I think this “consider this before buying…” theme is going to be one of my favourites to write on the blog. I love helping other parents get the items that will work best for them.
I try to do this by sharing my experiences using different baby, child, or family products and informing you of the different less-obvious aspects of the product that you should take into consideration when deciding which one to buy.
My first ever blog post was “Consider This Before Buying a Stroller” so that new parents would have a guide to finding their perfect stroller.
Without much experience or being able to actually handle the item, you may think you need one brand or design. You may have your mind set on a specific feature that a friend showed you. Or perhaps you pop into a store and your decision becomes influenced by a smooth (or pushy) salesperson.
For me, it’s not about trying to sell a certain type of stroller (or sun tent) in order to make a commission from the purchase. In fact, on these posts, there are no affiliate links whatsoever.
I’m just happy to share my findings based on experience purchasing different products so that you can think about what YOU need, before dishing out the dollars!
With summer right around the corner, a sun tent for your kids is a great way to spend lots of time outdoors. The shade will protect your precious little ones from the sweltering heat and dangerous rays from the sun.
It’s also a great place to keep babies who want to eat all the sand or even just toss your belongings when you head off to have some fun.
Before you go ahead and purchase one online solely based on reviews, consider these factors to make sure it’s right for your family’s use.
Instant or Pop-Up
I’m putting this one first because, in my SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) opinion, it’s important!
So you find this fantastic relatively affordable tent online, raving reviews, that has a really sturdy system with criss-cross tent-like poles. Easy-peasy add-to-cart decision, right? Hold your sunhat because possibly not!
Are you a stay-at-home-mom like me who frequently ventures out ‘solo’ with her little ones? Well, if so, how are you going to hold your diaper bag, beach basket, and baby while popping together pointy poles and slipping them into tricky slots pushing the tent into place all before your toddler grabs a fist full of goose poop and runs directly into the water?
Ok, maybe that was slightly exaggerated, but it’s not easy prepping a tent by yourself while supervising little ones.
In this case, you may want to consider an instant or pop-up style that has the poles built-in and all you have to do is either A) toss the tent into the air for it to open or B) tug at the drawcords to pop the tent into place.
If you’re always with a partner or have a really helpful bigger kid with you, perhaps the pole option is fine and the previous paragraphs (and overemphasis) are unnecessary!
Shade and Breeze, Please!
The next thing I like to look for is a decent size roof to create lots of shade for my wiggly littles.
Some of the baby sun tents I’ve seen on the market have pretty minimal coverage up top, which means you have to position the tent perfectly to create the most shade. And then, once in the idyllic spot, you need to keep your crawling munchkin in 1m2 the whole time.
Personally, I like the style with the overarching brim to really maximize the shade but once again, it’s up to you and your sun tent needs. This type may be overkill for certain excursions and perhaps you’re just looking for something extra simple to keep the baby’s head out of the direct sun.
Once you have the tent’s ceiling figured out, check whether the sides have windows. It’s a catch-22 with this one. It may let a little more sun into your shaded zone but the cool cross-breeze on a hot day may help your baby (and you!) feel more comfortable.
Something to consider!
The Mat Matters
You want the tent to protect you from the hot sun but you’ll also likely want a good space to put your kid(s)! This is where the size of the mat matters.
As a family of 4, we definitely want to cover the most ground space so that we can comfortably lay and snack without getting absolutely everything filled with sand. There are certain styles available that offer an extra-long tarp base or extendible front sections to cover more ground.
If your sweet babe is the only one using the tent then you only need to factor their size into the equation!
So we’ve talked about the size when the tent is open, now what about when it’s closed? Most (if not all) come with a carrying bag, but what’s the size when the tent is collapsed? And is it feasible enough for your adventures?
When you actually measure them out, you’d be surprised at the size of some of the sun tents out there. Some are like long cylindrical camping tent bags. And others are round discs. Will the diameter of that disc fit into your stroller basket area (if needed)? Or will the length of the tent fit?
Hopefully they will but it’s good to double-check just in case this is your usual mode of transportation to and from the beach.
Some sun tents are wide open. Some offer a zippable front flap. Think about if you’d need this feature before you commit to one style.
A zippered front may be a helpful detail if you and your kids need to change into swimwear and you don’t feel like constantly hiking the whole family over to the change rooms.
It may also be nice if you prefer to have some privacy when nursing or napping your baby.
Or maybe you just frequent busy beaches where it’s safer to hide your belongings when you’re out playing!
Either way, take a look at whether the tent has a zippered front and consider if this is something you’d benefit from.
I hope that with these ideas you have a firm grasp as to which sun tent will serve your family best.
Test out the tent indoors when you get it just to make sure it’s what you were hoping for. I kid you not, one time we had to return a new sun tent we had purchased because it arrived full of sand (and we sure didn’t order that)!