Our Guide to Shade Structures

shade structure

Our mission is to get people outdoors. Since most people aren't enthusiasts who venture outside regularly, you can buy or rent shade structures. Specifically, about our shade structure rentals:

  • We rent shade structures that are higher end than those rented elsewhere, but still offer competitive pricing
  • We offer a rent-to-buy program so you don't have to worry about losing money from renting
  • Our self-service allows you to hire shade structures whenever is convenient for you

Core function: Depending on the weather, shade can be essential relief. Depending on your location, there may be overhead trees that can provide shade, or vertical structures from which you can hang a tarp

Do you really need it?

No, especially if you normally camp in established camp sites, which generally have good shade coverage. For a one-off trip or event (such as camping at a music festival, where you're setting up in empty lots), consider renting a shade structure, particularly since there are many different styles to try .

For more info, read our 'what you really need' protip

What we carry

Camping shade style
Model Big Agnes Three Forks Shelter shade structure
Big Agnes Three Forks Shelter


MSRP with tax

+ side wall
includes side wall (see below)
+ side wall weight
7lb 6oz + 9oz
3.3kg + 255g
Carry size & notes Similar to a 4-person backpacking tent
General Notes
  • We choose what we carry based on extensive research on what's the best value to our customers (e.g., price given performance & durability features) across all the top brands. We specifically do not carry every brand & model; for details on why we do/don't carry certain items in the following What To Use & How To Choose section
  • Buy prices a grayed out box indicates we don't sell it (we may only rent shade structures of this model)
  • Rent prices are the starting prices; enter trip dates on our Catalog to get exact prices (based on total trip length, not per day!). We also don't charge sales tax, an automatic savings of almost 10%!

When you hire shade structures online, you can select from available options or we'll pick out something for you. You can also write-in any preferences on the last page of checkout. This section describes the majority of our models & options, but sometimes we carry others.


For sale
What manufacturer includes
For rent
What we package together
The main room
Protects from prevailing direction of sun or wind

Generally sold separately ($20-50)
Adds structural support, especially important for heavy wind & rain or for semi-freestanding tents

Included if manufacturer has included it
Create the structure & shape of the tent
Pole repair sleeve (or tube or splint)
Rented separately as part of tent repair kit
Usually ~8 stakes

We include 10 stakes. Usually more than you need, just in case!
Stake mallet
Rented separately

What to use & how to choose

Sometimes it's easy to get lost in all the hype of something new (over-spending often happens on features). Our guide focuses on the fundamental factors you should always keep in mind (thus, this short list is similar across all items). Then only at the end do we have some questions to get you thinking about other minor features. Also take advantage of renting shade structures to try out what works for you!

We highly recommend reviewing Type or Style first, where we review what you can use to address the Core function--a regular item you have at home may work! The other factors are secondary & depend strongly on the Type or Style you've picked; in fact, for other factors data charts are generally only for a specific Type or Style that we carry (e.g., as a gear shop, would be outdoor-specific products).

We've organized the most commonly used items people use to address the Core function below, with example images, characteristics, features, etc.

Our category name Beach shade Camping shade Event shade
Example qualities & features Example images Beach shade Camping shade Event table
Set-up size Sitting height ~50in (1.3m)
Designed for you to sit or lie in
Standing height ~6ft (1.8m)
Designated 'entries' are standing height, but other side(s) may slope down to be less than standing height, to provide more shade, so may feel more enclosed
Often greater than standing height ~7ft (2.1m)
Same height all around, feels completely open to walk in/out all around, so may provide less shade at side(s)
Around the size of a 2-person tent (e.g., like a twin air mattress in floor area) 100 square feet
(9 square meters)
At least 100 square feet
(9 square meters)
Pack-down size
For how you will transport it
Packs down like a tent (cylinder <2ft/ 0.6m long), 5-10 pounds Doesn't break down as much (more rectangular shape >4ft/ 1.2m long), usually >30lbs
Susceptibility to rain It depends
Many models are water-repellant; some may have a rain cover, like a tent rainfly, that can be sold separately
Susceptibility to wind Less than camping shade
Lower to ground, so picks up less wind, but usually doesn't come with guylines*
Should definitely guy-out (guylines* almost always included)
It depends
Low end models (Easy Pop-up or instant types) are known to be quite flimsy; highest end models can be very strong. May come with weights for support
Effect on other factors Price $50-100 $100-250 $70-500
Rationale Less technical & less material More technical & more material

Why we do/don't carry it

= we rent
= we sell
Not as versatile for multiple use cases

Versatile for most outdoor uses, therefore more worth the money

Not specific enough for outdoor use, as an example it's very big, bulky, and can be hard to set-up. It's better for sidewalk events!

*For info on guylines, check the Keeping dry at camp section under Usage of our tent gear guide

If you don't go very often, of course you're going to want to spend less money, but this often means real trade-offs in terms of the experience that you will have with the gear. Even if you do go often & are ready to invest in quality gear, having the upfront funds can be hard!

Now, it may seem like this price & quality trade-off is disappearing, because you can find a cheap version of almost anything for tens of dollars that still has good reviews (assuming the reviews are real). So you might be thinking: I'll just buy something cheap, and because the price is so low it doesn't matter if it's less featured or heavier or whatever compared to something higher end. When that breaks, I'll buy something cheap again, and so on. Just remember:

  • Many reviews are written after only a trial use or first use: We've seen entire review videos of gear done at home, which is very different than actually being outdoors! And reviews after the first use don't tell you about durability at all
  • You're headed outdoors to relax and enjoy life! Saving money only to have a trip ruined due to quality issues will feel terrible. Our program to rent shade structures is designed to help you avoid this trade-off: you get to rent high end, quality shade structures for around the same price as buying cheap ones (sometimes even for less!)

For this item specifically, the price vs. quality trade-off issues center around performance & durability.

  • The shade structure wasn't very windproof or durable: Unlike with tents, shade structures are generally used in sunny days, so waterproofing is less important (though we'll mention it at the end). Instead, given the large size of a shade structure, windproofing is critical, especially in windy California! While all but the most high end shades are susceptible to wind, cheaper models (pop-up or instant style, like with the pop-up tents) may not last through the first use and come away with bent or snapped poles. Fabric-wise, lower end items tend to be made with polyester, which is less durable than nylon (more info in our clothing guide, see section on Durability); and of course, if the fabric tears, performance is compromised. Finally lower end items may not have or may have less effective waterproofing
Methodology notes on prices shown on this page

Here, we give you a list of questions to start thinking about other features. We hope our approach of savings these features for last gets you to more critically think about what you need & not get caught up in the hype of what's cool and over-spend your budget. Remember, we allow you to hire a shade structure so feel free to try out various models with different features.

  • How does it anchor down in the wind?
  • What accessories are available (e.g., side walls, rainfly, etc.)
  • Is it fully enclosed or open?

Usage tips

Very similar to tents except that you don't have a footprint or rainfly (but you may have an extra side wall that usually hooks into the shade structure once it's fully standing), review that gear guide for info on keeping dry, using guylines, etc. Please note that shade structures should not be used as tents, because they do not have any floor (to protect from wet ground), or any sides (unless you choose to add them on, even then, they're not designed to fully keep out the elements or bugs).

If you want to use a shade structure as additional shade over a tent, you'll need to really check size configuration, since a tent (especially a larger 6+ person), may not fit underneath it. For this purpose, we'd recommend keeping the tent rainfly on and using tarps.

Maintenance tips


We can either provide parts or repair services (and discounts on renting shade structure while you wait) for the following issues:

  • Zippers
  • Grommets
  • Holes, rips, or tears
  • Poles (shared shipping only)

Waterproofing: Repairing issues with waterproofing requires careful diagnosis of exactly what the problem is. We have a list of visual cues & solutions in our guide on waterproofing

Cleaning & Storing

Gear not in use should be cleaned & dried and then stored loose & in a dark environment, check out our entire protip on the topic here.

We have a general protip on how to store & maintain gear that we highly recommend reviewing as well. If you send us video or a good photo series, we may be able to help you evaluate your repair needs.

The exact numbers (e.g., weights, dimensions, prices, etc.) used were updated as of September 2019 .