the beach models, and it better, since it costs significantly more than most of its competition. The Pacific Breeze doesn't instill a lot of confidence in the longevity department, though it did hold up well during our testing period. It has a lot of moving parts, which presents more opportunities for pitfalls in durability. That said, it was the Big Agnes among these three that was the first to start deforming due to stress from the wind.
The final ranking metric is portability. Don't be fooled; this is one of the most important aspects when it comes to the amount of sweat and frustration a model will induce upon its owner. If there's one thing that we learned over our three months of testing lots of models, it's that a heavy tent with a poor carrying case can make your experience a nightmare.
Portability is especially relevant concerning the commercial tents, as they are typically heavier and more unwieldy. Packing up super long and weighing at least 40 lbs, often more, moving these models from house to car to market and back is no small task. With that being said, despite the low weight of the Big Agnes Three Forks, its lack of handles or a shoulder strap makes transportation unwieldy, especially when you're on your way to the beach with your hands full. Merely adding a shoulder strap like the Pacific Breeze is a game-changer. With this addition and its lightweight aspect, we were able to transport this product multiple ways, even while biking to the beach wearing it like a backpack.
The Pacific Breeze, E-Z Up Pyramid, and Eurmax shelters, while varying incredibly in packed size, all stood out in this category due to the quality of their carrying cases, which limits the amount of stress on the user. Wheels on large commercial canopies are particularly useful, especially when the parking lot is full and you have to haul all 40-60 lbs of metal and canvas a quarter-mile.
Canopy tents come in quite a variety, from intended usage to quality to value. We ensure you that we went to great lengths to assess each model fairly across pre-determined metrics. The idea is simple — to help you find the model that most fits your needs. The right purchase the first time saves money and reduces stress and hassle.
— Michael Wood and Michelle Galinak