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Watching outdoor sports games means having to deal with the same challenges as the players on the field ~ that is, sun, heat, rain, drizzle, mist, winds, and more. Spectators planning to view a lot of games should invest in what are called shade umbrellas, but in reality are protectors from all sorts of things.
We do get asked sometimes, Which are the best shade umbrellas for sports? So we dedicated some time and energy to investigate which features outdoor sports spectators need or desire most, and created this list to hopefully make your game-watching experiences as comfortable as possible.
- With a lot of great features at an excellent price, we tapped Sport-Brella’s Versa Brella XL as the best shade umbrella you can find for sports watching.
- Not far behind at all is the Ultimate Golf Umbrella, by a relative newcomer to the shade umbrella field, G4Free.
- If low price is a deciding factor for you, check out the EEZ-Y Travel Umbrella, which offers quite the features for the buck.
- Sport-Brella is the only brand on the list twice, with its Super-Brella model and its side flaps to protect from sun rays and sunshine that comes at your sideways.
- The Ultimate Wondershade is worth mentioning because its many features can be useful for almost any sports-watching circumstance.
Who Needs a Shade Umbrella?
Weather is always unpredictable, some regions more so than others. While anyone could keep a small, cheap, portable fold-up umbrella in a car trunk just in case, would such a toss-away really cover enough space underneath, or last through strong wind gusts?
Those who watch only a game now and then might not worry about it. But anyone with experience watching outdoor sports consistently knows how helpful it is to be prepared regardless where contests are staged, and what time of year.
It is not easy to sit for hours on end under strong sunshine, drizzling rain, or gusty winds ~ whether for sports games, or any other reason. Among the outdoor sports that kids and young adults participate in, consider:
- Baseball is typically a “summer game,” played during the sunniest and hottest months of the year. Also, longer seasons play through wet spring or early autumn precipitation. But for the most part, go out to sit through a baseball game, expect plenty of sun.
- Football is unlike baseball in that games go on regardless of rain, snow, or most weather conditions. Attending a game unprepared is asking for misery.
- Ditto for soccer, though this sport is not quite as dramatic as football in making games continue through terrible weather conditions. But soccer gets played on plenty of sunny days, and games continue through the thickest of rains at times.
- Golf. Some of the recommendations on our list are indeed known as golf umbrellas.
- Also: tennis, lacrosse, recreational basketball
Have a kid or kids who you think will play any of those sports for a while? Especially if they make traveling or all-star teams that play games all the time, knowing parents will go out and look for gear to ensure enjoyable spectating experiences. Hence, temporary canopies, shade umbrellas, folding chairs, and more.
What to Look for in Shade Umbrellas for Sports
How many people do you expect the umbrella model to protect consistently? Their canopy size can get as big as 72 inches, or a full 6 feet across! However, the larger the canopy the heavier the weight. Additionally, larger canopies generally mean more trouble with strong winds.
The smaller shade umbrellas can cover an adult with a child, while the larger ones can cover entire groups. It’s good to start with how big of an umbrella you’ll need.
Next, durability is probably most important. These are not overly expensive pieces of gear, but still you want them to last. Understand that when used consistently, they get tossed around and often neglected. It’s not good when an umbrella fails mid-storm.
Look carefully at the canopy material, as you want it thick and/or tough, and perhaps with special coating for protection from harmful ultraviolet rays (UV rays). Finally, look at the materials that make up the shaft (the pole down the center that holds up the canopy), rubs that spread out from the shaft.
Umbrellas come with a variety of stem ends, or handles, from the classic hook shape (good for hanging them on wall pegs) to points to plug into the ground, tripods, a single hand grip, or a device to be able to clamp it on to chairs, strollers, and more. Whatever’s at the bottom end of the stem hints at what that particular model was designed for. If it comes down to a thin point, for instance, it’s meant to push deep into the ground.
Some shade umbrellas have built-in side drapes, to protect from wind and sun coming from the sides as well as overhead.
Some shade umbrellas are flat-out designed to be placed on the ground. These may be made to lie back on a flat edge, with the handle protruding forward or even being spiked into grass. Others might be made specifically to attach to something, usually a portable chair, or even corkscrewed into the sand at a beach.
Best Shade Umbrellas for Sports ~ Our Recommendations
1. Best Shade Umbrella for Sports Overall ~ Versa Brella XL
There are many fine shade umbrellas for sports out there, so it was difficult to pinpoint just one to top this list. However, for all the features and quality, and nice affordable price, we just can’t overlook Sport-Brella’s Versa Brella XL.
Though called a “golf umbrella,” make no mistake: The Versa Brella XL is a fine choice for everything from camping sun shelters to golf to, indeed, outdoor sports. A key feature here is a 4-way, 360-degree swivel that allows it to be adjusted to better block the sun’s harmful rays with its SPF-50 lining.
There are plenty of colors to choose from, and a regular-sized model here is 42 by 40 inches; pay just a few bucks more for the XL and its 44- by 44-inch girth. Overall, either choice is within the affordable range, in our minds. Its universal clamp adds a final touch of excellence.
- Weight: 1.76 lbs.
- Size: 44” x 44” (XL model)
- Frame/Shaft: Hinged, adjustable
- Shade Material: Thick fabric
- Carry bag: Yes
- Special: Universal clamp to attach to tubular or square surfaces
What We Like
- Adjustability with the hinged stem
- Universal clamp to attach to chairs, strollers, etc.
- Affordably priced for the features
- 1-year limited manufacturer’s warranty
2. Best Up-and-Coming Shade Umbrella for Sports ~ G4Free Ultimate Golf Umbrella
Only in the shade umbrella game for a few years, the G4Free Ultimate Golf Umbrella already has built an impressive cache of excellent reviews from users. That it’s priced along the same line as our top model above makes the G4Free offering even more attractive.
Aside from performance details, know that this model comes in 4 sizes (54 inches to up to 72 inches!), and 20 colors to choose from. That its top size reaches out 6 feet in diameter is incredible, and the silk double canopy is vented to better handle winds.
The UVA grip is comfortable, the waterproof canopy’s 50+ SPF provides plenty of blocking of the sun and rains, and we really like the use of fiberglass in the ribs and tips, which makes the whole package sturdy without adding a lot of weight.
- Weight: 1.35 to 2 lbs.
- Size: 54”, 62”, 68”, 72”
- Frame/Shaft: Fiberglass
- Shade Material: Silk derivative
- Carry Bag: No
- Special: Canopy material is very water-resistant 210T pongee fabric
What We Like
- Selection of sizes and colors
- Affordable pricing
- Very lightweight
- Unconditional 1-year guarantee against defects in craftsmanship
3. Shade Umbrella for Sports on a Budget ~ EEZ-Y Travel Umbrella
If cost is your top priority, we point you toward the EEZ-Y Travel Umbrella. The lowest-priced offering among this list, it’s designed for travel so you know it’s light and compact. That it gets thousands of mostly positive reviews from thousands of users indicates its staying power.
And for that price it’s amazing this manufacturer plugs so many neat features into the model, including a rubber handle for best grip; fiberglass in the frame and double venting in the canopy to give during big winds; and a rather stylish carrying case.
Construction with a tempered metal shaft and 9 reinforced fiberglass ribs (most have just 6 or 8) makes it sturdy in winds up to 55 mph. Its size is modest at 42 inches, but what’s neat is how it folds down to just 11 inches for transport.
- Weight: 0.9 lbs.
- Size: 42”
- Frame/Shaft: Tempered metal shaft, fiberglass ribs, rubber handle grip
- Shade Material: Very water-resistant 210T fabric
- Carry Bag: Yes
- Special: More ribs than typical umbrella; and ultra water-proof canopy material
What We Like
- Very lightweight and compact
- Most affordable model on our list
- Fiberglass ribs (and extra ribs at that) for wind protection
4. Best Shade Umbrella for Sports for Lateral Protection ~ Super-Brella
Remember the mention above of side flaps? Well, Sport-Brella is back on our list with its Super-Brella model, with an amazing 8-foot diameter when opened, and, yes, those side flaps to protect from rain and sunshine that comes at your sideways.
The cost is a step above the lower range, or more than the Versa Breall that tops this list. For that you get the side flaps, more canopy coverage, and a very sturdy design made of steel. That makes this model heavier than others on this list, but for some it’s worth the investment.
Yes, it comes with a carrying bag ~ plus ground stakes and tethers in case additional stability is called for. That alone is a step above most models. The model even has internal pockets to store those stakes, or valuables.
- Weight: 6.39 lbs.
- Size: 8’ diameter when opened (54” closed)
- Frame/Shaft: Steel
- Shade Material: 190 D Polyester, 50+ UPF
- Carry Bag: Yes
- Special: Side zippered windows to adjust airflow through
What We Like
- Side flaps for additional protection on the flanks
- Steel construction is very durable
- Probably best on this list for setting on its side on the ground and protecting from sun rays at angles
5. Best Utility Shade Umbrella for Sports ~ Ultimate Wondershade
Officially called a portable sun shade umbrella, the Ultimate Wondershade actually offers a lot more than just something between you and ultraviolet rays (UV rays). We designate this model the top “utility” shade umbrella, because it can be useful for a number of purposes.
A couple of features stand out. First, this umbrella mainly rests on a tripod, which is unlike the others on this list. This is cool to easily move it around a few feet here or there mid-game. It also has a hinged shaft to adjust where the shading will end up.
Next, this model comes with a lot of accessories ~ including a sand corkscrew with a twist handle to drill and set onto the beach. It comes with a carry bag, plus 3 ground stakes, cupholders and metal S-hooks to keep things off the ground. We really like strong nylon taffeta canopy material. Even if it adds a little weight, altogether this model provides plenty of durability.
- Weight: 9.7 lbs.
- Size: 5’ diameter canopy; height from 3’ to 8’
- Frame/Shaft: Metal
- Shade Material: Nylon taffeta
- Carry Bag: Yes
- Special: Tallest reach on this list at up to 8’; plus neat gust flaps that let breezes pass through.
What We Like
- Solid ratings by past buyers/users
- Designed for a range of uses
- Weather-resistant and tear-resistant properties of the nylon taffeta canopy material
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