Looking for the best canopy tent? Good that you're here. We scoured 70+ options available in 2019 before picking the top 10 contenders to compete head-to-head in our tests. Among our selection are standard, "farmer's market" canopies, plus beach and camping models. Our experts put each one through the paces for three months. The testing ground was the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, where rain, wind, sun, and snow is found any month of the year. All performance areas were assessed — we hauled them in our cars, carried them to markets, and dragged them across beaches to assess portability. Durability and wind resistance were monitored, and their enjoyable 'hang-out' factor was considered. The result is a comprehensive review to help you find the right choice for your needs.
The Best Canopy Tents of 2019
|Price||$279.95 at Amazon||$213.58 at Amazon||$239.99 at Amazon||$77.93 at REI||$199.95 at REI|
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|Pros||Durable, quality materials, fast set-up, excellent travel bag||Easy to use quick release system, 3-year warranty, high ceiling||Fast set-up, durable, protective||Color coating for easy set up, strong structure, good sun protection, stable, additional wind-wall||Easy to set-up, lightweight|
|Cons||Expensive||Heavy, wobbly wheels||Complex design, hard to carry||Long set up time, difficult push tabs||Webbing connection frame is easy to trip on|
|Bottom Line||Pricey, but worth every penny if you need a reliable canopy tent for regular use.||Easy to use and transport, this canopy is easy on the eyes and provides an assessable and reliable shelter.||This shelter can be set up fast and offers ample shelter over picnic tables.||Very sturdy and reliable, this shelter takes a while to set-up, but offers multi-day protection.||Our favorite beach canopy overall, this model pushes all the right buttons to cover the average user's beach needs the best.|
|Rating Categories||Premium 10x10 Pop Up||E-Z Up Pyramid||Quick-Set Escape||Discovery Shade Shelter||Three Forks Shelter|
|Ease Of Setup (25%)|
|Wind Resistance (20%)|
|Specs||Premium 10x10 Pop Up||E-Z Up Pyramid||Quick-Set Escape||Discovery Shade Shelter||Three Forks Shelter|
|Weight||64 lb 4 oz||54 lb 2 oz||32 lb 8 oz||20 lb 8 oz||7 lb 8 oz|
|Peak Height (inches)||132"||125"||90"||78"||78"|
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 during the setup and takedown process. The traveling case deserves a review of its own with wide open access, great wheels, and comfortable handles. Pockets on both the interior and exterior of the case allow for 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
Top Pick for Beach Canopy
Big Agnes Three Forks Shelter
The Big Agnes Three Forks Shelter is designed as a beach tent, with enough space to keep a family of four out of the sun. The durability and stability of this shelter, along with the $220 price point, makes this shelter an accessible and dependable option. Weighing under 8 lbs, this shelter is light and easy to transport, while still maintaining the space and stability for several beach-goers. The additional guy-lines and stakes allow for increased stability in windy conditions. What stood out most during the review process is the simple and elegant design. This shelter was able to be erected under windy conditions by a single person (though we recommend two people). The three pole design makes set-up intuitive while minimizing the number of steps in the set-up process.
The aluminum poles, although lightweight, are susceptible to bending when presented with windy conditions, though if the stakes and guy-lines are properly utilized risk of pole damage can be minimized. The baselines, intended to provide an additional stability option, are a tripping hazard. Finally, the carrying case could use a better strap to assist in transportation. For the beach-going family or party of friends, though, the Three Forks Shelter provides what most folks need for a sandy holiday.
Read review: Big Agnes Three Forks Shelter
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 with camping canopies overhead and using beach models for shade on the shore. Senior Review Editor Ross Robinson also helped out on this review. When not in the mountains, he is found playing music and singing at local establishments and farmers' markets around town. Under the Sierra Sun, Ross relies heavily on canopy tents to survive on summer days while entertaining and has used enough 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 conditions 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 even mark off 100 yards and carry/roll every tent to see how much suffering it takes to move them from point A to B. The results are an unbiased and exhaustive review. See our How We Test article for more specifics on the lengths we went to during testing.
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), 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.
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 usually less weight, though, which is handy when lugging them around. The higher-priced models weigh more, but that's because the weight comes from more durable and stable materials like steel and thick canvas.
When it comes to value, our favorite commercial canopy is the E-Z Up Pyramid ($219), followed by the Caddis Rapid Shelter ($190). The AmazonBasics appears to be a steal at just over $100, but due to a lack of quality in materials and design, we found it to be more of an expensive frustration than an inexpensive option. The Kelty Discovery Shade Shelter is a versatile option that can double as a beach and camping canopy that also keeps the price down. And while the Editors' Choice winner 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.
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 and sloped style of the Neso Grande made it the lowest scored shelter. 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. Our testers weren't too upset to head out to locations like Nevada Beach on the shore of Lake Tahoe to test these models but definitely came back with great information on which ones were the most pleasant to spend time under.
Among the camping models, we found the Clam Outdoors Quick-Set 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 the Kelty Discovery Shade Shelter, as some testers observed.
Ease of Setup
Our second grading metric is ease of set-up and as you can well imagine it involves how fast and easy it is to set up and takes down each shelter. While we recommend each shelter 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. All tents reviewed were set up with two people.
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 which 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 shelter 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 much smaller and lighter. The Neso Grande, for example, utilizes a simple sandbag design, which can be set up easily even by a single person.
The simple design and lack of structure of beach models, though, proved detrimental to the tents over all 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 simple. 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, 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. 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 inclement weather. They are also more aerodynamic than commercial models, with curved and angled canopies instead of being boxy. They also almost always 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. With that being said, additional stability options for commercial canopy tents can be purchased to increase wind resistance, one of the most useful being sandbags. Often a shelters ability to resist the wind can be linked to another 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 upon their additional stability options (stakes, guy-lines) rather than their weight for their stability. Dome-shaped shelters like the Big Agnes Three Forks 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.
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 periods of high wind, shelters are less likely to become damaged.
Commercial canopies tend to be more durable and stable due to their heavy weight, materials, and frame design. Steel legs are more likely to survive the tents of time and repeated abuse over aluminum or fiberglass ones. The 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 heavy weight 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.
The Kelty Discovery utilizes both high-quality materials and unique design to increase durability. It's the only camping model with steel legs and a fairly thick tarp cover. While the REI Screen House and Clam Escape feel similar to a traditional camping tent, the sturdiness of the Discovery clearly stands out as a formidable beast. On the flip side, it takes longer to set it up.
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 a model will induce on its owner. If there's one thing that we learned over our three months of testing lots of models at once, it's that a 60 lb 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 Big Agnes Three Forks' low weight, 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. We were usually able to tuck it into a beach bag or backpack (without zipping it completely closed due to the tent's packed length), but a shoulder strap would have been appreciated.
The Neso Grande, 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 45-60 lbs of metal and canvas a quarter mile.
Canopy tents come in quite a variety, from intended usage to quality. 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. For more help on determining exactly what your needs are, our Buying Advice article has more information to help your wade through the canopy market.
— Michael Wood